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Foodscapes of Chinese America

The Transformation of Chinese Culinary Culture in the U.S. since 1965

Xiaohui Liu

This book explores the transformation of Chinese food in the U.S. after 1965 from a cultural perspective. The author asks how Chinese food reflects the racial relation between the Chinese community and the mainstream white society and investigates the symbolic meanings as well as the cultural functions of Chinese food in America. She argues that food is not only a symbol that mirrors social relations, but also an agent which causes social and cultural change. A particular geographic focus of this book is California.
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This book focuses on the transformation of Chinese American foodscapes after 1965. The basic questions I ask are how Chinese food culture has changed in America over time and what eating Chinese food has meant to Americans. I explore the symbolic meanings and cultural functions of Chinese food both within the Chinese community and in society at large. I argue that food is not only a symbol that reflects social relations, but also an agent, which causes social and cultural change. Chinese food facilitated the upward social mobility of Chinese immigrants and challenged the power relations between the Chinese community and white American society. California, which is not only standing in the forefront of recent culinary changes in America but is also the birthplace of Chinese American food, serves as the perfect location to examine the changes of Chinese American culinary culture. Owing to the large Chinese population in California, the Chinese foodscape here is the most complex. Based on the ubiquitous presence of Chinese restaurants and the great popularity of Chinese food in America, it seems necessary to figure out why Americans eat Chinese food, its social and cultural implications and the mutual influence between Chinese ethnic cuisine and the local culinary culture in the U.S.

Key words: food, Chinese American, ethnic cuisine, California, immigration, restaurant

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