Passing on Recipes or Passing an Examination? Food and Foucault on Two Web Forums in Italy and Britain
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This article analyses the representation of the social practice of passing on recipes on two popular Italian and British web forums, and the power relationships that they produce. It draws on Foucault’s category of examination; on Rosello’s links between Foucault’s examination and writing recipes; and on Appadurai’s theory that recipes are fundamental in the construction of national culture. Moreover, specific studies on Italian and British food culture highlight similarities and differences between the two countries. Qualitative textual analysis is applied to the forums La Cucina Italiana and BBC Good Food. They have purposely been chosen in that they represent two ‘food institutions’, and this study wants to focus on mainstream food media in particular. Finally, this analysis addresses the visual structure of the forums. The results show that the two forums generate different examples of Foucauldian examination. The Italian users (all women, or at least using female names) approach their examination not on the forum, but at home or among friends, before or after writing the posts. The forum is seen either as a place of resistance, in which they ask help from the other users before being examined by relatives, or as a place in which they may show off that they have passed the exam. In Britain, the examination occurs within the forum, and users (men or women hierarchically relating to each other) are both examiners and examined; each user is examined when they post a recipe, and examines the others when comments are made on the recipes of the others.
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