Food as a matter of being: experiential continuity in transnational lives
Maja Povrzanovic Frykman
Paper short abstract:
The analytical distinction between the ways of migrants’ transnational being and belonging suggests that the ubiquity of food parcels needs to be understood in relation to other objects that travel with them, and that the meanings of food need to be explored (also) beyond the lens of culture.
Paper long abstract:
This paper presents ethnographic material obtained between 2011-2013, among migrants with different socio-economic backgrounds from different countries who came to Sweden to seek asylum, employment, or education. It is based on the project "The Transnational Life of Objects: Material Practices of Migrants' Being and Belonging" (supported by The Swedish Research Council), which promotes a broad interest into how objects constitute the world experienced by migrants and their counterparts who stayed behind, and how objects enable these actors to be embedded in transnational social spaces of their own making. Virtually all research participants bring and receive food from their countries of origin. However, this paper suggests that the ubiquity of food parcels criss-crossing borders needs to be understood in relation to other kinds of objects that often travel with them, and that the importance and meanings of food need to be explored (also) beyond the lens of culture. The examples of food that travels from the countries of immigration to the countries of origin, as well as of food that can be bought in the place of immigration but is nevertheless transported from the place of origin, pose analytical challenges that are best met by employing a distinction between the ways of transnational being and belonging (Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004). Focusing on food as a matter of being, this paper probes three theoretical statements that emerged from the project. They concern: presence in another location, perceived normality, and the feeling of incorporation.
Food parcels: intimate connexions in transnational migration