Experiencing and digesting neoliberalism: the role of affect and food in "experiential gastronomy" in the Czech Republic
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the broader role of affect in the context of Czech gastronomy, where enjoyment and positive experience are vehicles of individual and social transformation. How do consumers learn to eat and experience food? What is the role of affect in creating new inequalities?
Paper long abstract:
"We are willing to accept substitutions; we lack not only self-confidence but also education in the basic attributes of human life," says Zdeněk Pohlreich, Czech celebrity chef, entrepreneur and a critic of Czech gastronomy and the entrepreneurial practices of restaurant owners. Like other experts on gastronomy, he blames socialism: "with some exaggeration, we can say that it was socialism that laid the ground for this gastronomic misery we are in until today. It killed several good generations of cooks and created the breeding ground for culture, where people are used to ignoring work and craft." The hospitality industry and gastronomy in the Czech Republic have become arenas for negotiating various aspects of the post-socialist transformation, especially the changing relations between customers and service workers, entrepreneurial practices within the service sector, and food production and consumption (Hajdáková 2013). Entrepreneurs and experts on gastronomy educate the public on correct consumption practices and eating habits. Knowledge of food and the enjoyment and pleasure of eating become not only technologies of the self (Rose 1996) but also the key vehicles of "purification from socialism" (Eyal 2003). The capacity to zažívat, which in Czech means both to experience and digest, is a capacity to be affected by materialities, discourses, and power. How do consumers learn to experience food? What is the role of affect in creating new inequalities? The paper will be based on my analysis of the expert discourse on Czech gastronomy and my long-term participant observation conducted in three luxury restaurants in Prague.
Re-embedding the market economy: innovation, legacy, and techniques of intimate sociality after socialism