When Television Cooks Nations
Within a cultural studies paradigm, my research focuses on how the Italian cooking show “Ti Ci Porto Io” and the British food programme “Jamie’s Great Britain”, through food, construct versions of the nation. I draw on Anderson’s and Bhabha’s theories on nation-building. They assume that ‘the nation’ is a social construction and that this construction is carried out through processes of inclusion/exclusion, ruled by dominant hegemonies. The theories of Stuart Hall, David Morley and Tim Edensor on how media frame these processes are central to my research. The two shows are analysed through semiotics to identify signs and codes linked to concepts such as “national culture” and “nation”; the focal points of my research are national symbols, food and people coming in from outside, and gender issues. Interviews with producers will help me to understand how the programmes have been constructed to signify ‘the nation’. Focus groups with audience members, finally, would establish how the construction of versions of the national cultures and of the nations has been decoded by the audience. The analysis confirms that nations today are concepts that are flexible and constantly in flux. The Italian programme constructs highly centralised versions of the nation-state, treating food and people coming in from outside as a danger to national unity. Moreover, the show gives the national food culture an anthropomorphic form, considering it to be a female subject. The British show deals with a more problematic concept of nation, assuming that the nation is sometimes the UK and sometimes either England, Scotland or Wales. Food and people from outside the UK’s borders are welcome, but the show underlines other forms of exclusion (gypsies, travellers and so on). Finally, cooking is presented as a technique rather than an act of love, and it lends British national culture a mild male quality. Among the many analyses of cooking shows, this research highlights an unusual perspective, linking the televisual representation of nation with food culture and cooking.