One of my courses is on American cinematic representations of immigration and the immigrant experience. This "movie class" -- one day of movie watching, one day of movie discussing -- requires that we write the occasional reflective journal based on course materials and how they have affected us as people.
So, of course, I wrote about how one of the materials we read, an excerpt from Ella Shohat and Robert Stam's collaboration, Unthinking Eurocentrism, affects my views on the kitchen and colonialism. I hope you enjoy my highly pretentious writing and a pleasant little break from my glut of pictures.
I love writing and I love to take photographs. The best way for me to combine these two hobbies is to blog – adorning my online habitat with handy quips and poorly composed photographs. Self-deprecation aside, one of the things about which I blog is food, especially when combined with images of the same.
Ella Shohat and Robert Stam also enjoy writing, maybe they even fancy photography. Of course, our potentially similar hobbies are not the topic of this reflection; what they have written about, though, in their Unthinking Eurocentrism, is. Shohat and Stam's keen observations picked up that, though cinema and photography are often coupled with other monumental historical movements, the least talked about pairing couples photography, both still and moving, with colonialism. I have found, through reading their text for this class, that I have been unwittingly a party to a newer, slightly less sinister brand of colonization: that of the kitchen.
Shohat and Stam's assertion that the eye of the camera is the eye of imperialism is really striking to me. Before reading this selection, I had only considered the classic issue of the camera focusing through the male gaze – never through issues of who holds the camera and, thus, power. My epicurean photography has, in a way, held an imperial sway over my kitchen, and, by extension, me. While making an interesting meal, I photograph every step of the preparation. I clean up as I go, stall my chopping to focus neat pictures, and even go so far as to pose my ingredients, commercial-style, to display my recipe components. My use of the camera has forced me into a sort of filmic entrapment, where I must obey the camera's desire for light and exhibit my advances into cooking exoticism.
The most frequent subjects of my camera's eye are my novel forays into cooking. From my tiny, adorable Japanese lunchboxes to my curried winter squash soup, it is most often the foreign foods that highlight my memory card. That I mostly impose my camera eye onto foreign subjects agree with Shohat and Stam's position that the camera typically takes its cues from the Western view.
Reading this excerpt makes me feel as though I need to be wary in my kitchen and not merely photograph the compelling “oddities” of the Orient, but also the, to me, mundane foods of my traditional Pennsylvania Dutch, as Western as possible upbringing. Because of Shohat and Stam, my next blog post is more likely to share focus between my famously simple Dutchy dumplings, and not only that amazing sushi that I had last weekend.
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