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Gastronationalism: Food Traditions and Authenticity Politics in the European
                                 Michaela DeSoucey
                      American Sociological Review 2010; 75; 432
                          DOI: 10.1177/0003122410372226

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                                                                                                         American Sociological Review
                                                                                                         75(3) 432–455
Gastronationalism: Food                                                                                  Ó American Sociological
                                                                                                         Association 2010
Traditions and Authenticity                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/0003122410372226

Politics in the European

Michaela DeSouceya

By developing the concept of ‘‘gastronationalism,’’ this article challenges conceptions of the
homogenizing forces of globalism. I analyze (1) the ways in which food production, distribu-
tion, and consumption can demarcate and sustain the emotive power of national attachment
and (2) how nationalist sentiments, in turn, can shape the production and marketing of food.
The multi-methodological analyses reveal how the construct of gastronationalism can help us
better understand pan-national tensions in symbolic boundary politics—politics that protect
certain foods and industries as representative of national cultural traditions. I first analyze
the macro-level dimensions of market protections by examining the European Union’s pro-
gram for origin-designation labels that delineates particular foods as nationally owned. The
micro-level, empirical case—the politics surrounding foie gras in France—demonstrates
how gastronationalism functions as a protectionist mechanism within lived experience.
Foie gras is an especially relevant case because other parties within the pan-national system
consider it morally objectionable. Contemporary food politics, beyond the insights it affords
into symbolic boundary politics, speaks to several arenas of sociological interest, including
markets, identity politics, authenticity and culture, and the complexities of globalization.

food politics, culture, markets, nationalism, European Union

Efforts within the European Union (EU) to                               theorized through the frames of branding
create a unifying, pan-European sense of iden-                          (Aronczyk 2007) and impression management
tity have generated tensions within and among                           (Rivera 2008). Few analyses, however, scruti-
nations over the principles of universalism and                         nize related institutional strategies and how
exceptionalism. Scholars of European integra-                           material objects and industries are legitimated
tion politics often cite religion, language, eth-                       and protected as uniquely representative of
nic composition, or region to illustrate how                            national traditions. Relevant processes are
nations seek to preserve (or overcome) their
sense of distinctiveness (Bail 2008; Brubaker                           a
                                                                            Northwestern University
1996; Calhoun 2007; Keating 2004) and to
construct symbolic unity through everyday                               Corresponding Author:
                                                                        Michaela DeSoucey, Northwestern University,
talk and social practice (Billig 1995). Such                            Department of Sociology, 1810 Chicago Avenue,
practices, which communicate the value of                               Evanston, IL 60208
national distinctiveness, have recently been                            E-mail:

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DeSoucey                                                                                                                433

situated within a constellation of legislative,                             Examining the political construction of foods
cultural, and industry-based dynamics—                                  as institutionalized vehicles of national cultural
dynamics that influence the evolution of                                identities sheds rich theoretical light on debates
inter-institutional relationships (Evans and                            between European integrationists and protec-
Kay 2008).                                                              tionists (Brubaker 1996; Fligstein 2008; Opp
    Scholarship in organizational sociology                                         ´
                                                                        2005; Priban 2007). Gastronationalism, in par-
increasingly recognizes that markets and poli-                          ticular, signals the use of food production, distri-
tics depend on embedded codes and cultural                              bution, and consumption to demarcate and
understandings (Rao, Monin, and Durand                                  sustain the emotive power of national attach-
2003, 2005; Vasi 2007; Weber, Heinze, and                               ment, as well as the use of nationalist sentiments
DeSoucey 2008). We know surprisingly little,                            to produce and market food. First, I examine
however, about relationships among regulated                            how responses to globalizing markets have
markets, political institutions, and national                           assumed a distinct organizational form—a
cultural identities. Examining nationalized                             form that prizes conceptions of tradition and
protections for certain objects, namely foods,                          authenticity as desirable rationales for protecting
contributes to ongoing debates about the per-                           certain foods at the national level (Hobsbawm
meability of national boundaries within the                             and Ranger 1983; Scares 1997; Shils 1981).
EU’s pan-national structures (Checkel and                               The EU’s national-origin labeling program cou-
Katzenstein 2009; Fligstein 2008; Held et al.                           ples foods’ market status with valorized cultural
1999) and about the ways in which globaliza-                            prowess tied to national identity, characterizing
tion spurs resistance to culturally homogeniz-                          and revaluing national food as a central part of
ing trends (Appadurai 2001; Ritzer 2003;                                the national diet. This language of authenticity
Thompson and Arsel 2004; Watson 1997).                                  assists the development of narratives about
    My aim here is not to generate a theory of                          geography-based particularities of cultivating
European integration based on food politics,                            plants and animals for eating (Bell and
but to delineate how foods constitute cultural                          Valentine 1997).
and material resources that affect and respond                              Then, building on Burawoy’s (1991, 1998)
to political agendas. Indeed, within the con-                           extended case method and drawing on the case
temporary EU, food is a contested medium                                of foie gras in France, I examine these macro-
of cultural politics that demarcates national                           level processes as they are harnessed, mani-
boundaries and identities. Historians and                               pulated, and re-created at micro-interactional
anthropologists have embraced the theme of                              levels. Gastronationalism, as a form of claims-
food, culture, and society in their scholarship                         making and a project of collective identity, is
(Douglas 1984; Goody 1982; Mintz 1985;                                  responsive to and reflective of the political ram-
Scholliers 2001; Watson and Caldwell 2005),                             ifications of connecting nationalist projects with
and food studies are increasingly recognized                            food culture at local levels. It presumes that at-
for their ability to integrate multiple research                        tacks (symbolic or otherwise) against a nation’s
areas and methods (Belasco and Scranton                                 food practices are assaults on heritage and cul-
2002; Freedman 2007). The sociological                                  ture, not just on the food item itself.
relationship between food and globalization                                 How does an object vilified in some lo-
is an especially rich juxtaposition because it                          cales become morally and politically justi-
highlights the dialectic produced by global-                            fied as traditional, authentic, and worthy of
ism’s homogenizing tendencies and the                                   protected status in others? Foie gras, the fat-
appearance of new forms of identity politics                            tened liver of a force-fed duck or goose, is
invigorated by an increasingly homogenous                               valorized as a symbol of French national
environment (Berger and Huntington 2002;                                identity, history, and culinary culture. It is
Inglis 2005). I conceptualize this juxtaposi-                           also a target of critical opposition, fueled
tion as gastronationalism.1                                             by international animal rights organizations.

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434                                                                                    American Sociological Review 75(3)

This dualism exposes salient questions                                   Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983). When it comes
regarding social spaces for objects or prac-                             to symbolic power and implications for iden-
tices seen as morally problematic within                                 tity politics, food is no exception. Foods offer
new, potentially adversarial, pan-national                               links between social actors and their cultural
relationships.                                                           pasts (Gabaccia 1998), shared bonds of famil-
                                                                         ial or religious identity (DeVault 1991; Ray
                                                                         2004), and narratives of organizational iden-
VEHICLES OF COLLECTIVE                                                   tity (Fine 1996; Maurer 2002). For example,
                                                                         a social comparison such as ‘‘we eat pork,
NATIONAL IDENTITY                                                        they don’t’’ articulates tropes of similarity
National cultural boundaries are problematic                             and otherness through shared consumption
objects of study because their emphasis on                               patterns and prohibitions. Food and eating
universal features obscures contradictory sub-                           are expressions of culture and shapers of iden-
cultures, cultural diffusion, and the ways in                            tity; they are potential sources of material and
which cultural policies are open to multiple                             political valuation.
interpretations (Dobbin, Simmons, and                                        Gastronationalism connects foods’ social
Garrett 2007). Any single definition of                                  and cultural attributes to politics by making
‘‘nation’’ will legitimate some claims and de-                           the material, commercial, and institutional
legitimate others (Opp 2005). Yet, improved                              processes that shape foods the very objects
understanding of the flexibility of national                             of investigation. Such dynamics are seldom
identity is essential for assessing its role within                      topics of sociological inquiry in their own
integration politics in Europe and beyond                                right, but there are notable exceptions.
(Fligstein 2008; Keating 2004).                                          These include Mennell’s (1985) examination
    I use Brubaker’s (1996:10) broad defini-                             of the powerful forces implicated in the
tion of nationalism—a set of idioms, practi-                             development of ideas around taste in certain
ces, and possibilities available in cultural                             foods and cuisines as cross-class markers of
and political life, delimited by social or phys-                         French and British nationhood; Warde’s
ical boundaries—to consider the ways in                                  (1997, 2009) studies of consumption that his-
which a nation’s people are defined, or self-                            toricize relationships among foods’ exchange
define, as a distinct group. Such practices                              and status, and the recent ‘‘invention’’ of
help people learn who they are through inter-                            British cuisine as a symbolic tool of nation-
actions and social life (Brubaker and Cooper                             building; and Ferguson’s (1998, 2004) explo-
2000). Anderson’s (1991) description of                                  ration of how French cuisine’s historical
a nation as an ‘‘imagined community’’ like-                              development was strategically linked to
wise proposes that we regard national identity                           brokers of cultural ideology. Ferguson, in
as a phenomenon of collective belonging.                                 particular, contends that gastronomy provided
Claims to nationhood are not just internal                               nineteenth-century France with a distinct
appeals to common descent; they allege                                   identity—a kind of ‘‘culinary nationalism.’’
uniqueness vis-a-vis other nations, substantiat-                             This prior work shows how foods function
ing potential claims for future distinctions                             symbolically as markers of identity and com-
(Zerubavel 1995).                                                        munity for otherwise geographically, socially,
    Nationalist symbols and practices, such as                           and politically divided populations. Moreover,
flags and anthems, can be emotionally                                    it reveals how food can be an important arena
charged signs of independence that demon-                                where conflicts over globalization’s pan-
strate a country’s social circumstances at the                           nationalist impacts are fought. In cases of
time of their adoption (Cerulo 1995). These                              gastronationalism, the state intervenes in the
objects unite citizens around shared practices                           market, acting as an ideological agent and
such as saluting or singing (Firth 1973;                                 a broker for food production and distribution

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DeSoucey                                                                                                                435

as cultural goods. Gastronationalism thus con-                          considered cultural exceptions and external
nects macro- and micro-level concerns around                            to free trade (Gordon and Meunier 2001;
globalism, from the state to food producers’                            Ridler 1986). This idea stems from the
and consumers’ lived experiences.                                       1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and
                                                                        Trade (GATT), which called for European
                                                                        countries to ‘‘protect national cultural trea-
CULTURAL PATRIMONY AND                                                  sures of artistic, historical, or archaeological
PROTECTIONIST ROOTS IN                                                  value’’ in the deregulation of markets
                                                                        (GATT 1947). Supporters often frame these
THE EU                                                                  arguments for recognizing ‘‘cultural excep-
Because gastronationalism is situated in the                            tions’’ or ‘‘cultural patrimony’’ within inter-
context of integration politics, I draw on                              national trade and policy agreements as
institutional theories of state-market relation-                        a country’s right, or even duty, to preserve
ships to help explain recent institutional des-                         and promote its cultural heritage and prevent
ignations of ‘‘tradition’’ and ‘‘patrimony.’’                           ‘‘irretrievable loss’’ (Bishop 1996:187).
These theories illustrate how regulatory                                    ‘‘Cultural exceptions’’ refer mainly to
structures operationalize national (and inter-                          claims for protection of specific types of cul-
national) systems of political values                                   tural goods (namely film, television, and
(Bartley 2007; Prasad 2006). Moreover, add-                             music) within EU member states, or similar
ing food to these networks of institutional re-                         types of media products that celebrate national
lationships builds on insights from economic                            culture (Ahearne 2003). These claims incor-
sociologists’ growing interest in meaning-                              porate the principles that the production of cul-
making and cultural work within market-                                 tural goods is necessarily place-specific and
state systems (Dobbin 2004; Fligstein 2008;                             that global markets are affected by unequal
Fourcade-Gourinchas and Healy 2007;                                     starting points, unbalanced resources, and
Zelizer 2005). From the perspective of orga-                            strategic competition from dominant market
nizational theory, this integration has great                           players (e.g., Hollywood for films) (Barber
promise for incorporating agency and politics                           1996; Prowda 1997). ‘‘Cultural patrimony’’
into cultural and institutional analyses.                               describes what is fundamental to a people’s
    The Treaty of Maastricht officially cre-                            or a nation’s history; it weds materialist and
ated the European Union (EU) on                                         symbolic interests as intrinsic to reinforcing,
November 1, 1993. Before then, this associa-                            reflecting, and influencing a group’s values
tion was known as the European Economic                                 and collective identity (Hoffman 2006).
Community or the Common Market. The                                     Cultural patrimony is not owned by a people;
Common Market was created post–World                                    rather, it represents their self-defined collec-
War II to stimulate economic integration,                               tive national identity. In this sense, it is similar
create shared political values, and offer                               to notions of folklore or heritage. For example,
a powerful voice in international relations                             while old paintings can be considered cultural
(Bretherton and Vogler 1999; Laible and                                 property, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper
Barkey 2006). Today, the EU is composed                                 and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus are classified
of 27 member states, and the basic principle                            as Italian cultural patrimony.
of free trade—that open and competitive                                     Supporters of both types of claims have
markets optimize resources—operates as the                              tied them to the perceived negative effects
dominant mechanism for resource allocation,                             of Americanization, globalization, and pan-
the circulation of goods and services, and                              European homogenization (Meunier 2005).
policy formation. Policymakers, however,                                These claims play an important role in cur-
have long argued that certain cultural goods                            rent ideological battles over the European
(particularly audiovisual goods) should be                                             ´             ´
                                                                        project (Menendez Alarcon 2004). Although

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436                                                                                   American Sociological Review 75(3)

national industries are typically not included                          7 production facilities (ranging in size from
in these definitions, I contend that gastrona-                          a 2-person to a 250-person operation),
tionalism facilitates national claims of                                a Parisian gourmet food exposition, local
cultural patrimony for foods because it per-                            outdoor markets (including marches du    ´
forms similar symbolic boundary work in                                 gras), tourist offices, foie gras museums,
creating exceptions, under the veneer of cul-                           shops, restaurants, and a hotel management
ture, within otherwise open-market struc-                               school. I conducted 40 interviews with
tures. In setting institutional precedents for                          French foie gras producers, high-level indus-
resource-based claims of cultural and                                   try representatives, social movement acti-
national specificity (Kockel 2007), cultural                            vists, consumers, chefs, tourism employees,
exception designations for media help con-                              and local government officials. I conducted
textualize new national categories for pro-                             the interviews primarily in French; a few, de-
tecting food in the face of expanding                                   pending on a respondent’s comfort level with
globalist dynamics.                                                     the English language, were in English. The
                                                                        majority of interviews were one to two hours
                                                                        in length. I had a portion of the interviews
METHODS, DATA, AND                                                      transcribed and transcribed the remainder
                                                                        myself. All French to English translations
RESULTS                                                                 are my own.
My multimethod approach explores gastrona-                                  On my first research trip, I contacted pro-
tionalism’s macro and micro dimensions                                  ducers, chefs, and industry members through
within contemporary European food politics.                             a ‘‘foie gras amateur guide’’ (Serventi 2002)
To theoretically develop and empirically cap-                           and through academic connections in Paris,
ture gastronationalism as an institutional con-                         Dijon, Lyon, and Toulouse. These initial
struct, I created a database containing every                           contacts allowed for snowball sampling,
foodstuff (N 5 790) that received protected                             which proved advantageous. Intermediaries
national status under the EU’s designation of                           were often necessary for me, as an
origin program between the program’s estab-                             American who was sometimes viewed with
lishment in 1992 and December 31, 2007. I                               skepticism, to gain access. During my second
then analyzed emergent patterns across the                              research trip in 2007, I traveled and con-
21 countries claiming these labels, using                               ducted interviews alongside an American
small-N research methods (Mahoney 2000).                                journalist who was also writing about foie
I also collected and analyzed materials related                         gras controversies (Caro 2009). This journal-
to several instances of contentious politics that                       ist had access to respondents I would not oth-
resulted from this labeling program; these ma-                          erwise have been able to interview. Beyond
terials include news articles, academic and                             these new interviews, I also conducted
trade conference proceedings, industry and                              follow-up interviews with several 2006 re-
producer Web sites, application and registra-                           spondents. Finally, I undertook content anal-
tion documents, EU case law,2 and food his-                             yses on materials produced inside and
tory books.                                                             outside France related to foie gras history
    To investigate gastronationalism’s micro-                           and politics: news articles from Le Monde,
level complexities and the implications of                              the International Herald Tribune, and
these dynamics, I conducted an in-depth                                 Agence France-Presse; Web sites and list-
case analysis of foie gras in France, a food                            servs; opinion pieces; industry newsletters
item with morally contested production                                  and materials (including videos, in-house
methods. During 2006 and 2007, I collected                              materials, and trade publications from
primary data during four months of ethno-                                      ´
                                                                        Rougie, France’s largest foie gras producer);
graphic fieldwork at 10 foie gras farms and                             tourism materials collected from local

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DeSoucey                                                                                                                 437

offices; food history books accessed at the                                                 ´
                                                                         states’’ (MacMaolain 2007:19). For example,
Bibliotheque Nationale and purchased in                                  EU hygiene and health standards requiring
French bookstores; EU documents regarding                                pasteurization limit the production and sale of
foie gras production; and transcripts of                                 certain raw-milk cheeses (West 2008). Cross-
French National Assembly and Senate                                      national obligations to distribute foodstuffs
debates.                                                                 among states also open producers to potentially
                                                                         unfair trading practices and price competition
                                                                         from those with better resources (MacMaolain´
The Cultural Exception for                                               2007).
Traditional Foods                                                           In 1992, recognizing dilemmas created by
                                                                         this system, particularly for small-scale and
From the EU’s inception, the development of                              artisanal food producers with aspirations to
integrated agricultural policies and a common                            sell in national and international markets,
market for food products—the Common                                      the EU instituted a program to register cer-
Agricultural Policy (CAP)—has been a core                                tain food and agricultural products as excep-
activity. Indeed, some argue that the EU’s estab-                        tions to CAP. Within this program, producers
lishment was a purposeful step toward making                             of ‘‘traditional’’ food products can apply
food and agricultural products more competi-                             to receive one of three EU-sponsored
tive internationally (Sarasua, Scholliers, and                           labels—Protected Designation of Origin
Van Molle 2005). Agriculture absorbs 50                                  (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication
percent of the EU’s annual budget, and CAP                               (PGI), or Traditional Specialty Guaranteed
plays a central role in mediating trade, improv-                         (TSG)—to designate their products as pos-
ing rural standards of living, and regulating                            sessing certain unique characteristics, mostly
public funds for food transport and research                             associated with place. These labels aim to
development.                                                             protect food products from imitation, their
    The legal underpinnings of EU gover-                                 names from misuse, and consumers from
nance of food production, distribution, and                              potential misrepresentation. Of the 790 labels
marketing make claims for national specific-                             awarded before December 31, 2007, 57 per-
ity both salient and problematic. According                              cent were PDO, 41 percent were PGI, and
to the regulatory principle of mutual recogni-                           only 2 percent were for TSG.4 For PDO
tion (Article 28 EC), a food product lawfully                            and PGI registrations, a product must be
marketable in any one EU member state must                               linked to a geographical area. The TSG label
be so in all (subject to limited exceptions,                             reflects the use of traditional production
namely health). Furthermore, to protect all                              methods but does not specify place.5
member states’ markets, the EU’s harmo-                                     Claims based on geographical origin have
nized food production standards reflect the                              been more desirable than those for produc-
regulations of the member state with the least                           tion method, supporting the relevance of gas-
stringent quality protections for the item in                            tronationalism. Moreover, these claims give
question. These requirements apply to multi-                             certain producers within certain nations the
national corporations and small-scale pro-                               right to use place names in their marketing,
ducers alike. Efforts to protect certain foods                           packaging, and presentation. They thus link
within this market structure have led to                                 sets of values and symbols to institutional-
nationally-based contention.3                                            ized representations of territory and history,
    Such regulations, along with ever-increas-                           and ‘‘share the common goal of furthering
ing market integration, have significantly                               authenticity’’ within member states and the
affected the physical production of foodstuffs,                          EU as a whole (European Commission
generating fears about their ‘‘potential to                              2006:5). Authenticity claims linking food to
destroy the rich culinary diversity of member                            place—what the French term terroir, or

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438                                                                                  American Sociological Review 75(3)

Table 1. Examples of PDO, PGI, and TSG Labeled Products

Label          Name of Product                                                  Country                                Type of Product
PDO            Fromage de Hevre                                                 Belgium                                Cheese
               Prosciutto di Parma                                              Italy                                  Ham
               Dinde de Bresse                                                  France                                 Poultry
               Cabrito Transmontano                                             Portugal                               Goat
               Orkney Lamb                                                      United Kingdom                         Lamb/Mutton
               Kalamata                                                         Greece                                 Olives
               Waldviertler Graumohn                                            Austria                                Poppy Seeds
               Basilico Genovese                                                Italy                                  Basil
               Opperdoezer Ronde                                                Netherlands                            Potatoes
PGIb           Danablu                                                          Denmark                                Cheese
               Schwarzwalder Schinken
                           ¨                                                    Germany                                Ham
               Chourico de Portalegre
                      x                                                         Portugal                               Pork Sausage
               Zakynthos                                                        Greece                                 Olive Oil
               Clare Island Salmon                                              Ireland                                Fish
               ˇ          ˇ     ´
               Ceskobudejovicke pivo                                            Czech Republic                         Beer
               Miel de Provence                                                 France                                 Honey
                   ´            ´     ´
               Esparrago de Huetor-Tajar                                        Spain                                  Asparagus
               Canard a foie gras du Sud-Ouest                                  France                                 Poultry
TSGc           Kalakukko                                                        Finland                                Meat Pie
               Kriek-Lambic, Framboise-                                         Belgium                                Beer
               Jamon Serrano                                                    Spain                                  Ham
               Mozzarella                                                       Italy                                  Cheese
PDO: Protected Designation of Origin
PGI: Protected Geographical Indication
TSG: Traditional Specialty Guaranteed

what Trubek (2008) calls ‘‘the taste of                                registration process, which remains in effect
place’’—rest on assumptions that geographic                            today, requires a group of producers to organize
conditions contribute to foods’ inherent char-                         into a consortium, create a specific definition of
acteristics and qualities (Bell and Valentine                          their product,6 and submit an application to
1997). These foods are typically marketed                              their national agricultural office. The national
and sold as specialty products because of                              office then examines the application to ensure
their limited availability (van der Lans et                            compliance with the requirements and chooses
al. 2001). Table 1 provides several examples                           whether to forward it to the European
of these products.                                                     Commission’s Agricultural and Rural
    From 1992 until January 1994, member                               Development Department. If forwarded, the
states used an abbreviated application proce-                          Official Journal of European Communities
dure to inform the Commission of foodstuffs                            publishes the request to inform other member
they wished to register, with the understanding                        states and the general public of the application.
that designations satisfying the Commission’s                          External parties have six months to lodge an
requirements would be registered. During this                          objection, admissible only (1) if the application
period, some countries (e.g., France, Spain,                           is not in full compliance with requirements, (2)
and Germany) submitted many more applica-                              if the name is considered generic, or (3) if reg-
tions than others (e.g., the Netherlands).                             istering the name would jeopardize the exis-
    After January 1994, the registration proce-                        tence of a similarly named product or
dure intensified, giving early adopters of the                         trademark. If no objections are made, the
program an advantage. The new label                                    European Commission registers and publishes

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DeSoucey                                                                                                                  439

the newly protected name in the Official                                  a high per capita measure of registrations and
Journal of European Communities. It is a mem-                             high levels of agricultural GDP contribution
ber state’s responsibility to ensure that its regis-                      and agricultural employment. A large percent-
tered products comply with official                                       age of Portugal’s population is involved in
specifications.                                                           agricultural production, but contribution to
    The 790 products registered before                                    GDP is low. Other countries with high rates
December 31, 2007 (as well as those pending                               of agricultural contribution to GDP, such as
approval) are not distributed evenly among                                Poland and Hungary, have extremely low rates
member states. To determine why gastrona-                                 of registered food origin labels. National reli-
tionalism is more pronounced in certain coun-                             ance on agricultural output does not correlate
tries, I chose several country-level variables                            with being a high utilizer of the origin labeling
to examine national patterns in the configura-                            program.
tion of these labels. Table 2 presents variables                             I then considered whether countries had
corresponding to the 21 countries that have at                            a program to geographically demarcate agri-
least one registered food product.7                                       cultural products before the EU program
    To identify conditions associated with                                began. Producers from countries with exist-
countries that are high utilizers of the labeling                         ing designation programs would likely per-
program (i.e., Italy, France, Spain, Portugal,                            ceive value in the new pan-national system.
Greece, and Germany), I first calculated the                              Countries with prior appellation programs8
number of labels registered in each country                               should hypothetically be high utilizers of
per capita (in millions) and per 10,000 km2                               protected designation labels.9
to control for each country’s population size                                Indeed, there is a strong positive relation-
and land area (e.g., the difference between                               ship between the prior existence of such pro-
Germany and the Netherlands). Population                                  grams and the percentage of total labels
and area show statistically significant correla-                          registered by high utilizing countries. For
tions with the number of registered labels (p\                            the six countries that had appellation infra-
.01). Population density within countries,                                structure prior to the EU program,10 the
however, is not statistically significant.                                mean percentage of total origin labels is
Portugal, Germany, and Luxembourg have                                    14.63 (SD 5 4.88). For countries without
the highest rate of labels per capita and in rela-                        such a program, the mean percentage of total
tion to areal extent. Luxembourg’s relational                             origin labels is .86 (SD 5 .98, t 5 10.7, df 5
numbers are high, however, due to its very                                18, p \ .001). A t-test shows statistical sig-
small size and population; thus, I do not con-                            nificance at p \ .01. Correlating the exis-
sider it equally alongside other member states                            tence of an infrastructure with a country’s
in calculating low versus high utilizers.                                 number of labels (controlling for population)
    After controlling for the size of population                          is also statistically significant (p \ .05, R 5
and territory, I hypothesized a significant pos-                          .502, N 5 19). Existing programs did provide
itive correlation between number of origin la-                            an entrenched organizational form that
bels and national reliance on agricultural                                helped producer-organized consortia succeed
output, measured by the current value of                                  at making use of the EU’s program.
each country’s agricultural contribution to                                  Do states’ leaders view nationally mark-
gross domestic product (GDP) (Column 5 in                                 ing food items as a means to gather addi-
Table 2) and the percentage of each country’s                             tional support for collective identity and
population employed in agriculture (Column 6                              self-presentation (e.g., we eat Kalamata
in Table 2). Neither of these correlations are                            olives because we are Greek, and it is part
statistically significant (R 5 .187 for the pop-                          of our identity to do so)? I considered the rel-
ulation measure and R 5 .052 for GDP contri-                              ative degree of each country’s national culi-
bution). Greece is the only country with both                             nary self-consciousness to assess the extent

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                                                                                                          Table 2. Comparing Percent of National Origin Labels by Levels of Agriculture, Infrastructure, and Culinary Self-Consciousness

                                                                                                                            Number of          Number of                              Percent of Total
                                                                                                                        Registered Labels   Labels per Capita Number of Labels by       Population         Agriculture and        Appellation
                                                                                                                         (before Dec. 31,    (population in    Country Area (km2       Employed in       Fishing Contribution Infrastructure prior   Culinary Self-
                                                                                                          Country             2007)             millions)     in tens of thousands)     Agriculturea      to GDP (in 2005)b         to 1990          Consciousness

                                                                                                          Austria               12                 1.44                 1.43                 4.33             1.54                     No                Low
                                                                                                          Belgium               10                  .95                 3.28                 1.59             1.04                     No                Low
                                                                                                          Britain               30                  .50                 1.33                 1.65             1.01 (for UK)      Not in England;        Medium
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Scotch whiskey
                                                                                                          Cyprus                 1                 1.28                 1.08                 8.5              3.1             (included in Greece)        Low
                                                                                                          Czech                 12                 1.15                 1.52                 7.3              2.90                     No                 Low
                                                                                                          Denmark               3                   .55                 .70                  3.24             1.81                    No                 Low
                                                                                                          Finland               4                   .75                 .12                  5.02             2.87                    No                 Low
                                                                                                          France              156                  2.45                2.31                  2.75             2.20                    Yes                High
                                                                                                          Germany              68                   .83                1.90                  2.09              .88                    Yes               Medium
                                                                                                          Greece               85                  7.64                6.44                 11.71             5.23                    Yes               Medium
                                                                                                          Hungary               1                   .10                 .11                 10.45             4.32                    Yes               Medium
                                                                                                          Ireland               4                   .92                 .57                  8.85             2.49                    No                Medium
                                                                                                          Italy               166                  2.93                5.51                  4.37             2.26                    Yes                High
                                                                                                          Luxembourg            4                  8.33               15.47                  1.98              .42                    No                 Low
                                                                                                          Netherlands           7                   .43                1.69                  2.98             2.06                    No                 Low
                                                                                                          Poland                2                   .05                 .06                 17.14             4.64                    No                Medium
                                                                                                          Portugal            105                  9.91               11.36                 12.53             2.87                    Yes               Medium
                                                                                                          Slovak                1                   .19                 .20                  8.10             3.85                    No                 Low
                                                                                                          Slovenia              1                  .49                  .49                  6.89             2.53                    No                   Low
                                                                                                          Spain               114                 2.48                 2.25                  6.01             3.31                    Yes                 High

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                                                                                                          Sweden                4                  .43                  .09                  3.09             1.13                    No                   Low
                                                                                                          Total               790              R 5 .644**           R 5 .600**            R 5 .187         R 5 .052                R 5 .502*         Spearman rho 5

                                                                                                          Note: Highest values in columns are in italics.
                                                                                                           Source for population data: 2004 FAOSTAT; national statistical offices. Data may reflect agricultural work related to production of food and beverages
                                                                                                          (including wine).
                                                                                                            Source for agriculture and fishing contribution to GDP: World Bank World Development Indicators.
                                                                                                          *p \ .05; **p \ .01 (two-tailed tests).
DeSoucey                                                                                                                 441

to which food and cuisine appear central to                              with high rates of label registrations—Greece,
promoting national identity to internal and                              Portugal, and Germany—scored a medium.
external audiences.11 I constructed a metric                             The Spearman rank-order correlation coeffi-
of culinary self-consciousness out of three                              cient (a non-parametric measure of as-
variables: existence of national food festi-                             sociation based on the rank-ordering of
vals, books about cuisine for foreign audien-                            variables) calculated between culinary self-
ces, and whether a country recently applied                              consciousness and the percentage of total ori-
to the United Nations Educational, Scientific                            gin labels by country is .525 (p\.05, N 5 20),
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to rec-                               indicative of a strong positive relationship
ognize its overall culinary heritage, as sev-                            between the two. Controlling for a country’s
eral European nations did in 2008 (Sciolino                              number of labels per capita, however, negates
2008).12                                                                 the measure’s statistical significance, indicat-
    I scored each measure 0, .5, or 1 across                             ing either that the measure is not highly corre-
three variables and combined them in a 0 to                              lated to label registrations or that national
3 scale. To consider promotion to internal                               interest in food and cuisine is not dependent
national audiences, I ranked the number of                               on population numbers.
food-related festivals and food trade shows                                  If considering the first explanation, re-
by country in 2008, as catalogued by                                     gressing these three variables (i.e., agricul-,13 and assigned a 1 to                                 ture, appellation, and culinary self-
countries that had seven or more festivals                               consciousness per capita) against a country’s
that year and .5 to the two countries that                               number of labels per capita shows, indeed,
had between three and six festivals                                      that only preexisting appellation infrastruc-
(Belgium and Ireland).14 To account for the                              ture is statistically significant (b 5 4.879,
perceived role of external audiences in gener-                           p \ .05). If considering the second, the nom-
ating national culinary self-consciousness, I                            inal variables of previous appellation and
ranked the number of books about each coun-                              culinary self-consciousness are individually
try’s cuisine sold under the ‘‘travel/food’’                             necessary and jointly sufficient conditions
category at the U.S.-based I                                 for countries to be high utilizers of gastrona-
coded the four countries higher than the aver-                           tionalist claims (Mahoney 2000). If a neces-
age (mean 5 15.67) as 1, and the seven coun-                             sary condition is present, the outcome could
tries that had between 7 and 14 books listed                             be either present or absent. Yet, the two var-
received a .5.15 While these criteria might                              iables are jointly sufficient, so a present suf-
also be used to measure publishing or tour-                              ficient variable (from either column) means
ism, they do link to ideas about the degree                              the outcome (high utilization) will be pres-
to which culinary cultures are promoted to                               ent. Countries with appellation infrastruc-
outsiders. For the third measure, I assigned                             tures and/or high or medium levels of
a 1 to countries that applied to UNESCO in                               culinary self-consciousness will thus have
2008 to include their national food culture                              significantly higher levels of protective ori-
(i.e., France) or the Mediterranean Diet (i.e.,                          gin labels institutionalized through the EU
Spain, Italy, and Greece) on UNESCO’s list                               program, and they will be more likely to
of cultural heritage sites and patrimonial                               advance gastronationalist claims.
intangibles.                                                                Few origin label applications are unsuc-
    I then assigned a high measure of culinary                           cessful (personal communication, Antonella
self-consciousness (see Table 2) to the three                            Farnararo, DG Agriculture Office), but some
countries that scored a 3 on the compendium                              can be. For example, although Italian law pre-
measure: France, Italy, and Spain, which are                             viously enforced domestic standards for pro-
three of the six countries with the highest rates                        duction of pasta (as made exclusively from
of label registrations. The other three countries                        durum wheat), Italy was unable to register it.

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442                                                                                   American Sociological Review 75(3)

Even though many consumers consider pasta                               Italian word. Second, the geographic area
to have Italian origins, production had dif-                            that Greece submitted in its application en-
fused too widely and its ‘‘generic’’ name pre-                          compasses a variety of climate conditions
vented it from receiving a label. Italy was                             shared by other European nations. Third,
successful, however, in registering ‘‘pizza                             and perhaps most important to the
Napoletana’’ as a TSG in April 2008, after                              European Commission’s decision to annul
14 years of legal wrangling (Article 8(2) of                            Greece’s PDO (Regulation 1070/1999), they
Regulation 509/2006). The registration speci-                           argued that the name had become generic
fies, among other details, the hours required                           and was therefore ineligible for protection
for leavening the dough, as well as its required                        (Evans and Blakeney 2006).18
height, baking temperature, and seasonings                                 Revisiting the issue in 2002, the
(but not the place of production).16                                    Commission reversed its ruling and rein-
   Claims for the protection of particular food-                        stated the registration of feta as a Greek
stuffs as nationally significant help us under-                         PDO (Regulation 1829/2002). The Court
stand the revitalization of practices or items                          upheld its ruling after an appeal from
considered traditional during times when old                            Denmark and Germany, noting in its brief
identities are perceived to be in jeopardy                              that 85 percent of production and 80 percent
(Calhoun 1993; Cavanaugh 2004; Hobsbawm                                 of consumption occurred in Greece, and that
and Ranger 1983). Gastronationalism is exclu-                           feta cheese produced in Denmark and
sionary in this regard because it prohibits others                      Germany often referred to Greece with
from making similar food claims, either materi-                         words, pictures, or color schemes on its pack-
ally or symbolically. The European Court of                             aging. Non-Greek cheese-makers lost the
Justice resolves competing national interests.                          right to use the name ‘‘feta’’ within the EU
For example, in February 2008, the Court ruled                          at the end of 2007 (Evans and Blakeney
that only cheeses bearing the PDO                                       2006), but they may still sell their cheeses
‘‘Parmigiano-Reggiano’’17 can be sold as                                as ‘‘feta’’ outside the EU (e.g., when ex-
‘‘Parmesan’’ cheese in European member                                  ported to the United States).
states outside of Italy. This ruling followed                              These cases show how the EU program con-
three years of infringement proceedings                                 fers on foods (and their producers) the legal
brought by the Consorzio di Parmigiano-                                 right to draw national boundaries in an other-
Reggiano and the European Commission                                    wise open marketplace. The labels are often
against Germany for marketing its own version                           promoted as improving farmers’ incomes, sup-
of ‘‘Parmesan’’ and not sufficiently protecting                         port and resources for rural communities, and
the Italian PDO in its market.                                          retention of rural populations—and in many
   Another important case—often cited by                                cases, they do. More importantly, gastrona-
food law scholars—is a 10-year legal dispute                            tional claims about the significance of tradition
between Greece and other member states                                  and authenticity, as invoked in the organiza-
over feta cheese. Greek feta production has                             tional work of registering an origin label, high-
been codified in increasingly specific terms                            light the nationalized revaluation of food
since 1935 (Dalby 1996); it was awarded                                 producers who might otherwise disappear in
a PDO label in the first official list of regis-                        a competitive pan-national climate.
tered products (Regulation 1107/1996). In
1999, Denmark and Germany, supported by
the United Kingdom and France, contested                                The Case of French Foie Gras
the label, raising three key issues concerning                          Politics
feta’s status as Greek. First, they argued that
the name ‘‘feta’’ contains no geographic                                Beyond international implications, gastrona-
place name and actually derives from an                                 tionalism as a construct possesses important

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DeSoucey                                                                                                                 443

micro-level complexities, namely its use in                              encompasses approximately 15,000 farms
defensive claimsmaking for a particular food                             and 600 processing facilities, ranging from
within a nation, and institutional strategies at                         small family-run businesses to large-scale
the level of lived experience. As a case of gas-                         operations. The industry employs about
tronationalism, foie gras differs from pro-                              30,000 people, including many part-time
tected foods like feta cheese or proscuitto di                           and seasonal workers, and it indirectly af-
Parma because organizations in the United                                fects about 100,000 jobs (e.g., veterinary
States and many EU countries want its produc-                            practices, business, marketing, distribution,
tion to cease altogether.19 Animal rights                                and tourism). Throughout the country, menus
groups argue that foie gras’s production meth-                           abound with foie gras dishes. Specialty foie
ods are cruel and immoral. Foie gras produc-                             gras shops are part of urban streetscapes,
tion in Europe is regulated by the European                              and foie gras is sold at most outdoor markets,
Union Commission on Animal Health and                                    specialty grocery stores, large supermarkets,
Welfare, but many EU member states have                                  chain stores, and, in the Southwest, even at
outlawed its production within their borders.                            gas station convenience stores.
Its marketing and consumption cannot be                                     The conditions of French foie gras pro-
banned, however, due to CAP’s principle of                               duction and consumption are, in fact, recent
mutual recognition (Article 28 EC).20                                    phenomena. Rates of foie gras production
    Foie gras is the fattened liver of a duck or                         and consumption within France have tripled
goose. It is produced through a process known                            since the 1970s, due in large part to state sup-
as gavage, which requires a person to use a tube                         port (through the National Institute for
to manually feed the duck or goose two or three                          Agricultural Research [INRA]) for new tech-
times a day in the last 12 to 20 days of the bird’s                      nologies that lowered production costs
life. Long valued as a specialty dish, foie gras                         (Jullien and Smith 2008). In the 1980s, the
was first depicted in Egyptian bas-reliefs from                          introduction of pneumatic, hydraulic, and
2500 BC and documented in Roman agricul-                                 computer-calibrated feeding systems allowed
tural treatises (Serventi 2002; Toussaint-                               each duck to be fed in several seconds, rather
Samat 1994). Historical texts attribute its prev-                        than the 30- to 60-second feeding required
alence in France to the Romans in Gaul (south-                           for artisanal production.21 Additionally, the
western France) and to Jewish populations in                             industry-wide switch in the 1970s to making
northeast France, who raised geese for their                             foie gras from ducks (which are considered
kosher cooking fat. The French gastronomic                               heartier and easier to keep in industrial
foie gras tradition has roots in early culinary                          farm facilities) instead of geese made foie
texts such as La Varenne’s Le Cuisinier                                  gras less expensive and thus available to
Francois, published in 1651, and the menus                               a wider range of consumers. In interviews,
of seventeenth-century royal banquets                                    industry members referred to these processes
(Guerard 1998). By the 1800s, goose foie gras                            as ‘‘the democratization of foie gras.’’
had become an integral part of the emergent                                 French government directives concerning
field of French gastronomy and an international                          foie gras production emerged only within
status symbol of luxury and elegance (Ginor                              the past few decades, concurrent with ex-
1999).                                                                   panding EU political and market integration.
    Today, foie gras is ubiquitous in France.                            In 1993, the French government issued regu-
As of 2006, around 80 percent of world                                   latory guidelines that created specific defini-
foie gras production and 90 percent of world                             tions for different foie gras products. In 1998,
consumption occur there, where it is a $2.5                              an EU Council Directive codified guidelines
billion industry. According to Comite             ´                      for the welfare of all animals kept for agri-
InterProfessionnel des Palmipedes du Foie                                cultural purposes in Europe. The 93-page
Gras (CIFOG), the French foie gras industry                              document specific to foie gras production

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444                                                                                  American Sociological Review 75(3)

defines animal welfare measurements and                                d’orientation agricole n° 2341, article L654-
includes recommendations to improve pro-                               27-1 du code rural). The Assembly’s deputies
duction conditions (Scientific Committee                               provided an accompaniment to the amend-
on Animal Health and Animal Welfare                                    ment, which proclaimed that ‘‘foie gras is
1998).22 In response to an inquiry posed                               an emblematic element of our gastronomy
by a member of the European Parliament,                                and our culture.’’ The amendment noted
the Council stressed that ‘‘it should be men-                          that the product ‘‘perfectly fulfills criteria’’
tioned that a ban on force-feeding is neither                          defining national patrimony ‘‘and the link
foreseen by the Directive nor by the re-                               to terroir that characterizes the originality
commendations mentioned’’ (European                                    of the French food model.’’ Testimony by
Commission 2001).                                                      Senate legislators suggests that the declara-
    Around the same time these recom-                                  tion was made ‘‘anticipating any initiative
mendations were released, in early 1999, the                           from Brussels [the EU’s headquarters].’’ In
French government applied for and received                             response to a senator’s statement that the
the EU PGI label ‘‘Canard a foie gras du                               ‘‘advertisement of foie gras in law’’ by
Sud-Ouest.’’23 The application was criticized                          national endorsement seemed unnecessary,
not by animal rights groups, but by small-                             another responded that ‘‘it is because gavage
scale, artisanal foie gras producers for its                           is contested that it is necessary to inscribe it
lack of specificity concerning the size of pro-                        in law; otherwise, the good spirits of Brussels
duction operations and particular quality                              will come and ban from us all that is our
measures for the resulting products. These                             terroir.’’
producers’ claims indicated fears that tradi-                              As this exchange indicates, gastronation-
tional, small-scale farms would be put in eco-                         alism’s targets necessarily include national
nomic jeopardy by industrial producers                                 and international audiences in linking moral,
(Techoueyres 2007). National agricultural                              patriotic, and market actions as one and the
authorities, however, were invested in having                          same. Perceptions of ideological differences
the EU designate foie gras a French food.                              rendered national boundary maintenance
The French national office and the European                            strategies around foie gras necessary within
Commission accepted the application, allow-                            the pan-national enterprise; ideas about inter-
ing producers of any size in Southwestern                              national condemnation galvanized this gas-
France to obtain the PGI label.                                        tronationalist claim for institutionalized
    Throughout this period, France faced                               protection of national cultural patrimony.
mounting international criticism of foie gras                          Even the head of Stop Gavage understands
production from animal rights organiza-                                the uphill battle his group faces. When I
tions.24 Protests and vandalism in Britain tar-                        asked him why he believes France decided
geted department stores and restaurants that                           to protect foie gras, he responded:
sold foie gras, and legislators across the
United States considered prohibitions. A                                     There is a recent polarization on foie gras—it
small but vocal animal rights group within                                   is the patrimony. It is the identity of
France, Stop Gavage, began to get media                                      France. It’s like wine from Bordeaux.
attention and to draw support from interna-                                  Development of foie gras production is
tional animal rights groups.25                                               within the last 60 years, more or less. It
    In October 2005, legislators in the French                               was there, but very weak before, there
National Assembly and Senate voted by large                                  was little consumption, not all that wide-
majorities to declare foie gras part of the                                  spread. So, the foie gras industry had
‘‘officially-protected cultural and gas-                                     a lot of work to do on the image of foie
tronomic patrimony of France’’ (Loi                                          gras as something from the Southwest

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DeSoucey                                                                                                                445

   and, later, as being part of the image of                            attention to the materiality of gastronational-
   France, like the Eiffel Tower.                                       ism. In contrast to environmental and eco-
                                                                        logical discourses that emerged out of
His response illustrates how state-market re-                           nineteenth-century romanticism, which
lationships use the concept and tools of cul-                           present nature as either a utopian paradise
ture, even when the object in question is                               or a threatening wilderness outside the
morally problematic.                                                    bounds of human society (Heller 1999),
                                                                        the French vision of ‘‘nature’’ is predicated
Naturalizing and Historicizing                                          on notions of social rural life. According to
National Tradition                                                      French sociologist Claude Fischler (1990),
                                                                        these include the terroir and savoir-faire
Perceptions of a country’s history influence                            that produce the wine, cheese, and pates   ˆ ´
which objects are incorporated into cultural                            that are emblematic of French cultural
identity narratives (Hobsbawm and Ranger                                history.
1983; Scares 1997), and these perceptions                                  Foie gras is historicized as part of social
necessarily respond to internal and external                            rural life by invoking familial tradition.
forces. My interviews and conversations                                 Several of the small-scale farms I visited
with people at all levels of the French foie                            send someone to drive around France once
gras industry were replete with claims and                              or twice each year to make deliveries to
stories that relied heavily on the concepts                             long-time clients and friends. Interviewees
of nature, history, and tradition in order to                           frequently mentioned their grandmothers
link foie gras to contemporary French                                   as influential in their conceptions of foie
national interests and self-identity.                                   gras’s traditional Frenchness (similar to
    Conceptual uses of nature, as Levi-Strauss                          folk understandings of the cowboy in
(1969) has taught us, are culturally embed-                             North American cattle production [Blue
ded phenomena, and distinctions between                                 2008]).27 Until the advent of industrialized
nature and culture are the products of ideo-                            foie gras production, it was typically the
logical choices. Throughout my interviews                               job of elder female family members to raise
and review of secondary sources, I found                                poultry and other small animals for house-
the explanation that foie gras production                               hold consumption. For some country fami-
mimics or exploits a ‘‘natural process’’                                lies, this role continues:
(i.e., waterfowl store fat in the liver for
migration). Informants frequently invoked                                    Bonne-maman, at age 75, still raises and
this claim in response to questions regarding                                feeds about 20 to 30 birds each November
current criticism, to challenge accusations                                  for the winter holidays for her children’s
that production imposed ‘‘unnaturalness’’                                    families. She tells me that she’s done this
on the birds, or to explain the use of ducks                                 all her life and learned the practice from
and geese instead of other birds or animals                                  her grandmother. She uses the old-fash-
(see also Heath and Meneley 2007). These                                     ioned gavage tool, where she sits on a chair
narratives also connect origin and discovery                                 or stool and, while wearing a skirt, holds
stories of foie gras production in Egyptian                                  the bird between her legs to feed it. She
and Roman civilizations to its current prom-                                 soaks the corn kernels in water to soften
inent position in French culinary culture, ex-                               them for the feed. She also showed me
tending the ‘‘greatness’’ of past civilizations                              her vegetable garden and several rabbits
to the present (Dalby 2003; Ginor 1999;                                      she keeps for food. (fieldnotes)
Serventi 2002).
    Moreover, linking nature and the physical                           These narratives connect the social realms of
landscape with ‘‘authentic’’ products draws                             family, civil society, and the market to

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446                                                                                   American Sociological Review 75(3)

naturalize and ennoble foie gras’s Frenchness                           start whistle; they stampeded to the tables,
within local and national communities.                                  shopping baskets in hand, once he did.
    Campaigns created and heavily marketed                                 The Southwestern departments’ govern-
by local governments and chambers of com-                               ment-sponsored tourist offices have also
merce to encourage regional tourism within                              spurred the development of the ‘‘foie gras
France also characterize foie gras as indicative                        weekend.’’ Organized and promoted with
of French national identity. While tourism has                          support from the national agricultural office,
long been critiqued for oversimplifying the                             visitors can spend a night on a working foie
subtle variations of cultures and for physically                        gras farm, where the main activity is cutting
manipulating places to create an air of authen-                         up and cooking your own duck or goose to
ticity for visitors (MacCannell 1973), the exis-                        bring home, with instruction from the farm’s
tence of an organizational infrastructure for                           proprietor. According to my interviews with
tourism indicates institutional values assigned                         local government and tourism officials, the
to a place or culture, whether or not these val-                        goals of these programs are to acquaint
ues are ideologically charged or in flux                                French people and foreigners with the people
(Gotham 2007).                                                          engaged in foie gras production, to increase
    Entire towns and regions within France                              consumption, and to ‘‘prove’’ to visitors
use foie gras production and consumption                                foie gras’s national cultural value.
as draws for tourism. Sarlat-le-Caneda,     `
a well-preserved medieval town in Perigord,
is a foie gras Disneyland. Every restaurant                             National Solidarity and Cultural
in the city center, including a pizzeria, adver-
tises foie gras dishes. Storefronts are packed
with duck and goose products and related                                Gastronationalism must appeal to an immedi-
knick-knacks. In the town’s central plaza,                              ate level of collective identity that recognizes
tourists often take photographs with the                                boundaries between insiders and outsiders.
bronze statue of three geese, which was                                 One potential informant, a professor, told
donated in 1875 by Rougie, currently                                    our intermediary she would meet with me
France’s largest foie gras producer.                                    only if I ‘‘enjoyed eating foie gras.’’ When
    Signs for foie gras farms and their                                 I asked her why she had solicited this infor-
attached shops, sometimes hand-drawn to                                 mation, she responded:
evoke rustic charm, dot the southwestern
French countryside.26 These signs often pre-                                  Because you came with the category of
sent images of smiling ducks wearing bow-                                     American. And, some Americans are
ties or playing musical instruments. Visitors                                 against the production of foie gras. So, I
can eat at restaurants located on these small,                                didn’t want to invite one of them, because
picturesque farms or stay overnight in inex-                                  I didn’t want to meet someone who doesn’t
pensive guest rooms. Marches du gras (fat                                     like foie gras. It’s a question of national sol-
markets) are another draw in these regions                                    idarity. I don’t think I am especially nation-
for tourists and locals alike. Every week dur-                                alist, but in this context, I defend it.
ing the winter, people can purchase duck and
goose carcasses and livers directly from pro-                              When asked about bans and critiques out-
ducers at these markets. These are not regular                          side of France, rather than defending foie
farmers markets; the only things sold are raw                           gras production as not cruel, almost all inter-
carcasses and livers. I watched several hun-                            viewees responded by valorizing it as an
dred people line up at a November marche       ´                        authentic French food and connecting it to
du gras in the town of Gimont, anxious for                              a perceived sense of belonging based on
the market’s controller to blow the 10 a.m.                             national tradition. For example, the president

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DeSoucey                                                                                                                 447

of CIFOG and CEO of Feyel-Artzner (a                                     within foie gras’s social and material worlds.
Strasbourg-based foie gras company) ex-                                  Producers and state representatives recognize
plained (in English):                                                    foie gras as something dear to them placed in
                                                                         potential jeopardy by external forces. Foie
   I cannot imagine that foie gras could be                              gras has come to represent and demarcate
   banned in France because it’s a very tradi-                           French national patrimony, at least in part,
   tional product, consumed in this country                              because it is morally contentious elsewhere.
   for a long time. Our country and our law                              Today, preserving foie gras is a small but sig-
   say that our product is a traditional product                         nificant way for the French to defend the idea
   that has to be protected. It’s by law. Mainly                         of France.
   people like it as a gastronomic product.
   But, they buy it also because it’s a ritual.
   You have to. It’s exactly the same as in                              CONCLUSIONS
   your country, at Thanksgiving you have to
   have your turkey. There is no                                         Block and Somers’s (2005) concept of ‘‘idea-
   Thanksgiving without turkey. And, we                                  tional embeddedness’’ describes how ideas
   have no Christmas without foie gras. It’s                             have power in shaping market-based regimes.
   a ritual in our country. You have to do it.                           While they apply this concept to the transfor-
                                                                         mation of state-sponsored welfare regimes
    Similar to the role played by the                                    into more market-driven entities, their atten-
Thanksgiving turkey in bringing American                                 tion toward the coupling of economic princi-
families together for a ritualized meal, the                             ples with the power of ideas provides
work of cultivating French national taste for                            a template for considering how states and
foie gras steeps it in cultural notions of tradi-                        industries use culture to legitimate and protect
tion. One visitor to a gastronomic food exposi-                          their markets. Yet, policy discourses around
tion in Paris told me (in English), ‘‘If you try to                      the globe about the protection of culture in
beat the foie gras traditions, you’re going to                           the face of homogenizing markets reveal
beat the traditions of Christmas for us. I am                            how cultural exceptions problematize policies
35 years old, and have had foie gras at every                            that promote cross-national cooperation.
holiday.’’ Legal protections, however, around                               Gastronationalism is an important claims-
foie gras in France and turkey in the United                             making device for sociologists to consider in
States differ. Although it is possible that tur-                         this regard. While some may interpret such
key production will one day be a cornerstone                             policies as simply protecting material inter-
of international contentious politics for animal                         ests, the data presented here demonstrate
rights movements, it is not currently so, nor                            that gastronationalism’s contentiousness cre-
has the U.S. government offered special legal                            ates a means of cultural and national differ-
recognition and protection to its production.                            entiation. Although it remains politically
Embedding foie gras in French law politicizes                            rooted and shaped by markets, gastronation-
it as central to France’s self-identity as a leader                      alism elucidates patterns of, and claims for,
in both culinary culture and resisting global                            exceptionalism based on notions of cultural
market forces.                                                           tradition and patrimony. It strategically
    While somewhat of an exceptional case of                             weds considerations of national identity to
gastronationalism, foie gras offers a unique                             the idea of the nation as a protector of cul-
lens into the work of maintaining national                               tural patrimony, as demonstrated by Tables
boundaries within a pan-national system.                                 1 and 2. Nationalist layering of marketing
The 2005 legislative protection of foie gras                             and myth-making in contentious food politics
reflects and emboldens the use of cultural                               further suggests that food itself contributes to
narratives of tradition and national defense                             national claims of significant qualitative

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448                                                                                   American Sociological Review 75(3)

differences and to the power dynamics of                                children and an official inventory of the culi-
national identity politics.                                             nary patrimony of each French region.
    The case of foie gras permits deeper scru-                          Gastronomic expositions are held throughout
tiny of gastronationalism’s ideological com-                            France (financed by city governments) to
ponents in protectionist policies and the                               expose people to foods from different regions.
theoretical significance of institutionalized                           The Salon Saveurs in Paris, for example, is
cultural resistance to globalism. Foie gras                             a biannual three-day affair that hosts 250 to
politics are not simply a national peculiarity,                         300 artisan producers of various food products
but a manifestation of national cultural iden-                          (including many with PDO and PGI labels, and
tity that deliberately addresses foie gras’s,                           20 to 25 foie gras booths) and 25,000 visitors.
and thus France’s, standing in the EU.                                  These expositions are important sales and net-
External claims about the morality of animal                            working resources, allowing small- and
welfare are countered with claims about the                             medium-sized food producers to circumvent
salient roles played by history and traditions                          large distribution channels and build national
in supporting contemporary cultural identity                            awareness of their products.
and uniqueness. Gastronationalism buttresses                                Conceptually, the construct of cuisine em-
national identity against perceived threats                             phasizes the development of specific tech-
from outsiders who wish to eliminate certain                            niques and celebrates chefs who possess
objects or practices. This adds an important                            those techniques (Ferguson 2004; Trubek
layer to gastronationalism’s role in creating                           2000). This makes cuisine portable across
cultural market and political protections.                              space and time.28 For example, celebrated
    For France, gastronationalism is central to                         French chefs made New York City a mecca
bolstering national self-identification. Cuisine                        for haute cuisine restaurants in the late-nine-
continues to be one of the most universally rec-                        teenth century (Kuh 2001), and today ac-
ognized components of French culture, and one                           claimed chefs from Europe and the United
of France’s greatest sources of domestic and                            States, such as Alain Ducasse and Daniel
international pride (Pitte 2002; Shields-                               Boulud, are opening restaurants in Japan
Argeles 2004; Trubek 2008). French cuisine’s                            and China.
institutional threads reach from the Guide                                  Gastronationalism, on the other hand,
Michelin system of restaurant ratings, which                            focuses on the institutionalized protection and
centralized symbolic power in the culinary field                        promotion of certain food items as grounded
(Hansen 2008), to the Meilleur Ouvrier de                               in their place of production. The concept of
France, a coveted award within the culinary                             an origin designation for a food product incor-
profession that, since 1924, gives winners the                          porates the unique material roles of soil, cli-
right to wear the French flag’s colors on their                         mate, and the specialized knowledge that
collars (Fantasia forthcoming). As Meunier                              accompanies generations of food producers
(2000:107) writes, ‘‘by painting globalization                          tied to a particular locale; it is the materiality
as a direct attack on French food, its opponents                        of the food ingredient in its raw form that is val-
receive national approbation for a collective                           ued. By using food as a material vehicle of
struggle against la mal-bouffe, or ‘lousy food.’’’                      national identity, gastronationalism meshes
    State-based gastronational strategies have                          the power and resources of cultural, political,
reverberated nationally. In 1989, the French                            and economic identities as they shape and are
Ministry of Culture created the Conseil                                 shaped by institutional protections.
National des Arts Culinaires (National                                      Gastronationalism is confined neither to
Council of Culinary Arts), with the mission                             high-utilizing countries nor to Europe, espe-
of protecting French gastronomy by teaching                             cially as issues of food safety and producers’
about the national palate. Its activities                               economic viability receive media attention
include a taste education program for                                   and public scrutiny. Geographic labeling

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DeSoucey                                                                                                                     449

programs for food and consumer products are                             of peasants, farmers, and the poor, what
becoming widespread across the globe (Evans                             Laudan (2004) calls ‘‘culinary Luddism.’’
and Blakeney 2006), and they serve as                                      Gastronationalism is part of a broader
strategic assets for producers who wish to                              identity project unfolding across Europe
manage their identity and differentiate                                 and the world that is responding to potential
themselves from others (Lounsbury and                                   losses of control of production and national
Glynn 2001). For example, the oriGIn                                    industries, accelerated by global moves
project (Organisation for an International                              toward open trade (Barber 1996; Dobbin
Geographical Indications Network), a Swiss-                             et al. 2007; Steger 2002). In terms of public
based nongovernmental organization repre-                               attentiveness, gastronationalism ties to, and
senting 85 groups from more than 30                                     potentially substitutes for, attention paid to
countries, began advocating in 2003 for more                            other changes accompanying pan-national
legal protections for geographic indicators at                          integration politics, such as income in-
transnational levels. The group’s membership                            equality (Beckfield 2006), the welfare
currently includes such diverse products as                             state (Brady, Seeleib-Kaiser, and Beckfield
Bolivian Quinua Real de Lipez, Guatemalan                               2005), and new waves of migrants escaping
Cafe de Antigua, Indian Basmati rice,                                   poverty and political persecution (Gingrich
Kenyan tea, Idaho potatoes, and Mexican                                 and Banks 2006). In this regard, gastrona-
tequila.                                                                tionalism could be considered part of the
   International private organizations, such                            same response to globalism that has given
as Slow Food, provide similar institutional                             rise to xenophobic nationalist organizations
support and recognition for foods and food                              (Taras 2009).
producers they consider ‘‘authentic.’’ Slow                                Combining the work and resources of food
Food (which originated in Italy and has con-                            industries with national interests demonstrates
sortia across the globe, including an active                            the importance of considering contentious
presence in the United States) prides itself                            micro-cultural politics in the study of multi-
on preserving and promoting artisanal food                              state systems. This project endorses economic
items and traditional production practices                              sociologists’ growing interest in meaning-
considered ‘‘near extinction’’ due to global                            making within market-state systems.
impacts of agribusiness (Andrews 2008;                                  Engagement with meanings and materials
Chrzan 2004).                                                           associated with a rapidly receding past sit-
   These public and private organizational                              uates, and even creates, these present-day
forms tell a story that distinguishes gastrona-                         forms of institutionalized protections.
tionalism from a simple dichotomy of tradi-                             Gastronationalism is a critical concept for so-
tion versus progress. These organizations                               ciologists: it reflects and refracts social condi-
oppose homogenizing forces in principle,                                tions under which market-based identities
yet they rely on such forces to differentiate                           engage with national boundaries, the public
themselves when promoting multiple                                      recognition of difference, and the importance
localisms—what Slow Food calls ‘‘virtuous                               of community. Its myriad consequences for
globalization.’’ Furthermore, without valua-                            consumers, interest groups, industries, and
tion and purchase by wealthier consumers                                policymakers, however, remain to be seen.
(as Slow Food argues), some food traditions
would be economically unsustainable and                                 Acknowledgments
disappear, making this type of globalism
                                                                        I am grateful for the most helpful of comments and sug-
more palatable for anti-globalization adher-
                                                                        gestions from Gary Alan Fine, Elise Lipkowitz, John
ents. Such strategies, however, must remain                             Millhauser, Mark Caro, Erin McDonnell, Geoff
cognizant of their potential to promote                                 Harkness, Lynn Gazley, Heather Schoenfeld, David
a romanticized past that ignores the travails                           Schleifer, Christopher Bail, Nicola Beisel, Jeremy Freese,

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450                                                                                        American Sociological Review 75(3)

James Mahoney, the Northwestern University Culture                                  (see Salumificio v. Asda Stores Ltd & Hygrade
Workshop, ASR editors Vinnie Roscigno and Randy                                     Foods Ltd [European Court of Justice 2003]).
Hodson, and the anonymous reviewers. I also warmly thank                       7.   Timing of approval does not reflect nationally spe-
the late Allan Schnaiberg for his steadfast support and men-                        cific processes or events. The Commission did not
torship throughout the years.                                                       release a list of the first 320 designation labels until
                                                                                    June 1996, due to large amounts of paperwork and
Notes                                                                               the fact that many applications required additional
                                                                                    information. Subsequent registrations have simi-
 1. I use ‘‘gastronationalism’’ as coined by Swart (2000,                           larly been released in groups.
    2002) in two regional conference presentations. No                         8.   For example, Appellation d’Origine Controlee        ˆ ´
    published articles came out of this work. The term                                                     ¨
                                                                                    in France, Qualitatatswein mit Pradikat and¨
    gastronationalism has also been used, according to                                      ¨
                                                                                    Qualitatatswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete in
    Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang (Green 2005), to differ-                                                  x˜
                                                                                    Germany, Denominacao de Origem Controlada in
    entiate national identities through insults based on                                                          ´
                                                                                    Portugal, and Denominacion de Origen in Spain.
    food preferences. For example, arguments between                           9.   Examples of prior multilateral agreements are the
    the United Kingdom and France over British beef                                 Madrid Agreement of 1891, which included policies
    (and the fear of mad cow disease), after France ille-                           for handling false or deceptive indications of
    gally maintained a ban on imports that the rest of the                          a good’s source, and the Lisbon Agreement of
    EU had lifted three years earlier, led to the increased                         1958, which specified protections for appellations
    use of ‘‘rosbif’’ to denote a British person, parallel to                       of origin and their international registration.
    the way ‘‘frog’’ has been used to insult the French.                     10.    Most of these appellation programs were created for
 2. Accessed via EUR-Lex, which provides free access                                wine production (Stanziani 2004). Hungary intro-
    to the Official Journal of the European Union.                                  duced the world’s first vineyard classification system
 3. For example, a 30-year battle over the production and                           in 1730, based on sun exposure, soil quality, and poten-
    marketing of chocolate began when Britain joined the                            tial to develop fungus. My measure counts only appel-
    EU in 1973; the dispute ended with a 2003 ruling by                             lation systems that came into existence after the
    the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Eight                              development of the modern European state system.
    EU member states (in particular Spain and Italy) ob-                     11.    Measuring the importance of food culture to a coun-
    jected to and restricted the distribution and marketing                         try is a tricky conceptual task; few countries have
    of British chocolate within their borders, because                              poor opinions of their food cultures. With unlimited
    British chocolate is made with up to 5 percent vege-                            time and expert resources, one could tally the num-
    table fat instead of pure cocoa butter. These objec-                            ber of food scenes or references in each nation’s lit-
    tions were overruled and the restrictions deemed                                erature or film, or comb archives of all 21 national
    illegal under the principle of mutual recognition,                              newspapers for articles related to food.
    entitling British chocolate products open access to                      12.    I considered but did not include in my metric other
    all EU markets (Cidell and Alberts 2006).                                       potential boundary-drawing identifiers that could
 4. It was not until August 1996 that the first TSG reg-                            reveal the extent to which culinary self-conscious-
    istration application (for Italian mozzarella cheese)                           ness is a product of tying national culture to percep-
    was published in the Official Journal. Other TSG                                tions of external threats (Erikson 1966). These
    labels are primarily concentrated in Belgium (for                               include, but are not limited to, issues of ethnic, reli-
    beer) and Sweden and Finland (for processed food                                gious, and linguistic diversity and immigration pat-
    products, such as pies).                                                        terns, which are beyond the scope of this analysis.
 5. Since the end of 2007, when my sampling ends,                            13. is a food news and information
    several applications have been approved, several                                Web site that receives about one million page views
    hundred more are under review, and some have                                    per month and claims to host the most complete
    been backlogged for more than two years. The                                    worldwide listing of food festivals.
    full list of registered products, searchable by prod-                    14.    At the low end, several countries listed no festivals;
    uct type or country, is available at http://ec.europa                           at the high end, Britain had 52. The mean number of
    .eu/agriculture/quality/database/index_en.htm.                                  festivals by country is 6.3 per year.
 6. For example, according to the definition set by the                      15.    Italy, at 98, had the highest number of books listed.
    producers’ consortium, to attain the PDO label for                       16.    This label has already produced paradoxical results.
    proscuitto di Parma, or Parma ham, the meat must                                Non-Italians recently won the World Pizza
    be sliced and packaged in the region of production.                             Championships; they produced ‘‘authentic’’ pizza
    This proved controversial; the consortium brought                               Napoletana by following the ingredient list and des-
    a suit against a UK grocer and a distributor for slic-                          ignation rules (Helstosky 2008). This demonstrates
    ing the meat themselves and selling it without the                              one reason why TSGs are less sought after protec-
    official brand mark on the product or packaging                                 tions than PDO or PGI labels.

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DeSoucey                                                                                                                            451

17. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a slow-maturing cheese                                  that anthropomorphism led people to misunderstand
    made in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern                                  and denigrate the process. Several noted the dispro-
    Italy. There are just over 400 cheese production                               portionate level of outrage regarding foie gras rela-
    houses in the region, which produce about 3 million                            tive to other problems facing animals and people
    cheeses annually. Some mechanization is used in                                alike. One chef I interviewed in Bordeaux went
    the process (e.g., mechanical arms turn the cheese                             on a tirade about other countries, especially the
    wheels), but it is still considered artisanal. A 1934                          United States, caring about ducks when they
    decree by the Italian government created the                                   ‘‘don’t demonstrate caring about people.’’ I pressed
    Consorzio di Parmigiano-Reggiano (for further                                  him, saying that foie gras has opponents within
    information, see de Roest and Menghi [2000]).                                  France, too. He immediately responded, ‘‘Yes, but
18. The Greek government responded unsuccessfully                                  America doesn’t have a monopoly on imbeciles.
    that the ‘‘feta’’ produced outside of Greece was                               There are assholes in every country.’’
    manufactured incorrectly because it used cow                             25.   Chefs and producers I interviewed were dismissive
    milk instead of sheep and goat milk.                                           of Stop Gavage, asserting that foie gras is a decid-
19. Israel, one of the larger foie gras producers outside                          edly French food and a national tradition.
    of France in the 1990s, banned its production in                         26.   The foie gras farms that welcome tourists account
    2002 through a 2 to 1 Supreme Court decision.                                  for only about 10 percent of France’s total annual
    The Israeli Supreme Court applied existing anticru-                            foie gras production. The majority of foie gras
    elty laws to the force-feeding of birds. California,                           ducks are raised and processed in larger, more
    one of only two states in the United States that pro-                          industrial facilities.
    duces foie gras, passed a production ban in 2004                         27.   Notably, the root of the term ‘‘patrimony’’ is patri-,
    that will go into effect in 2012. The city of                                  or father, connoting a gendered relationship to cul-
    Chicago passed a distribution ban for restaurants                              tural heritage. The nostalgic past evoked by the case
    in April 2006, which was repealed in May 2008.                                 of foie gras includes the role of female family mem-
    Several other U.S. cities and states have considered                           bers (namely, grandmothers) in national patrimony.
    ordinances similar to the Chicago ban, but none                          28.   I thank one of ASR’s anonymous reviewers for
    have enacted one.                                                              pointing to this important difference between cui-
20. Many EU countries with production bans were                                    sine and individual foods.
    never foie gras producers; this legislation was
    mainly symbolic. Foie gras production in Europe
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