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The edible museum : exploring foodways as sociomuseological practice in Kayamandi, South Africa

Vogts, Elsa (2017-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Food is one of the most fundamental aspects related to human well-being. The ways in which food moves through community social systems, through foodways, are implicated in complex networks of privilege and marginalisation, and are marked by sensory encounters. Sociomuseology places the well-being of communities, and by implication cross-cultural tolerance and understanding, at the forefront of its approach to meaning making. Sociomuseology could be a transformative museological practice through which to explore sensory encounters as experienced through foodways, as it seeks to make meaning of the complexity of these encounters towards community well-being. Such a practice could be especially relevant in the context of South Africa, where tensions between cultural cohesion and xenophobic violence have contributed to disenchantment with the democratic project of the “Rainbow Nation”. To this end, the purpose of this research undertaking was to examine and document the foodways of the Kayamandi township, within its specific context as a marginalised community in post-apartheid South Africa, through a sociomuseological practice entitled the “Edible Museum”. Sensory theory, posthumanism and sociomuseology formed the theoretical framework through which the study was conducted. I followed an interpretive approach, informed by sensory ethnography and a diffractive methodology, in implementing an action research design, which consisted of group and individual interviews with participants based in Kayamandi. The study found that foodways are implicated in a direct way in the tension between the ambition of cultural cohesion and misunderstanding of others as it emerges in the context of Kayamandi and broader Stellenbosch. The ability of food to speak through a sensory and embodied language was observed to highlight the ways in which people interacted with each other, especially across cultural boundaries. Moreover, the ability of food to engage with disruption, through the senses, and the way in which this disruption could be positively mediated through sociomuseological interactions, was found to be key. It is through sensory disruptions that are enacted towards bodily transformations that foodways can be enlisted towards the facilitation of potential crosscultural exchange through a museological mediation, which speaks in an embodied language. The proposition of the Edible Museum thus functions as a sociomuseological approach that could be followed towards the facilitation of cross-cultural tolerance and understanding through making sensory meaning of foodways. The Edible Museum is also a process that can critique and transform the museological practices of those museums that struggle to remain relevant in a post-apartheid, and I would argue, posthuman, context where the necessity for cross-cultural tolerance and understanding through alternative modalities and knowledge systems is revealed. This study has therefore contributed to the expansion of dialogue concerning cross-cultural interaction and tolerance in the museological and food studies fields, through the novel perspective of a sensory approach to foodways.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Voedsel is een van die fundamenteelste faktore wat met menslike welstand verband hou. Die wyses waarop voedsel deur sosiale stelsels in ʼn gemeenskap beweeg, deur voedselpraktyke, word in komplekse netwerke van bevoorregting en marginalisering geïmpliseer, en word deur sensoriese ontmoetings gekenmerk. Sosiomuseologie plaas die welstand van gemeenskappe, en by implikasie interkulturele verdraagsaamheid en begrip, voorop in sy benadering tot betekenisskepping. Sosiomuseologie kan ʼn transformatiewe praktyk wees waardeur sensoriese ontmoetings wat deur voedselpraktyke ervaar word, verken kan word omdat dit poog om betekenis te skep binne die kompleksiteit van hierdie ontmoetings wat gemeenskapswelstand nastreef. So ʼn praktyk kan besonder betekenisvol wees in Suid-Afrika, waar spanning tussen kulturele samehorigheid en xenofobiese geweld reeds bygedra het tot ontnugtering jeens die demokratiese projek van die “Reënboognasie”. In die lig hiervan was die doel van hierdie navorsingsprojek om die voedselpraktyke van die Kayamandi-township te ondersoek en te dokumenteer binne die spesifieke konteks van Kayamandi as ʼn gemarginaliseerde gemeenskap in post-apartheid Suid-Afrika, deur ʼn sosiomuseologiese praktyk genaamd die “Eetbare Museum”. Sensoriese teorie, posthumanisme en sosiomuseologie was die teoretiese raamwerk waarteen die studie onderneem is. In die implementering van ’n aksienavorsingsontwerp is ’n interpretatiewe benadering gevolg wat gebaseer was op sensoriese etnografie en ʼn diffraksie-metodologie. Groeps- en individuele onderhoude is gevoer met deelnemers wat in Kayamandi woon. ʼn Direkte verband is gevind tussen voedselpraktyke en die spanning tussen die ambisie van kulturele kohesie en wanbegrip van ander soos dit binne die konteks van Kayamandi en die breër Stellenbosch na vore kom. Daar is waargeneem dat die vermoë wat voedsel het om deur ʼn sensoriese en beliggaamde taal te praat die wyses waarop interaksie tussen mense plaasvind, uitlig – veral oor kultuurgrense heen. Verder is gevind dat die vermoë van voedsel om ontwrigting uit te lok, deur die sinne, asook die wyse waarop sosiomuseologiese interaksies sulke ontwrigting positief kan medieer, van fundamentele belang is. Dit is deur sensoriese ontwrigtings wat uitgevoer word om liggaamlike transformasies te bereik dat voedselpraktyke ingespan kan word om potensiële interkulturele interaksie te fasiliteer deur ʼn museologiese mediasie wat in ʼn beliggaamde taal praat. Die voorstel van ʼn Eetbare Museum funksioneer dus as ʼn sosiomuseologiese benadering wat gevolg kan word ten einde interkulturele verdraagsaamheid en begrip te fasiliteer deurdat voedselpraktyke sensoriese betekenis kan skep. Die Eetbare Museum is ook ʼn proses wat die museologiese praktyke van daardie museums wat sukkel om relevant te bly in ʼn post-apartheidkonteks – en ek sou argumenteer in ʼn post-menslike konteks – waarbinne die noodsaaklikheid van kruiskulturele verdraagsaamheid en begrip deur alternatiewe modaliteite en kennis onthul word. Hierdie studie het dus bygedra tot die uitbereiding van dialoog oor interkulturele interaksie en verdraagsaamheid op die terrein van museologie en voedselstudies, deur die nuwe perspektief van ’n sensoriese benadering tot voedselpraktyke.

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