Food, exile and national identity: Thematization of food in memories of Lithuanian deportees
This project investigates the thematization of food in memories, recorded as oral histories, of Lithuanians exiled to Siberia. It aims to fill the gap in exile studies concerning food and national identity as well as provide an alternative to victimization narratives in public as well as institutional discourses. At the same time, it aims to add to the growing number of anthropologic studies in the field of food and memory, challenging Proustian, western-focused anthropologies. Specifically, it focuses on the way food and foodways influence the construction as well as maintenance of national identity. By using theory concerning the relationship between food and memory, the analysis investigates how foodways are either preserved or adapted with regards to external changes in culture, space and language. In particular, the concepts of gustatory nostalgias, collective memory and its importance for collective identities as well as the potency of food as a mnemonic are used as a theoretical framework following thematic analysis. Using oral histories as a form of data collection while limiting the questions to food-only topics contributes towards the narrative structure. These narratives tell surprisingly similar stories of perseverance and adaptation under extreme circumstances. Through foodways, boundaries are established between the gastronomic self and gastronomic others. However, the histories reveal fluid, almost hybrid identities – that of an exile, rather than just a combination of Lithuanian and Russian - a product of complex multicultural experiences. With regards to literature on gendered exile, the study does not confirm any existing theories, which calls into questioning the gendered approach. Instead, it proposes that age and class are more determinant of the exile experience and the view of an individual as part of a community and nation. Overall, foodways in deportation appear to assert the identity as a Lithuanian exile, rather than just a Lithuanian.