Identity á la Carte; or, You are what you eat


Date Thursday February 26th 2004
Time 5:00 PM
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium

PARC Forum

In recent years, the construction of human identity has received much discussion. The majority of it has focused on what might be called “major identities”: those aspects of individual or group identity that receive most of our conscious focus: gender, race, and nationality, for example. But we also construct our selves through the creation of “minor identities”: less salient, but still significant aspects of our selves. One of these consists of our attitudes towards food and its preparation: how much we care about it, and how much we know about it. This paper examines two of the formats in which these identities are collaboratively constructed between creator and consumer: restaurant menus and cookbook recipes. Changes in the forms of these over time, within the United States in particular, are examined, and differences between the menus of restaurants of different kinds, and the recipes in cookbooks of different kinds, are analyzed in terms of what those differences across time and style tell us about who we are, as food creators/consumers.


Prof. Robin Tolmach Lakoff is a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. She received an A.B. from Harvard College in Classics and Linguistics, an M.A. from Indiana University in Linguistics and Classics, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in Linguistics. She has been a member of the faculty at Berkeley since 1972.

She was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in 1971-1972, and has been a NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow at M.I.T. and has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

Among her publications are: "Abstract Syntax and Latin Complementation", M.I.T. Press, 1968; "Language and a Woman's Place", Harper & Row, 1975; "Face Value: The Politics of Beauty: (with Mandy Aftel), Warner, 1985; "Talking Power: The Politics of Language", Basic Books, 1991; "Father Knows Best: The Use and Abuse of Psychotherapy in Freud's Case of Dora" (with James Coyne), Teachers College Press, 1993; and "The Language War", University of California Press, 2000.

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