Styles of Communication, Vol 5, No 1 (2013)

The Shifting Border of Food Perceptions and Cultural Identity in Maghrebi Muslim Migrants. History and the Contemporary Experience of Cultural Mediators in Northern Italy

Roberta Giovine


In recent decades, Italy has become a point of entry to the EU and, for many migrants from the Southern shores of the Mediterranean, a final destination (IOM Report 2011). As massive inflows have often caused emergencies, the pressing needs of these populations in the areas of housing, healthcare, education, etc. have been examined and addressed (data: Regional Authority and Milan Diocese Observatories). Realizing that the cultural implications in the area of food, had not been systematically studied thus far, the author developed a three-year project, focusing on northwest African Muslim migrants and the change in their perception of food, particularly in light of the strong religious implications that food has historically had to Arab populations. After reviewing the key traits of Arab-Berber food history, their translation into contemporary life in the countries of origin and destination was investigated, through interviews with, primarily, cultural mediators, as well as anthropologists, food experts, food chain professionals, and the migrants themselves. The overall research delves into the migrants’ views of food back in Northern Africa and Maghrebi and other food in Italy, with an emphasis on ideas of purity and identity (in culinary practices, ingredients, celebrations, table manners, the restaurant system and distribution).



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