@ the IHR: Leora Auslander on Why Vegetarian Food in School Cafeterias is (and isn’t) a Problem: Food and Frenchness in the 20th and 21st century

Why Vegetarian Food in School Cafeterias is (and isn’t) a Problem:

Food and Frenchness in the 20th and 21st century.

Professor Leora Ausländer (U. Chicago)

4 February 2019

If you were ever schooled in France, you’ll remember that on Fridays, you always had fish. So despite attempts to rupture links between the Catholic Church and the Republican school system, some Catholic traditions endured. Aside from this, though, the cantine meals in French schools were, more than anything else, Republican in nature, with regional foods used to unify a French nation. Dress codes, too, were intended to embody republican ideals at the expense of layered identities, not least the recent controversial laws banning religious symbols, and of course the veil.

By discussing food & clothing together, Professor Leora Auslander advances our knowledge of each of them as well as historical specificities of laïcité. She examines the republican, regional and religious discourses at play within the French school structures of food and dress, showing that in the historical controversies around food and clothes in France and French schools specifically, the former was adaptable, but the latter was not. At the heart of this fascinating research, we see how Frenchness was, and continues to be, defined through stomachs and clothes. We cannot wait for this work to be published.

Leora Auslander is a Professor at the University of Chicago. She has written extensively on material culture, everyday life and gender in modern France.

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