Food, identity and belonging: A case study of South African-Australians

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Culturally familiar food is of great importance to migrants. This case study examines the role of food in the lives of South African migrants to Australia. How food impacts on notions of identity and belonging for immigrants is framed and discussed within the context of nostalgia, sharing and Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’.

Through mixed qualitative methods, including participatory research, document analysis and in-depth interviews, this study examines the everyday experiences of South African-Australians. The study employs an interpretivist approach that aims for greater understanding of the subject through the perspectives of the research participants.

Culinary rituals and traditions feature large in personal narratives of adjustment that reveal the important role of food in contributing to identity translation in a destination society and, ultimately, the attainment of wellbeing for migrants.

Research limitations
The study provides a ‘snapshot’ of a topic that would benefit from further exploration.

Practical implications
The importance for migrants to have access to cultural traditions surrounding food is acknowledged in the contemporary world where increasingly mobile populations need to maintain a sense of identity and feel a sense of belonging while integrating into host societies.

Social implications
Traditional cuisines are an integral part of the mechanisms by which migrants can better integrate leading to overall greater social cohesion.

The study contributes a new dimension to the body of literature pertaining to food access and security for culturally diverse groups in multicultural societies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2434-2443
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Food Journal
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Traditional cuisine
  • identity
  • South-African migrants
  • Habitus
  • Belonging

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