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"Through the Language of Food: Creating Linguistic and Cultural Value through Basque (Euskara) Semiotics to Market Local Gastronomic Products"
AuthorLesh, Kerri N.
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Basque gastronomy has become world-renowned over the last few decades, drawing locals and tourists alike to savor regional products, congregate over food and drink in neighborhood bars, and indulge in six-course meals in Michelin star establishments. This dissertation uses the concept of a functional pairing, uztartzea or maridaje (“pairing” respectively in Basque and Castilian), by analyzing the theoretical and practical ways in which Basque linguistic and cultural practices are being used in the promotion of gastronomic products, how such use of material goods affects the value of this minoritized language, and how these practices and material goods contribute to cultural maintenance and efforts related to language revitalization or normalization. The theoretical framework for this work has informed in-depth considerations of core-periphery dynamics, shedding light on tensions regarding language commodification, the effects of tourism, concepts of authenticity, and language materiality. Various intersectional categories are interwoven throughout the chapters as a way to help observe practices and opinions that contribute to issues related to language, power, and identity in relation to Basque culture. This dissertation makes a new contribution to the scholarship on linguistic commodification and materiality by looking closely at the Basque case and specifically analyzes the use of Euskara. Until now, there is no known ethnographic study of this type that examines the relationship between Basque language and food with such breadth and depth. The first chapter will provide a brief history of the Basque culture and language. Within this chapter, a description of the setting will contextualize my research by describing aspects of the current political, economic, linguistic, and social climate that influence the use of the Basque language and other semiotics can be seen in local, national, and international markets. The second chapter will lay a foundation for this dissertation by introducing various dimensions of the Basque gastronomic society. It will provide a timeline of the milestones and development of present-day Basque gastronomy, as well as reference the social spaces where food and drink play an integral role in Basque culture. Chapters 3 through 7 will each discuss the use of Basque in relation to a particular beverage to demonstrate the ways in which each drink indexes Basque culture through semiotics. I will summarize the dissertation’s main themes and address additional products, regions, and approaches that can be analyzed in future research to assess how the value is created for the products as well as the Basque language and culture.