Food, Drink and Identity in Europe

By Thomas M. Wilson | Go to book overview

FOOD, NATIONAL IDENTITY,
AND EMERGENT EUROPEANNESS
AT THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY1

Stacia E. Zabusky


Abstract

In this paper, I explore how participants in European space science
mission development at the European Space Agency became Europe-
ans in the organizational contexts of working, talking, and, most
especially, eating together. The analysis is based on data collected
during a year of participant-observation fieldwork from 1988 to 1989
at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in
the Netherlands. In an ethnographic analysis, I show that in the ev-
eryday contexts of working together at ESTEC on European space
science missions, a cultural process of Europeanization was taking
place. In this process, food often served as both a technique and an
icon of national identity (i.e., where there was food, there was bound
to be national identity, and vice versa), thus making consumption an
integral component in producing an emergent 'Europeanness,' espe-
cially in contexts of leisure or ritual activity linked to the organization.

In this paper, I explore how participants in European space science mission development became Europeans in the organizational contexts of working, talking, and, most especially, eating together at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC). Designing and building space science missions requires a high level of expertise, personal commitment, and political support and funding, and in 1988, when I began a year of ethnographic fieldwork at ESTEC, the European Space

1 Some of the ideas discussed in this paper appeared in a preliminary form in
Zabusky 1998. My thanks to Donald Spector for his careful reading of the initial drafts
of this paper.

-203-

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