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Food Studies Publications by Project Members

Based on fieldwork in the current project and its predecessor projects, members of the team have published works on the globalization of cuisine, focusing on Asian contexts. Here are some of these publications, with more to follow.

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Our book about 150 years of Japanese restaurants on six continents is out from the University of Hawai'i Press!

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Drawing heavily on untapped primary sources in multiple languages, this book centers on the stories of Japanese migrants in the first half of the twentieth century, and then on non-Japanese chefs and restaurateurs from Asia, Africa, Europe, Australasia, and the Americas whose mobilities, since the mid-1900s, who have been reshaping and spreading Japanese cuisine. 

Journal articles and book chapters
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James Farrer, Christian Hess, Mônica R. de Carvalho, Chuanfei Wang, David Wank. 2019. “Culinary Mobilities: The Multiple Globalizations of Japanese Cuisine” Cecilia Leong-Salobir ed. Routledge Handbook of Food in Asia. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 39-57. 

The story of the globalization of Japanese cuisine did not begin in Los Angeles in the 1980s but in Asia in the 1880s. This essay reviews the history of the multiple globalizations of Japanese from the early colonial-based system to a recent wave lead by non-Japanese migrant entrepreneurs.​

Asian Food and Culinary Politics: Food Governance, Constructed Heritage, and Contested Boundaries

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Yuk Wah Chan and James Farrer. 2020 (online; 2021 in print). “Asian Food and Culinary Politics: Food Governance, Constructed Heritage, and Contested Boundaries” Asian Anthropology Vol. 20, Issue 1


Culinary politics involves a contest over the social organization and cultural meanings of food by a variety of actors: both civil and state, the powerful and the grassroots. In particular, we consider food governance as a form of culinary politics entailing two-way traffic, in which policies and regulations are set by state actors, while the responses of civil actors often reshape the foodscape and complicate the outcome of food policies.

Who owns a cuisine? The grassroots politics of Japanese food in Europe

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James Farrer and Chuanfei Wang. 2020 (online; 2021 in print). “Who Owns A Cuisine? The Grassroots Politics of Japanese Food in Europe” Asian Anthropology Vol. 20, Issue 1.

Culinary borrowings are so common as to seem trivial, and yet they are consequential. People’s livelihoods, professional status, and social identity may be tied to their stake in the defining boundaries of culinary cultures. This article discusses how Japanese and other Asian migrant actors participate in grassroots culinary politics in the context of a Japanese food boom in Europe. It shows how the “borrowed power” of one migrant group may threaten the status and even livelihoods of the foundational stakeholders in a culinary field. 

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Chuanfei Wang. 2020. "Creating a Wine Heritage in Japan" Asian Anthropology Vol. 20 Issue 1.

This paper examines how Japanese grape wine production has been promoted as cultural heritage, through the collaboration of local official and private actors. In 2018, Japan’s winemaking was designated as a national cultural heritage through a governmental program called “Japan Heritage,” highlighting the history associated with wine production in a specific area in Yamanashi Prefecture, a long-standing wine-making region in Japan. In this creation of heritage, historical narratives of wine production have been rediscovered and invented. Essentially, this heritagization strategy is not preserving wine culture but creating one, developing touristic resources and stimulating local economy. The politics of making wine heritage in Japan reveals a national governance of food culture with the goal of making Japan a global tourism destination and promoting rural development. 

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James Farrer. 2020. “A Tokyo Restaurant Community Faces COVID-19” Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa (Italian journal of Ethnography and Qualitative Research) No. 2/2020, pp. 245-54.

Around the world, independent restaurants are threatened both by COVID-19 and the social distancing measures necessary to contain the pandemic. In one Tokyo community, restaurant patrons have organized to support local eateries during the “emergency” declared in early April. Based upon an ethnographic study of independent restaurants and drinking spots, this essay discusses the resilience of a local culinary community, comprised of restauranteurs and patrons, as well as the role played by community ethnography.

From Cooks to Chefs: Skilled Migrants in a Globalizing Culinary Field

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James Farrer. 2020. “From Cooks to Chefs: Skilled Migrants in a Globalizing Culinary Field” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (accepted Jan. 4, 2020).

Migrants do not simply move across physical spaces but within institutionalized social fields, including occupational fields. This ethnographic study takes a globalized culinary field – the social and economic space of fine restaurant dining– as an example of an emergent transnational social field. Focusing on culinary migrants to Shanghai, it shows how the institutionalization, professionalization. and globalization of the culinary field create new opportunities for the mobility of workers. Transnational mobility can be advantageous to the career mobility of culinary workers at all levels, from line cooks, to head chefs, and further to celebrity chefs building global brands. 

The Globalization of Asian Cuisines

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James Farrer (ed.). 2015. Globalization and Asian Cuisines: Transnational Networks and Contact Zones. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

This volume is a collection of historical and ethnographic accounts of Asia's increasingly globalized cuisines. Based on empirical research, the authors describe the increasingly transnational organization of culinary fields, multicultural culinary contact zones, and state-led culinary politics. Chapters include studies of the pathways in which Asian cuisines cross borders and subsequently interact with local culinary systems. Other chapters show how cuisines from abroad enter into Asian cities and are modified in transnational urban settings. 

Japanese Culinary Mobilities

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James Farrer, Chuanfei Wang, David Wank, Mônica R. de Carvalho, Christian Hess, Lenka Vyletalova. 2017. “Japanese Culinary Mobilities Research: The Globalization of the Japanese Restaurant.” Foods & Food Ingredients Journal Japan, Vol. 222, No. 3, 257-66.

Japanese restaurant cuisine is now prevalent in markets around the world, from large cities to small towns. Our research project develops a mobilities perspective to represent the transnational spread of Japanese cuisine. We emphasize that the organization of the Japanese culinary field is centered n global cities which are the hubs of the local networks through which ideas, producers and products flow. Non-Japanese ethnic networks are especially important in spreading Japanese cuisine in low-cost forms away from urban centers. Migrant Japanese entrepreneurs remain significant innovators, especially in global food cities such as New York.

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James Farrer. 2019. “Grimy Heritage: Organic Bar Streets in Shanghai and Tokyo”  Built Heritage Vol. 3, Issue 3, pp. pp. 73-85.

Every city has built environments that are largely regarded as eyesores, for aesthetic, social, or moral reasons. Urban nightlife streets are examples of such ‘grimy heritage’. Not only shabby and disorderly, they harbour forms of commercial sex, drinking cultures, and ephemeral nightlife cultures that many city residents and government officials consider undesirable. Sometimes their built forms are regarded as the enemy of genuine heritage architecture, since they obscure more solid, carefully designed structures around them. However, in many cities, organic nightlife streets—developing in such spaces precisely because they were derelict or poorly regulated—serve important social functions as spaces of creativity and community formation. This paper examines the ways that such ‘grimy heritage’ has developed in Shanghai and Tokyo, using examples from ethnographic research and historical sources, and addressing the question of the contribution of the ‘grimy heritage’ to authentic, urban social life.

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Chuanfei Wang. "Old Sake in New Glasses: Reframing Japan's National Drink through Global Wine Culture" Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, Vol. 19 No. 1, Spring 2019; (pp. 79-90) DOI: 10.1525/gfc.2019.19.1.79

Japan is experiencing a sake boom, more precisely, the growing popularity of premium sake. It is the result of a dramatic reform of the Japanese sake industry over the past few decades. In this article, I argue that, from a cultural perspective, wine culture is being adopted as a cultural frame to facilitate the revival and rebranding of Japan's national drink. This adoption is a “culinary translation” of Japanese sake through the globally familiar language of wine. In this process, the Japaneseness of sake is by no means challenged, but made “legible” through the more familiar discourse and practices prevalent in the culture of wine.

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James Farrer. 2019. “Happy and Unhappy Meals: Culinary Approaches to the Good Life in Shanghai” Becky Yang Hsu and Richard Madsen (ed.) The Chinese Pursuit of Happiness: Anxieties, Hopes, and Moral Tensions in Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 84-109.


Food is both a material need and a medium of social communication. Foodways are thus a unique lens to explore the expression of ideas of well-being in society. This chapter looks at how people talk about food in urban China. Answers to open-ended interview questions about memories of happy meals show that many people describe their happiest meals as special occasions in which they ate outside the home with friends. Eating out is in contemporary China is thus seen as a way in which friendship ties are cultivated and expressed. Asking about unhappy eating, however, reveals both tensions and social exclusions in contemporary ideas of happiness in China. Urban Chinese are concerned about food safety, often associating risks with food vendors and producers operating on the fringes of urban society, indicating how notions of happiness exclude the urban and rural poor. Other concepts of unhappy meals, however, point to the tensions that arise when people pursue material benefits through “face consumption” in expensive banquets meant to cultivate relationships but instead experience a sense of boredom or emptiness that belies the social purposes of eating together. Good eating is thus a window onto both the ideals and anxieties of a rising urban middle class in China.

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James Farrer. 2019. “Red (Michelin) Stars Over China: Seeking Recognition in a Transnational Culinary Field” in Michelle King edited Culinary Nationalism in Asia. London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 193-213. 

The rise of a global set of culinary authorities, including the Michelin Guides and the World's 50 Best Restaurants, creates a new context for the expression of culinary nationalism in places like that China. Chinese chefs must decide if they want to play the global Michelin game or stick with standards that traditionally brought success but not critical acclaim. The reality is that global rankings are changing the culinary field in China's global cities.

Domesticating the Japanese Culinary Field in Shanghai

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James Farrer. 2017. Domesticating the Japanese Culinary Field in Shanghai. In: Niehaus A., Walravens T. (eds) Feeding Japan. Palgrave Macmillan, 287-312.

Japanese cuisine is now the most popular form of restaurant cuisine in urban China, especially in Shanghai, where more than 3000 Japanese restaurants are listed on the most popular restaurant review website. Based on fieldwork and archival sources this essay describes the history and development of Japanese cuisine in Shanghai, describing how the domestication of the culinary field has insulated Japanese restaurants from the shocks of political conflicts between China and Japan and the food scares associated with the nuclear radiation leaks after the disaster in Fukushima. 

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David L. Wank and James Farrer. 2015. “Chinese Immigrants and Japanese Cuisine in the United States: A Case of Culinary Glocalization” in James Farrer ed. Globalization and Asian Cuisines: Transnational Networks and Contact Zones. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, Pp.79-100.

Japanese restaurants are not only popular in large American cities, they can now be found in some of the even smallest towns. In the United States since about 2000 large numbers of immigrant entrepreneurs from China’s Fujian province, building on earlier waves of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese purveyors of Japanese cuisine, have moved out of their immigrant enclave in New York to bring the cuisine to lower-market popular and rural market niches. This paper considers the Fujianese as social bearers of the cuisine by describing relevant institutions of the migrant community and experiences of individual restaurateurs and staff. 

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James Farrer (ed.). 2010. Globalization, Food and Social Identities in the Asia Pacific Region. Tokyo: Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture (online collection).

This is an online collection of readable scholarly papers on the globalization of culinary cultures in the Asian Pacific region. Chapters cover Southeast Asia, China, Japan, North America, and Latin America. They are the outcome of the symposium on “Globalization, food and social identities in the Pacific region” held at Sophia University on Feb. 21-22, 2009. The collection was published online by the Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture.

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James Farrer. 2018. “The Decline of the Neighborhood Chinese Restaurant in Urban Japan” Jahrbuch für Kulinaristik – The German Journal of Food Studies and Hospitality, Vol. 2, pp. 197-222.

The most popular form of everyday restaurant in Japan may not be the sushi shop, but rather the small, casual Chinese restaurant. Chinese restaurants in Japan share some features with those found in countries around the world, but also some differences, including a high rate of ownership by Japanese proprietor-chefs. Sometimes called the “machi chūka” (neighborhood Chinese) these small individually owned restaurants serving simple fare are become a focus of nostalgia and interest of the “B-level gourmets” in Japan. And yet, this type of inconspicuous eatery is in decline. 

Joining the Global Wine World: Japan’s Winemaking Industry

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Chuanfei Wang. 2017. Joining the Global Wine World: Japan’s Winemaking Industry. In: Niehaus A., Walravens T. (eds) Feeding Japan. Palgrave Macmillan, 225-250.


Japan is not only a country of sake and tea but also a country of wine. This chapter traces Japan’s history of wine production as a process of state-led cultural globalization. It argues that national and regional governments have been the key actors in developing and promoting Japan’s winemaking culture. However, governments are not the only important actors. As this chapter will show, Japan’s wine culture is constructed by a collaborative network of actors including governments, private companies, individual winemakers, research institutes and consumers. 

Culinary Globalization from Above and Below: Culinary Migrants in Urban Place Making in Shanghai

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James Farrer.  2019. “Culinary Globalization from Above and Below: Migrant Entrepreneurs in Urban Place Making in Shanghai” in Angela Lehmann and Pauline Leonard eds. Immigration to China in the Post-reform era: Destination PRC. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 175-199.


Research on migrants in Asian cities has emphasized their separation from local society, with privileged migrants insulating themselves in “expatriate bubbles” that often retrace the geographies of colonial white settlements  while less privileged migrants find themselves isolated in ethnic enclaves, such as that occupied by African traders in Guangzhou. Fewer studies have focused on how migrants actually transform the larger urban environments of globalizing Asian cities. Based on ethnographic data about the international restaurant sector in Shanghai, this chapter examines how cross-border migrants active in the food service industry – or culinary migrants – have shaped Shanghai’s cityscape through entrepreneurship, management, and their daily artisanal work.

Nishiogiology: Japanese Urban Foodways Research

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Research webpage:

Nishiogiology is an ethnographic research project centered in the Tokyo neighborhood of Nishiogikubo (Nishiogi) focusing on urban foodways, the meanings of culinary work, and changing forms of community participation. It is led by James Farrer, with collaborators from the Sophia University in Tokyo. It is also supported by the Institute of Comparative Culture at Sophia University, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science and the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Urban Foodways: A Research Agenda

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James Farrer. 2017. “Urban Foodways: A Research Agenda” John Rennie Short ed. A Research Agenda for Cities Northhampton MA: Edward Elgar, pp. 98-110.

The term foodways encompasses the economic, cultural, and social organization of food production and consumption. This chapter explores existing research on urban foodways and aims to show how food studies may uniquely contribute to urban studies. It introduces concepts connecting food to the city, including taste and urban nostalgia, the urban metabolism, culinary cosmopolitanism, and culinary place making. Examples come from the author’s research on foodways in East Asian global cities, particularly Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo. 

Knife-Shaved Noodles Go Global: Provincial Culinary Politics and the Improbable Rise of a Minor Chinese Cuisine

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Wank, David L. "Knife-Shaved Noodles Go Global: Provincial Culinary Politics and the Improbable Rise of a Minor Chinese Cuisine." The Globalization of Asian Cuisines. Palgrave Macmillan US, 2015. 187-208.

A “China Shanxi Food Festival in New York” took place on May 5–9, 2014. It opened with a food gala at the United Nations headquarters prepared by 16 chefs selected from the sixty thousand restaurants across North China’s Shanxi Province. The UN UnderSecretary-General and former Indian ambassador to China Vijay Nambiar tried his hand at making the province’s iconic knife-shaved noodles. “In many ways, cuisine and food culture are two aspects of a great civilization,” he said. “From that point of view, it’s a great and unique opportunity to be able to come here and taste the flavors of the hallmark of Chinese food culture. Today we are witnessing some of the fundamental items of Chinese cuisine, which have made it justly famous around the world.”

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James Farrer. 2010. Eating the West and beating the rest: culinary Occidentalism and urban soft power in Asia’s global food cities. In Globalization, Food and Social Identities in the Asia Paci c Region, ed. James Farrer. Tokyo: Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture.
URL: http://icc.

A new global culinary geography of high cuisine has developed centered on global cities. This essay traces this development by focusing on the interaction between transnational flows of people and resources and local cultural politics in two of Asia’s global cities, Shanghai and Tokyo. Although investments and increased wealth create the conditions for development of international restaurant scenes in cities, the advent of a cosmopolitan and lively urban food culture is not an inevitable outcome of economic globalization.

Shanghai’s Western Restaurants as Culinary Contact Zones in a Transnational Culinary Field

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James Farrer. 2105. Shanghai’s Western Restaurants as Culinary Contact Zones in a Transnational Culinary Field in J Farrer ed. The Globalization of Asian Cuisines, Palgrave Macmillan, 103-124. 

Just as traditional “Asian” cuisines are no longer limited to Asia, the cuisines of Asia are not limited to traditional “Asian” fare.  Here I narrate the relatively recent reemergence of a transnational culinary field of fine-dining Western (xican) restaurants in Shanghai, connected to, but still distinct from, contemporary Western fine-dining scenes from Tokyo to Madrid to Dubai. And within this field, I describe how restaurants are culinary contact zones in which geographically mobile migrant culinary workers and socially mobile urban consumers acquire specialized forms of culinary capital (see also my introduction to this volume for more discussion of these terms).

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