Are we what we eat? What does food reveal about how we live and how we think of ourselves in relation to others? Why do people have a strong attachment to their own cuisine and an aversion to the foodways of others? In this engaging account of the crucial significance rice has for the Japanese, “Rice as Self” examines how people use the metaphor of a principal food in conceptualizing themselves in relation to other peoples. Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney traces the changing contours that the Japanese notion of the self has taken as different historical Others–whether Chinese or Westerner–have emerged, and shows how rice and rice paddies have served as the vehicle for this deliberation. Using Japan as an example, she proposes a new cross-cultural model for the interpretation of the self and other.
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