Publication Details

Richard Mohr and Nadirsyah Hosen, Internormative Gastronomies: Law, Nation and Identity, in Stefan Huygebaert, Angela Condello, Sarah Marusek and Mark Antaki (eds.), Sensing the Nation’s Law: Historical Inquiries into the Aesthetics of Democratic Legitimacy, Springer International Publishing, 2018.


Questions of law, identity and nation operate at a high level of abstraction. They are often bound up with the origin myths of a people, as well as an ideological array that legitimizes state law, and justifies obedience to it. To study these questions in any detail requires a descent from those heights to matters that can be observed, or sensed in other ways. We need a subject that we can sink our teeth into. Food, its preparation and regulation, offers a rich field in which to explore these issues. As well as being highly symbolic, of identity and associations, food is also the key link between our bio-social selves and our material environment. It is marked and regulated by numerous criteria derived from ethics, health, culture and religion. While the term has a broader meaning today, “gastronomie” was coined in late eighteenth century France to indicate the nomos of eating: the law or codes by which one should eat.2 The original meaning is still apt, since food continues to be regulated by numerous formal and informal laws, relating to health and purity as well as taste and culture. Gastronomy allows for expression of beliefs, from the spiritual to the corporeal, and operates as a marker of identity. In this chapter we explore the interaction of norms applying to food in relation to the concepts of nations, identity and law, which intersect in the notion of citizenship. We begin by outlining the field of inquiry, and clarifying our concepts and their interactions, before stating the specific terms of this investigation.