You Eat What You Are: Identity Via Cannibalistic Food Ethics In Ying Chen's Le Mangeur

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Journal Article
Portal Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, 2013, 10 (2), pp. 1 - 17
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Shanghai-born Québécoise Ying Chen focuses her super-natural 2006 novel, Le Mangeur, on the ethics of eating. Chens characters, half human and half fish hybrids, negotiate a personal but transgressive ethics of eating as a way of understanding who they are and what they value. Through unconventional but detailed descriptions of the act of eating and reactions to this processChen calls to mind debates about modern food politics and situates them on the knife-edge of binaries of self and other, living and dead, human and animal, edible and inedible implicit in questions of food in general, cannibalism in particular, and of the cultural questions of identity inherent to both. Taking the view that food ethics, like any ethics in the Foucauldian tradition, stem from ones particular and embodied situation, Chen proposes new meaning for food in (migrant) literature. In contrast to traditional scripts that use food to represent cultures, places and temporalities left behind, Chen insists on the physicality of eating, on the ontological difference between the diner and their dinner, to strip back the familiar tropes about food and identity and to question the basis for our understanding of food a locus for a larger identity.
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