The Soft Power of Food: A Diplomacy of Hamburgers and Sushi?

By Christian John Reynolds.

Published by Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Food is often cited as a form of soft power, with Joesph Nye explicitly mentioning food in his initial writings upon soft power. However, the understanding of food as a form of soft power remains questionable with most academics glossing over food’s soft power in preference to other forms that possess greater politically visibility. This paper addresses this lack of scholarly discussion that surrounds the subject of food as a source of soft power, providing a comprehensive guide to the utilisation of food as a vehicle for soft power. Citing contemporary academic and real world conceptualisations of soft power, this paper creates a framework to identify how soft power is implemented by political actors, allowing food to become both a source and a means of implementing coercion at different political levels. Case studies will validate this framework and cover the full spectrum of political actors including nation states (America and Japan); corporations (McDonalds and Monsanto); interest groups and organisations (Slow Food); as well as individuals (Michal Pollan and Jamie Oliver). This paper summates that food can be a useful soft power vehicle, and when applied correctly can produce control and coercion in both the political and social spheres.

Keywords: Soft Power, Food, Cultural Propaganda

Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.47-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 722.407KB).

Christian John Reynolds

PhD Candidate, Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

Christian Reynolds is a Ph.D candidate at the University of South Australia. In his Ph.D Christian is examining the economic and environmental impacts of food consumption; specifically food waste. In 2009 Christian completed his Honours Degree in International Studies at the University of Adelaide. His research topic concerned the political power of food in international relations. In 2008, Christian graduated from the University of Adelaide with a double degree in Economics and International Studies, reading part of this program of study at Newcastle University, UK.