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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title ‘We Nyammin’: Food Supply, Authenticity and the Tourist Experience in Negril, Jamaica
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
The act of eating is a process of articulation binding issues of nature, culture, and economy
tightly together. The origins of most foods can be traced to the interaction of soil, seed and
water; food preferences are inherently cultural; and food production and preparation are key
economic activities. In addition, the consumption of ‘local’ foods is one of the key strategies
employed by tourists as they increasingly search for authenticity in their travel experiences.
These linkages have been evident in the context of the Caribbean for centuries. As Mimi Sheller
(2003: 77) explains, “contrary to the assumption that it was only the pursuit of gold and other
precious metals that drove European exploration, it was as much the desire to acquire new
edible, pleasurable, and pharmaceutical substances, things that had direct and powerful effects on
the bodies of those empowered to consume them”. The relationship between food and tourism is
under-explored, yet is an essential component of the Caribbean tourist attraction, particularly in a
context of new tourist interests related to the search for authenticity.
In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the contested nature of food. Much of this is
associated with the study of the new geographies of commodities (Watts, 1999) and the ways in
which food is an important part of material culture (Cook and Harrison, 2003; Cook et al, 2004;
Duruz, 2005). Other work is more explicitly practical in its orientation, and addresses the
material consequences of particular commodity pathways for agricultural producers in the
Majority World (Ransom, 2001; Robbins, 2003; Bryant and Goodman, 2004) in relation to new
models of ‘fair trade’. In this respect, food is related to broader issues of material culture and
economies. As Ho and Nurse (2005) point out for the Caribbean, popular culture is “not just an
aesthetic and commercial space where psychic and bodily pleasures are enacted, represented and
marketed [but also] an arena where social values and meaning are put on public display,
negotiated and contested” (pxii). The ways in which Jamaican food and concepts of its
authenticity is commodified can therefore be seen not only as being relevant to types of placemarketing,
but also to the broader project of understanding the ways in which different cultural
texts are circulated and understood by Jamaicans and tourists alike.

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