Globalization poses many challenges for national cultural unity, especially in Europe. Some doubt whether national cultures will be able to survive, but there are many counter-trends pushing to maintain national cultural unity. I analyse the dual trends of global diversity and maintaining unity through an everyday manifestation of French culture: elementary school lunches. French school lunch programmes are part of the nation-building process because they are designed to teach students how to eat, which is especially important in France where the art of gastronomy is a key source of identity and pride. I analyse cultural influences on over 11,000 school lunch menu items from eight municipalities across two French regions. I also conduct in-depth face-to-face interviews with the people who design and approve school lunch menus. My inquiry is guided by three key questions. First, to what extent are foreign influences included? Second, does openness to foreign influences vary across different parts of France? Finally, how are foreign cultures represented? My results suggest that foreign cultures are deployed to nationalize difference. The limited foreign influences that appear in school lunches are strategically chosen to appeal to and to educate students, but in a way that reinforces the centrality of traditional French cultural norms. This article contributes to our understanding of the tension between national culture and a globalizing world.
- cultural reproduction
- national identity
- school lunch
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science