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Type: Thesis
Title: Ideas of Italy and the Nature of Ethnicity: A History of Italian Food in Australia with Case Studies
Author: Cammarano, Tania
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Humanities : History
Abstract: There is a widely held belief that Italian food was introduced to Australians and made popular by Italian migrants who arrived in large numbers after World War II. While this narrative is often repeated in popular media accounts, it is overly simplistic and ignores the complex interplay of factors that occur when what are perceived as new foods are introduced into existing cultures. This trope does, however, provide context for this thesis which explores the history of Italian food in Australia with the aim of deconstructing this narrative and understanding the circumstances that have led to the acceptance and even celebration of Italian food, and its relationship to the status of Italian migrants. While much has been written about the impact of Italian migrants on Australia’s food culture, this literature has been dominated by non-scholarly accounts. Scholarly research has been largely limited to exploring the subject from a single perspective, either that of the dominant culture or that of the Italian migrants. To address this gap in the literature, this thesis employs a cultural history approach and utilises a case study model to explore this history from both migrant and host culture perspectives. By using a wide and diverse range of primary sources including business records, cookbooks, advertisements, newspapers, magazines and archival documents, each case study explores a specific but inter-related aspect of the history of Italian food in Australia. The first study examines how a publicly listed Australian company with no links to Italy came to see the economic benefits of producing an “authentic Italian” food product in mid-20th century Australia (Leggo’s). Conversely, the second study demonstrates how what began as a typical Italian migrant food business in the 1930s was able to achieve mainstream success (Perfect Cheese Company). The third study explores the motives of a group of Italian migrants linked with fascism who published what is essentially Australia’s first Italian cookbook (First Australian Continental Cookery Book) in 1937. The fourth study also uses cookbooks as its primary source and examines how over a 115-year period a representative sample of them has recommended the use of pasta. This thesis argues that the success of Italian food in Australia is a result of the actions of individuals and businesses from both the majority and minority cultures. While material factors such as industrialisation and immigration are frequently invoked when explaining change in Australia’s food culture, this thesis highlights the largely overlooked role of conceptual factors, in particular ideas about Italy that have circulated in Australia since colonisation. It also explores the ways that individuals and groups were able to harness and exploit the dynamic nature of ethnicity within the context of a rapidly changing society. This research lays to rest a number of myths about how food culture changes. In doing so, this thesis makes a significant contribution to the fields of food studies, migration studies, business history and Australian history.
Advisor: Ankeny, Rachel
Kevin, Catherine
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2018
Keywords: Italian food
Italian migration
Australian food history
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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