Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type



Art History

First Advisor

Lise Kjaer

Second Advisor

Harriet F. Senie


Contemporary art, food, diaspora, identity, hybridity, anthropology, art history.


Food-related artworks are as crucial to understanding culture as other mediums in art like painting, installation, sculpture, and drawings. From Greek and Roman mosaics, Egyptian banquet scenes, to Renaissance frescoes and Flemish still-life paintings, the depiction of food and meals has had multiple meanings. Food as a medium in Western contemporary art was introduced in the 1930s by the Italian Futurists’ banquets, which celebrated modernity and technology underlying social and political commentary. It continued throughout the 1960s with performance art, conceptual art, and happenings, and in the 1970s with the Fluxus movement’s exploration of the boundaries between art and life. During the 1980s and 1990s, food through contemporary art examined issues of gender and identity; additionally, artists presented works based on relational aesthetics.

Besides the inclusion of food in art, it is essential to reflect that food and foodways are a product and reflection of society. In this case, it implies the eating habits and culinary practices of humans. It refers to all the food-related activities shared by a particular group of people. This includes production, consumption, and circulation of food, as well as the correlation to political, cultural, economic, social, and religious ideologies. Central to maintaining life, it implies issues that expose relationships between people and their communities, including diasporas.

Rituals performed around food are essential to the social structure within diasporas. The incorporation of food as a medium to highlight and address inquiries that arise with diaspora identities are present in the works of Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973), Theaster Gates (b.1973), and Oscar Murillo (b.1986). Similarities and differences in the artists’ works emphasize the effectiveness of food to express distinct diaspora experiences. This thesis explores how these three artists’ creative practices exemplify diverse ways in which contemporary art and food is intertwined with diasporas and issues of identity. Throughout each case study, it will analyze the distinct attempts to reformulate, reclaim and reconstruct a new sense of self by way of the communal rituals of sharing food as an essential agent for a symbolically charged mediation of experiences between cultures triggered by relocation, and the resulting critical political commentary.



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