The Good People of Cochabamba City: Ethnicity and race in Bolivian middle class food culture
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This paper argues that everyday food practices reproduce and negotiate power relations of coloniality. The argument developed brings together Quijano’s notion of coloniality and Bourdieu’s writings on distinction, habitus, and taste. Ethnographic data from fieldwork in the “gastronomic capital of Bolivia”, Cochabamba city, brings out the workings of a “habitus of coloniality” in everyday food practices. The author analyzes how the city’s privileged middle class navigates ethnic and racial inequalities, which have deep colonial roots but are constantly being renewed and renegotiated. The members of an emerging middle class, oftentimes with indigenous roots, have been negotiating their participation in spaces of food consumption. This process is often met with disdain by the established middle class, thus reinforcing power relations of coloniality. The author puts forward the notion of a “coloniality of taste”, which reflects the power relations at play in the expression of social distinctions through food tastes. The paper concludes that food practices in Cochabamba and elsewhere center around social inequalities modelled upon colonial patterns.