Food for thought:
Theodore Bestor’s How Sushi Went Global speaks to the increased status and prestige surrounding sushi in a quickly globalizing world. Sushi is marketed as a high status food, as something that marks one as sophisticated and cultured in a world of cheeseburgers and fries. What I found especially intriguing in his discussion of the branding of this global raw-fish craze, though, is the way in which the Japanese identity is commodified and capitalized upon. As he mentions, virtually anyone with vague east Asian physical features and a quick and dirty background in how to assemble sushi can likely land a job at virtually any up n’ coming sushi bar. Furthermore, to be of Japanese heritage lands one even more capital in that one can claim that background as assumed expertise. In essence, people are selling their Japanese identity and capitalizing on the fact that a portion of Japanese culture has “gone global”. What I find even more fascinating is how people who don’t identify as Japanese but might be able to pull it off can take advantage of this system of (mis)identity as commodity and sell a perceived identity for economic value or job security.
When I did a little digging into the idea of identity as commodity, I ran into another concept that further complicates it all. What happens when we consider not just identity, but citizenship? Citizenship can be conceptualized in one way as an identity, or in another as a commodity. Many countries in Western Europe are adopting stricter immigration and citizenship policies. It is well known that countries often employ “selective” policies that prize higher education degrees and skills, among other resources. But other forces at work include that value that we collectively impose upon the identity that comes from originating from various nations. Eastern European countries and those that emigrate from such nations are labeled as less intelligent, and immigrants from the Middle East are labeled as dangerous. These sorts of distinctions all have an economic valuation implied, that counts either for or against potential citizenship within countries of destination.
For more on EU citizenship as identity vs. commodity, check this out: