The importation of explicitly foreign cultural traits due to globalization has resulted in ethnically diverse actors filling roles normally restricted to them by their own culture areas. Geography no longer inhibits individuals from becoming educated in a multitude of professions and services including the production of sushi as discussed in Theodore Bestor’s article. Elaborating specifically on non-Japanese Asians and some Latinos who take on this job, Bestor states that these individuals routinely portray themselves as Japanese to maintain authenticity and better their business ( 112). However, this process leads to an entirely new system of identity and behaviorisms. Are these actors impersonating their Japanese counterparts or is this a reinterpretation which manifests as the aforementioned new cultural system?
While contemplating this issue my mind immediately went to the mall food courts we as Americans encounter across the nation. These host multiple variations of food: Several Asian cuisines, Mexican, Pizza, American fast food chains, and many others. In the case of my hometown in Ohio, every stand was attended by solely Asian workers. This phenomenon is based on many factors including the socioeconomic status and familial ties within each privately owned food vendor, but we can also see the parallel forces that are present here. Within the ethnically diverse sushi restaurants there are cases of Japanese impersonation similar to the, while more passive, impersonation by Asians in specific cafes such as the Cantonese, Korean, or Vietnamese (112). Likewise, Latinos play chameleon in Mexican and Brazilian niches.
Beyond the workers identity, the food itself has taken on a transformation in foreign locales. Taco Bell is a perfect example of a non-ethnically affiliated chain marketing what many ignorant Americans perceive as authentic Mexican food with any combination of ethnic workers. This is comparable to the marketeering of sushi goods such as wasabi nail polish as well as fusion cafes that blend the traditional sushi with American aesthetics (110). Still the question remains; is this impersonation or reinterpretation? At this stage I believe it is still subjective as the argument could be made that each case is truly a unique culture rather whereas the purists will obviously draw out the characteristics which have been present since the tradition’s inception.
There are limitations to this line of inquiry including the disparity of traits within all the addressed cases. Fast food is dictated by American ideals and has created the present climate with clear synthesis of each variations culture. Discourse surrounding sushi has many more connections to the homeland which promotes greater influence and control by Japanese overseers. This should not impede our observation nor our attempt to delineate trends in this process of fusion and originality in a globalized world.