Judith E. Fan
Department of Psychology
Categorical title: Gastronomy and Social Change
Recent decades have seen food-related narratives increasingly woven into wider discussions of countries' political, social, and economic futures. Peru provides an excellent case study of this phenomenon, where chefs have led the first charge of what has been termed a 'gastronomical revolution.' In seeking standardization and 'refinement' of traditional preparations for consumption in urban restaurants, their activities resemble those of architects of culinary nationalism elsewhere. However, a distinguishing feature of food-related discourse in Peru is the bold claim that the advancement of Peruvian gastronomy can be causally related to national development outcomes, and even inspire positive social change. In her project, Judy Fan seeks to test this provocative idea, that narratives about food resonate with people beyond economic incentives (e.g. revenue from tourism), and are able to rekindle optimism towards the nation's future. Presently, she is investigating the degree to which the Peruvian gastronomical narrative has been internalized by individual Peruvian citizens by seeing whether bringing ideas about 'Peruvian gastronomy' to mind produces the hallmark effects of political optimism, as can be measured in individual behavior. Inspired by ecological diversity and a history of cultural heterogeneity, the narrative told about Peruvian food has come to represent a new platform from which to re-discover value in the historically neglected, and mend the political fractures that have long divided a nation. Uncovering the causal relationships that link the Peruvian gastronomical 'boom' with a growing optimism among Peruvians would provide a valuable contribution to our understanding of how publicly shared narratives come to affect individual cognition and behavior.