Culture & Cuisine in Diaspora: A Hidden Library Collection

The International and Area Studies Library at the University of Illinois has created this virtual book exhibit to accompany the physical exhibit of the same title that is on view in the University Library Gallery from April 1st to 30th, 2024. Through displaying selected cookbooks, food memoirs, and scholarly works, this exhibit highlights the role of food and culinary practices in the lives of diaspora populations around the world. The term “diaspora” refers to a large group of people who share a cultural and regional origin but are living away from their traditional homelands. In these communities, cultural traditions, such as recipes, are often maintained together, while also encouraging cultural exchange with other groups.

In curating this collection of 43 titles, we have highlighted just some writings about culinary diaspora from the extensive collection of the University of Illinois Library. Although the library's holdings contain many books on this topic, this is not currently a formal library collection. They are spread across nine different facilities and cover a wide range of genres, subjects, periods, and geographical areas. Therefore, it can be challenging to connect many of these works together through catalog-related metadata, like subject headings. We believe these texts deserve to be more than a hidden collection—to be used, connected, and discussed for all of their similarities and differences between each title. Their increased visibility intends to demonstrate the diversity of our holdings, and in doing so also help visitors feel recognized if materials are particularly relatable, as well as create further opportunities for others to learn something new and develop their own cultural competency.

This word cloud visualizes the frequency of terms found in the library subject headings of the displayed books. Although the subject headings specify ethnic and regional cuisine types, their relation to global mobility and diaspora life could be emphasized more. For instance, among over 500 subject headings, the term "diaspora" appears only three times.

Curated by Yung-hui Chou, Alice Tierney-Fife, and Elizabeth Workman, 2023-24 graduate assistants with the International and Area Studies Library. 

Created Mar 27, 2024