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Food Fights: War Narratives and Identity Reproduction in Evolving Conflicts

PI: Hanna Kassab, East Carolina University

Year selected for awards: 2023

Food Fights: War Narratives and Identity Reproduction in Evolving Conflicts

Principal Investigator: Hanna Kassab, East Carolina University

Years of Award: 2023-2026

Managing Service Agency: Air Force Office of Scientific Research

Project Description:
Since the end of the Cold War, nationalist conflicts have been on the rise. In a world full of cultural differences, food is often what brings us all together. We break bread to recognize each other’s humanity. Unfortunately, hatred for other cultures also surfaces in food culture wars in which groups fight to retain sole ownership, including the tension over patenting, of cuisine. This struggle is oftentimes part of a much wider nationalist or cultural conflict. Take, for example, hummus and its role in the perpetuation of Israeli and Arab identities. The Lebanese argue that the Israelis are stealing Middle Eastern food to call it their own: they stole our lands; now they want our food too, while some Israelis claim it as their national dish. The hummus conflict perpetuates decades-old hatreds, reinforcing us versus them divisions.

Food Fights is an extension of Kassab’s research on emotions and politics. His book entitled The Power of Emotion in Politics, Philosophy, and Ideology (2016) published by Palgrave provides a theoretical foundation from which to build this endeavor. The book argues that politics shapes emotions that then impact individual action. Aggregate anger toward a community will be exacerbated under specific circumstances generating conflict. Political ideologies are formulated out of anger and dissatisfaction, as people amass power shaping society for the better or worse. Food fights fits into the theoretical framework since the subject matter deals with the ideology of nationalism and emotional sentiment toward objects. The book was one of the more successful studies in Kassab’s career, with over five thousand accesses. Kassab has a history of academic excellence having graduated from the University of Miami with a doctorate in May 2014. The Minerva Institute will support his intellectual growth, breaking research barriers and providing unique value to the field of international security. Kassab builds on these successes by studying nationalist conflict, collecting the necessary data to underscore the centrality of emotions within political conflict. This is especially important since the American-led international order is undergoing serious nationalist challenges from Russia and China but also from within.