Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You If You Are Jewish: Food and Discourses of Identity Among Thessalonikian Jews

Kravya, Vasiliki. 2003. Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You If You Are Jewish: Food and Discourses of Identity Among Thessalonikian Jews. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text ('Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you if you are Jewish' : food and discourses of belonging among Thessalonikan Jews)
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Abstract or Description

The main issue explored in this thesis is how and why food is used as a channel through which everyday identities are informed and elaborated. The thesis explores when, how and in which circumstances food and the activities involved in its preparation, consumption and exchange can be used as vehicles for identities. My ethnographic focus is on the Jewish population of Thessaloniki, the largest and most economically viable city of Northern Greece. The Jewish past of this city is quite remarkable: the Thessalonikian Jews remained a significant part of the overall population and existed continuously until early twentieth century. Dramatic events during the twentieth century and in particular the coming of Asia Minor refugees in 1922-3 and the Second World War in 1939-45 caused significant upheavals and resulted in a radical reduction of the city's Jewish population. My ethnographic data confirm that this turbulent history is reflected in the construction of present-day Thessalonikian Jewish identities. Food and the associated activities like preparing, serving, eating, talking and remembering through food are explored as meaningful contexts in which the Jews of Thessaloniki make statements about their past, create their present, construct or reject collective identifications, express their fears and preoccupations, imagine their future. The identities of my informants were multiple and complex. Being Jewish interacted with being Sephardic, Thessalonikian and Greek. In the thesis I argue that food was a way of experiencing and expressing these identities. I use the term "community" cautiously since it fails to reflect the complexity of Thessalonikian Jewish experiences and the varying degrees of identification by individuals with that community. Different degrees of belonging are considered in relation to gender, age, economic and social status. Therefore, the ambivalence or often the reluctance of Jewish people living in Thessaloniki to be identified as members of "a community" is an important theme of the thesis. Another important theme discussed is the tension and the overlapping between religion and tradition meaning kosher diet and Sephardic food as it is translated and perceived by the Jewish people themselves.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Jewishness, Thessaloniki, Thessalonikian Jews, food


April 2003

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 May 2020 14:21

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 14:09


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