This interdisciplinary research investigates how chilli and chocolate emerge as totemic foods in online foodie discourse. The corpus is compiled from Social Networking Services (blogs, community websites, recipe sharing sites, and conversation fora) in Finnish, English and French.
The theoretical framework is construed with post-Bourdieusian taste and distinction studies on discourse, complemented by a feminist positioning. A netnographically inspired inquiry in an observer’s position enhances the methodology of critical discourse studies. The study introduces a theoretical concept: discursive foodscapes, contributing on two dimensions to extant theorising. It focuses the observation on multivocal online communities and extends foodscape analysis towards non-concrete consumption, on a discursive level. Moreover, the study suggests new practices for taste engineering, relevant in online consumption contexts.
Three research questions draw on chilli and chocolate as totemic substances, interpreted in a framework of contemporary tribalism within the paradigmatic viewpoint of Consumer Culture Theory: emergence of chocolate and chilli as totemic foods; taste and distinction performance; and representations of gender and power. They are studied separately, although perceiving the triad as entwined. The discursive foodscape related to each research question reflects findings: it is described with the combination of discursive themes, frames and strategies identified in the empirical analysis.
Findings reveal a more diversified vista on chocolate and chilli as discursive foci than extant research mostly claims: they are ascribed with a variety of totemic significations, shifting contextually from highly indulgent to environmentally concerned. Knowledge-intensive foodie discourse emerges as relatively gender-neutral. However, across embodied, experiential elements in consumption the discourse becomes more gender-flagged, and contextual changes are highly significant. This variation generates discursively interesting constellations where stylistic categories reflect areas of culinary and discursive competence.
Cross-linguistic variation is detected with all research questions, introducing a pioneer-type endeavor in terms of discourse analysis of foodie sites online, across three languages