Date of Award

8-2009

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Nathan E. Stormer

Second Committee Member

Laura Lindenfeld

Third Committee Member

Eric E. Peterson

Abstract

In the following thesis, I examine how chef Anthony Bourdain's popular television program, A Cook's Tour (2001), constructs a mediated touristic gazing experience that encourages a hegemonic and privileged Western worldview. I draw upon Bourdain's 2001 written text of the same name to provide secondary evidence when appropriate. Through an ideological criticism of the television program, I demonstrate the ways in which A Cook's Tour presents and normalizes a neo-colonialist discourse between the Western tourist and the Other, and the subsequent positioning of the Other as an appetizing spectacle. As Lindenfeld (2007) states, these representations of food and eating offer a vicarious experience of food culture and thus comprise part of the rhetorical landscape of US tourism. Viewers have the illusion of experiencing ethnicity without ever coming into contact with actual, potentially fear-invoking racialized bodies. This is an interpretive study of the hegemonic discourses of identity and Otherness as constituted through Bourdain's "Western gaze." The interpretation is grounded in the context of a neo-colonialist history. Popular texts dramatize and legitimate the colonialist power dynamics of the West and the Rest. Douglas Keller (2003) explains that media stories [like A Cook's Tour] "provide the symbols, myths and resources through which we constitute a common culture and through the appropriation of which we insert ourselves into this culture. Media spectacles demonstrate who has the power and who is powerless, who is allowed to exercise force and violence and who is not" (p. 9). Developing a critical understanding of how texts position readers/viewers must always extend to helping students understand the social and cultural contexts of viewers and texts: that is, how others might react to, construct and/or resist textual meanings. Media studies are about language and literacy as much as it is about social and cultural studies (Buckingham, 1993).

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