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Nanhai Food Stories.: Edible Explorations of a Place in Transition

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

Publication date31/10/2018
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventCumulus Wuxi 2018: Diffused Transitions, Design Opportunities - School of Design, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Duration: 31/10/20184/11/2018


ConferenceCumulus Wuxi 2018
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Nanhai, in Shandong Province, could be described as either a new district (新区) or a ghost town (鬼城), depending on whether the focus is on its promises or on its emptiness. Like other similar sites in China, Nanhai is a place in transition, suspended in a liminal space between its rural past and its metropolitan future. While literature on new or ghost towns in China tends to focus on their urban form (see for example Shepard, 2015), what tends to be forgotten is how people inhabit, shape, and negotiate place. Indeed, liminal places like Nanhai can hardly be described as cities, because they present themselves rather as a fluid combination of village and high-rise lives. In Nanhai, various communities with different origins, temporalities, and reasons for being there coexist. The food that these communities produce, prepare, and eat can be seen as a marker of social and cultural identities: a way of marking differences but also building connections (Appadurai Arjun, 1981; Lupton, 1996, p. 30). We propose that tracing food patterns, histories, and mobilities can help to capture and appreciate Nanhai, beyond its mere urban form. This paper presents a Research through Design (Frankel & Racine, 2010; Frayling, 1993) approach that seeks to explore and understand the identity of Nanhai through its food stories, and that experiments with ways of sharing these stories through design actions and artefacts. It will introduce a theoretical framework for the proposed approach and discuss how this contribute to debates of transition towards culturally significant sustainable and desirable lifestyles. By describing the outcomes of a recent student exhibition organised as an exploratory first research activity, the paper will present and discuss some example of food story listening and telling (Valsecchi, Pollastri, Tassi, & Chueng-Nainby, 2016). These examples include artefacts such as games and playful packaging that have been designed as a way of making food stories visible and interactive. Finally, as the first public presentation of a novel research programme, the paper will bring some open questions to the debate on design opportunities for places in transition and will aim to generate further discussion on this topic.