Macquarie University
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Navigating identity through food: a second generation Sinhala Australian diasporic experience in Sydney

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posted on 2022-03-28, 01:42 authored by Kavya Chethanee Kalutantiri
Narratives of food can reveal the rich dimensions of how people construct or repackage ethnicity in the diaspora and identify their place within multicultural Australia. My research centres on the everyday cooking and eating practices of second generation Sinhala Australians who have moved away from their parents’ home and are in families of their own. By doing so, I will explore the cultural transmission of foodways from generation to generation in a multicultural Australia. Using ethnographic methods, this study takes place in the kitchens and eating areas of the homes of the second generation. The kitchen can be viewed as a space that caters to the performance of social values and behaviour of the occupants. Furthermore, material items in these spaces can provide insights on cultural realities. For the second generation, they experience a reflective nostalgia (Boym, 2001) for familiar foods are sparked by contemplating familial relationships, longing of a childhood that is no more, and through the images, sounds and smells in their everyday life that reminds them of the culture that their immigrant parents so adamantly tried to raise them with. In this thesis, I illustrate that the second generation’s everyday cooking and eating practices are shaped into something that works within and reflects their present cultural reality. The embodied sensory memories of Sri Lankan food serve as the catalyst that enables the second generation to make sense of feelings of longing for identity. These nostalgic memories do not represent a yearning for their parents’ homeland, but rather for the socialisation of home.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Remembering my mother’s [two] kitchen[s] -- Chapter 3. “Sri Lankan food is just not healthy!” -- Chapter 4. Confusion or fusion? Everyday cooking practices inside the homes of mixed couples -- Chapter 5. Conclusion : remembering the past for hopeful futures.


Bibliography: pages 77-88 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Sociology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Amanda Wise


Copyright Kavya Chethanee Kalutantiri 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




New South Wales


1 online resource (91 pages) colour illustrations

Former Identifiers