Eating Halal in Spain: Muslim Immigrant Identity and the Restaurant Space
This thesis illuminates how food is inextricably linked to identity in the migration context. It uses food and the restaurant space as a lens through which to trace the experiences of Muslim immigrants in Southern Spain, primarily restaurant owners and workers from Pakistan and Morocco. It investigates Muslim immigrants’ negotiation of their religious and cultural identity vis-à-vis their halal food practices. Spain offers a unique and intriguing case study because Muslims’ halal food practices conflict with Spain’s food culture, namely its reliance on pork. I highlight Muslims’ dependence on the kebab industry, a halal food establishment run predominantly by Pakistanis. In fact, this halal/pork tension between Spanish and Muslim foodways, what I refer to as two “conflicting food cultures,” is historically rooted. Moreover, I turn my attention to the treatment of the halal concept on the national stage. Investigating how halal is taken up by politicians to construct anti-immigrant narratives demonstrates its role as a signifier for foreignness and the Muslim “other.” Thus, halal is both a window into Muslim immigrants’ lived experience and an indication of Spain and various European nations’ visions of its Muslim community. In addition, examination of this halal consciousness in the school setting reiterates the power of the two food cultures barrier, demonstrates Spain’s place in a larger European halal debate, and draws attention to an emerging pro-halal movement in Spain. Furthermore, this research looks at the restaurant as a locale for the negotiation of identity and cultural representation. Immigrants’ desire to position themselves and their community in particular ways is expressed in the kebab and Moroccan restaurant space. Owing to Pakistanis’ and Moroccans’ different immigration contexts and Moroccans’ distinct historical legacy in Spain, the nature of these restaurateurs’ identity work varies. However, their work is ultimately connected to place-making and reconciling the cultural, religious, and gastronomic tensions between Spaniards and Muslims.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.