Negotiating a traditional food space for the Gujarati diaspora in New Jersey: Prohibitions, linkages, and acceptances

Charles Feldman, Neeraj Vedwan, Meet Bharatbhai Sanariya, Shahla Wunderlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Food practices directly or indirectly depend on tradition and the rituals that sustain a commonality of communal purpose. By invoking tradition and embracing accepted values through prescribed participation, a transnational and to a certain extent her or his progeny, are anchored to a cultural community. Émigrés must decide from a pastiche of food choices from “here” or from “home,” that will mark family and self-identity. This research seeks to assess the multiplicity of issues affecting the food cultural landscape of Gujarati transnationals and their descendants in New Jersey, US. The overall objective is to understand the motivations behind their overt and potentially covert food behaviors. Twenty-seven self-identified Gujarati Indian transnationals and their descendants were recruited through a non-probability sampling in northern New Jersey, US for five focus groups and follow-up individual interviews. Two Foundational Themes were distilled from the data: Collective Borders and Connectivity to Food, as well as four Emotive Themes: Food and Family Dynamics; Performance; Shame, Guilt & Anxiety; and Strength, Perseverance or Flexibility. Food choices enabled this diasporic community to negotiate between the competing forces of continuity and change, providing them with a template to adapt to their new surroundings while preserving native traditions. The arena of food and food choices was used by the participants to strike a pragmatic balance between individuation and collectivity, stability and change, and tradition and modernity. A clear understanding of the issues facing transnationals as they transition into a new country can help with their planning and processes of adjustment, which includes strategies to overcome pitfalls. The findings of this study can also inform the external community about the benefits of welcoming émigrés into their society.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107342
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'Negotiating a traditional food space for the Gujarati diaspora in New Jersey: Prohibitions, linkages, and acceptances'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this