Negotiating trans-ethno space: An inductive investigation of kimchi's ability to bound Korean-American transnational identity

Charles Feldman, Yeon Bai, Ki Keys, Dana Schules

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that the linkages among the sensory, memorial and social aspects of culinary symbolism for transnationals are pronounced by particular food preparations. By using direct evidence, the present investigation tests this postulate by seeking to understand the connectivity of kimchi to Korean-American identity and if so, how this functions above and below the surface. Five focus groups were conducted comprised of 35 Korean-American adults. The research was designed around a grounded theory approach with an open-ended grand tour question: How does kimchi affect your sense of identity? Seven themes were uncovered: Recreating Memories – Collectivity, Connectivity and Family; Affirmation of Family Structure; Kimchi Is Love; Territorial Space; Acquired Taste; Cheating Memories - Shame and Sadness; and Female Kitchen Agency and Power Relations. Kimchi has held on through space and time to provide a shared sense of connectivity to the Korean-American informants, perhaps more intensely and more democratically than in Korea, their ethic homeland. Reported kimchi taste acquisition followed a trajectory from aversion to familiarity to longing. The re-negotiation of kimchi's ethno-space in America has led to feelings of shame, guilt and sadness to some. Concessions have been made. Manufactured kimchi provided a common generic bridge to the trans-Korean-American community. However, the move away from home-prepared kimchi has taken a toll on family's historic and structural connectivity, emotions, the deliverance of cultural capital and has affected the distribution of household agency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-24
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 1 May 2019


  • Culinary
  • Culture
  • Immigrant
  • Kimchi
  • Transnational


Dive into the research topics of 'Negotiating trans-ethno space: An inductive investigation of kimchi's ability to bound Korean-American transnational identity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this