The polysemic meanings of couscous consumption in France

Amina Béji-Bécheur, Nacima Ourahmoune and Nil Özçaglar-Toulouse. Paper published in Journal of Consumer Behaviour, J. Consumer Behav. 13: 196–203 (2014).

illustration-couscousThis article reflects on consumer representations of a typical southern Mediterranean dish that has remained a centerpiece of cultural encounters ever since it was developed in North Africa: couscous. France—a country whose own cuisine is world-renowned, yet which regularly ranks couscous as one of its top three favourite national dishes, and which hosts the largest North African population in Europe—seemed a fertile site for an investigation of the polysemic meanings attached to couscous, a nomad product embedded in socio-historical interrelationships on both shores of the Mediterranean. We found that consumers appropriate and adapt the product in ways that demonstrate some of the major features of Mediterranean relationships, with food as a vehicle for creative personal narratives. We emphasize the diversity of representations of couscous that help dissolve the usual northern/southern Mediterranean binaries in order to achieve a complex understanding of Mediterranean consumer behaviours.

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