Bread Beyond Borders

Food as a Lens Into Tweed's Theory of Religion


  • Rachel Diane Brown University of Evansville



Food, Transnationalism, Thomas Tweed, Muslim, Migration, France, Quebec


In this article I rely on Tweed’s theory of religion as found in Crossing and Dwelling (2006) to inform my exploration of how transnational identities are negotiated through food. I show how food is an ideal lens through which to see Tweed’s theory at work on the ground, in the lives, and bodies, of transnational migrants. Focussing on the last five words of Tweed’s definition of religion, namely that religions “make homes and cross boundaries,” I address how food plays the same role that Tweed posits for religion in the processes of home making and boundary crossing. Using examples from my ethnographic fieldwork in Paris, France and Montréal, Canada I show how, for my informants, food (in place of religion in Tweed’s theory) designates “where they are from,” identifies “who they are with” and prescribes “how they move across” the various borders, both physical and psychological in their lives.

Author Biography

Rachel Diane Brown, University of Evansville

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Evansville, Indiana


Bakht, Natasha. 2012. “Veiled Objections: Facing Public Opposition to the Niqab.” In Reasonable Accommodation: Managing Religious Diversity, edited by Lori Beaman, 70–108. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Brown, Rachel. 2015. “Tell me What You Eat and I’ll Tell You What You Are: The Literal Consumption of Identity for North African Muslims in Paris, France.” In Everyday Life Practices of Muslims in Europe: Consumptions and Aesthetics, edited by Erkan Toguslu, 41–56. Leuven: Leuven University Press.

———. 2016. “How Gelatin Becomes an Essential Symbol of Muslim Identity: Food Practice as a Lens into the Study of Religion and Migration.” Religious Studies and Theology 35 (2): 185–205.

Carens, Joseph H. 1995. “Immigration, Political Community, and the Transformation of Identity: Québec’s Immigration Politics in Critical Perspective.” In Is Québec Nationalism Just? Perspectives from Anglophone Canada, edited by Joseph H. Carens, 20–81. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Desjardins, Michel. 2012. “Religious Studies that Really Schmecks: Introducing Food to the Academic Study of Religion.” In Failure and Nerve in the Study of Religion, edited by William Arnal, Willi Braun, and Russell McCutcheon, 147–56. London: Equinox.

Desjardins, Michel, and Ellen Desjardins. 2009. “Food that Builds Community: The Sikh Langar in Canada.” Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures/Revue des cultures culinaires au Canada 1(2).

Freedman, Jane. 2004. Immigration and Insecurity in France. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Freidenreich, David M. 2011. Foreigners and their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Harvey, Graham. 2015. “Respectfully Eating or not Eating: Putting Food at the Centre of Religious Studies.” Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 26: 32–46.

Kalcik, Susan. 1984. “Ethnic Foodways in America: Symbol and the Performance of Identity.” In Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States: The Performance of Group Identity, edited by Linda Keller Brown and Kay Mussell, 37–65. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Karim, Karim H. 2002. “Crescent Dawn in the Great White North: Muslim Participation in the Canadian Public Sphere.” In Muslims in the West: From Sojourners to Citizens, edited by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, 262–77. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kershenovich Schuster, Paulette. 2015. “Habañeros and Shwarma: Jewish Mexicans in Israel as a Transnational Community.” Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 26: 281–302.

Levitt, Peggy. 2003. “You Know, Abraham Was Really the First Immigrant: Religion and Transnational Migration.” International Migration Review 37 (3): 847–73.

McGuire, Meredith B. 2008. Lived Religion: Faith and Practice in Everyday Life. New York: Oxford University Press.

Scott, Joan Wallach. 2007. The Politics of the Veil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Sutton, David E. 2001. Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory. Oxford: Berg.

Tweed, Thomas A. 1997. Our Lady of the Exile: Diasporic Religion at a Cuban Catholic Shrine in Miami. New York: Oxford University Press.

———. 2006. Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vertovec, Steven. 2009. Transnationalism. London: Routledge.



How to Cite

Brown, R. (2017). Bread Beyond Borders: Food as a Lens Into Tweed’s Theory of Religion. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 46(2), 9–17.