The Italian ‘Taste’: The Far-Right and the Performance of Exclusionary Populism During the European Elections
Keywords:right-wing populism, nationalism, food, European elections
AbstractThis article examines populist leaders’ politicisation of food in their social media performances. More precisely, it analyses Matteo Salvini’s Instagram posts during the 2019 European elections, and the way food is mobilized for populist and nationalist purposes. The main argument is that food serves as a cultural trope that confers identity, reinforcing social divisions and the terms of national and class belonging. Drawing on Bourdieu’s (1984) social critique of taste, political leaders have traditionally placed themselves on the side of a distant gastronomic culture; that of a high-end elite. However, populist leaders perform a twofold role, attempting to present themselves as part of the common people and distancing themselves from the traditional elite. This change in social positioning is reflected in their social media accounts, often posting “authentic” glimpses of their cultural practices, such as cooking and eating. Methodologically, this paper uses a mixed-methods concurrent design, combining digital ethnography and visual rhetoric analysis for examining both the discursive and the aesthetic clues that construct Salvini’s social positioning towards taste. Through food, being Italian becomes a matter of constructing Italian authenticity against the national intellectual and political elite, but also against the European value-building project.
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