Kogi Korean BBQ, “postmodernism” and “postmodernity”

Layan Jawdat

For this week’s discussion of “postmodernism” I would like to turn to food as a possible illustration of “postmodern” culture. Ihab Hassan’s “From Postmodernism to Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context” maintains a distinction between postmodernism and postmodernity. The development of certain foods and cuisines today, I think, is an interesting case study for looking at these conceptions of postmodernism and postmodernity, which refer to the cultural sphere and geopolitics respectively.

One example of a food culture that comes to mind when thinking through “postmodernism” and “postmodernity” is the phenomenon of Kogi Korean BBQ food trucks in Los Angeles, which I learned about on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” in which he explores Koreatown in LA, and its history and cuisine. The food truck–itself a mixing of “high” and “low” culture, if you consider the cuisine to be high culture, and its serving, price and transportation to be for the “masses”–also mixes Korean tastes and dishes with the Mexican taco. This is an illustration of Jameson’s conception of postmodernism in “The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” particularly his description of architecture: “the effacement in them of the older (essentially high-modernist) frontier between high culture and so-called mass or commercial culture, and the emergence of new kinds of texts”(Jameson 2). In terms of the geopolitical term “postmodernity,” enumerated by Hassan, Kogi Korean BBQ illustrates both “globalization and localization” (Hassan 3): Korean food traditions are mixed with the food traditions of Mexicans,  a more established immigrant group in LA. The Korean taco therefore represents local LA culture, itself a mix of various groups and traditions from all over the world.

Considering food traditions and contemporary combinations of cuisines is a really interesting way of thinking through some of these ideas related to culture, “postmodernism,” and “postmodernity” . Food is so central to culture, and often contested among nationalities and other cultural or ethnic groups: to whom does hummus belong, for example, and who makes it best? Do these arguments even make sense anymore?  Homi Bhabha’s discussion of postmodern mixing up of the binary logic of otherness in the Introduction to “The Location of Culture” is another interesting perspective from which we can consider food traditions and their (increasingly shaky) ties to identity, national culture, and their ties to “postmodern” and “postmodernist concepts of remix and re-appropriation.

 

Works Cited

“About Kogi.” Kogi BBQ Taco Truck Catering. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Bhabha, Homi K. “Border Lives: The Art of the Present.” Introduction. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. N. pag. Stanford Presidential Lectures. Stanford University. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Hassan, Ihab. “From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context.” From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Jameson, Frederic. “The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.” American Studies at the University of Virginia. University of Virginia, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Wheeler, Carolynne. “Hummus Food Fight between Lebanon and Israel.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 11 Oct. 2008. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.