Shawarma Poutine: Arab Foodways in the Windsor/Detroit Borderlands

Dr. Robert Nelson, Department of History, University of Windsor

December 3, 2019 - 15:00 to 17:00

U of T St George campus, Jackman Humanities Building, room JHB318

Virtually all North American border foodways literature focuses on the US Southwest, where an international boundary runs through an ethnic foodway. This research is enormously valuable but Mexican food in the Southwest does not tell us much about a diasporic border food community. What do we learn when we study an international boundary running through an ethnic minority, such as the Arab community that exists on both sides of the Windsor/Detroit border? When a foodway already struggles to find its identity within a hegemonic culture, how does that food community negotiate an international state difference right in its midst? It would appear that, before 9/11, a ‘soft’ border allowed for the existence of a large, interactive, regional cross-border Arab foodway. Since then, the thickening of that border has rapidly accelerated the formation of an ‘Arab-Canadian’ foodway in Windsor.

Robert L. Nelson is Head of the Department of History at the University of Windsor, Canada. His revised Cambridge dissertation appeared in 2011 as German Soldier Newspapers of the First World War. Earlier he published the edited volume Germans, Poland, and Colonial Expansion to the East: 1850 Through the Present (2009). He was the historian and host of the feature length documentary “130 Year Roadtrip”, and has performed a Live Interactive Documentary version of the same project in San Francisco, Milwaukee and Windsor. A Live Interactive Documentary detailing the history of Arab Foodways in Windsor/Detroit is now in production, and his first ‘food history’ publication has now appeared: ‘Pitas and Passports: Arab Foodways in the Windsor-Detroit Borderlands’ Mashriq & Mahjar 6:2 (2019). Nelson has won fellowships from the Killam Trust, the Humboldt Foundation, and was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. He has also been awarded the University of Windsor’s highest honours in both teaching and research, the Alumni Award for Distinguished Contributions to University Teaching and the UWindsor Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity.

To Students in the Collaborative Specialization program: This seminar is part of the Culinaria Seminar Series SRM 3333H.