Saboreando o Brasil em Londres: comida, imigração e identidade.

Translated title of the contribution: Tasting Brazil in London: food, migration and identity

Graca Brightwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite limited public statistics and low visibility in the UK, there are estimated to be between 130,000 and 160,000 Brazilian-born residents in London, 30,000 of whom live in the Borough of Brent alone (Evans and et al. 2007). This increased Brazilian presence over the last decade or so has stimulated a recent but dynamic commercial culture of marketing Brazilian food in London. Scholars of Brazilian emigration have already mentioned the unique role food plays in the construction and maintenance of Brazilian identities when abroad. This is shown by research from Linger (2001)) with Japanese-Brazilians, Martes (2004) with Brazilians in the U.S.A, and Aguiar’s (2009) “ethnic consumption” among Brazilians in the UK. However, despite its importance in the migrant’s experience food remains on the fringes of academic enquiry in Brazilian migration studies.
My research tries to bridge this gap by investigating the ways in which food shapes the production, negotiation and reinvention of transnational identities, drawing empirical inspiration from the food experiences of Brazilian immigrants living in London. In this article I present some initial considerations based on readings, field observations and reflections on my own gastronomic experiences both as an immigrant and as a Brazilian research student in London.
The growing number of Brazilian food businesses tap into this growth of the Brazilian population in London and for ‘a hunger for home’. Adverts placed by food outlets in magazines aimed at London’s Brazilian population promise that the food sold will make Brazilians “feel at home” or feel “as if you were there”. Within the community this is known as ‘economia da saudade’ (homesickness business), a niche sector comprised of restaurants, cafes, grocery shops, formal and informal catering services and butchers. Commercial activity in Brazilian food has a notable density in the borough of Brent (25% of all London outlets) but is also distributed across London. Generally these businesses are small and family owned, existing in close proximity to other Brazilian businesses such as hairdressers, butchers and money remittance services. This demand is often motivated by the fact that those recently arrived do not know how to find the products they are looking for due to the language barrier. But there are undoubtedly other factors at play as well. So far from home, the banality of these products brings a comforting familiarity. It is not just the products themselves which attract clients to these establishments, it is the complete experience: familiar tastes, sounds and aromas of food; the chance to meet someone to talk with in Portuguese; to gain information about jobs, housing, schools, news from Brazil (it is common in these establishments to find a television showing Brazilian programmes); to collect a copy of a Brazilian magazine; to send money; or in search of something intangible which helps fill the enormous void many people experience as a result of migration.
Translated title of the contributionTasting Brazil in London: food, migration and identity
Original languageOther
Pages (from-to)21 - 31
Number of pages10
JournalTravessia: Revista do Migrante
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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