In southwestern Okinawa, local residents are reinvigorating their culinary heritage through a clam restoration project that began in 2009. The clams—giant clams, locally known as geera—have declined recently due to overharvesting on the reef. This article examines intersecting notions of heritage and community by contrasting the clam mariculture project with other heritage foods. The clams do not fit within prevalent images of Okinawan foods as nutritious and multicultural, and they are not among the Okinawan tastes that are celebrated outside of Okinawa. For islanders, the clams encapsulate place through their actual taste, the way they are acquired, and the social landscape of their consumption. Amidst the increasing influx of mainlanders in Okinawa, the clams become symbols that distinguish native islanders from newcomers.
Beyond Merroir: The Okinawan Taste for Clams
C. Anne Claus is an environmental anthropologist and Assistant Professor at American University. Anne takes an ethnographic approach to researching international conservation and food production in marine environments. She has also published research on the socioeconomic impacts of environmental policies on coastal communities, the political ecology of disasters, and conservation social science. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Japan, Brazil, and Mozambique.
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C. Anne Claus; Beyond Merroir: The Okinawan Taste for Clams. Gastronomica 1 August 2017; 17 (3): 49–57. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2017.17.3.49
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