Food Culture and Intergenerational Care On and Off Stage


In 2014, American playwright Sarah Ruhl’s play, The Oldest Boy premiered at Lincoln Centre. The play is a dramatized story of a white, Catholic, American mother contending with her Tibetan husband and the fact that her child may be the reincarnation of a high Lama. Audiences and critics alike were equally hesitant and curious to see what Ruhl, in an interracial marriage herself, would bring to this narrative. The play, highly anticipated by critics, and dreaded to be offensive by audiences, would satisfy neither group, as The Oldest Boy in fact evades actual serious engagement with the themes it seems to promise to delve into. Located at the intersections of The Oldest Boy, food culture, and intergenerational care, my paper is an exploration of the division of labour and familial and national allegiance in a Tibetan Buddhist and Eurocentric marriage. As the numbers of interfaith and intercultural marriages continue to rise, so to do the fields of family traditions begin to grow complex and expansive. When two differing cultures and methodologies of family care and ancestral knowledge combine to create a new family, what important practices remain, and where are the sites of intercultural collaboration? Drawing from Ruhl’s play, Ngyuen Tan Hoang’s Rice Queen models, Sune Jensen’s engagement with R.W. Connell’s definition of hegemonic masculinity, and Asian-American comedian Ali Wong’s intersocial theories on Asian Men, my paper engages with these important questions of intercultural acceptance within a family structure.

Author Information
Tabia Lau, York University, Canada

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2020
Stream: Arts - Performing Arts Practices: Theater

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon