chapter  4
16 Pages


This chapter presents a semiotic reading of Soul Food as a film that presents two fundamentally contradictory messages. On the one hand, the film pres­ ents food as a liberating element, a tool of resistance against oppression for African-Americans. On the other hand, the film also presents food as a coer­ cive force important for maintaining the status quo. The first section of the chapter develops the former reading. This reading reveals soul food’s impor­ tance as a symbolic expression of personal and communal identity (that exist apart from those imposed by dominant white culture), celebration and freedom. It shows how food and eating are fertile ground for coded activities invested with power and meaning.3 Finally, this reading helps viewers to understand communal soul food dinners as an epideictic rhetorical act, a form of social ritual that celebrates and illuminates African-American heritage.4