As Barthes points out how ever the primary meaning is never lost Rather it

As barthes points out how ever the primary meaning is

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As Barthes points out how- ever, the primary meaning is never lost. Rather, it remains and stands as an alibi, the cover under which the second, politicizedmeaning can hide. Roses sell better, for example, when lovers view them as a vehicle to express love ratherthan the means by which a company stays in business. This content downloaded from on Fri, 14 Feb 2014 02:28:12 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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198 ANTHROPOLOGICAL QUARTERLY At one level, food is just food in Japan-the medium by which humans sustain their nature and health. Yet under and through this code of pragmatics, Japanese cuisine carries other mean- ings that in Barthes' terms are mythological. One of these is national identity: food being appropri- ated as a sign of the culture. To be Japanese is to eat Japanese food, as so many Japanese confirm when they travel to other countries and cite the greatest problem they encounter to be the absence of "real" Japanese food. Stated the other way around, rice is so symbolically central to Japanese culture (meals and obentos often being assembled with rice as the core and all other dishes, multifari- ous as they may be, as mere compliments or side dishes) that Japanese say they can never feel full until they have consumed their rice at a particular meal or at least once during the day.' Embedded within this insistence on eating Japanese food, thereby reconfirming one as a mem- ber of the culture, are the principles by which Jap- anese food is customarily prepared: perfection, la- bor, small distinguishable parts, opposing segments, beauty, and the stamp of nature. Overarching all these more detailed codings are two that guide the making and ideological appropriation of the nurs- ery school obento most directly: 1) there is an order to the food: a right way to do things, with every- thing in its place and each place coordinated with every other, and 2) the one who prepares the food takes on the responsibility of producing food to the standards of perfection and exactness that Japa- nese cuisine demands. Food may not be casual, in other words, nor the producer casualin her produc- tion. In these two rules is a message both aboutso- cial order and the role gender plays in sustaining and nourishing that order. School, State, and Subjectivity In addition to language and second order meanings I suggest that the ritualsand routines surrounding obenros in Japanese nursery schools present, as it were, a third order, manipulation. This order is a use of a currency already established--one that has already appropriated a language of utility (food feeds hunger) to express and implant cultural be- haviors. State-guided schools borrow this coded ap- paratus: usingthe natural convenience and cover of food not only to code a cultural order, but also to socialize childrenand mothers into the gendered roles and subjectivities they are expected to assume in a political order desired and directed by the state.
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