Rachel Hopkin

Folklorist and Radio Producer

Latest Article – Poetics and Patisserie

30 March, 2018

My latest article has just been published in Performance Research. It’s called “Poetics and Pâtisserie”.

The full citation is Poetics and Pâtisserie: Multilayered Performances of Croissants. 2017. Performance Research 22 (7): 134-140. For a while, it’s possible to download a copy from this link. It’s limited to the first fifty downloads.  Still, I imagine it’ll take a while before that’s been exhausted!

Here’s the abstract:-

In this paper, I explore how the sensory experiences provided — or, at least, promised — by the croissant inflect a range of performances. My investigation draws on personal experience, public performances, and fieldwork interviews with both pâtissiers and consumers.

Brazilian anthropologist Roberto Da Matta stressed that the study of ritual should address how trivial elements of one’s social world can be transformed into symbols which, in certain contexts, construct moments of special intensity. I draw on Da Matta’s work to investigate how and why croissant consumption can form the centrepiece of ritualised processes. My analysis of pâtissiers’ narratives about their croissant-making reveals the importance of a gustatory taste imaginary. Descriptions of their learning experiences and motivations allows for parallels to be made between croissant preparation and participation in the more conventionally-conceived performance form of music. I also consider how gustatory taste vis-à-vis the croissant can inform notions of discriminatory taste, and then interrogate ideas concerning class and connoisseurship which can result in (admittedly idiosyncratic) manifestations of Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of “cultural capital”.

My paper is book-ended by accounts of two performances of croissant-eating given in very different circumstances – one was a personal experience and illuminates complex familial relations; the other took place in highly charged circumstances before the international media and was disseminated around the world.

Overall, I present the richness of the croissant as a performative entity and demonstrate how distinct performances bring different colours to the pastry.


Croissants made out of felt