Language, food and gentrification: signs of socioeconomic mobility in two Gothenburg neighbourhoods

  • Johan Järlehed University of Gothenburg
  • Helle Lykke Nielsen University of Southern Denmark
  • Tove Rosendal University of Gothenburg
Keywords: gentrification, distinction, gastronomic register, food trucks, linguistic landscape


This paper examines at how language and food intersect and interact in gentrification
processes. As a capital-driven social process aiming at enhancing the socioeconomic
value of urban space, gentrification implies mobility both in the sense that it attracts
new people, businesses and capital to an area, and in the form of displacement of
less affluent and prestigious people, businesses and semiotic resources from central
to marginal urban spaces. The paper examines linguistic and visual traces of such
mobilities in two neighbourhoods in Gothenburg, Sweden. Based on the observation
that food and food practices are central for the production and reproduction of social
distinction, the analysis centres on food related establishments and signs. In particular,
it discusses the distinction-making function of prestigious languages, elite gastronomic
registers, and gourmet food trucks, and how these depend on the marginalization
of low status languages, popular gastronomic registers and cheap generic food carts.
People’s interaction with these resources contributes to the reconfiguration of social
and urban space.