The topic of my digital history project is the iconic canned meat, Spam, and how it has spread across the globe and onto people’s plates. I will briefly discuss the history and creation of Spam, but ultimately the specific time period I will be looking at to analyse the rise of Spam are the years between the end of WWII and the present day, 2016. Although Spam has become a global phenomenon, the main region this project will cover is part of the Asian-Pacific where Spam is consumed the most outside of the US. For my thesis I have worked out, “The purpose of this project is to document Spam’s globalization as a result of US military troops stationed in countries during times of war.”
To achieve the purpose of this project, I will examine sources such as magazine articles, online food blogs, online news articles, and advertisements for Spam around the globe. Clips from an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown where he visits Korea and discovers a famous dish dating to the Korean War that uses Spam as a signature ingredient will also be used. A famous sketch from the British television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus in which Spam is the subject will also be looked at as a primary source that shows Spam’s infiltration into pop culture. Any resources I find on the school database sites, such as Jstor, that are relevant to Spam around the globe I will find useful. I will also try to find accounts of US soldiers eating Spam during times of war as well as accounts of native peoples in Asian-Pacific countries who made Spam into signature dishes during times of food scarcity.
Some historical questions I will be asking are: Why is Spam so popular around the world? How did Spam became so popular after WWII? How did America’s joke food turn into a luxury item in places like Korea and Hawaii? Why is Spam often reviled in America? What is the correlation between areas where Spam is a delicacy and areas where the US military has occupied at one time? What even is ‘Spam’? How did US occupation of Asian-Pacific countries contribute to the rise of Spam in those regions?
The tools I will be using for this project are TimelineJS and Google’s My Maps. I will use My Maps to map out how Spam has spread from the US to around the world. I will then use TimelineJS to to make an informative timeline detailing that spread from the creation of Spam to its world popularity. I will use informative slides with visuals in the the timeline to achieve the goal of my project.
The significance of my project is that it will shed light on the importance of Spam not just during WWII, but for the years after in other parts of the world. What is often considered low-quality ‘mystery meat’ will be revealed as the saviour for many nation’s starving people in the aftermath of war. It may seem odd to Americans that Spam is a luxurious food item in financially stable countries that can afford what we would call ‘better’ options. This project will be a valuable tool to help others understand the world’s obsession with Spam and maybe even show Spam in a new light and give others a newfound appreciation for the icon canned meat.
DeJesus, Erin. “A Brief History of Spam, an American Meat Icon.” Eater. July 09, 2014. Accessed March 06, 2016. http://www.eater.com/2014/7/9/6191681/a-brief-history-of-spam-an-american-meat-icon
This online article details the history of Spam and its use in WWII. It also analyses its rise in popularity around the world. This is a good source for understanding the history of Spam and how it became a worldwide food sensation.
Klara, Robert. “The World Eats 3 Cans of Spam Every Second.” AdWeek. August 27, 2014. Accessed March 06, 2016. http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/world-eats-3-cans-spam-every-second-159671.
This online news article talks about Spam’s advertising methods and makes references to Spam’s use in WWII. This source will be used to understand how advertising played a role in Spam’s global conquest.
Sang-hun, Choe. “In South Korea, Spam Is the Stuff Gifts Are Made Of.” The New York Times. January 26, 2014. Accessed March 06, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/27/world/asia/in-south-korea-spam-is-the-stuff-gifts-are-made-of.html.
In this New York Times article, the history of Spam in Korea is analysed, as well as its elevation to luxury status. This is a key source for understanding Korea’s obsession with the canned meat. I will use this source to detail the level of importance Spam has achieved overseas in Korea.
Kim, Sylvie. “The End of Spam Shame: On Class, Colonialism, and Canned Meat.” Hyphen Magazine. June 03, 2011. Accessed March 06, 2016. http://hyphenmagazine.com/blog/2011/6/3/end-spam-shame-class-colonialism-and-canned-meat.
This online magazine article further explores the importance of Spam in Korea. The article details its introduction through the US military and its use in Korean cuisine. The article also explores the the American notion of ‘Spam Shaming’, the idea that Spam is associated with low-quality, poverty, and trashyness. I will use this article to further explain Spam’s importance in Korea as well as how it is viewed in America.
Gardiner, Ross. “How Spam Got Big in Asia | Obsev.” Obsev. June 18, 2014. Accessed March 06, 2016. http://www.obsev.com/food/how-spam-got-big-asia.html.
This short article examines Spam’s influence in Asia. Although short, it will help me talk about how Spam has reached different parts of Asia after WWII as a result of the US military.
Lewis, George H. 2000. “From Minnesota Fat to Seoul Food: Spam in America and the Pacific Rim.” Journal Of Popular Culture 34, no. 2: 83-105. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 6, 2016).
This journal article examines Spam’s roots in America and how it has spread to all parts of the world. It talks about Spam as a cultural icon and joke food as well as a delicacy in certain areas. I will use this journal article to talk about how Spam has spread all around the world and how different countries have accepted it and turned it into something completely their own.
Zimmerman, Dwight Jon. “A War Won With Spam (and a Few Other Things) | Defense Media Network.” Defense Media Network A War Won With Spam and a Few Other Things Comments. May 19, 2011. Accessed March 06, 2016. http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/a-war-won-with-spam-and-a-few-other-things/.
This article details Spam’s use in WWII. Although it does not go beyond that or talk about Spam’s globalization, I can still use it to talk about the importance of Spam in WWII and to discover what soldiers thought about eating Spam every day.
Heydt, Bruce. ” SPAM AGAIN.” America in WWII Magazine. June 2006. Accessed March 06, 2016. http://www.americainwwii.com/articles/spam-again/.
This is another article that talks about Spam’s use in WWII. I will use this information to further detail Spams importance and impact on soldiers during the war.
Wyman, Carolyn. Spam: A Biography. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace, 1999.
This book by Carolyn Wyman traces the history of Spam from its creation, to its use in WWII, to its popularity around the globe. I will use this source to detail Spam’s globalization and how it has impacted different countries around the world as well as grab statistics to use in my timeline alongside visuals.
Bourdain, Anthony, writer. Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown. CNN. Television. April 26, 2015.
In this episode of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, host Anthony Bourdain travels to Korea to showcase the area’s unique food. One such food is budae jjigae, or “military stew.” This dish uses Spam as a main ingredient. Anthony talks about how Spam came to be used in a famous local dish through its introduction by the US military, I will use this source to show how Spam came to Korea and why it became something to be desired for the locals.
Jones, Terry, and Michael Palin, writers. Monty Python’s Flying Circus. BBC. December 15, 1970.
This is a famous sketch from the British television programme, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The plot of the sketch is a couple entering a restaurant that only serves Spam dishes. Hilarity ensues. This is a good source to document Spam’s infiltration into pop culture. This sketch also gave rise to the popular term ‘spam’ which is used to describe unwanted emails in the late 90s and early 2000s.