ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Consuming Identities in Foodways

Food can be a unifying factor for communities while setting up implicit boundaries to keep others outside.


Food studies is a burgeoning interdisciplinary area that looks at food beyond the conventional associations of sustenance and nutrition and broadens common perceptions to include varied discourses such as history, tradition, culture, economics, art, and literature. Drawing from cultural anthropology, the term “foodways,” also called “food culture”—which refers to the cultural, social, and economic practices related to the production, preparation, and consumption of food—is an important part of food studies. There is a strong correlation between the food that people eat and how they perceive themselves and others. Foodways mentioned in literature and other cultural narratives create spaces where one negotiates and articulates the myriad aspects of their identity. Authors often use food carefully in narratives to add a realistic touch to their fictional characters and settings.

Chitrita Banerji’s Eating India: An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices (2007) and Samanth Subramanian’s Following Fish: Travels around the Indian Coast (2010) are travel narratives centred around food in India, specifically fish in the latter. Both these books look at food as consumables, and in the case of Subramanian as part of an economic practice that sustains livelihoods. Both books present their narratives where foodways are also a means of constructing, negotiating, and expressing the individual and cultural identities of the authors themselves and people they come across in their travels.

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