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Lecture | Seminar

CA-OS Research Seminar | The Home and The Street: Food, Gender, and Ownership in Calcutta

  • Manpreet K. Janeja
Monday 12 March 2018
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden


Food often evokes myriad imaginings of the ‘private’ middle-class home as demarcated from the ‘public’ street. This paper seeks to revisit such imaginings. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Indian mega-city of Calcutta, it describes the preparation, presentation, and serving of everyday foods by vendors on the streets as entangled in contextual engagements with Bengali Hindu middle-class homes and values of domesticity. It examines the skills and performances of enclosure integral to such activities that are gendered, and embedded in wider historical networks. In the process, it unpacks the work that food does in navigating emergent forms of interiority and exteriority, generating relations of ‘ownership’ that are recognized, disputed, and appropriated as rights of possession. In doing so, it invites the audience to engage with issues of the gendered ownership of urban spaces when diverse norms seek to regulate them.


Manpreet K. Janeja is a social anthropologist working on issues of trust, religion, migration and diversity in urban South Asia and Europe, through food as a lens. She has recently moved from an Associate Professorship at the University of Copenhagen to a fellowship at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS Leiden, 2017-2018) to write her next book The Aesthetics of School Meals: (Dis)trust, Risk, and Uncertainty (under contract). She is the author of Transactions in Taste: the Collaborative Lives of Everyday Bengali Food (2010), co-editor of Imagining Bangladesh: Contested Narratives (2014) and Ethnographies of Waiting: Doubt, Hope and Uncertainty (2018). She has been a Eugénie Strong Research Fellow in Social Anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge; a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University (Centre for South Asia); and is currently also a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics (Department of Social Policy).

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