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Lecture | Modern South Asia Seminars

The Trusted Plate: Dilemmas, Contestations, Negotiations

  • Dr. Manpreet K. Janeja
Wednesday 18 April 2018
Modern South Asia Seminars
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden
Vossius Room

This talk focuses on re-imagining domesticity in contemporary urban formations through the aesthetics of food in a South Asian Œworlding¹ city. Taking the meal and cooking practices as the fulcrum of much activity in Bengali Hindu daily life in Calcutta in the Indian state of West Bengal, it traces the vicissitudes of what emerges as constantly negotiable but contested normal home food. It describes the relatively new phenomenon of cooks from cooking bureaus working in households in the upper echelons of the middle-classes, and highlight show food mediates the strategic and ambivalent negotiations they all engage in.In the process, it renders visible the dynamics of (dis)trust, risk, and uncertainty in which these contextual culinary engagements are entangled. In doing so, it unpacks the manner in which food-ways in a state of flux are reconfiguring forms of domesticity and belonging in a city caught in the throes of redefining itself.

Manpreet K. Janeja is a social anthropologist working on 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 Copenhagen University to a fellowship at 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 (2010), co-editor of Imagining Bangladesh (2014) and Ethnographies of Waiting (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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