Culinary boundaries and the making of place in Bangladesh.

Mookherjee, Nayanika (2008) Culinary boundaries and the making of place in Bangladesh. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 31 (1). pp. 56-75. ISSN 0085-6401

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Food constitutes the central trope of place-making of Bangladesh in West Bengal, through various metaphors of excess and lack. South Asian ethnographies on food have focussed primarily on the cosmological and symbolic characteristics of 'Hindu' (read South Asian) food, which appear as bounded experiences. Rather than focusing on 'Hindu' or 'South Asian' food, this article explores the vegetarian/non-vegetarian culinary boundaries and permeations that lie at the interface of Bengali Hindu and Bengali Muslim food practices in two very different social contexts—middle-class and lower middle-class urban Dhaka and the well-off and poor in the village of Enayetpur. Through this analysis, it seeks to show how different nationalities (read here Indian Bengalis and Bangladeshi Bengalis) are connected or estranged by the foods they consume or refuse to consume, and how culinary boundaries and connections constitute political identities between nation-states that become visible through the food practices of the ethnographer (which in turn become markers of political borders, territoriality and place-making). The troping of 'place' via food allows the imaginaries and ambivalences of Bangladesh and West Bengal towards each other to be highlighted. We shall see that in this context food actually emerges as a mnemonic, capable of mobilising emotions relating to the ravages of the war of 1971 and the irreconcilable, divided past of the two Bengals.

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Journal Article
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South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
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27 Nov 2009 15:09
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19 Sep 2023 00:24