Modern South Asia Seminar Series

The Trusted Plate: Dilemmas, Contestations, Negotiations

Lecture by Manpreet K. Janeja (International Institute of Asian Studies).
Followed by reception. 

This paper focuses on re-imagining domesticity in contemporary urban formations through the aesthetics of food in a South Asian ‘worlding’ 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 some of the upper echelons of the middle-classes, and highlights how 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).

About the Modern South Asia Seminar series
The Modern South Asia Seminar is a monthly seminar series run by South Asian Studies at Leiden University, sponsored by the Asian Modernities and Traditions, the Leiden Institute for Area Studies, and the International Institute of Asian Studies, Leiden