Amita Baviskar

Amita Baviskar
pas labex
pas Eurias

dates de séjour

01/02/2021 - 13/07/2021



Fonction d’origine


Institution d’origine

Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University (Inde)

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

We Are What We Eat: Industrial Foods in India

The cultural politics of food in India has been transformed over the last three decades by the explosion in industrial foods. Packaged foods like bread, biscuits and noodles (Baviskar 2018) and industrially processed commodities like soya, palm oil and chicken are consumed by Indians across the social spectrum. This has been made possible by systemic changes in agricultural production, distribution and marketing. Different aspects of these transformations have been studied by different disciplines. Each has their own valuable perspective but they rarely combine to provide a comprehensive analysis of changing food and agriculture. Holistic understanding seems to only come from farmers and their advocates, activists in India’s food sovereignty movement, but their critiques often ignore the complex cultural meanings that industrial foods have for disadvantaged social groups. In this project, I aim to bridge the divide between expert and activist knowledge, bringing insights from studies in political economy, environment and nutrition to bear upon my anthropological research on food and agriculture. Specifically, I will examine the production and consumption of poultry, which has gone from being considered an inferior meat to being the chief source of animal protein in India. The explosion in poultry production in India occurred with the introduction of intensive (battery and broiler factory farming) technologies in the 1980s. Poultry is particularly interesting in the Indian context where a large section of the population, especially upper-caste Hindus, has traditionally been vegetarian. Chicken is a “gateway” animal product, usually the first non-vegetarian meat that people try (Baviskar 2012). The rapid growth of egg and chicken production and consumption has raised multiple concerns about health and disease, environment and animal rights, purity and pollution. Anxieties about epidemics like bird flu and the spread of antibiotic resistance, worries about contaminating “Hindu culture” versus meeting the nutritional needs of malnourished populations, fuel the debates about industrially processed poultry in India. My project studies these debates by tracing material and discursive practices on the ground, through interviewing key actors and observing processes of production and consumption.


Amita Baviskar studied at the University of Delhi before receiving a PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University. Her research focuses on the cultural politics of environment and development in rural and urban India. Her publications explore the themes of resource rights, popular resistance and discourses of environmentalism. She is currently studying food and agrarian environments. Her recent publications include the edited books Contested Grounds: Essays on Nature, Culture and Power; Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes (with Raka Ray); and First Garden of the Republic: Nature on the President’s Estate. She has taught at the University of Delhi, and has been a visiting scholar at Stanford, Cornell, Yale, SciencesPo and the UC Berkeley. She has received several honours, including the 2005 Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for Distinguished Contributions to Development Studies and the 2010 Infosys Prize for Social Sciences.