Baviskar Amita

Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology and Anthropology, Ashoka University - Holder of the IMERA/IRD Chair on Sustainable Development
Période de résidence: 
April 2022 - May 2022
Projet de recherche: 
We Are What We Eat: Industrial Foods in India
Résumé du projet: 

The cultural politics of food in India have 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.

Lien(s) web:!/amita-baviskar-1620

Amita Baviskar is a Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology and Anthropology at Ashoka University. Her research addresses the cultural politics of environment and development in rural and urban India. Currently, she is working on food and changing agrarian environments in central India and studying the social experience of air pollution and heat in Delhi.

Baviskar received a PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University. Her first book, In the Belly of the River: Tribal Conflicts over Development in the Narmada Valley, and other writings explore the themes of resource rights, popular resistance and discourses of environmentalism. Her recent publications include the edited books 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, as well as the 2020 monograph Uncivil City: Ecology, Equity and the Commons in Delhi.
Baviskar’s contributions to developing the field of environmental sociology in India and to the study of social movements have received peer recognition. She was awarded the 2005 Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for Distinguished Contributions to Development Studies, the 2008 VKRV Rao Prize for Social Science Research, and the 2010 Infosys Prize for Social Sciences.

Curriculum Vitae: