Sociology of Food

This course reflects on how social practices and traditions around food have critically impacted the availability and accessibility of food for certain groups and profoundly impacted their human development outcomes.

Numerous social distinctions, rituals, taboos and practices have been rooted in the consumption, regulation or distanciation of and from certain types of food. Caste, class and religious hierarchies have routinely used food substances and the means of their preparation as a way of perpetuating boundaries of purity and pollution across the sub-continent. There is a compelling need to reflect on these issues and their implication for a rapidly changing Indian society.

Despite the richness of meaning that marks questions of food and consumption in
the Indian subcontinent, there is a palpable lack of sociological attention and
research into these questions. This course attempts to address this lack and will

  1. historical and socio-cultural manifestations of food and nutrition availability and choice in India, and ways in which they are shaped and defined by social categories of caste and class. How does food become a marker of identity, and by what process does this experience change and transformation?
  2. the changing landscape of food production and consumption, and the transformation of the food production systems over time. This creates a disconnect between what is produced and its accessibility, as well as what people need to consume versus what they actually consume; and
  3. norms relating to access to food and nutrition for girls and women, especially relating to the status of women within the household, the value of women’s work and the cultural norms controlling women’s right to food – all of which are closely inter-twined, and have a devastating effect on women’s health outcomes as well as on the inter- generational cycle of health and well-being.