Shiv Nadar University
Piya Chakraborty is a PhD research scholar currently pursuing her doctoral research in the Department of Sociology in Shiv Nadar University, India. Having completed both her Bachelor’s (Presidency College Kolkata) and Master’s degrees in Sociology (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi), she went on to complete her M.Phil. degree in the field of Social Sciences (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta). Thereafter, she was employed as a researcher in an international sociological research project conducted by Umeå University, Sweden in collaboration with Global Change Research Kolkata. She was also employed as guest faculty in the Department of Sociology, Jadavpur University for a brief period. She is currently conducting her doctoral research on the Indian Chinese community in India, specifically focussing on food, memory of war and their relationship with the construction of Indian Chinese subjectivity.
「 Food and Diaspora: An Ethnographic study of Chinese Restaurants in Kolkata 」
This paper focuses on the Chinese cuisine industry in Kolkata with respect to Indian Chinese diasporic identity. In looking at food as being a culturally defined object playing a role in the construction and maintenance of group identities, it enquires into the ways in which Chinese restaurants have given meaning to “Indian Chineseness” as a diasporic phenomenon. It examines the restaurant spaces, restaurant food and the décor of the restaurants through which the material and the non-material, the physical as well as the virtual come together and provide insights into diasporic subjectivities.
The spread of Chinese cuisine across the world happened during the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. It started with Chinese migration to the West and the subsequent establishment of Chinese settlements in Canada, United States and Australia. In India, the culinary industry flourished only after the 1950s and 1960s, when the last wave of migration from China to India took place. A recent trend in the Chinese cuisine industry has been the entry of the non-Chinese in a big way, thus producing its own share of anxieties.
The restaurant spaces represent markers of boundaries, however transient, between one group and the other. Imaginations of “self” and the “other”, ethnicity and cultural belonging play out in a field of multiple intersectionalities where claims and counter-claims pertaining to “authentic Chinese taste” vis-avis the localisation of cuisine emerge. The field, dispersed across these multiple sites of memory and identity, conditions the becoming of the object (food) and the object in turn produces the conditions of possibility for movements in the field. Through an ethnography of certain Chinese restaurants and food joints in Kolkata, the city which besides having the only “Chinatown” in India, also has a long, committed relationship with Chinese food. This paper attempts to explore the shared meanings, networks and spaces in which the Indian Chinese diasporic identity is embedded.