Talk with Professor Pushpesh Pant

DATE: 8 September 2015

Theme: “The Politics of Food”

The Department of Political Science brought a new aspect to the study of politics by inclusivity of the concept of ‘food’. As any student of the Department would say, politics is everywhere and nothing falls beyond its ambit. Keeping the same in mind, we hosted Prof. Pant to deliver a guest lecture on the “politics of food”.

According to Professor Pushpesh Pant food is at the very heart of politics as it tries arbitrarily to create a hierarchy of preferences. He started the lecture by talking about the history of ‘the melt in the mouth’ kakori kebab. He highlighted the underlying folklore that surrounds the kebab that makes it such popular a dish however the truth is the fact that kakori was actually made for old pilgrims at the Kakori Dargah who couldn’t bite into hard kebabs. According to Professor Pant, politics of food acts at three levels- production, consumption, and cultural levels. At the level of manufacturers and producers there emerges a nexus between political parties, FSSAI and MNC’s such as Nestle. There is the dominant practice of hiding or manipulating the labelling that is very central to food politics. At the level of the consumer there is often the food of the rich versus that of the poor. It is often assumed that the former is tastier or more expensive than the latter. However in the contemporary context poor man’s food (organic food) is more expensive or exotic than rich man’s food. For example, Thukpa. In the cultural context, politics of food is often the basis for the division of various taste zones. Prof. Pant believes that more than language it is food that brings together various people. He pointed out the important food zones to be Kolkata, Mumbai and Goa, Delhi, Punjab, Kerala, Chennai, Lucknow, Rajasthan and the North-East.

He finally concluded by saying that all that is food is associated with all that is political and hence, there exists the politics of food.