Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Food and Diaspora: An Ethnographic Study of Chinese Restaurants in Kolkata

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Silveroak II, Ground Floor

This paper focuses on the Chinese culinary industry in Kolkata and its impact on Indian Chinese diasporic identity. By looking at food as a culturally defined object important to the construction and maintenance of group identities, it enquires into the ways in which Chinese restaurants have given meaning to “Indian Chineseness.” It examines the space, food, and décor of the restaurants through which the material and the non-material as well as the physical and the virtual converge. In this way, I can glean insights on diasporic subjectivities.


In India, the Chinese culinary industry flourished only after the 1950s and 1960s, when the last wave of Chinese migration to India took place. The restaurant space is a field of multiple intersectionalities, where imaginations of “self” and the “other,” as well as ethnic and cultural belongings play out. This is also where claims of “authentic Chinese taste” and counter-claims of localization 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.


Besides having the only Chinatown in India, Kolkata also has a long, committed relationship with Chinese food. Through an ethnographic study of certain Chinese restaurants and food joints in the city and elsewhere in India, I explore the shared meanings, networks, and spaces in which the Indian Chinese diasporic identity is embedded.

Piya Chakraborty

Shiv Nadar University, India

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