Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Historians and anthropologists have used various frameworks to analyse connectivities, mobilities and cultural exchange in the Indian Ocean World. Port cities as frames of reference hereby help to construct an alternative analytical framework to studies that employ nation-state based models. Simultaneously, scholars from both disciplines have probed how food can be used as an object of inquiry to interrogate connections beyond the category of the local and challenge nation-based arguments. However, these two bodies of literature have rarely spoken to one another.
This interdisciplinary panel will analyse food in the context of the Indian Ocean World from the early modern period onwards, with a view to illuminating how the movements of plants, people, material culture and knowledge helped to shape unique culinary cultures and practices across different cities in the Indian Ocean littoral. Furthermore, it aims to complicate scholarship on what might be termed 'colonial food studies' which has focused mostly on the nineteenth century category of nation-state. The panel will consider how food exchanges and the travelling of practices, techniques and recipes in the Indian Ocean World illuminate a multiplicity of connections and movements that transcend the nation state, and centre Asian cooks of various ethnic backgrounds as actors of culinary change and exchange in the context of European colonial rule.
By examining food as an object as well as its related practices, the panel adds to the histories of exchange of Asia and Europe. Following approaches of connected histories in past and present, this panel offers alternative and complementary narratives and histories to this exchange by giving voice to otherwise often neglected actors, such as ethnic minorities, women, and domestic workers.