AbstractsPolitical Science

Food Practices and the Construction, Performance, and Politics of Identity in Kiran Desai's The Inheritance Of Loss

by Johan Bernard Winden

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Food; Foodways; Eating; Cooking; Identity; Postcolonial; Migration; Desai, Kiran; The Inheritance of Loss; Structuralism
Record ID: 1252074
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/32563


Since, as anthropologists and cultural critics have argued, food and food practices constitute a system of communication that conveys social meaning, food as a cultural and social practice and as a literary trope provides insight into society and culture and the identities they produce. If we are what we eat, food is an important means to define and, more specifically, perform our identities. In a globalizing world, in which both people and products constantly travel, food follows migratory flows. When placed in a political, economic, and cultural context food functions as a boundary marker as well as a boundary crosser. This makes food a useful trope in postcolonial and other migrant literature in particular, as these novels explore the effects of migration and cultural encounters on the formation, negotiation, and performance of identities. Placing my reading of Desai’s postcolonial novel The Inheritance of Loss in the theoretical framework of food theories, I will argue that Desai uses food as a metaphorical instrument not only to deconstruct colonial identities, such as that of the Anglophile judge and his friends, and fixed ethnic identities, such as Biju’s, but also to imagine more fluid, multiple, migrant identities, such as Saeed Saeed’s, and to focus attention on unequal power relations and the fluidity of nationhood and national identity.