Issue 9 Food for Thought:
Food, Embodiment, and Knowledge

Homepage Intro Content

Note From The Editors

The paradox of studying food is that scholars necessarily rely on the very instruments of discourse that reify a hierarchy of the senses designed to render food unworthy of serious thought: Images and texts appeal to the “higher” sense of sight; they “figure the material as intellectual, imaginative, symbolic, aesthetic,” Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson claims (2004, 17). Reason cannot be found in the “lower” senses while eating reminds us too much of our body’s needs. But Krishnendu Ray reminds us that “much of the sociology of the body continues to be devoted to theoretical argumentation focussed on gender, sexuality, and disease, belying the sense that all social action {…} is always embodied” (2016, 26).

Read more in the Note From the Editors

Today’s Special

Saffron image



At Pampore in Kashmir, weddings used to be planned well in advance, says 70 year-old Abdul Wani recalling his own wedding. His father, Bashir Wani, went around Pampore discreetly enquiring about saffron crop from the fruit sellers. The fruit sellers, who frequented the fields during its cultivation would exchange their fruits and bring back saffron petals. “Some of the farmers in Avantipora were really doing well those days. Exporters would wait outside their houses as Pampore started offering best variety of saffron to the world by early 60s,” says Abdul Wani. After finding out that one Hamid Saraf’s crop would do really well, Wani Sr. told him that he was ready to buy all the harvest for his son’s wedding. “He did this with the rice too. All of us do this in Pampore for our weddings. We reserve the best crop for community feasts,” says Wani Jr.

In the 90s, things changed drastically, as Wani remembers each day of the ordeal when the valley was caught between Indian forces and the radical separatists. “We still lived quietly for most of the 90s despite witnessing many young faces turned into a martyr or an encounter kill depending on which side you’re on. But then, these forces started acquiring our fields to build their garrison units. Now the farmers were angered,” says Wani. It took six years for the Central and the State government to realize that what they were doing to the saffron fields. In 2006, against the backdrop of violence, government stopped all construction near the saffron fields. “While the construction of garrison was started by the forces, the government banned anyone from building a house near the saffron fields. Where will the people go?” says Wani.

The state’s intervention did not stop there. May be in order to bring more disgruntled people into mainstream, the government started national saffron mission. “We were asked to abandon our traditional methods and instead avail funds from the government to build borewells to irrigate the fields,” he says. The scheme launched in 2010 never took off. The money for the borewells and other irrigation tools was allegedly siphoned off, with an enquiry being conducted by government on its own officials. As India went into elections in 2014, locally strong political organizations have called a mass boycott of the elections. On April 14, two youths were gunned down by the security forces terming them as militants. For people involved in the saffron cultivation, there are bullets coming from all sides. Wani says weddings are now planned but depending on the bandhs (shutdowns) or curfews by the police.

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