'FoodxCaste101' Is A Workshop Examining How What We Eat Is Shaped By Social Hierarchy

FoodxCaste101Rahee Punyashloka, The Big Fat Bao, and Shubhra Chatterji

Food, a seemingly simple necessity, holds immense cultural significance in India. But beneath the flavors and dishes lies a complex web of social structures; particularly the enduring influence of caste.

However, the conversation extends beyond just the historical context. The contemporary rise of power in India has resulted in a ban on beef consumption in some parts of India. This has transformed beef-eating into a potent political act of rebellion. Here, food becomes a battleground and a site for resistance against the imposition of a theocratic order.

The 'FoodxCaste101' workshop, a six-week online series designed by Rahee Punyashloka, The Big Fat Bao, and Shubhra Chatterji, delves into this intricate relationship; prompting participants to reexamine their relationship with food and its role in perpetuating or challenging caste hierarchies.

The workshop hinges on a crucial observation: vegetarianism in Hinduism is often associated with a higher caste status. This creates a food hierarchy, where certain foods become markers of social and religious superiority. This has led to protests by historically marginalized Dalit communities, who reclaim the right to traditionally "forbidden" foods as a form of asserting their identity and challenging upper-caste dominance. The workshop sheds light on the violence, both physical and symbolic, faced by those who transgress these dietary norms. By exploring these issues, the workshop compels us to question the very notion of a "vegetarian" India, exposing the underlying caste-based power dynamics.

The workshop itself is structured as a series of six sessions, each exploring a unique theme related to food and caste. Through talks, presentations, readings, and interactive activities, participants will engage in critical discussions and reflections. The session topics themselves are thought-provoking, ranging from "Hunger" to "Choice," "Belief" to "Sharing". By examining these fundamental aspects of our relationship with food through the lens of caste, the workshop promises to foster a deeper understanding of why we eat what we eat and the social meanings embedded in our food choices.

While the current iteration of the workshop is closed, the facilitators —Rahee Punyashloka, The Big Fat Bao, and Shubhra Chatterji — bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the table. Rahee Punyashloka's writings explore the complexities of caste and food, while The Big Fat Bao, through their illustrations and research, challenges the Brahmanical roots of Indian design and food culture.  Shubhra Chatterji, with her background in filmmaking and research on food and gender, adds another layer of depth to the exploration. 

The 'FoodxCaste 101' workshop is a timely and necessary intervention. By dismantling the myth of a neutral food culture and exposing the caste system's influence on our plates, the workshop has the potential to spark important conversations about identity, power, and social justice in contemporary India.  

While registrations for this workshop have closed, the curators promise plenty more to come. You can stay abreast of future workshops here.