Some scholars contend that the Global South is experiencing a consumer-driven nutrition transition characterized by a sharp increase in meat consumption. This article engages critically with this hypothesis by exploring the production, distribution, and consumption of chicken in Tamil Nadu (South India). Using the analytical lens of political ecology, it argues that food circuits are shaped in the interaction among political-economic processes, biophysical processes, and embodied encounters with food. In India, intensified farming and agrifood industrial capitalism affect the materialities of, and the meanings attributed to, chicken meat, making it more available, more accessible, and more desirable. The industry strives to control and conceal the animality and organicity of chicken as animal and as food. Yet new materialities and meanings are resisted by the biophysical processes that pervade the circuits of meat provision and by eaters’ visceral and cognitive engagement with chicken meat. The very people who produce, sell, buy, cook, and ingest food, even though they are partly dispossessed by capitalist and state control over knowledge and economic processes, also play a role in shaping, negotiating, and resisting the material, political, and emotional dimensions of taste, and of eating practices at large.
Chicken Politics: Agrifood Capitalism, Anxious Bodies, and the New Meanings of Chicken Meat in India
Michaël Bruckert is a researcher at CIRAD (French research organization for agriculture and international development) with an interest in agrifood systems and food consumption patterns. He received a PhD in Human Geography (Sorbonne University Paris, 2015), and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto (Culinaria Research Centre, 2016–17).
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Michaël Bruckert; Chicken Politics: Agrifood Capitalism, Anxious Bodies, and the New Meanings of Chicken Meat in India. Gastronomica 1 May 2021; 21 (2): 33–46. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2021.21.2.33
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