Sacred Cows and Chicken Manchurian
The Everyday Politics of Eating Meat in India
- PUBLISHED: November 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Food, Asian Studies / South Asia, Environmental Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 248 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 11 b&w illus.
- SERIES: Culture, Place, and Nature
- ISBN: 9780295747880
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Bovine politics exposes fault lines within contemporary Indian society, where eating beef is simultaneously a violation of sacred taboos, an expression of marginalized identities, and a route to cosmopolitan sophistication. The recent rise of Hindu nationalism has further polarized traditional views: Dalits, Muslims, and Christians protest threats to their beef-eating heritage while Hindu fundamentalists rally against those who eat the sacred cow. Yet close observation of what people do and do not eat, the styles and contexts within which they do so, and the disparities between rhetoric and everyday action overturns this simplistic binary opposition.
Understanding how a food can be implicated in riots, vigilante attacks, and even murders demands that we look beyond immediate politics to wider contexts. Drawing on decades of ethnographic research in South India, James Staples charts how cattle owners, brokers, butchers, cooks, and occasional beef eaters navigate the contemporary political and cultural climate. Sacred Cows and Chicken Manchurian offers a fine-grained exploration of the current situation, locating it within the wider anthropology of food and eating in the region and revealing critical aspects of what it is to be Indian in the early twenty-first century.
Authors & Contributors
James Staples is reader in social anthropology at Brunel University London and author of Leprosy and a Life in South India: Journeys with a Tamil Brahmin and Peculiar People, Amazing Lives: Leprosy, Social Exclusion and Community Making in South India.
James Staples charts how cattle owners, brokers, butchers, cooks, and occasional beef eaters navigate the contemporary political and cultural climate. Sacred Cows and Chicken Manchurian offers a fine-grained exploration of the current situation, locating it within the wider anthropology offood and eating in the region and revealing critical aspects of what it is to be Indian inthe early twenty-first century.- New Books in Anthropology
Staples ushers us beyond binaries and into the lives of everyday eaters whose thoughts and politics rarely fall neatly into any standardized categories.- HIMALAYA: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
[E]ssential reading on food politics in South India.- The Wire
Through a detailed examination of the ways in which people negotiate the politics of eating meat in their everyday lives, Sacred Cows and Chicken Manchurian calls attention to the ambiguities, contradictions, and compromises that characterize Indian foodways as they evolve within specific historical and material contexts.- Journal of Asian Studies
This rich and textured ethnography engages a range of social actors who are usually absent from writing on cow protection and beef politics in India. A remarkable intervention in the growing literature on bovine politics, religion, and caste in contemporary India.- Radhika Govindrajan, University of Washington
The very subject matter is hugely controversial in India but the author successfully argues against further polarization in our thinking, presenting his research clearly and thoughtfully. Beautifully written.- Krishnendu Ray, New York University