Making Muslims: Food, Halal, and community in the Restaurant

Panel in the 7th Annual International ADI Conference on Food, Feeding and Eating In and Out of Asia

Convenor: Aparna Nair, University of Göttingen

Food is a very tangible route through which individuals and groups articulate and negotiate religious, ethical and moral selves. This panel seeks to explore the ways in which religion can and does shape how humans cook, eat, feast and fast. In particular, this panel focuses on how Muslim communities engage with ideas of selfhood and 'Islamic' morality through everyday food practice. Narrowing its focus to the restaurant as a site of food production and as an ethnographic study site, the papers presented here consider the restaurant within broader social and cultural contexts—as embedded within complex institutional structures which are attached to and motivated by the dynamics of cultural meanings.

How does the production of food in these spaces itself serve as a means through which allegiances and relationships within broader religious groups are iterated and negotiated? What meanings does the food produced in these restaurants have for the communities who are their consumers? What are the variegated ways in which Islamic dietary law or halal is understood, deliberated and practiced in these spaces? How does religion impinge upon perceptions of both food quality and safety? How can we identify locally specific notions of what constitutes ethical selves and how do these selves then become manifest in the manner in which food is produced, consumed and circulated in urban spaces in Asia

Aparna Nair is a Post-doctoral research fellow, Center for Modern India Studies, University of Göttingen