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Accepted Paper:

‘Queen’ and her Maids: - The Entanglements of Caste, and Gender in Cardamom Plantations  
Anu Krishna (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is an ethnographic illustration of the life and labor on a cardamom plantation. The paper highlights how caste-class-gender relations of the Indian society serve as a prerequisite for the production of cardamom, which is one of the most expensive spices on the international market.

Paper long abstract:

Indian small cardamom is known as the ‘Queen of Spices’. It is the most expensive spice on the international market after saffron and vanilla. Known for its scent and savor, the spice cardamom is the kiln-dried capsules of Elettaria Cardamomum (L.) Maton, which is a rhizomatic shrub. Traded on the international market with the grade name ‘Alleppey Green’, cardamom is native to the Cardamom Hills of India. Cardamom is a shade-loving rhizome that grows under the canopy of shade trees in the cardamom plantations. Cardamom plantations are an exercise of perfect geometry, the landscape is ordered to control the growth of cardamom rhizomes as well as the workforce. On its journey from cardamom plantations to our favorite beverages or confectionaries, there goes no cardamom capsule without being touched by women plantation workers. Work on a cardamom plantation is gendered, in other words, it is considered as ‘women’s work’. This paper is an ethnographic illustration of the nature of the relationship between the spice (cardamom) and the plantation workers who are engaged in the nurturing and tending of cardamom rhizomes for generations. By describing this relationship, the paper explains how the class-caste-gender relations in Indian society make possible cardamom production. In doing so, the paper highlights the intergenerational relationship between the people (workers), place (plantation), and the product (cardamom). Such that, each cardamom capsule speaks the tale of many women whose hard-manual labor produces it, but who are pushed to the margins of existence in an otherwise lucrative commodity chain.

Panel P148a
Transformed landscapes, uprooted commons, cultivated hopes: plantation legacies and future possibles in contemporary food systems
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -