Accepted paper:

Creating new cultural tastes in north-east inida: history of food & beverages in Mizoram since the first decade of twentieth century."


Jagdish Dawar

Paper short abstract:

This paper seeks to investigate into the history of food and drink among the Mizo since nineteenth century. It argues how the colonial officials, Christian missionaries and new emerging elites within Mizo society exercised their hegemony and shaped the tastes of the people. It also deals with the changing and continuity in the food and drinking practices of the Mizos. Both historical and anthropological tools have been utilized to understand this process. A number of colonial ethnographical accounts both published as well un-published have been consulted to write this paper. Since there is not sufficient archival sources, recourse to tools of Oral history has been taken. More than sixty interviews were conducted to build up my narrative.

Paper long abstract:

All over the world, transforming indigenous cultures had been an agenda central to colonial domination. In 'civilizing' the tribes of North-East India the agendas of both the colonialists as well the Christian missionaries synchronized. Taste had been an important cite of exercising cultural hegemony over the Mizo tribes. However, this hegemony was contested in beginning. But gradually when a good number of people were converted to Christianity, the consent could be manufactured. After India achieved independence, the discourse of 'civilization' was appropriated by the new emerging educated class and the officials, merchants and traders coming from other parts of India. The acceptance of new foods by a group usually requires major disruptions, like war, or crop failure, or migration, in their ordinary diets. Both migration from one country to another and migration within a single country are important (particularly rural to urban migration), as are agricultural reforms, especially if they result in the displacement of a segment of the population from the land. In Mizoram, the Mautam (famine), Insurgency, Regrouping of the villages as a strategy to contain terrorism and consequent urbanization process did play a role in creating new tastes in terms of food. Even then the diffusion of new foods requires adapting that food to local tastes and dietary habits, mixing it with other indigenous foods. The entry of the 'global' food/fast food created health and environmental hazards.The proposed paper is a humble attempt to study these aspects in the context of Mizoram.

panel G07
Tribal situation in India's North-east: emerging issues and ongoing anthropological attention