Through the lens of ethnographic field studies of food in three mega-cities in the Global North (Europe) and Global South (South Asia), these three research clusters have facilitated engagement with issues ranging from migrations, borders, globalisation, social change and conflict to gender, urban publics, hunger, bureaucracy, and temporality. This has resulted so far in the publication of: the monograph Transactions in Taste: the Collaborative Lives of Everyday Bengali Food (2010; paperback 2013), the co-edited volumes Imagining Bangladesh: Contested Narratives (2014), and Ethnographies of Waiting: Doubt, Hope, and Uncertainty (2018), together with articles, book chapters, and several international conference and seminar papers, panels, presentations, and public lectures.
While at the IIAS, I will be working on my current book - The Aesthetics of School Meals: (Dis)trust, Risk, and Uncertainty (under contract) – grounded in long-term ethnographic fieldwork in England. This book examines the intriguing puzzle of (dis)trust: how and why we (dis)trust whom (and what), and the ways in which we continue to engage with this, the multiplicity, instability, and ambivalence of these processes notwithstanding. It unpacks the dynamics of (dis)trust to offer insights into the recursive, reversible, and emergent processes of the making, unmaking, and remaking of trust, mistrust and distrust as a way to live everyday lives creatively. It does so through a focused urban ethnography of the anxious everyday engagements of Muslim and Hindu immigrants of South Asian origin in England with ‘healthy’ school meals as entangled in wider historical and variegated networks. In so doing, it reveals the ways in which such negotiations of trusting and not-trusting have implications for configurations of ‘public health’ and multiculturalism’, amidst calls to rethink ‘cultural diversity’ and forms of ‘integration’ against the backdrop of rising instability in Europe.
Manpreet K. Janeja 'In the Spotlight', The Newsletter, Summer 2018
“Food insecurity and malnutrition continue to be matters of concern globally. They generate various contested interventions such as the National Healthy Schools Programme (UK) and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (India), underpinned by visions of the ‘inclusive growth’ of ‘healthy publics’ in ‘food-secure healthy futures’. Such schemes have sought to manage issues of hunger, inequality, taste, nutritional guidelines, and socio-cultural norms and practices amidst changing economic, political and social demands, with relative degrees of success.
Located against the backdrop of such issues, my current monograph, the focus of my IIAS fellowship, is grounded in long-term ethnographic fieldwork on school meals in England. The Aesthetics of School Meals: (Dis)trust, Risk, and Uncertainty (under contract) is an urban ethnography of the anxious everyday engagements of Muslim/Hindu migrants of South-Asian (Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani) heritage in England with ‘healthy’ school meals as entangled in wider historical and variegated networks of perceived risks and uncertainties. It unpacks the interactions of health with the dynamics of (dis)trust and mistrust integral to such networks, thereby revealing implications for configurations of ‘public health’ and ‘multiculturalism’, amidst calls to rethink ‘cultural diversity’ and forms of ‘integration’ in an increasingly volatile Europe.
I have conducted a pilot project (Waiting for Food in India) on Mid-Day Meals in urban schools which will form the basis of a future research initiative. Future research plans also include further developing interests in gender, youth, and migration in cities across Europe and Asia.
After excitingly hectic years of getting a new education programme off the ground, in addition to teaching and administration under the aegis of my academic job, the IIAS fellowship has offered me a tranquil and congenial space to explore possibilities of harnessing some of these ideas, and initiating conversations with scholars in Leiden and Amsterdam across disciplines, including anthropology, history, philosophy, and area studies. The fellowship continues to give me opportunities to interact with diverse audiences through: research seminars; a planned event at IIAS with Michael Herzfeld (Harvard University) on my just-released co-edited book Ethnographies of Waiting (Bloomsbury 02/2018); forthcoming presentations/discussions including those in Brussels, Copenhagen, and Edinburgh (annual-workshop of the Bangladesh Studies Network I initiated, now in its fourth year).
Engaging with the inviting range of lunch-time lectures at IIAS and seminars across Leiden’s Humanities and Social Sciences institutes/ networks, Leiden University’s fabulous library resources, Amsterdam University’s stimulating anthropology walking-seminars in the Dutch dunes, and the immensely rewarding intellectual and social interactions with fellow fellows at IIAS are making this fellowship an unforgettable experience. Adding to this further, are the warm and welcoming IIAS staff, and the Spring Outings to the marvellous Dutch art museums, the lovely tulip-fields in the ‘Keukenhof’ and the stately ‘Binnenhof’ Dutch government complex in The Hague. And of course, for the foodie and food anthropologist in me, the plethora of stalls at the Leiden Saturday market along the canal is an absolute delight!”