'Everything is Not About Convenience': State, Family, and Supermarket in Middle-Class West Bengal
UC Irvine Law Review (Forthcoming)
28 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2017 Last revised: 12 Nov 2018
Date Written: March 2, 2017
In advanced industrialized economies, planners often use middle-class understandings of how consumption does and should work to justify how costs and benefits are arranged throughout a food supply chain. This Article examines the emergence of large supermarkets in the East Indian State of West Bengal where both the category middle class and the construction of food supply chains are in flux. Via a qualitative case study of a middle-class suburb of Kolkata, the Article challenges the common argument that consumer demand drives supply and, in turn, questions the idea of middle-class consumer welfare as a stable metric that analysts can use to evaluate the transformation of food systems in India. It explores instead how supermarkets act as cultural intermediaries, attempting to connect new ideas of convenience to middleclass female sensibilities—and attempting to displace older understandings of food shopping among middle-class Bengalis as highly skilled, and often highly masculine, labor that involves intensive practices of personal service, community sociability, and, at times, local redistributive politics.
Keywords: supermarkets, consumption, middle-class India, gender, West Bengal, food systems, food equity
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