Veg or non-veg? From Bazaars to Hypermarkets in India

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Abstract

This paper reviews the literature on vegetarianism (veg) and meat-eating (non-veg) in India. My central aim is to explore how vegetarianism and meat-eating are addressed in existing research in order to identify gaps and pave the way for a new research agenda on the complex and changing relationship between vegetarianism and meat-eating at different levels – consumers, markets and regulators – in contemporary India. Why and how Hindus eat meat is not well understood and much of the existing literature often assumes that not only does the concept of ahimsa (non-injury to all living creatures), cow veneration and banning of cow slaughter prevent Hindus from eating meat, but also that the relationship between vegetarianism and meat-eating is relatively simple and stable among Hindu groups. What is more, India is a major exporter of meat and water buffalo beef in particular. In Hindu nationalist discourses, as well as scholarly studies, Hindu meat-eating is often seen as exceptional and/or due to spiritual, ritual or religious circumstances, rather than as an everyday practice. However, the complex and contested relationship between vegetarianism and meat-eating is as topical as ever: in 2011, the Indian state made it mandatory that all processed food products should bear marks to indicate whether products are vegetarian (green) or non-vegetarian (brown) and with the rise of consumer culture in super/hypermarkets, these logos are ubiquitous on packagings throughout India. I argue that the above aspects have been central in the making of a powerful vegetarian ideology that has seduced much of the scholarship on vegetarianism into suggesting that vegetarianism in India is dominant among Hindus. The central research question concerns why and how a vegetarian ideology has created the hegemonic view of vegetarianism as proper Hindu practice and how Hindus respond to and are affected by this over time. In the last part of the paper, I report on fieldwork conducted in the city of Hyderabad and using this local setting I explore veg and non-veg among consumers, markets and regulators.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftInternational Journal of Asia Pacific Studies
Vol/bind15
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)1-32
Antal sider32
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 15 jan. 2019

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