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date: 04 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Treating women as helpless victims of social conventions or as neoliberal, postmodern subjects to understand “food femininities” obscures the fact that bodies are situated in social hierarchies. Social functions and roles tied to the female body bring about difference in eating and dieting practices. This chapter applies Bourdeusian analysis to the dieting and religious fasting practices of forty-eight women in the rapidly neoliberalizing city of Kolkata, India, to show how structurally rooted dispositions inform rules of engagement surrounding eating. Dieting and religious fasting, though simultaneously self-gratifying and strenuous, took on very different meanings depending on how they enabled women to seek recognition and meaning in their daily lives. The women who dieted projected their bodies onto the public sphere to secure the benefits that the new economic order could bestow, while familial fasts were an embodiment of the collective, material struggles less privileged women encountered on a daily basis.

Keywords: dieting, religious fasting, food femininities, habitus, feeding

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