Ethical Practice, Trade, and Food: Muslim Restaurants in South Mumbai
The production, consumption, and distribution of food is central to many religious practices and often considered distinct from the capitalist imperative to market, commodify, and profit. Yet, even scholarship that overcomes the now outdated binary of morality or religion versus the immoral market, continues to represent religion as a distinct sphere of life, with a moral content contrasted or compared to market practice. It is considered an achievement to note how religious practice exhibits affinities with market developments. There is little recognition of how religions as discursive traditions are inseparable from questions of consumption, trade, and exchange, which render the very distinction of religion versus market as an obstruction to analysis. Through an ethnography of the narratives and material practices of two Muslim-owned restaurants in the old Muslim quarters of South Mumbai, I show how different calibrations of Islam are materialized in restaurant spaces and trade practices in the city. Within the context of increasing marginalization of Muslim bodies and food practice in Mumbai, I argue that the restaurants constitute a complex and differential moral economy of food, poverty, care, and aspiration.
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