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Meat–Eating, Masculinity, and Renunciation in India: A Gandhian Grammar of Diet

Title:Meat–Eating, Masculinity, and Renunciation in India: A Gandhian Grammar of Diet
Author:Roy P.
Publication:Gender and History / Blackwell Publishing
Enumeration:Vol. 14, No.1, pp. 62-91, April 2002
Abstract:This paper focuses on the writings and the autobiography of one of the century’s most prominent vegetarians, who was almost as noted (or notorious) for his alimentary and sexual experiments as for his political ones. A consideration of diet is, I argue, in many ways central rather than marginal to a Gandhian gendered ethics and a Gandhian politics. The accounts of the eating and abjuration of meat in the Gandhian oeuvre can serve as a useful point of entry into the investigation of two linked loci of Gandhi’s dietary practices: the question of meat and modernity, and the question of meat in the context of the patriarchal vegetarian household. These accounts are fascinating for their profoundly conflictual ethical logic, and they help establish the intimate and unexpected links among meat–eating, modern formations of masculine identity, and the gendered dynamics of the patriarchal Hindu household. Using the evidence of Gandhi’s autobiography, correspondence, journalism, and public addresses, in conjunction with the writings of his contemporaries, I map therefore a trajectory of his gastropolitics, from the carnophilic mandate of the early years (during which he associated meat–eating with nationalist duty and access to a kind of culinary virility), to the diasporic discovery of vegetarianism in London, and finally to the carefully elaborated alimentary rigours and public fasts of the later years. All of this helps to underline how profoundly somatic Gandhi’s ‘experiments in truth’ were, and how pronounced was his belief that the purification of the body was inseparable from the purification of the mind necessary for swaraj (self–rule).

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