A graduate of Chinese and Indian history from SOAS, I have lived and worked in East Asia and in Europe moving from corporates and NGOs. With this PhD I have returned to my deep-seated interest in food politics, culture and history, and my abiding passion for South and East Asia.
South Asians have made their homes in Macau, Hong Kong and Guangzhou over several centuries, as entrepreneurs, domestic and civil servants, police and students under various arrangements of sovereignty. These sojourned and settled actors have, over time, created sub plots that have contoured post-colonial lives in these port cities, sub-plots that are characterised at times by economic might, and political and social change, and at times by obscurity and non-belonging.
My research follows a group of present day South Asians in these Cantonese cities who have inherited, acclimated to or are subverting these narratives and i follow in particularly the lives, work and ambitions of growers, makers, importers and exporters of South Asian food in the Pearl River Delta. These are cities that are increasingly concerned with various forms of heritage making, ethnic diversity management and rejecting or collaborating with projects of the central government in Beijing to bring Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau into greater proximity with each other and with ‘Mainland China’. These people, implicated in food, are finding new ways to express identities and navigate subjectivities vis-à-vis Cantonese tastes and consumption. These people are also finding new ways of expressing what is means to be Chinese, and finding new ways of belonging in the interplay of the ambition of South Asian states, transnational religious and cultural movements, and the world stage of Michelin stars, French kitchen management styles, and South Asian intellectual and financial capital.