Gastronomica/SOAS Distinguished Lecture: Re-thinking Street Food


Since 2014, Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies has partnered with University of London’s SOAS Food Studies Centre to co-sponsor a Distinguished Lecture Series for leading scholars, students, journalists, practitioners and members of the public to engage in critical conversations about the nature of food, the interconnectivity of contemporary food systems, the role of food in daily life, and emerging trends in food studies.

In advance of the next event on Thursday, January 17, Krishnendu Ray, a member of Gastronomica’s incoming editorial collective and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU, previews his lecture, “Re-thinking Street Food.”

Consideration of street food in the contemporary world draws attention to the cities of the Global South, where some of the most interesting food is from the street. This new focus can change the politics and poetics of good taste. It has the capacity to decolonize palatal and philosophical expectations of gastronomy that have come to dominate the field. And it also marks the transition from the twentieth-century welfare politics to an unchartered world of micro-entrepreneurship, risk and precarity in the twenty-first century. Based on a case study in Delhi, India I show how democracy works at the ground-level of the marketplace and suggest that rather than eliminating street vending, a better pathway to a livable city would be a nuanced balancing of the laws, which can account for livelihoods of poor people in the short- and the medium-run, along with the liveliness of cities for all, allowing a slow, fruitful traffic in life-sustaining activities on the street. The challenge is to find ways to integrate the life of the foot and pedal with the inanimately powered wheel in the last mile—which is what we call a neighborhood—in a livable city.

rayKrishnendu Ray is the Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University and a member of Gastronomica’s incoming editorial collective, which will will assume editorial leadership of the journal in January 2019, following the conclusion of Editor Lissa Caldwell’s tenure. Ray was a faculty member and the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts at The Culinary Institute of America. He is the author of The Migrant’s Table (2004), The Ethnic Restaurateur (2016), and the co-editor of Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food and South Asia (2012). He is currently the President of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS).

The lecture will be held on January 17, 2019 from 6:15-9:00 PM in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London. The event is free and open to the public. If you would like to attend the event please register. Online registration