Narratives from Rajendranagar: A Critical Ethnographic Study of Food Insecurity in an Indian Slum
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This dissertation is an ethnographic inquiry into women’s experiences of food insecurity in Rajendranagar, a slum in Bangalore, India. As a critical ethnographer, I undertook this study with a goal of addressing the problem of malnourishment that plagues India. The number of slums in the developing world is rapidly increasing. With increased migration to urban areas, the poor will live mainly in the slums of the city. However, relatively little is known about how slum residents struggle and cope with food insecurity. The dissertation contributes to the existing body of literature by arguing that responsibilities associated with food simultaneously empowers and disempowers women in cultural contexts. The findings of the dissertation will facilitate the process of female empowerment by understanding the communication processes and meanings that create the conditions which make women vulnerable to food insecurity. I used the Culturally Sensitive Model of Health Communication to design the study and analyze the data. I employed a variety of qualitative methods such as participant observations, textual analysis, interviews, and photographs to understand the experiences of food insecurity. My exploration resulted in three analytic chapters. I begin this dissertation by sharing the structural support and constraints that affected the food security of women. There were four types of structural support: infrastructure, healthcare, government food programs, and NGO programs. I then discuss the cultural constraints and support that affect women’s experiences of food insecurity. There were four cultural constraints that disempowered women: preference for boys, gender-based violence, forced child marriages, and the lack of education. Rajendranagar culture was also rich in social capital. To this end, women benefitted from material, informational, and emotional social support through their networks. These types of support empowered women to cope with food insecurity. I also share how an infrastructural development intervention in Rajendranagar affected women’s community relationships and food security. Together, these findings illuminate the experiences of hunger among women in an Indian slum. Additionally, I provide insight into how marginalized women in a resource-limited setting enacted their agency to cope with food insecurity.
Ramadurai, Vandhana (2013). Narratives from Rajendranagar: A Critical Ethnographic Study of Food Insecurity in an Indian Slum. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from