Desperately Craving Indian Food: Indian Restaurants, Cultural Commodification, and Diasporic Belonging in Dallas Fort Worth
In this study, I engage with the question what are the functions of Indian restaurants and their food in the South Asian diaspora? In my work, I consider Indian restaurants as cultural-economic sites, operating on the edge of South Asian communities in that they are accessed by both South Asians and non-South Asians. Subsequently, restaurant spaces create a dialogue through food that evokes questions of cultural commodification, socio-cultural hierarchies, and authenticity in recreation. For this study, I chose to blend elements of a rapid ethnography and case study methodologies to qualitatively analyze selected restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Metroplex. By studying restaurants holistically, I critically analyze the creation of value in Indian restaurants by examining the restaurant model of six Indian restaurants owned and operated by three restauranteurs. In the following sections, I conduct an intensive literature review of sources related to the South Asian Diaspora, Food Studies, Cultural Reproduction and Belonging, and Management Studies. Following this, I expand on my usage of the Rapid Ethnographic Assessment methodology and my sources of study, including a description of the restaurant sites and restauranteurs included in this study. The final section is a robust discussion of the study findings, attained through a multi-faceted, interdisciplinary research approach. This section explores the role of Indian restaurants while considering the nuanced realities of food, people, and place in the DFW Metroplex. The purpose of this study is to better understand 1) the function of Indian restaurants as cultural landmarks and 2) the operations of Indian restaurants as centers of production.