The migrant suitcase: Food, belonging and commensality among Indian migrants in The Netherlands

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36 Citations (Scopus)


The Migrant Suitcase is a metaphor to understand how social remittances are taken, brought back and transformed. Migrants bring with them different cultural norms, food and eating practices. In this paper I review the concept of social remittances in light of material culture, food and eating practices and examine the linkages between food, belonging, commensality and care and then provide empirical examples from the suitcases of Indian migrants. This paper is based on 30 in-depth interviews conducted among Indian migrants living in The Netherlands. The main themes from the data included food from home, cooking practices, food sharing and family relationships. Migrants' sense of belonging was intrinsically related to the food they brought from home and the memories it generates. The practices of cooking and sensorial experiences surrounding them demonstrate the place and home making processes. Commensality with co-ethnics led to a sense of community and stronger community bonds. Commensality with other non-Indian groups was perceived to be problematic. The exchanges of food, eating practices, and care create a sense of ‘co-presence’ in lives migrants and their transnational families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-60
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 01-03-2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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