Consumption and the Making of the Middle-Class in South Asia



The historiography of the middle-class in colonial India is a long and checkered one. Although traditional scholarship focused on the economic origins of this class, in recent years, scholars have become interested in knowing how this class fashioned itself. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu's concept of the ‘cultural capital’, these scholars try to delve into the contradictory forces that mark the self-fashioning of the middle-class. In this paper, I will discuss these new trends in the historiography of the middle-class. I will chiefly focus on the historiography of taste and consumption in the context of colonial as well as post-colonial India. A focus on consumption and the middle-class, I argue, enables us to understand how the middle-class negotiates its self-fashioning through various social hierarchies.