The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 236–251 | Cite as

Digesting Urban Space: Dietary Wellbeing in Mumbai Slums

  • Briana Gilmore
  • Nicky Pouw
Original Article


Policymakers and industrial developers in Mumbai face the mounting social and spatial needs of a constantly increasing urban population. Slum dwellers account for up to half of the city’s inhabitants, and are the socioeconomic group most vulnerable to deficient and exclusive governance practices. This article explores the social and psychological determinants of ‘dietary wellbeing’ from the viewpoint of cultural ideology and temporality intersecting and a relational perspective on the (re)production of urban space. Urban policy directives and a deficient Public Distribution System negatively impact the ability of slum dwellers to access quality food and avoid dietary illness, thus reinforcing shifting cultural norms within dietary preferences and notions of success. The prevailing urban ideal established by Mumbai governance authorities contradicts the real modes of spatial and temporal legitimacy inherent to slum spaces and populations, whose dietary wellbeing is at stake.


dietary wellbeing urban slums food quality urban space Mumbai 


Les décideurs politiques et les développeurs industriels de Mumbai doivent faire face aux besoins sociaux et spatiaux grandissants d’une population urbaine en croissance constante. La moitié des habitants de la ville réside dans des bidonvilles et est constituée des groupes socio-économiques les plus vulnérables aux pratiques gouvernementales défaillantes et exclusives. Cet article explore les déterminants sociaux et psychologiques du ‘bien-être alimentaire’, en adoptant un point de vue entre idéologie culturelle et temporalité, ainsi qu’une perspective relationnelle sur la (re)production de l’espace urbain. Les politiques urbaines ainsi qu’un système public de distribution défaillant ont un impact sur la capacité des habitants de bidonvilles à accéder à de la nourriture de qualité et à éviter les maladies liées à l’alimentation; cela renforce les normes culturelles associées aux préférences alimentaires et aux notions de succès. L’idéal urbain existant établi par les autorités de Mumbai contredit la légitimité spatiale et temporelle propre aux espaces et aux populations des bidonvilles, dont le bien-être alimentaire est en jeu.


  1. Altieri, M. (2008) Small farms as a planetary ecological asset: Five key reasons why we should support the revitalization of small farms in the Global South. Environment and Development Series 7. Penang, Malaysia: Third World Network.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, B.R. (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  3. Bhabha, H.K. (1994) The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Calpe, M.C. (1991) Demand Prospects for Rice and Other Foodgrains in Selected Asian Countries. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.Google Scholar
  5. Census, ESRI ArcGIS (2008) Census GIS Household, Census of India.Google Scholar
  6. Chakravarti, A.K. (1973) Green revolution in India. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 63 (3): 319–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davis, M. (2007) Planet of Slums. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  8. Edensor, T. (1998) The culture of the Indian street. In: N. Fyfe (ed.) Images of the Street: Planning, Identity, and Control in Public Space. London: Routledge, pp. 205–224.Google Scholar
  9. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2006) Food security. FAO policy brief, 2,, accessed 15 July 2013.
  10. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2013a) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013: The Multiple Dimensions of Food Security. Headquarters, Rome, Italy: IFAD, WFP, FAO.Google Scholar
  11. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2013b) Eating Well for Good Health. Lessons on Nutrition and Healthy Diets. Rome, Italy: FAO.Google Scholar
  12. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2014) The impact of global change and urbanization on household food security, nutrition, and food safety,, accessed 15 July 2014.
  13. Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.Google Scholar
  14. Gilmore, B. (2011) Digesting urban space. Research Master Thesis, University of Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  15. Gough, I. and McGregor, A.J. (2007) Wellbeing in Developing Countries: from Theory to Research. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goyal, A. and Singh, N.P. (2007) Consumer perception about fast food in India: An exploratory study. British Food Journal 109 (2): 182–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gross, R.H., Schoeneberger, H., Pfeifer, H. and Preuss, H.J.A. (2000) The Four Dimensions of Food and Nutrition Security: Definitions and Concept, Nutrition and Food Security Research Paper, Bonn and Rome: INWENT and FAO.Google Scholar
  18. Gupta, R. (2004) Trends in hypertension epidemiology in India. Journal of Human Hypertension 18 (2): 73–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gupte, P. (1984) The Crowded Earth: People and the Politics of Population. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  20. Hakkarainen, R., Partonen, T., Haukka, J., Virtamo, J., Albanes, D. and Lönnqvist, J. (2004) Food and nutrient intake in relation to mental wellbeing. Nutrition Journal 3 (14): doi:10.1186/1475-2891-3-14.Google Scholar
  21. Hand, L. (2009) Can brown rice blunt an epidemic? Harvard Public Health Review, last accessed October 2014.Google Scholar
  22. Harvey, D. (2009) Social Justice and the City. Athens, Greece: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hawkes, C. (2006) Uneven dietary development: Linking the policies and processes of globalization with the nutrition transition, obesity and diet-related chronic disease. Globalization and Health 2 (4): doi:10.1186/1744-8603-2-4.Google Scholar
  24. Huang, M.T. (2004) Walking Between Slums and Skyscrapers: Illusions of Open Space in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Jamison, D.T. et al. (2006) Disease and Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa. Washington DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  26. Kent, H.M. (2011) Improving the Nutritional Wellbeing of Women, Children and Families. Johnstown, PA: The Association of State and Territorial Public Health Nutrition Directors.Google Scholar
  27. Khilnani, S. (1999) The Idea of India. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.Google Scholar
  28. Lefebvre, H. (1991) The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  29. Mahadevia, D. (2008) Inside the Transforming Urban Asia: Processes, Policies and Public Actions. New Delhi, India: Concept Publishers.Google Scholar
  30. Marx, K. and McLellan, D. (2008) Capital. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. McGregor, A.J. (2004) Cultures and the Construction of Wellbeing. Proceedings of Anthropology and Human Wellbeing, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.Google Scholar
  32. Mohan, V., Deepa, M., Farooq, S., Datta, M. and Deepa, R. (2007) Prevalence, awareness and control of hypertension in Chennai – The Chennai urban rural epidemiology study. Journal of the Association of Physicians of India 5 (May): 326–332.Google Scholar
  33. Nishida, C., Uauy, R., Kumanyika, S. and Shetty, P. (2004) The joint WHO/FAO expert consultation on diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: Process, product and policy implications. Public Health Nutrition 7 (1A): 245–250.Google Scholar
  34. Noack, A.L. and Pouw, N.R.M. (2014) A blind-spot in food and nutrition security. Where culture and social change shape the local food plate. Journal of Agriculture and Human Values. 18 August 2014, doi:10.1007/s10460-014-9538-y.Google Scholar
  35. Nugent, C. (2008) Chronic Diseases in Developing Countries. Health and Economic Burdens. Washington DC: Centre for Global Development.Google Scholar
  36. Parayil, G. (1992) The green revolution in India: A case study of technological change. Technology and Culture 4 (33): 737–756, The Johns Hopkins University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pingali, P.L. (2012) Green revolution: Impacts, limits, and the path ahead. PNAS 109 (31): 12302–12308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Prentice, A. (2006) The emerging epidemic of obesity in developing countries. International Journal of Epidemiology 35 (1): 93–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ravallion, M. (2007) Urban poverty. Finance and Development. IMF 44 (3): 15–17.Google Scholar
  40. Risbud, N. (2003) Understanding Slums, The Case of Mumbai. UN Global Report on Human Settlements, Nairobi, Kenya: UN-HABITAT.Google Scholar
  41. Ruel, M.T. and Garrett, J.L. (2004) Features of urban food and nutrition security and considerations for successful urban programming. eJade 1 (2): 242–271.Google Scholar
  42. SACN (2008) The Nutritional Wellbeing of the British Population. London: Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.Google Scholar
  43. Sheperd, R. (1999) Social determinants of food choice. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 58(4): 807–812.Google Scholar
  44. Steel, C. (2009) Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  45. Tiemersma, D. and Oosterling, H.A.F. (1996) Time and Temporality in Intercultural Perspective. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  46. UN-HABITAT (2010) State of the World Cities. Global Forum, 2003–201, Nairobi, Kenya: UN-HABITAT.Google Scholar
  47. UNPD (2008) Urban Population Reaches 50 Per Cent. New York, NY: United Nations Population Division.Google Scholar
  48. Van Den Weyer, C. (2005) Changing Diets, Changing Minds: How Food Affects Mental Wellbeing and Behaviour. London: The Mental health Foundation.Google Scholar
  49. WHO (1990) Diet, Nutrition, and The Prevention of Chronic Diseases. WHO Technical Report Series, No.797 – TRS 797, Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization..Google Scholar
  50. WHO (2004) Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Briana Gilmore
    • 1
  • Nicky Pouw
    • 1
  1. 1.International Development Studies, University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations