A Spice, its Scent, and Many Lives: Situating Alleppey Green in the Indian Ocean World

The journey behind this project began with a curiosity about how certain things bind together human lives. Cardamom, which has been known and treasured since antiquity for its aroma and flavour, is one such social thing. Known internationally as ‘Alleppey Green’, Indian small cardamom has a key historic and contemporary importance in maritime trade in the Indian Ocean world. My project traces the biography of cardamom to understand how otherwise unknown people – cutting across the boundaries of culture, language, ethnicity and more – are joined in deep networks of interaction that form the cardamom supply chain. During the course of the project fieldwork, I followed the spice from its production points to the entrepôt, to understand the multiple realities associated with the spice as it passes from one actor to another in the supply chain. The project locates the spice in the social landscape of its production, processing, and distribution.

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