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Feeding (and Eating)

Reflections on Strathern's 'Eating (and Feeding)'

Carlos Fausto and Luiz Costa

Drawing on Marilyn Strathern's comparative insights on eating and feeding, we explore the difference between giving food and eating together in Amazonia. These two elementary modes of alimentary life have often been conflated in the Amazonian literature. We distinguish between them by asking what these acts produce, what agentive capacities and perspectives they evince, and what kind of relationships they configure.

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'Love Goes through the Stomach'

A Japanese–Korean Recipe for Post-conflict Reconciliation

Stephanie Hobbis Ketterer

Mimicking research and practice that demonstrates the importance of seemingly mundane acts for resolving protracted conflicts, this article enquires into the potential contributions of food-related practices to post-conflict reconciliation. Based on fieldwork with a Japanese–South Korean reconciliation initiative (Koinonia), the argument is made that food-related practices can create the spatio-temporal conditions necessary to mitigate successfully situations that may otherwise be characterised by misunderstandings, animosity and an unwillingness to move beyond dividing lines. It is demonstrated that food-related practices have the capacity to influence reconciliation positively throughout the three stages that are perceived as vital for building lasting relationships between conflicting parties: encouragement of participation in reconciliation events (stage 1), encouragement of positive interaction during reconciliation events (stage 2) and sustainability of reconciliation events after participants re-enter daily life and the likely negative perceptions of the Other therein (stage 3).

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Fates Worse Than Death

Destruction and Social Attachment in Timor-Leste

Gabriel Tusinski

This article argues against reductive approaches to violence in Timor-Leste that treat house destruction as a ‘symbolic’ epiphenomenon of more consequential bodily injury and death. Timorese ideologies of kinship, understood through ancestral-origin houses, regard material destruction as a fate worse than death. Death does not end the sociality of the deceased but rather foregrounds their continued importance for the living. Building on scholars’ treatments of ‘house societies’ and post-Schneiderian studies that locate kin relatedness beyond biogenetic substance, I demonstrate how Timorese people construct iconic and indexical connections between quotidian and ancestral houses through transformative actions that involve material things, such as chewing betel nut and the preparation and co-consumption of food. The configuration of those connections through material media renders them subject to social and historical erasure.

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Christine McCourt

This issue includes articles that provide examples of anthropological research applied to, or with resonance for policy and practice issues. In the first, ‘“Love Goes through the Stomach”: A Japanese–Korean Recipe for Post-conflict Reconciliation’, Stephanie Hobbis Ketterer takes the well-established anthropological topic of commensality and looks at the role it may play in conflict resolution. In the second, Mark Powell and co-authors from a range of disciplines describe a small case study that used ethnographic methodology in the short term to explore the working experiences of accident and emergency staff in a U.K. hospital.

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David Henig

If the first step in developing an ethnography of everyday diplomacy requires rescaling analytical focus on the forms of mediated exchange beyond the realm of the nation-state, this needs to be followed by an exploration of the ‘sites’ where everyday diplomacy actually takes place. One such ‘site’, which epitomizes the quintessence of diplomatic practice, is dining and commensality. By re-scaling this axiom beyond state-level diplomacy, I explore how the notion of sofra [table/dining etiquette] is deployed by a Muslim Dervish brotherhood in a post-cosmopolitan town in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina. I suggest that the notion of sofra embodies both a mode of being diplomatic as well as a site of everyday diplomacy. The sofra thus enables the brotherhood to stage ‘events of hospitality’ to forge and mediate relationships between various ‘others’, locally and transnationally.

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Narratives of the Invisible

Autobiography, Kinship, and Alterity in Native Amazonia

Vanessa Elisa Grotti and Marc Brightman

Shamanic knowledge is based on an ambiguous commensality with invisible others. As a result, shamans oscillate constantly between spheres of intimacy, both visible and invisible. A place of power and transformation, the spirit world is rarely described by native interlocutors in an objective, detached way; rather, they depict it in terms of events and experiences. Instead of examining the formal qualities of accounts of the spirit world through analyses of ritual performance and shamanic quests, we focus on life histories as autobiographical accounts in order to explore what they reveal about the relationship between personal history (and indigenous historicity) and the spirit world. We introduce the term ‘double reflexivity’ to refer to processes by which narratives about the self are produced through relationships with alterity.

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Mutton, Mud, and Runny Noses

A Hierarchy of Distaste in Early Rwanda

Christopher C. Taylor

When Rwandan ethnicities are discussed, one seldom hears of the country’s least numerous group, the Twa, who constitute less than 1 percent of the present- day population. Despite this, long before ethnic division arose between Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda, a great social divide separated Twa from non-Twa. Twa were the first group to have suffered discrimination at the hands of others. Local practices of social exclusion based upon notions of esteem and disgust focused upon the Twa body, which was both feared as dangerous and reviled as polluting. Well in advance of European intervention in Rwanda, interactions between Twa and others were governed by practices of avoidance in marriage, residence, and commensality, practices that were termed kuneena batwa. Twa could neither cultivate the land nor raise cattle. Instead, they were relegated to the least esteemed productive activities: foraging, pottery-making, entertainment, and serving as torturers and executioners for the Rwandan king. Twa were reputed to be gluttonous, and both Hutu and Tutsi spurned the aliments that Twa would consume, mutton in particular. Later, during Rwanda’s precolonial history, similar mechanisms of differentiation began to characterize interaction between Tutsi and Hutu. These practices were exacerbated during the colonial period due to European notions of biological determinism.