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Foodways and Empathy

Foodways and Empathy: Relatedness in a Ramu River Society, Papua New Guinea

Anita von Poser
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Foodways and Empathy
    Book Description:

    Through the sharing of food, people feel entitled to inquire into one another's lives and ponder one another's states in relation to their foodways. This in-depth study focuses on the Bosmun of Daiden, a Ramu River people in an under-represented area in the ethnography of Papua New Guinea, uncovering the conceptual convergence of local notions of relatedness, foodways, and empathy. In weaving together discussions about paramount values as passed on through myth, the expression of feelings in daily life, and the bodily experience of social and physical environs, a life-world unfolds in which moral, emotional, and embodied foodways contribute notably to the creation of relationships. Concerned with unique processes of "making kin," the book adds a distinct case to recent debates about relatedness and empathy and sheds new light onto the conventional anthropological themes of food production, sharing, and exchange.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-920-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Annotations to the Text
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-37)

    Mi kaikai saksak ya(‘I am eating sago’) ormi tanim saksak nau(‘I am stirring sago now’) are two of the phrases I heard most often while I was living and working in the Bosmun area. Whenever I visited people or passed households on my way to other destinations, the residents would use food-related phrases almost like expressions of standard greeting. I was consistently welcomed by being given information about a household’s current food situation. Even if no one was preparing or consuming a meal at the moment I passed by, I would receive greetings such as:Mi no...

  7. Chapter One The Ethnographic Frame
    (pp. 38-76)

    In this chapter I introduce Bosmun starting from a historical perspective. This is the result of a particular concern that originally turned up during initial talks with people in Daiden. It is also in line with Kirsch’s idea of exploring a particular people’s historical encounters that move beyond the local level so as “to challenge representations of New Guinea that emphasize its isolation and difference rather than its historical connections to the rest of the world” (Kirsch 2006: 24). The first sections of this chapter seek to satisfy people’s legitimate interest in the historical sources that relate to them in...

  8. Chapter Two The Sago Spirit’s Legacy and Bosmun Sociality
    (pp. 77-120)

    More than fifty years ago, the growing of rice was a major agricultural aim of the colonial administration in the Lower Ramu / Hansa Bay area. In 1957, a patrol officer stated: “The goal to aim for would be the gradual divorcing of the people away from the traditional staple of sago and replacing it with rice and other root grobs [sic] as it is obvious that the land will lend itself to this” (Johnston 1957). Except for one tiny rice-growing region, I never saw rice fields around Daiden or on my travels to and from the Bosmun area. The...

  9. Chapter Three Nzari’s Journey and the Enactment of Life-Cycle Events
    (pp. 121-171)

    Like other Bosmun myths, the story of Nzari is a narrative of positive and negative foodways. Mythical ancestors also engaged in malevolent foodways. The world did not come into existence by sociomythical virtue alone but also by sociomythical mistakes. Interestingly, stories that tell of the mistakes of cultural idols do not simply create “paradoxes in mythology” (Lohmann 2008: 116), but invite the people who have become familiar with these stories over time to form their own opinions about them. Referring to a particular Asabano story character who is said to have brought death, decay, and witchcraft to humankind, Lohmann states:...

  10. Chapter Four Ropor’s Belly and Emplaced Empathy
    (pp. 172-215)

    In this chapter, I undertake a discussion of embodied and emplaced foodways. Again, I have chosen a myth in which to set my material. It is the story of the man Ropor and it tells about the human belly as the locus of life and volition (see Lohmann 2003). Ropor’s belly becomes violated and, although the violation happens unintentionally, it serves as a lesson for what happens when someone becomes the victim of death sorcery. My conversation partners believed that death sorcery, the worst form of malevolent empathy, causes the loss of the intestines. After recounting the deeds of Ropor,...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 216-222)

    In this book, I have discussed Bosmun notions of relatedness as they were revealed to me in Daiden during a particular stretch of time. I contemplated Bosmun ethnography by connecting it to recent anthropological thoughts about kinship as a creative, processual phenomenon (see Carsten 1997, 2000; Leach 2003). Following this perspective, I hope to have offered evidence for the idea that, although kin-ties in Daiden are considered to have genealogical roots, they need to be engendered through locally meaningful social exchange in order to become truly binding. Dwelling on important steps in people’s life cycles, I have attempted to unfold...

  12. Glossary
    (pp. 223-230)
  13. Appendix
    (pp. 231-249)
  14. References
    (pp. 250-265)
  15. Index
    (pp. 266-274)