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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Vasilevski, Vidanka and Carolan-Olah, Mary 2016. Food taboos and nutrition-related pregnancy concerns among Ethiopian women. Journal of Clinical Nursing,

    Lyons, Diane 2014. Perceptions of Consumption: Constituting Potters, Farmers and Blacksmiths in the Culinary Continuum in Eastern Tigray, Northern Highland Ethiopia. African Archaeological Review, Vol. 31, Issue. 2, p. 169.

    Wardrop, Joan 2012. Speaking out loud: Muslim women,Indian Delightsand culinary practices in eThekwini/Durban. Social Dynamics, Vol. 38, Issue. 2, p. 221.


Muslims and Meals: The Social and Symbolic Function of Foods in Changing Socio-Economic Environments


This article is about ideas and practices concerning the production, distribution, preparation and consumption of food among the Muslim Argobba of Ethiopia. Food among the Muslim Argobba of Ethiopia is an essential idiom, both for drawing a hierarchy of in-group/out-group distinctions and for expressing relationships within groups. The in-group/out-group relations are typically expressed in terms of what foods are consumed by the Muslim Argobba and their non-Muslim Amhara neighbours, by the Muslim Argobba and their Muslim Oromo and Adal neighbours and indeed by some wealthy trader Argobba families and poor Argobba peasant households. Food preparation and distribution, on the other hand, express relations internal to the group, either in terms of gender within the household, as in who serves what to whom, where and in what quantities, or in informal exchanges, as in establishing social links among men and women. Nowadays fewer and fewer Argobba are producing the food they consume, and many are drawn away from their rural homelands either as merchants or as wage labourers. The article examines how Argobba consumers have become accustomed to foreign foods and new modes of preparation and distribution and how such changes have also altered the ways in which food has expressed social relations in terms of class, ethnic and gender identity. It investigates the relative importance of the social and symbolic function of Muslim meals, and discusses the material life of cooking and cuisine in changing socio-economic environments.


Cet article porte sur les idées et les pratiques concemant la production, la distribution, la preparation et la consommation des aliments chez les Argobba musulmans d'Ethiopie. La nourriture y est un idiome essentiel, aussi bien pour établir une hiérarchie de distinctions d'appartenance/non-appartenance au groupe que pour exprimer les rapports entre les groupes. Les rapports d'appartenance/non-appartenance au groupe s'expriment généralement à travers les aliments consommés par les Argobba musulmans et leurs voisins Amhara non-musulmans, par les Argobba musulmans et leurs voisins Oromo et Adal musulmans, ainsi que par certaines families aisées de commerçants Argobba et les foyers paysans Argobba défavorisés. En revanche, la preparation et la distribution des aliments expriment des relations internes au groupe, soit en termes de distinction homme'femme au sein du foyer, comme la question de savoir qui sert quoi à qui, où et combien, soit en termes d'échanges informels, comme l'établissement de rapports sociaux entre les hommes et les femmes. De nos jours, les Argobba sont de moins en moins nombreux à produire les aliments qu'ils consomment, et nombreux sont ceux, commerçants ou ouvriers, qui s'éloignent de leur région rurale d'origine. L'essai étudie la manière dont les consommateurs argobba se sont habitués à la nourriture étrangère et à des nouveaux modes de préparation et de distribution des aliments, ainsi que la manière dont ces changements ont aussi modifié la manière dont la nourriture exprime les rapports sociaux en termes d'identité de classe, ethnique et sexuelle ; il examine l'importance relative de la fonction sociale et symbolique des repas musulmans, et traite de la vie matérielle de la cuisine dans un contexte socio-économique en mutation.

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A. Appadurai 1981. ‘Gastro-politics in Hindu South Asia’, American Ethnologists (3), 494511.

L. V. Cassanelli 1986. ‘Qat: changes in the production and consumption of a quasilegal commodity in north-east Africa’, in A. Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things: commodities in cultural perspective pp. 236–57. New York: Cambridge University Press.

G. Clark 1994. Onions are my Husband. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

M. Douglas 1966. Purity and Danger. London: Routledge.

J. Tambiah 1969. ‘Animals are good to think and good to prohibit’, Ethnology 8 (4), 423-59.

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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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