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Accepted Paper:

Your past is all that matters: Multispecies reflections on food from rooftops in Egypt  
Noha Fikry (University of Toronto)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the practice of rearing animals on urban rooftops in Egypt. I argue that the value of a rooftop animal lies in knowledge of its feed: What an animal has been fed dictates its taste, reflecting multispecies relations as an essential component of culinary infrastructure in Egypt.

Paper long abstract:

Urban rooftops are a vital source of meat proteins for a large number of lower-middle class families in Egypt. Given the lack of trusted and affordable meat and poultry, my interlocutors use their rooftops to rear sheep, chickens, geese, rabbits, and goats among other animals. This research uses ethnographic fieldwork to explore the significance of rooftop multispecies relations for rooftop-reared foods. I argue that the value of these rooftop animals lies in [knowing] their past: Rooftop animals' intricately-known, nurtured, and controlled feed is what gives them their distinctive taste, one which is always superior to store-bought animals. This rooftop nurtured feed is understood first through a religious worldview in which my interlocutors regard themselves as God’s viceregents on earth, responsible for feeding and caring for rooftop animals and later eating them to sustain their bodies as part of wider eating ecologies. Secondly, rooftop nurtured feed is a significant component of a female responsibility that I propose calling “bread-nurturing”: Unlike an idealized male responsibility of bread-winning, it is the female responsibility to secure and preferably rear/nurture nutritious and delicious food for her household. Urban rooftops illustrate that questions around economic/material dimensions of food and ecological ones are far from distinct or dichotomous. This research opens up space for an engagement with culinary infrastructure of food in Egypt which, instead of food systems and supply-demand, explores networks of people and species, knowledges of food, and social conceptions of taste as essential to a revisited anthropology of food in Egypt and beyond.

Panel Irre09c
Agricultural infrastructures in a failed ecology III
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -