Accepted Paper:

Cooking the village: between nature and culture in New Caledonia  

Author:

Lara Giordana (University of Turin)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the dilemma of nature and culture in the construction of the contemporary perception of being Kanak in Belep Islands and the role played by the food.

Paper long abstract:

Based on a fieldwork in Belep Islands (New Caledonia), this paper analyses the first yam harvest ceremony that takes place in the village of Waala every year. Yam has a sacred value and the ceremony reaches its climax with the presentation of a row of smoking pots full of yam stew to the teamaa (grand chief). The perfectly aligned pots represent the disposition of the groups in the village and their link to the “ancestral” lands dispersed in the Belep archipelago. The ceremony renews the political relationship to the chief, but also the “social contract” that has been underpinning the possibility of dwelling in the village for over 150 years, since the forced transfer of the scattered population. The production, preparation and consumption of food participates in and of the opposition between the central village of Waala, the only permanent settlement in the little archipelago, and the hamlets seasonally occupied in the bays, where the “ancestral” and fertile lands are located. Dwelling in the bays is perceived as to be part of a more authentic way of living as Kanak people and this is because it allows a deeper relationship to nature. The paper will consider the usefulness of Lévi-Strauss analysis to understanding the role that food production and consumption play in the relationship to nature and, thus, to Kanak culture in the Belep Islands nowadays.

Panel P103
From nature to culture? Lévi-Strauss' legacy and the study of contemporary foodways