Accepted Papers:

Food, Place, and Personhood: Changes and Continuities in Coming-of-age in Eastern Germany  


Grit Wesser (Newcastle University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper focuses on the consumption practices associated with the family celebration of the secular coming-of-age ritual Jugendweihe in Thuringia, eastern Germany, and traces their links to place as a significant constituent of personhood.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the continuities and changes in consumption practices during the Jugendweihe family celebration in peri-urban Thuringia, eastern Germany. The majority of research on the secular coming-of-age ritual Jugendweihe has focused on the public ceremony that draws a symbolic boundary between eastern and western Germans. In contrast, this paper examines what the associated family celebration intends to accomplish. I show how alcohol and cakes offered and consumed during the celebration help to maintain familial continuity and simultaneously strengthen ties beyond the family. During state socialism, cakes were seen as central to the success of a family celebration and used to connect the household to others in a network of obligations. Today, hosts may forgo to offer cakes and frame this decision as one based on frugalness, although it marks a distinction between peri-urban and urban settings and their associated change in social relations. Importantly, in many post-socialist countries, particular types of alcohol and cakes at life cycle celebrations serve to make claims to and embody a modern nation (see, for example, Lankauskas 2015). Here, however, these comestibles tend not to reinforce Germanness. Rather, their aesthetics and tastes create - in the process of consumption - embodied reminders of both the familial and the regional home (Heimat). Since place is a significant constituent of personhood, the family celebration more so than the public ceremony, thus refashions roots to Thuringia, that is, being a Thuringian.

Panel P032
New urban food practices and the senses in the city [Anthropology of Food]