P110


Food cultures in Africa: food production, consumption, and prestige ranking in the age of development 
Convenor:
Jon Abbink (ASCL, Leiden University)
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Format:
Panels
Location:
KH107
Start time:
30 June, 2017 at 14:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
2

Short Abstract:

We address cultures of food production and consumption in Africa in contexts of development & change. Food is a prime locus to identify processes of reproduction & adaptation - to scarcity & famine, but also to challenges of power, prestige-ranking & 'modernity' in its various developmentalist forms.

Long Abstract

This panel invites studies of cultures of food production and consumption in Africa in contexts of development and change, both in rural and urban settings and in the transitions between the two. Food and eating, as basic necessities and socio-culturally styled material issues in human society, are a prime locus to identify process of (social) reproduction and adaptation, not only to scarcity and occasional famine, but also to challenges of power, prestige-ranking, community, and 'modernity'. Globally, issues of food production, consumption, distribution and (in)security are crucial in the developmentalist equation, and more contextual knowledge on food cultures is useful for policy choices, taking into account that food and eating are both economic as well as cultural-symbolic phenomena, with a 'historical' dimension (memory, identity).

The papers in this panel will address a variety of issue around food and eating cultures, but from a socio-cultural point of view, paying attention to meanings, values and prestige attached to food (items) and diets, as well as to responses of populations making different choices in their diet and their production of food, either voluntary or forced, and in their 'marketing' it (e.g., in tourism) - the latter often challenged by processes of development and urbanization. The rich tradition of social (esp. anthropological) studies on food, diets, nutrition and eating provides the theoretical and empirical context for the papers, most of which will be based on ethnographic research, thus augmenting macro-pictures by geographers, development studies scholars or economists.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Christina Tekie (Duke University )

Paper short abstract:

The social and cultural meanings associated with the consumption of various commercial beer brands versus traditional brews in Ethiopia

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the growing consumption of commercial beer products in place of traditional brews like tella in Ethiopia. Nearly twenty years ago, the Ethiopian government sold-off the first of its four state-owned beer companies. Today, the industry is fully privatized resulting in the proliferation of several varieties of mass-produced lagers into the marketplace. The popularization of commercial beer in Ethiopia provides an opportunity to analyze how different beer brands take on different meanings in the public imaginary. And more broadly, how these commercial beer products have come to be materially and affectively associated with an ethos of development while indigenous brews with local culture and tradition. This investigation is part of a wider ethnographic study on beer companies operating in Ethiopia which aims to understand how the alcoholic beverage industry has transformed not only consumption practices in Ethiopia, but the social dynamics of doing business.

Author:

Lydia Timona (Leipzig University)

Paper short abstract:

“The Festival for Kenyan Cuisine” exhibition is an opportunity to both address the food issue and celebrate our diversity. A family that eats together stays together. The festival aims to foster national unity, pride & cohesion by focusing on things that bring us together, the most basic being food.

Paper long abstract:

Food is a must and very essential of all human activities than sex as it satisfies human hunger urge every day. Food is always shared among African communities and people eat together. Anthropologists accord food the central place in their ethnographic that it occupies in human existence. Therefore this abstract examines a variety of issue around food and eating cultures. Such as: food and social change; food security; eating and rituals; eating and identities.

Societal changes on eating patterns are associated with variety of economic and political changes. People on the move have brought about the change in diet. War is also an agent of dietary change (Vargas 1992). In Kenya 2007/2008 post-election violence affected the economy badly attributing to an increasing inflation of prices making food unaffordable thus affecting the diet. Food security remains a challenge in Kenya as it experiences frequent droughts; some of them are so dire.

Food in African cultures is connected to rituals, symbols, and belief. Food binds people to their faith. Food itself is sacred through its association with supernatural beings and processes (Bloch 1985). Cow meat is prestigious in all communities in Kenyan. Luhya and Mijikenda communities belief that once a very close person in the family has died, a cow need to be slaughtered, cooked and eaten as a symbol of resting the dead spirit in peace. Mijikenda communities go to the Kayas (sacred site) to pray during calamities like drought. A cow is slaughtered and cooked alongside with other food and shared.

Author:

Jon Abbink (ASCL, Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is about food, cultural identity and development among the agro-pastoral Suri people of Southwest Ethiopia, set in a context of state developmental ventures and radical land use changes, showing imposed, transformative challenges they face in livelihood and group survival.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is about food, cultural identity and development among the agro-pastoral Suri people of Southwest Ethiopia. Their food system is discussed in its actual form and in its process of recent change. The theoretical concern is with issues of identity formation and continuity through the materiality of food and food systems, and related to the varying assumptions underlying discourses of development. The Suri people, at the margins of the Ethiopian state, experienced a decline in food security, health and wealth in the last decade, coinciding with growing inter-group tension and new state developmental plans (massive sugar and other mono-crop plantations and in enterprises by foreigners and private capitalists). Local economies of agro-pastoralism and crop cultivation are not invested in. Some adverse effects on the production system, diet and 'food sovereignty' of the Suri are described. The often ambivalent changes in the Suri food pattern and food consumption show the challenges they face in (re)defining group identity, responding to internal tensions and to the state-capitalist modernizing schemes, supported by 'donor' countries.

Author:

Akpobome Diffre-Odiete (University of Uyo, Nigeria)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the meaning of food in Urhobo worldview, as well as Urhobo kinds of food, nutritional benefits, cultural usages, their contribution to cultural diversity and the impact of modernity on the food culture.

Paper long abstract:

Modernity and the food culture in Urhobo

The Urhobo people are a minority ethnic group in southern Nigeria. They consist of twenty-four kingdoms whose people speak three languages but mainly have the same way of life. The culture of food production and consumption among the Urhobo is distinctive. The people consider their food as their cultural identity, a sign of lifestyle and even an avenger of "stomach warfare." From the time of cultivation of crops or fishing to their consumption as food, the process of food production in Urhobo has been subjected to modern changes in recent years. There are changes from complete organic production to the use of chemicals, even in fishery. The cultural usages of food in ancestral worship and traditional social ceremonies have also undergone changes. New technologies are turning time-consuming foods, such as amiedi (palm-fruit soup), to fast foods in production. This paper examines the meaning of food in Urhobo worldview, as well as Urhobo kinds of food, nutritional benefits, cultural usages, their contribution to cultural diversity and the impact of modernity on the food culture. The methodology involved in this study is a cluster sampling of eight mothers and four restaurant cooks from fifteen villages in fifteen kingdoms and five mothers and ten restaurant entrepreneurs (popularly known as "mama put") in six communities of three urban kingdoms.

Key Words

Urhobo, Food, culture, Oghwo, Modern.

Author:

Meike Brückner (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the sociocultural, gendered and geographical context in which the consumption of African Indigenous Vegetables in urban and rural Kenya is embedded. Further, the aim is to introduce the approach of ‘Meal Sovereignty’ that links the concept of ‘Meal Cultures’ and ‘Food Sovereignty’.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the sociocultural, gendered and geographical context in which the consumption of African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) in urban and rural Kenya is embedded. Traditionally, AIVs were part of the Kenyan's daily diet but due to the introduction of exotic vegetables during the colonial period and their thus following stigmatization as poor people's food the consumption declined and with it also knowledge on how to cultivate and cook those traditional varieties. An increasing urbanization, changing lifestyle and consumption patterns have supported the declining consumption. Whereas in former times, the AIVs were wild-collected species, more recently, the market demand is increasing and the vegetables are promoted due to its nutritional benefits and agroecological advantages. Simultaneously, the process of commercialization is being stimulated.

The paper presents results of a qualitative study addressing consumer practices and preferences of AIVs in Nairobi (urban) and Kakamega (rural). The study is based on 'cooking-along interviews' to explore and unravel consumption practices and its multiple logics on a household level. Further, the aim is to introduce the approach of 'Meal Sovereignty' that links the concept of 'Meal Cultures' and 'Food Sovereignty'. While the 'Meal Cultures' approach by Parto Teherani-Krönner unfolds the sociocultural, gendered and ecological dimensions of preparing, sharing an eating a meal, (re)politicizes the approach of 'Food Sovereignty' food production and consumption. Therefore, the approach of 'Meal Sovereignty' allows to gain contextual knowledge on meal practices engaging with concerns for a democratic and sovereign food system. In sum, the paper attempts to discuss the consumption of AIVs from an empirical and theoretical viewpoint.

Author:

Sonia Frias (ISCSP and CEsA/ISEG)

Paper short abstract:

A project on agriculture and food production in Guinea-Bissau aimed to intensify agriculture system and create conditions of resistance to food insecurity. Locally, rice is valued over crops from family gardens wish are consumed only if for some reason women cannot sell it in traditional markets.

Paper long abstract:

We visited the interior of Guinea Bissau as part of a cooperation project on agriculture and food production intensification. The project aimed the induction of changes in the production system and in the food consumption of local populations by introducing new species and new cultivation techniques.

Among the objectives of the project (implemented in villages in the Gabu and Bafatá regions) were the encouragement of the transition from traditional family-based agriculture to an income agriculture system and the strengthening of production capacity with the aim of creating conditions of local resistance to food insecurity.

Locally, rice is not only the base of the populations diet, it is the income culture par excellence, being considered "months of hunger" those in which there is lack of rice.

With the introduction of a tractor and some simple technologies rice production has increased substantially. On the other hand, the implementation of orchards and more efficient irrigation techniques were considered less interesting, thus less attractive.

In general peasants from the visited areas do not attribute to the production of orchards or family gardens (where traditionally women plant manioc, peanuts, chili peppers, peppers, tomato, etc.) the value or nobility of rice or corn.

The devaluation of these products to the diet is expressive. They are not considered as part of a good diet and they are consumed only if for some reason women cannot sell it in traditional markets.

Authors:

Bognan Valentin Koné (African Studies of Basel)
Gilbert Fokou (Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d'Ivoire (CSRS))
Brigit Obrist van Eeuwijk (University of Basel)

Paper short abstract:

Even if food practices contribute to the identity construction, food restrictions regarding the prohibition of some vegetal and animal species are regularly observed in several African communities where they play social, socio-ecological and socio-sanitary roles.

Paper long abstract:

Food restriction is one of the important means for social control in many communities in the world. It can have several social, religious and even political dimensions. Cases of allergies due to the consumption of certain foods suggest that the prohibition may also have a health dimension. In Côte d'Ivoire in West Africa, food restrictions regarding the prohibition of some vegetal and animal species are regularly observed in several communities and play social, socio-ecological and socio-sanitary roles. In this contribution, investigates the raisons that support numerous foods restriction derived from animal protein in certain communities in a context of food crisis and metabolic diseases. Thus, among the Agni community of Bongouanou of Côte d'Ivoire, there are social norms depriving populations of certain food that abounds in immediate environment. A survey was conducted using qualitative and quantitative approaches in four villages selected based on foods restriction prescribed therein. The contribution analyzes social constructions on food restrictions in relation to health as well as population attitudes and practices with regard to banned food. Relying on potential link between food and health resilience, local norms based on food restrictions contribute to manage health equilibrium of communities. Thus, building on food resilience strategies of these communities, emphasis is placed on the relational and institutional frame in which the most relevant health and food aspects are translated. The persistence of food banned due to their close association with morbidity and health is a key element in preserving indigenous identity and maintaining ecological context.