Accepted paper:

To eat or not to eat: on poison and commensality a Rio de Janeiro favela


Daniela Lazoroska (Lund University)

Paper short abstract:

In this presentation, drawing on fieldwork from a Rio de Janeiro favela, I will explore food and choices of what to eat or not to eat as means of assertion of agency, and an attempt at sensemaking in a volatile urban context.

Paper long abstract:

Informants would urge me not to accept food from everyone, as there were people with a "bad heart". In the context of, at times, everyday shootings in the Rio de Janeiro favela where I conducted a year of fieldwork in (2014-2015), the fear of potentially being poisoned initially seemed of little relevance to me. Nevertheless, the reoccurring warnings pointed in a direction I grew a fascination for, namely, the ways in which my informants by controlling their intake of food was about asserting one's agency in an uncertain lifeworld. And while the stories of the poisoning other grew to accumulate, so did the invitations of sharing a meal in homes, sandwich bars, buffets, and even (relatively) expensive restaurants in the elite South Zone of the city. Thus, I will begin this presentation by talking about the food informants chose to eat or not to eat; the kind of relations they sought to thereby establish, or put an end to; and finally, the kind of bodies that were therein desired and made, and the kinds of social worlds they attempted to inhabit through them as vessels.

panel Food02
Food for thought (and dwelling) in uncertain times