Food Describe Cannibalism as a System Among Essay

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Subject: Agriculture
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #53853156

Excerpt from Essay :


Describe cannibalism as a system among the Wari according to Beth Conklin. What are their practices and beliefs? What are their motivations? How do they fit and not fit into the major world patterns identified for anthropophagy by anthropologies around the world and by Conklin?

The Wari are an indigenous population with a population of about 1,500 people who live in the Brazilian rainforests and until roughly the 1960s the disposed of nearly all their corpses through mortuary cannibalism (Conklin, 1995). The reasons for eating members of your tribe can be much different for eating enemies. They Wari did not have to eat their dead for sustenance and there was adequate food in their region. The Wari chose to eat their family members as a passage of mourning and their enemies as a show of disrespect. The fact that they practiced both forms of mortuary cannibalism separates them from many other patterns found around the world.

Compare and contrast the views of Carole Counihan in "Food Rules in the United States," Gyorgy Scrinis in "On the Ideology of Nurtritionism" and Anne Meneley in "Like an Eatra virgin." Are their data and conclusions compatible? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each article? What kind of picture of American classification of food emerges from the three articles?

In "Food Rules in the United States," Counihan outlines an interesting theory about how ideologies surrounding foods can be representative of other aspects of a culture and social constructs (Counihan, 1992). People can derive their rules about the foods they eat from their social concerns. For example, if someone values their appearance and the role of appearances in social circles then they might opt to control their calorie count to remain or become thin. Those that believe that success comes from hard work and control might also become rules for their diet as they diligently try to control what they eat. The study finds that students eat not based on the tenets of science, but based upon rules that they make up in place of their confusion about foods that guides their diets (Counihan, 1992).

While there have been many gains in food education over the course of the last few generations in the United States, there is still a lot of misinformation that pervades the diets of many. For example, the nutrition sciences have been well developed however this level of analysis simply confuses many consumers on different levels. Nutri-quantification also tends to cut across and undermine other ways of categorizing the qualities of foods; in particular, it blurs the qualitative distinction between different types of foods -- such as processed and unprocessed, plant-based and animal-based -- in favor of a quantitative ranking of all foods across these categories (Scrinis, 2008). The reductive approach that nutritionalism offers tends to over emphasize the quality of nutrients as opposed to the qualities of the foods.

Other perspectives regarding the ideology that drives diet can include certain attributes of "ancientness" or "naturalness" that drive consumption and demand for certain food items. One example can be the trend in which extra virgin olive oil has risen in popularity. Olive oil has a unique combination of different appeals such as being ancient as well as receiving a lot of attention in the scientific community for being able to contribute to the prevention of heart disease, breast and colon cancer, and Type II diabetes (Meneley, 2007). However, it is also argued that the attention that certain foods receive, such as olive oil, is at least partly because industrialized food has awarded that opportunity. For example, it is only after someone has enough to eat before they begin to worry about taste or health benefits of food. Only when someone is sufficiently fed then they can worry more about quality items.

These three articles focus on how different rules for food or the appreciation for certain foods can develop. In the first study, the teenagers often used a set of heuristics to determine their diets that was based on an imperfect knowledge of nutrition as well as based on their more comprehensive worldview or set of values. A similar technique has emerged from the nutrition perspective as the same types of confusions appear and the level of nutrients that does with whole foods. This confusion also leads many people to choose foods based upon non-nutritional values such as ancientness or naturalness. Although taste and aesthetics can be important components of dining, they are not necessarily a substitute for a balanced and nutritional diet.

3. How (in Anna Meigs' description) is the classification of food among the HUA a system that is both binary and fluid? Does Ira Bashkow see Orokaiva views of "foods of the Whiteman" as being similarly binary and fluid? Provide ethnographic details and compare and contrast their views of and approaches to the two scholars to their respective descriptions of food classification.

The Hua classification of food is based almost solely on sexual differences. In this way they are sexually binary and foods represent parts of the women's reproductive system. For a long time it was though that man had chosen diets based on opinions of male superiority, however some have also suggested that there is a component of inferiority and impotence that also perpetuates the trend (Meigs, 1984). However, the Hua and somewhat fluid in their gender roles and the males even believe that they can actually get pregnant.

For Orokaiva, taro and pork together are the paradigm of a proper square meal, so that the expression 'pork-taro' (o-ba) is used to mean 'food in general' or 'basic subsistence,' with a sense like the English idioms "bread and butter" or "meat and potatoes (Bashkow, 2006). The Orokaiva, by contrast, attribute to whitemen qualities such as lightness, softness, and brightness. However, the concept of the whiteman is both binary in some instances and fluid in others; their perceptions of the whiteman are somewhat morally ambiguous and do not have inherent characteristics. The ones that are attributed to them are generally associated with their wealth.

4. Using Marvin Harris' "Abominable pig" chapter from Good to Eat, describe the pork taboo. Who practices it and how has it evolved historically? What is Harris' explanation for this widespread taboo? How does this explanation differ from Mary Douglas' approach as described by him? What are the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach?

Of all domesticated animals, pigs possess the greatest potential for efficiently changing plants into flesh which makes the aversion to pork seem irrational compared to the aversion to beef for some (Harris, 1986). Yet many followers of the Old Testaments and the Koran characterize the swine as unclean due to their "filthy" habits. Pigs will even eat themselves if you let them go hungry enough. These habits have influenced different religious persons to the extent that many people still practice these customs long after science has disproven the edibility of their meat.

According to Harris (1986) many of the ill-perceived behaviors that pigs exhibit can be traced to their domestication and their human masters. When pigs are kept in confinement then they can roll around in human excrement. However, in the wild they are often much better kept and feed on roots, nuts, and grains when it is available. Mary Douglas's opinion is that Leviticus was used by providing a formula for meat that included permissible meat as having cloven feet and chews cud. Since pigs do not fit this simplistic formula, then they are out of place and things out of place can be perceived as dirty.

5. What relationships between the Japanese people and food emerge from the readings by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney (Rice as Self), Anne Allison (Japanese Mothers and Obentos), Theodore Bestor (Tsukiji)? What common themes can you see across these different portraits?

The staples of a Japanese diet consist of mainly rice and seafood. It is easy to see why these would be the most common foods based simply on the geography. However, despite the types of foods consumed, the Japanese have a multitude of different cultural customs that guide how the food is prepared and served. Food preferences are so closely linked to identity and culinary diversity points toward separateness and division (Bestor, 2004). The Japanese are meticulous with their foods as well as many other aspects of their culture.

The Japanese manner in which they prepare rice and seafood have strong cultural meanings. Toward the end of the Early Modern period, the Japanese were becoming more aware of their surroundings and becoming more acquainted with Western Cultures. The discourse on the Japanese self vis-a-vis Westerners as "the other" took the form of rice vs. meat; from a Japanese perspective, meat was the distinguishing characteristic of the Western diet (Ohnuki-Tierney, 1993). Furthermore, there is also a difference in the types of rice that were served and where they originated. For example, Chinese rice was perceived as foreign and not as edible.

The same kind of patterns can be seen with the preparation…

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