Kinship and Food in South East Asia

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edited by Monica Janowski and Fiona G. Kerlogue

Food has an important role in establishing and structuring social and kin relations in Southeast Asian societies. For this reason, there is growing interest within anthropology in understanding how the production, processing and consumption of food is one important basis for the construction of ties of relatedness, so-called 'kin’ ties. These are often based at least partly on 'shared substance’. In this respect, a book on Southeast Asia is especially interesting in understanding kinship since the region is generally taken to include a number of distinct types of kin structure.

This book offers eleven chapters covering a range of societies in different parts of Southeast Asia. It examines ways in which food is used to think about and bring about ties between generations and within generations – including between the living and the dead – in particular through the feeding relationship. Significant parallels emerge between the societies covered: in the role of rice especially; in gender complementarity in relation to different foods; in the belief that food and drink carry fertility, 'blessings’ or 'life force’ from ascending to descending generations; and in the use of the feeding relationship to generate hierarchy. These parallels suggest that there may be underlying similarities in cosmology between these widely varying societies. A significant contribution to the ongoing debate on the nature of kinship in Southeast Asia, this volume will be useful as a textbook for courses within anthropology, including on the anthropology of food and environmental anthropology.

"Through a focus on food in analysis, the contributors yield novel and informative insights into gender heirarchies, the importance of kinship, and the role of women in nurturing ties of relatedness. Overall, the collected papers comprise an original and valuable contribution to the literature on the social construction of kinship in Southeast Asia." – Lee Wilson, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 16:2 (2010)

"For students of the anthropology of food, it is essential reading." – Eugen N. Anderson, Anthropos, 103 (2008)

Monica Janowski has long researched, published on and worked with the people of the Kelabit Highlands of northern Borneo. As an anthropologist, she has been particularly interested in issues concerning the environment, food and cosmology. At the same time, she has shown an ability to communicate research findings to a wider audience (including as co-producor of nine radio series with the BBC). However, perhaps her most lasting contribution will be her work with the Kelabit to preserve their cultural legacy and pass it on to future generations.

Publication year: 2007
304 pp / 229mm x 152mm
38 photos, 8 figures, 1 table
ISBN: 978-87-91114-93-9, Paperback

NIAS Press