Throughout time and in every culture, human beings have eaten together. Commensality - eating and drinking at the same table - is a fundamental social activity, which creates and cements relationships. It also sets boundaries, including or excluding people according to a set of criteria defined by the society. Particular scholarly attention has been paid to banquets and feasts, often hosted for religious, ritualistic or political purposes, but few studies have considered everyday commensality.
Commensality: From Everyday Food to Feast offers an insight into this social practice in all its forms, from the most basic and mundane meals to the grandest occasions. Bringing together insights from anthropologists, archaeologists and historians, this volume offers a vast historical scope, ranging from the Late Neolithic period (6th millennium BC), through the Middle Ages, to the present day. The sixteen chapters include case studies from across the world, including the USA, Bolivia, China, Southeast Asia, Iran, Turkey, Portugal, Denmark and the UK. Connecting these diverse analyses is an understanding of commensality's role as a social and political tool, integral to the formation of personal and national identities.
From first experiences of commensality in the sharing of food between a mother and child, to the inaugural dinner of the American president, this collection of essays celebrates the variety of human life and society.
Susanne Kerner is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She has directed a number of excavations in Jordan from different periods and is the author of several publications concerned with social complexity, social importance of food and craft specialisation.
Cynthia Chou is Associate Professor and Head of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She is a social anthropologist who has carried out extensive research with the Orang Suku Laut, the sea-nomads of the Malay World. Her research focuses on centre-periphery relations of marginalized ethnic groups in Southeast Asia.
Morten Warmind is Associate Professor and Head of Studies of Sociology of Religion at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is a specialist in pre-Christian European religions and studies religious change during the Hellenistic times.
Introduction, Susanne Kerner (University of Copenhagen, Denmark) and Cynthia Chou (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
Part 1. Everyday Commensality
2) Commensality and the Organization of Social Relations, C.B. Tan (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China)
3) Commensal Circles and the Common Pot, Penny van Esterik (York University, Canada)
4) Commensality between the Young, Boris Andersen (Aalborg University, Denmark)
5) Activism through Commensality, Yve le Grand (University of Lisbon, Portugal)
6) Cooking in the 4th Millennium BCE, Maria Bianca D'Anna (Eberhard Karls University, Germany) and Carolin Jauss (Free University Berlin, Germany)
Part 2. Special Commensality
7) Methodological and Definitional Issues in the Archaeology of Food, Katheryn Twiss (Stony Brook University, USA)
8) Medieval and Modern Banquets: Commensality and Social Categorization, Paul Freedman (Yale University, USA)
9) Ritual Feasting at Domuztepe, Alexandra Fletcher (British Museum, UK) and Stuart Campbell (University of Manchester, UK)
10) Drink, Feasting and Social Organisation, Susanne Kerner (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
Part 3. The Social and Political Aspects of Commensality
11) How Chicken Rice Informs about Identity, Cynthia Chou (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
12) Feasting on Locusts and Truffles in the 2nd Millenium BCE, Hanne Nyman (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
13) Commensality and Sharing in an Andean Community in Bolivia, Cornelia A. Nell (University of St Andrews, UK)
14) Dissolved in Liquor and Life, Astrid M¸ller-Olsen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
15) Justifications for Foodways and the Study of Commensality, Jordan Rosenblum (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
16) The Role of Food in the Life of Christians in the Roman Empire, Morten Warmind (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
17) Ritual Meals and Polemics in Antiquity, Anne Ingvil Gilhus (University of Bergen, Norway)