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Anigbo, Osmund Akabuogo Chijioke (1972) Some political aspects of commensality. MPhil thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The Thesis discusses the significance of significance in the development and maintenance of social relations. The cooking, distribution or consumption of food are treated as cultural mechanisms through which unity, equality, inequality, solidarity and separation can be communicated,, Different examples are taken from different cultural areas to highlight different aspects of the problem of commensality. The Lugbara descent group, the Nuer territorial group and the Relay Services of Great Britain are described to show how sharing food demonstrates the unity of a group, while at the same time reflecting the differentiation within it. The Azande system of blood-brotherhood is analysed as an aspect of commensality marked with equality of status significant in promoting stability within a political structure whose ethnic composition is markedly heterogenerous. The symbolism of the kola-nut is discussed as one item of food among the Igbo which symbolises the distinction between the 'Freeborn Igbo' and Csu. It marks the existence of status differentiation in a culture whose ideology is egalitarian. The commensal rules of Hindu India are discussed to emphasise the solidar and status differentiation which commensality brings about within a whole culture. The Hussite material deals with the Holy Communion controversy in 15th century Bohemia, this is to illustrate the power of delineating equality or inequality which is inherent in sharing food The denial of the chalice to the laity was seen by the reformers in Bohemia, as a clear introduction of inequality within the ritual meal of Holy Communion. Reintroduction of communion under the species of bread and wine differentiated the reformers from Roman Catholics and became the crucial basis on which the struggle of the period was fought. Sharing food in both the Freemasonic organisation and Rotary International is discussed to show how commensality is consciously pursued as a mechanism for creating and fostering friendship and mutual interest between people who in normal circumstances may never meet on an intimate level. The study shows that, despite cultural differences between societies, commensality is a universal symbolic mechanism which is used in the development of social relationships of various sorts.

Item Type: Theses (MPhil)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:59

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