Food, Gender, and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes

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9781577660293: Food, Gender, and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes

We are what we eat: our food defines us as individual women and men, as families and communities, and as members of our race, our class, and our nation. In this book, Mary Weismantel uses four different facets of the social life of food--diet, cuisine, discourse, and practice--to draw a richly detailed and compelling portrait of one South American community during the 1980s. The foods eaten in Zumbagua, an indigenous parish of highland Ecuador, are key to understanding what holds this distinctive people together in the face of tremendous economic and cultural challenges, as well as what divides them. The detailed discussion of diet is surprisingly revealing. Ancient histories emerge from the origins of staple crops like barley and potatoes, while recent trends, such as the substitution of purchased candies and colas for too-expensive fruits and vegetables, expose an ongoing ecological and economic crisis. In her discussion of cuisine--the cultural rules by which foods become meals--Weismantel shows how the everyday work of women preparing food transforms a mundane physical necessity, into a deeply meaningful symbolic act. Differences between local and national cultures, everyday and special occasions, men and women, adults and children, family and friends are only some of the cultural messages transmitted through snacks and means. Further, this culinary language is a highly expressive political idiom. By analyzing conversations and arguments about food, this book shows how an apparently apolitical community engaged in agonized debates about survival in the face of endemic racism and accelerating poverty. Cooking oil and wild mustard, bread and gruel, white rice and brown barley all appear as highly charged symbols of assimilation or resistance. Lastly, the book moves into the kitchen itself, where kinship, generation and gender shape--and are shaped by--the practical work of feeding the family. Social changes, such as the feminization of agriculture, continually alter labor demands within and outside of the kitchen, creating new tensions and conflicts within the family. By retaining close attention to the food itself as it is prepared and consumed, this book explores these intimate family issues without ever losing sight of the larger forces involved. The kitchen stove is a final nexus between production, exchange, and consumption. In the end, the delicate balance between the labor and products that go out of the house, and the goods that come back in, determines economic survival. And it is by choosing what to allow in and what to exclude, and how to shape the finished product for their own consumption, that the people of Zumbagua exert a precarious cultural autonomy in the face of daunting difficulties. This book is both a richly specific document of their lives, and a significant theoretical statement about the anthropology of food.

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From the Publisher:

Titles of related interest from Waveland Press: Harris, Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture (ISBN 9781577660156) and Kahn, Always Hungry, Never Greedy: Food and the Expression of Gender in a Melanesian Society (ISBN 9780881337761).

Review:

"In this modest but elegant monograph the author uses local diet and cuisine as a trace device . . . Weismantel leaves us enlightened about how competing verbal images express the tension of unresolved values . . . This is an excellent work of contemporary ethnographic scholarship." -- American Anthropologist

"The beauty of the book is not to be found in the sophistication of its sociopolitical analysis per se, but in the fact that the reader is introduced to the cathected experience of this sociopolitical reality as it is met, reproduced and changed by people of all ages in the everyday realm of life . . . . This book displays a wealth of the contradictions and complications of experienced reality that gives it special authenticity. . . . Reading the book is like being in the indigenous Ecuadorian Andes again. . . . I found the tool of description and analysis employed in this study extremely powerful for representing Andean reality. . . .I found the work . . . so admirable a depiction of Ecuadorian indigenous life." -- Latin American Anthropology Review

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Weismantel, Mary J.
Editorial: Waveland Press (1998)
ISBN 10: 1577660293 ISBN 13: 9781577660293
Nuevos Paperback Cantidad: 2
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Murray Media
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Descripción Waveland Press, 1998. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería P111577660293

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Weismantel, Mary J.
Editorial: Waveland Press
ISBN 10: 1577660293 ISBN 13: 9781577660293
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Descripción Waveland Press. PAPERBACK. Estado de conservación: New. 1577660293 New Condition. Nº de ref. de la librería NEW7.1621054

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