The Stranger at the Feast: Prohibition and Mediation in an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Community

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Univ of California Press, Feb 6, 2018 - Social Science - 181 pages
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The Stranger at the Feast is a pathbreaking ethnographic study of one of the world’s oldest and least-understood religious traditions. Based on long-term ethnographic research on the Zege peninsula in northern Ethiopia, the author tells the story of how people have understood large-scale religious change by following local transformations in hospitality, ritual prohibition, and feeding practices. Ethiopia has undergone radical upheaval in the transition from the imperial era of Haile Selassie to the modern secular state, but the secularization of the state has been met with the widespread revival of popular religious practice. For Orthodox Christians in Zege, everything that matters about religion comes back to how one eats and fasts with others. Boylston shows how practices of feeding and avoidance have remained central even as their meaning and purpose has dramatically changed: from a means of marking class distinctions within Orthodox society, to a marker of the difference between Orthodox Christians and other religions within the contemporary Ethiopian state.
 

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Contents

A History of Mediation
22
Fasting Bodies and the Calendar
37
Proliferations of Mediators
56
The Material Histories
72
The Buda Crisis
86
Concrete Bones and Feasts
103
Echoes of the Host
119
The Media Landscape
131
The Knowledge of the World
144
Conclusion
156
Index
173
Copyright

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About the author (2018)

Tom Boylston is a lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

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