Religious Food Taboo as a Cause of Reciprocal Hospitality between Orthodox Christians and Muslims in Ethiopia

By Tilahun Bejitual Zellelew.

Published by Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Food contexts serve as cultural spaces in Ethiopia, where Christians and Muslims paradoxically converge and diverge. A central catalyst to this paradoxical phenomenon is the taboo of avoiding meat of an animal slaughtered by people of the other faith, which is viewed by some researchers and religious scholars as sheer prejudice and scripturally baseless. However, this article argues that whether theologically justified or not, this food taboo has not deterred Christians and Muslims from converging in food contexts such as wedding feasts. The taboo is rather a cause for a remarkable custom of reciprocal hospitality punctuated by empathy and mutual understanding of dietary differences between the two religious groups for many centuries in the country. Finally, the article discusses some virtues that are manifest in this system that is built on food taboo and attempts to draw implications for contemporary interreligious encounters.

Keywords: Food, Taboos, Reciprocity

Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 5, Issue 2, June 2015, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 492.024KB).

Tilahun Bejitual Zellelew

Joint Doctoral Student (2012-2015), Graduate School of Intercultural Humanities Studies, University of Bergamo, Italy