Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 195–217 | Cite as

Rituals of Consumption and the Politics of Feasting on the Eastern African Coast, AD 700–1500

Original Paper

Abstract

Historically, the Swahili of the eastern African coast have performed feasts through which they negotiated and contested social power. Feasts draw on tradition and practice, but create the space for, and conditions of, imbalance and social debt. Drawing on this historical frame, I examine the archaeology of feasting in the more distant Swahili past, AD 700–1500, in particular looking at how feasts can domesticate distant power—the power drawn from objects and practices from elsewhere. By charting changing assemblages of imported and local ceramics alongside settlement and food preferences, I examine developments in feasting patterns and the way feasts provided a social context within which local and distant power could be translated into authority.

Keywords

Swahili Feasting Display Ceramics East Africa 

References

  1. Appadurai, A. (1981). Gastro-politics in Hindu South Asia. American Ethnologist, 8(3), 494–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bell, C. (1992). Ritual theory, ritual practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Blitz, J. H. (1993). Big pots for big shots: Feasting and storage in a Mississippian Community. American Antiquity, 58(1), 80–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bowser, B. J., & Patton, J. Q. (2004). Domestic spaces as public places: An ethnoarchaeological case study of houses, gender, and politics in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Journal of Archaeological Method & Theory, 11(2), 157–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bray, T. L. (2003). The archaeology and politics of food and feasting in early states and empires (1st ed.). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  6. Chami, F. (1994). The Tanzanian coast in the first millennium AD. Studies in African Archaeology 7: Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis.Google Scholar
  7. Chami, F. (1998). A review of Swahili archaeology. African Archaeological Review, 15(3), 199–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chittick, H. N. (1974). Kilwa–An Islamic trading city on the East African Coast. Nairobi: The British Institute of East Africa.Google Scholar
  9. Chittick, H. N. (1984). Manda: Excavations at an Island Port on the Kenya Coast. Nairobi: The British Institute of East Africa.Google Scholar
  10. Connah, G. (2001). African civilizations: An archaeological perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cook, A. G., & Glowacki, M. (2003). Pots, politics and power: Huari ceramic assemblages and imperial administration. In T. L. Bray (Ed.), The archaeology and politics of food and feasting in early states and empires (pp. 173–202). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Croucher, S., & Wynne-Jones, S. (2006). Pots not people: Locally produced ceramics and identity on the nineteenth-century East African coast. International Journal of African Historical Studies, 39, 107–124.Google Scholar
  13. DeBoer, W. (2001). The big drink: Feast and forum in upper Amazon. In M. Dietler & B. Hayden (Eds.), Feasts: Archaeological and ethnographic perspectives on food, politics, and power (pp. 215–239). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  14. DeMarrais, E. (2005). Rethinking materiality: The engagement of mind with the material world. Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs.Google Scholar
  15. DeMarrais, E., Castillo, L. J., & Earle, T. (1996). Ideology, materialization, and power strategies. Current Anthropology, 37(1), 15–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dietler, M. (1999). Rituals of commensality and the politics of state formation in the ‘princely’ societies of early Iron Age Europe. In P. Ruby (Ed.), Les princes de la protohistoire et l’émergence de l’état (pp. 135–152). Naples: Collection de l’Ecole Française de Rome.Google Scholar
  17. Dietler, M. (2001). Theorizing the feast: Rituals of consumption, commensal politics, and power in African contexts. In Feasts: Archaeological and ethnographic perspectives on food, politics, and power (pp. 65–114). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  18. Dietler, M., & Hayden, B. (2001). Feasts: Archaeological and ethnographic perspectives on food, politics, and power. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  19. Flecker, M. (2001). A ninth-century AD Arab or Indian Shipwreck in Indonesia: First evidence for direct trade with China. World Archaeology, 32(3), 335–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fleisher, J. (2001). Archaeological survey and excavations in Northern Pemba Island, Tanzania 1999–2000. Nyame Akuma, 56, 43–56.Google Scholar
  21. Fleisher, J. (2003). Viewing stonetowns from the countryside: An archaeological approach to Swahili regional systems, AD 8001500. Unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, University of Virginia.Google Scholar
  22. Fleisher, J. (2004). Behind the Sultan of Kilwa’s ‘rebellious conduct’: Local perspectives on an international East African town. In P. Lane & A. Reid (Eds.), African historical archaeologies (pp. 91–123). New York: Plenum/Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
  23. Fleisher, J. (2010a). Housing the market: Swahili merchants and regional marketing on the East African coast, seventh to sixteenth centuries AD. In C. Garraty & B. Stark (Eds.), Archaeological approaches to market exchange in ancient societies (pp. 141–160). Boulder: University Press of Colorado.Google Scholar
  24. Fleisher, J. (2010b). Swahili synoecism: Rural settlements and town formation on the central East African coast, AD 750–1500. Journal of Field Archaeology, 35(3).Google Scholar
  25. Fleisher, J., & LaViolette, A. (1999). Elusive wattle-and-daub: Finding the hidden majority in the archaeology of the Swahili. Azania, 34, 87–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fleisher, J., & LaViolette, A. (2007). The changing power of Swahili houses, fourteenth to nineteenth centuries, AD. In R. Beck (ed.), The durable house: House society models in archaeology (pp. 175–197). Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Investigations Occasional Paper No. 35.Google Scholar
  27. Fortes, M., & Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1940). African political systems. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P. (1962). The East African coast: Select documents. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Garlake, P. S. (1966). The early Islamic architecture of the East African coast. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Glassman, J. (1995). Feasts and riot: Revelry, rebellion, and popular consciousness on the Swahili coast, 1856–1888. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  31. Hall, E. T. (1968). Proxemics. Current Anthropology, 9(2/3), 83–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hollis, A. C. (1900). Notes on the history of Vumba, East Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 30, 275–297.Google Scholar
  33. Horton, M. C. (1996). Shanga: The archaeology of a Muslim trading community on the coast of East Africa. London: The British Institute of East Africa.Google Scholar
  34. Horton, M. C., & Clark, C. (1985). The Zanzibar archaeological survey 19845, Ministry of Information, Culture, and Sports.Google Scholar
  35. Horton, M. C., & Middleton, J. (2000). The Swahili: The social landscape of a mercantile society. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  36. Ibn Khaldun, (1967). The Muqaddimah: An introduction to history, vol. 1, (F. Rosenthal, Trans.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Insoll, T. (2004). Archaeology, ritual, religion. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Jahadhmy, A. (1977). Anthology of Swahili poetry. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  39. Joyce, R. A., & Henderson, J. S. (2007). From feasting to cuisine: Implications of archaeological research in an early Honduran Village. American Anthropologist, 109(4), 642–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Junker, L. L. (1999). Raiding, trading, and feasting: The political economy of Philippine Chiefdoms. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Google Scholar
  41. Junker, L. L., Mudar, K., & Schwaller, M. (1994). Social stratification, household wealth, and competitive feasting in 15th/16th-century Philippine chiefdoms. Research in Economic Anthropology, 15, 307–358.Google Scholar
  42. Kertzer, D. (1988). Ritual, politics, and power. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Kusimba, C. M. (1997). Swahili and the coastal city-states. In J. Vogel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of precolonial Africa (pp. 507–513). London: Altamira Press.Google Scholar
  44. Kusimba, C. M. (1999a). The rise and fall of Swahili states. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.Google Scholar
  45. Kusimba, C. M. (1999b). Material symbols among the precolonial Swahili of the East African coast. In J. Robb (Ed.), Material symbols: Culture and economy in prehistory (pp. 318–341). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University.Google Scholar
  46. Kyriakidis, E. (2007). The archaeology of ritual. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.Google Scholar
  47. LaViolette, A. (2008). Swahili cosmopolitanism in Africa and the Indian Ocean world, AD 600–1500. Archaeologies, 4(1), 24–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. LaViolette, A., & Fleisher, J. (2009). The urban history of a rural place: Swahili archaeology on Pemba Island, Tanzania, 700–1500 AD. International Journal of African Historical Studies, 42(3), 433–455.Google Scholar
  49. Marin, M. (2002). Pots and fire: The cooking processes in the cookbooks of al-Andalus and the Maghreb. In D. Waines (Ed.), Patterns of everyday life (pp. 289–302). Aldershot: Ashgate/Variorium.Google Scholar
  50. McIntosh, S. (1999). Pathways to complexity: An African perspective. In S. McIntosh (Ed.), Beyond chiefdoms: Pathways to complexity in Africa (pp. 1–30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Meskell, L. (2005). Archaeologies of materiality. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Middleton, J. (1992). The world of the Swahili: An African mercantile civilization. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Miller, D. (2005). Materiality. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Mills, B. (2007). Performing the feast: Visual display and suprahousehold commensalism in the Puebloan Southwest. American Antiquity, 72(2), 210–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Moore, J. D. (1996). The archaeology of plazas and the proxemics of ritual: Three Andean traditions. American Anthropologist, 98(4), 789–802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Pauketat, T. R., et al. (2002). The residues of feasting and public ritual at Early Cahokia. American Antiquity, 67(2), 257–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Pearce, F. B. (1920). Zanzibar: The island metropolis of Eastern Africa. London: Frank Cass and Company.Google Scholar
  58. Potter, J. M. (2000). Pots, parties, and politics: Communal feasting in the American Southwest. American Antiquity, 65(3), 471–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pouwels, R. L. (2002). Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean to 1800: Reviewing relations in historical perspective. The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 35(2/3), 385–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Robinson, A. E. (1939). The Shirazi colonization of East Africa: Vumba. Tanganyika Notes and Records, 7, 92–112.Google Scholar
  61. Schiffer, M. B., & Skibo, J. M. (1997). The explanation of artifact variability. American Antiquity, 62(1), 27–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Spear, T. (2000). Early Swahili history reconsidered. International Journal of African Historical Studies, 33, 256–288.Google Scholar
  63. Van Gelder, G. J. (2000). God’s banquet: Food in classical Arabic literature. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Waines, D. (2002). Introduction. In D. Waines (Ed.), Patterns of everyday life. Aldershot: Ashgate/Variorium.Google Scholar
  65. Waines, D. (2003). ‘Luxury foods’ in medieval Islamic societies. World Archaeology, 34(3), 571–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Walshaw, S. (2005). Swahili urbanization, trade and food production: Botanical perspectives from Pemba Island, Tanzania, AD 6001500. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. Washington University, St. Louis.Google Scholar
  67. Walshaw, S. (2010). Converting to rice: Urbanization, islamization and crops on Pemba Island, Tanzania AD 700–1500. World Archaeology, 42(1), 137–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wiessner, P. (2001). Of feasting and value: Enga feasts in a historical perspective, Papua New Guinea. In M. Dietler & B. Hayden (Eds.), Feasts: Archaeological and ethnographic perspectives on food, politics, and power (pp. 115–143). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  69. Wiessner, P., & Schiefenhövel, W. (1996). Food and the status quest: An interdisciplinary perspective. Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  70. Wilson, T. H. (1979). Swahili funerary architecture of the North Kenya coast. In J. D. V. Allen & T. H. Wilson (Eds.), Swahili houses and tombs of the coast of Kenya (pp. 33–46). London: Art and Archaeology Research Papers.Google Scholar
  71. Wright, H. T. (1993). Trade and politics on the Eastern Littoral of Africa, AD 800–1300. In The archaeology of Africa: Food, metals and towns (pp. 658–672). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  72. Wynne-Jones, S. (2007a). It’s what you do with it that counts: Performed identities in the East African coastal landscape. Journal of Social Archaeology, 7(3), 325–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wynne-Jones, S. (2007b). Multiple landscapes and layered meanings: Scale, interaction and process in the development of a Swahili town. In S. Kohring & S. Wynne-Jones (Eds.), Socialising complexity: Approaches to power and interaction in the archaeological record. Oxford: Oxbow Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyRice UniversityHoustonUSA

Personalised recommendations