gaax | korax | wûyâ

Raven is a research group for feasting, cuisine, and aromatics in human cultures.

Living at a time, as we do, when symbolic capital is attached to restricted diets, food avoidance, knowledge of foreign cuisine, attitudes towards certain foods and their appropriateness for various groups within society, it is easy to understand that feasting, cuisine, and associated practices around aromatics are charged with symbolic meaning in human cultures. The healthful effects and toxic dangers of alimentary substances are prominent in public discourse in the contemporary West, as is concern for obesity and diabetes. As observed by many anthropologists, aspects of human life that engage our physical needs cannot escape elaboration in the ethical and mythical realm. Food practices, like sexual and domestic practices, therefore acquire a dense symbolism and carry messages about the individual’s status, membership in society, and relationships to gods and natural forces. This is as true today as it was in the ancient Mediterranean.

Feasting has been a productive area of research for the past thirty years, and Raven intends to make original contributions to this field, and move it forward from its current status quo in three broad directions. The state of the field generally identifiable as the anthropology of food and feasting privileges studies of feasting within communities as opposed to the role of feasting in establishing ad hoc communities comprised of separate ethnic, linguistic, or cultural groups, and therefore minimizes feasting’s role as mediator between communities. Raven’s work addresses this imbalance and highlights the role of feasting in intercommunity politics. Secondly, we will study cuisine from a public health perspective, as medical research has shown that certain foods, spices, and aromatics, and their combinations associated with feasts on a variety of sacred calendars contribute to the healthy functioning of many systems of the human body, from cardiovascular health to mental health. Thirdly, moving from individual health to community health, we hope that our research on Aboriginal feasting traditions can be put to use in addressing food security and we hope to be a partner for those who wish to reestablish or support existing Aboriginal food economies and distribution systems.

Our multidisciplinary composition positions us to uniquely develop the field within the disciplines of anthropology, classics, religious studies, Near Eastern studies, ethnobotany, and medicine.

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