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How have scholars explained the dietary restrictions typical of Judaism and Islam? Are Jewish and Islamic dietary laws about discipline? About health? Are they incoherent and irrational? Are they allegories of religious vices and virtues? Are they ways to cement political power? Are they responses to environmnetal contraints?

Please come to the seminar prepared to discuss, at a minimum, the interpretation of Mary Douglas, or of Marvin Harris, or the critiques of their ideas.


Douglas, Mary, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London, 2003 [1966]), Introduction and Chapter 3.
Diener, Paul, and Eugene Robkin, ‘Ecology, Evolution, and the Search for Cultural Origins: The Question of Islamic Pig Prohibition’ [and Comments and Reply], Current Anthropology 19:3 (1978), 493-540.* (Don't worry too much about the theoretical arguments about anthropology unless you happen to find them interesting.)
Harris, Marvin, Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture (1998) Chapter: ‘The Abominable Pig’.
Simoons, Frederick, Eat Not this Flesh: Food Avoidances from Prehistory to the Present (Madison, 1994), Introduction and Chapter 2: ‘Pork’.

* Sign into the Warwick Library catalogue to access the electronic version.

To Learn More

Fishkoff, Sue, Kosher Nation: How and Why America's Going Kosher, Schocken Books (New York, 2010).

Freidenreich, David M., Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law (Berkeley, 2011), Part I.

Horowitz, Roger, Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food, Columbia University Press (New York, 2016).

Jha, D.N., The Myth of the Holy Cow (London, 2002).

Norman, Corrie, 'Food and Religion', Oxford Handbook of Food History, ed. Jeffrey Pilcher (Oxford, 2012).

Rezgui Pizette, Hanan, La République et le halal, Al Qalam (Paris, 2015).

Rosenblum, Jordan, ‘Why Do You Refuse to Eat Pork?": Jews, Food, and Identity in Roman Palestine’, Jewish Quarterly Review 100:1 (2010).*

* Sign into the Warwick Library catalogue to access the electronic version.