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Questions to Consider While Reading

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 environmental 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.


Please read the primary sources and at least one of the readings.

Primary Sources

Extracts from the Holy Koran

Extracts from Leviticus


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

Caste on the Menu Card, Dir. Ananyaa Gaur, Anurup Khillare, Atul Anand, Reetika Revathy Subramanian, and Vaseem Chaudhary, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, 2015,

Fischer, Johan, The Halal Frontier: Muslim Consumers in a Globalized Market (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

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).

Judd, Robin, Contested Rituals: Circumcision, Kosher Butchering, and Jewish Political Life in Germany, 1843-1933, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, 2007).

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.