Foodways and Society in Southern Oman – Overview and Images

My current research examines changes in food purchasing and cooking during Dhofar’s rapid modernization after the mid-1970s. This includes looking at differences in cooking methods (wood to gas), the expanding selection of foods, and changes in culinary practices as a result of having expats cook in middle-class home. I am particularly interested in how men and women view these changes given that the ease of hiring non-Omanis to buy food, cook, serve and clean-up in the home means some Dhofari women no longer view cooking as something they do not need to know how to do and allows other to monetize food through selling dishes to other women at festivals or via Instagram.

Conference – “Foodways and Society in Southern Oman.” British Society for Middle Eastern Studies Annual Conference, University of Leeds, June 26, 2019.

Abstract: This paper combines research from the fields of anthropology and food studies by examining the connections between food, generosity and social status in Dhofar, the southern region of Oman.  Mauss famously said that discussing gifts affords insight into “all the threads of which social fabric is composed.” Similarly, food connects “all the threads” of a society, particularly religion, family, wealth, traditions, self-worth and culture. This paper will explain how the presentation and sharing of food is used to show respect and solidarity between family members, neighbors and friends. I am particularly interested in how people make food choices to be generous, while attempting to deny any personal generosity.  The information discussed has been gathered from formal interviews during the spring and summer of 2018 and countless social events with Gibali-speaking informants and friends over the past 12 years, as well as Omani food-related books, essays, web-sites and blogs. [Gibali is a non-written, Modern South Arabian language and is also known as Jibbali or Shari/ Śḥeret.]

Foodways and Society presentation – BRISMES 2019 (selected slides)

Article submitted to academic journal – Generosity

Abstract: This article begins with an explanation of the necessity of being generous with food among one group of tribes in southern Oman. Generosity with food is obligatory for both men and women and can be divided into four categories: required, balanced, unplanned and planned. Further, food is one, but not the only, way to affirm and strengthen personal ties and there are religion-based benefits relating to food generosity. Showing generosity is not about the cost or presentation of the food but about the actions and implications. People are not judged on what they give so much as the when, how and why. This work has evolved from an odd contradiction I have observed over the last twelve years when having meals with the Dhofari men in my research group: the men both hate to waste food and always make much more than in necessary in case anyone comes by chance.

Article submitted to academic journal – You Are Who You Eat With

Abstract – This paper will explore the practices and perceptions of eating dinner among the tribal Gibali-speakers of Southern Oman. Gibali (also known as Jibbali/ Shari/ Śḥeret) is a non-written, Modern South Arabian language spoken in the Dhofar region. The article describes in detail one aspect of daily life for a group of tribal, Arab Muslims, then uses this description to gain insights into Gibali understandings of social relationships, focusing on how the presentation and sharing of food is used to show respect and solidarity within Gibali cultures.

Selected Images either sent to me (and used with permission) or posted on informants’ social media sites

Linking food/ drinks to hospitality for Ramadan – Images of food/ drink in Ramadan greetings

Images of food used to convey greetings – Examples of typical images for greeting

Images of food used to convey hospitality by depicting “we are ready for our guests” – Images of completed food preparation

Image of food used to convey a family’s joy when a family member is feeling better –  Example of food prepared for celebration of recovery from illness

Images of food and drinks in outdoor settings – Images of food and drink in nature

Example of Kitchen – 1990s/ early 2000s – note: high counters with raised platform for oven, open cupboards (sometimes with sliding doors), small separate storage room, washing machine in one corner, tiled walls

Three wonderful videos about Dhofar – video about sardine fishing

Previous research on food:

“Treachery in the Kitchen”: Traveling Foreign, Eating Familiar – Dr. Traci Kelly and Dr. Marielle Risse; College English Association Annual Conference; March 28th, 2008

Other research on Dhofar

Research on Aspects of Dhofari Cultures

Research on Travelers and Tourists in Dhofar