Recent and forthcoming research

recent publication (book) – Foodways in Southern Oman. Routledge, 2021

This book examines the objects, practices and beliefs relating to producing, obtaining, cooking, eating and disposing of food in the Dhofar region of southern Oman. The chapters consider food preparation, who makes what kind of food, and how and when meals are eaten. Dr. Risse connects what is consumed to themes such as land usage, gender, age, purity, privacy and generosity. She also discusses how foodways are related to issues of morality, safety, religion, and tourism. The volume is a result of fourteen years of collecting data and insights in Dhofar, covering topics such as catching fish, herding camels, growing fruits, designing kitchens, cooking meals and setting leftovers out for animals.

forthcoming presentation about cultures/ fishing – “The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman,” Fish as Food: Lifestyle and a Sustainable Future, International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, hosted at the University of Liverpool, Sept. 1, 2021, http://www.icaf2021.uk/

My presentation discusses two important questions about fishing economics: how much does it cost to catch fish and how does that expense create a social benefit for fishermen, regardless of the money earned from the catch? My research is based in Dhofar, the southern region of Oman, and concentrates on the hakli/ qara groups of tribes who speak Gibali/ Jibbali (also known as Shari/ Śḥeret, a non-written, Modern South Arabian language) as their first language. Arabic is learned outside of the home as it is the language of religion, education, business and government in Oman. I have been looking at the theme of generosity, including sharing food, for more than ten years and in this presentation I will explain how much a typical day and season of fishing costs a fisherman, as well as how giving away part of every catch creates a benefit that is more than monetary. There has been work done on the types of fish along the Omani coast (e.g. Al-Jufaili, Hermosa, Al-Shuaily and Al Mujaini 2010; Choudri, Baawain and Mustaque 2016, Harrison 1980; McKoy, Bagley, Gauthier and Devine 2009) and how fish are sold (e.g. Al-Marshudi and Kotagama 2006; Al Rashdi and Mclean 2014; William and Fidelity Lancaster 1995; “National Aquaculture Sector Overview-Oman” 2019; Omezzine 1998, Omezzine, Zaibet and Al-Oufi 1996; Siddeek, Fouda and Hermosa 1999). Using interviews and personal experiences, I will explain how the cash outlay for gas, nets, bait, etc. is transformed into social, in addition to economic, capital for fishermen.

forthcoming presentation about cultures/ houseways – “Private Lives in Public Spaces: Perceptions of Space-Usage in Southern Oman.” Middle East Studies Association’s annual conference. Montreal, Quebec. October 29-31, 2021. 

This presentation discusses issues related to the cultural perceptions of space and privacy on the Arabian Peninsula. Based on fifteen years of experience and research in southern Oman, I will focus on how men and women navigate the same or nearby public spaces at the same time. Using examples from shops, grocery stores, universities, restaurants, cafes, airports and hospitals I will discuss who moves where according to cultural rules about position and proximity. Unlike Saudi Arabia’s forced gender segregation, Oman relies on individuals choosing to adhere to societal norms instead of top-down government restrictions. For example, an initiative at one bank to have a “women’s only” teller fizzled out (as did a scheme to give women customers pink bank cards), but customers and clerks continue to follow strict, unwritten rules about who stands where.

recent presentation about teaching literature- “Finding the Right Texts for Teaching Literature, Cultures, and Empathy in the Middle East.” American Comparative Literature Association Conference. On-line conference. April 10, 2021.

recent presentation about cultures/ foodways – “Ethical Eating in Southern Oman.” Just Food, virtual conference of the Association for the Study of Food and Society; Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society; Canadian Association for Food Studies and the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, hosted by the Culinary Institute of America and New York University. June 9-15, 2021. 

(photo by MRR)