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No Meal without Ugali? Social Significance of Food and Consumption in a Tanzanian Village



Employing diet and cuisine as analytical concepts, this article focuses on cultural categories and social meanings of food in Malinzanga village in southern Tanzania. Through analyses of access to foodstuffs, sequence of meals, and methods of preparation, the article shows how key elements in a basic meal structure are used locally to characterize and classify people—both in terms of ethnic group membership and in terms of respectable social status versus “disgraceful” poverty as perceived locally. The population in Malinzanga includes four ethnic groups: two pastoralist groups, Mang'ati and Masai, and two agriculturalist groups, Hehe and Bena. It is argued that patterns of food consumption among the people in Malinzanga cannot be attributed to access to resources and purchasing power alone. Food consumption can also be seen as a means of expression of what Malinzanga villagers think about own identities, status, and social distinctions.

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