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Film, Video Sharing a Table: Commensality in Middle Eastern And North African Cookbooks

Transcript: TEXT

About this Item

Title

  • Sharing a Table: Commensality in Middle Eastern And North African Cookbooks

Summary

  • On July 19 and 20, 2022, the African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) hosted a symposium, "Religious Practices, Transmission, and Literacies in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia." The symposium featured the presentations of seven scholars who conducted two-week research residencies in the AMED Reading Room between June 1 and July 15, 2022. The residencies and symposium are part of the Exploring Challenging Conversations project generously funded by a planning grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The purpose of the initiative was to enhance public awareness of cross-regional and intercultural religious understanding in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and their global diaspora.

    Heather J. Sharkey is Professor and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches Middle Eastern and North African history, and where she received the Charles Ludwig Distinguished Teaching Award from the College of Arts and Sciences.

    The Library of Congress holds cookbooks from all over the world, written in dozens of languages. Many focus on cuisines and foodways of the Middle East and North Africa and come from authors who were born or lived there, or whose parents or grandparents originated in the region. This presentation discusses how Middle Eastern and North African cookbooks, and particular dishes within them, can contribute to religious literacy: an awareness of, and respect for, distinctions and commonalities rooted in religious cultures. On the one hand, these cookbooks sometimes illuminate Muslim, Christian, and Jewish particularities by linking foods to holidays and dietary practices, including patterns of fasting. On the other hand, and more frequently, these cookbooks affirm universal values, such as the deep love of family, while emphasizing hospitality, and sharing food with neighbors and strangers, as a cardinal and definitive value of all Middle Eastern and North African peoples. The speaker argues that we can understand this value in terms of the concept of "commensality": a word that means being at the same table and eating together, with literal and metaphorical implications for collective respect for religious diversity.

Event Date

  • August 15, 2022

Running Time

  • 42 minutes 54 seconds

Online Format

  • video
  • image
  • online text

Rights & Access

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Credit Line: Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Sharing a Table: Commensality in Middle Eastern And North African Cookbooks. 2022. Video. https://www.loc.gov/item/webcast-10461/.

APA citation style:

(2022) Sharing a Table: Commensality in Middle Eastern And North African Cookbooks. [Video] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/webcast-10461/.

MLA citation style:

Sharing a Table: Commensality in Middle Eastern And North African Cookbooks. 2022. Video. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/webcast-10461/>.