To read this content please select one of the options below:

The political ecology of ritual feasting

Dimensions of Ritual Economy

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1485-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

Publication date: 6 May 2008


This chapter uses ideas from the ritual economy approach to discuss the political ecology of ritual feasting among Lisu highlanders and Shan lowlanders of northern Southeast Asia and medieval Icelanders. The audience for Lisu feasts is fellow villagers all of whom are engaged in limited competition for prestige to insure equality among households. These reciprocal feasts use a considerable portion of the annual value of each household's production. Among Shan the audience is non-reciprocating Buddhist monks and non-reciprocating fellow villagers to validate positions in the social-political hierarchy in terms of Buddhist merit. The feasts use a relatively small portion of any household's annual production. Among Icelandic chieftains, the audience was followers and potential followers to validate claims to chieftaincy and could initially use only a fraction of the annual production of a chiefly household, though as the source of revenue changed from household slaves to renters, and wage workers and competition for land developed, the ritual dimension of chieftaincy became exaggerated and used an increasing portion of revenues as there were fewer and fewer increasingly powerful and combative chieftains.


Paul Durrenberger, E. (2008), "The political ecology of ritual feasting", Christian Wells, E. and McAnany, P.A. (Ed.) Dimensions of Ritual Economy (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 73-89.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited