Building Community through Ethiopian Cuisine


Kyshawn Hooks

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My Richter grant involved ethnographic research conducted in Ethiopia.I conducted a multi-sited ethnography of Ethiopian cuisine and eating customs in Ethiopia?s capital Addis Ababa and Los Angeles, California. This poster presentation discusses 10 weeks of ethnographic research, in which I carried out participatory observation and regular observations at restaurants, and eateries around the city. I also observe smaller intimate gatherings, like family dinners or lunches with new acquaintances. In addition, I interviewed Ethiopian restaurant owners and restaurant patrons in and around Addis Ababa to discover any history or meaning behind dishes with the goal of understanding what is the Ethiopian national cuisine. It is intriguing how community, and not the individual, is the center point of attention during Ethiopian meals. Ethiopian culinary customs promote interpersonal relationship development, reinforce societal norms and provide an in-depth look at Ethiopian society. In addition I address the conclusions to these research questions; what does Ethiopian food do for Ethiopians? Is Ethiopian food in fact an agent for building and maintaining community, or does Ethiopian food hold other significance, such as marking differences within Ethiopian society? Is there a national cuisine of Ethiopia?Or, are there regional cuisines, or cuisines associated with religions or tribes? How are societal norms reinforced in Addis Ababa in terms of meal preparation within the community


Jeffrey Tobin




The Paul K. & Evalyn E. Cook Richter Trusts - International Research Fellowship

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