At the moment, I’m working on an abstract for a paper for the upcoming Bryn Mawr Graduate Student Symposium Feed Your Head: Food as Material and Metaphor. My tentative topic is the hunting motifs from the wall-paintings of Qusayr ‘Amra, so I’m getting my feet wet with some hunting in pre-/early-Islamic Arabic literature. This is a sketchy collage at the moment but it’s making me start to think about the strangeness of a hunting-desiring/bathing network and how these forces come together to produce an idealized masculinity in which one is precisely not that which one eats (here I’m stuck on the question of alterity and consumption raised in the Derrida interview that Karl Steel linked to a while ago). With that said, some lines of flight:
Idealized masculinity is closely bound up with hunting prowess. The skilled hunter out-lions the lion.
The approved consumption of some foods and the prohibition of others is one of the easier ways to create a collective identity, and the manner of death raises concerns of contamination:
Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah , and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and those which are sacrificed on stone altars, and [prohibited is] that you seek decision through divining arrows. Qur’an 5:3
In the pre-Islamic poetry, we get the cliché of the forbidden beloved as prey
Oh, how wonderful is the beauty of the doe of the hunt, to whom is she lawful? To me she is unlawful; would to God that she was not unlawful. The Poem of Antar
but even more intriguing is this visceral description of animal consumption qua courtship
On that day I killed my riding camel for food for the maidens: How merry was their dividing my camel's trappings to be carried on their camels. It is a wonder, a riddle, that the camel being saddled was yet unsaddled! A wonder also was the slaughterer, so heedless of self in his costly gift! Then the maidens commenced throwing the camel's flesh into the kettle; The fat was woven with the lean like loose fringes of white twisted silk. The Poem of Imru-ul-Quais