The current research is focused on the theme of food classification and the application of binary opposition system to the current issues and its strengths and weaknesses. Binary opposition is known as the specific concept that uses two related terms that are opposite in their meanings to demonstrate the contrast between the two sides of each concept. Every culture has a specific system of principles that is used to classify the food in order to regulate its intake. One of the most interesting aspects of food regulating process is the usage of binary opposition system. These classifications usually include such criteria as hot-cold, sweet-bitter, clean – dirty, light – dark, flesh – non-flesh (Chang-Ing 102).
The observations of specific food classification systems that exist in different societies worldwide give the possibility to define the principal role of binary opposition in the process of selection. The observation of the main eating habits and traditions of New Guinea Tribes, Anna Meigs supports the position of Mary Douglas and proves that people tend to classify food in accordance with a set of shared characteristics that develop within their society (Meigs 39). One of the most outstanding examples is the research of specific role of sexual ideology in food classification of Hoa tribe that evaluates food using male-female criteria. In this culture, men do not eat food that is associated with fertility, women, their organs and reproductive power. Moreover, there is a strong opposition of male and female alimentary systems that are directly associated with sexual systems of two genders. As it can be seen, classification male – female can be defined as good – bad, clean – dirty, white - black. Such classification based on binary opposition became a serious part of their culture and it influences other aspects of life in the tribe, such as relationships between wife and husband, parents and children and many others.
Special interest represents the observation of contemporary food classification system that exists in American society. Counihan’s research held within the young generation of modern American students represent a serious contrast to Meighs’ research and determines the main aspects of food differentiation within contemporary capitalist society. Here, accent is made upon the results of research that has been held with the help of a serious number of young respondents that demonstrated strong adherence to the ideas of freedom, individualism and independence (Counihan 56). The binary opposition system is present within the choosing process as young Americans define it with the help of such terms as success – failure, high class – low class, rich – poor, majority – minority, male – female. Therefore, in contemporary American society it is possible to see how rich people can decide what poor people eat, how men can decide for women, white people for the representatives of ethnical minorities, etc. Such food consumption system seems to be liberal from the first glance, although on the inside it carries a serious number of severe boundaries as food consumption is closely connected with social position and personal success.
Another important aspect that influences the process of food classification during the centuries is religion. The specific process of development of certain restrictions for the representatives of different religions is extremely interesting to observe. The research of the theme of pork prohibition in Judaist and Muslim religions held by Marvin Harris, the scientist observes the process of formation of food classification system in these societies with the accent of concrete type of meat that emerged under the influence of traditional opposition clean-dirty (Harris 69-70) . However, at the same time these criteria failed to work for the other types of domesticated animals with the same habits. No reliable reasons were presented by religious leaders to support their claims. However, pork is still considered to be unacceptable for the representatives of many religious groups.
The implementation of binary opposition in the process of food classification has found its reflection in many societies in different parts of the world. It has helped wild tribes to develop their culture, to form a certain type of diet and enrich their traditions. Moreover, it seriously influenced global religions and increased societal interest in cutler of food consuming, nowadays, such system helps people to become a part of certain social group or to express their beliefs and life views. However, there are a number of limitations that make such system a weak side of human culture. It produces additional boundaries between genders, races and religions. It provokes the emergence of serious conflicts between the representatives of different societies. Moreover, the religious restrictions are not always beneficiary for people’s health and therefore certain limitations can cause health problems and even become a beginning of serious diseases. Therefore, it is important to take into account both strong and weak sides of such approach during the formation of certain type of food classifiucation. At the same time, the current system represents a special interest for research as it gives an explanation ot a serious part of anthropologic questions nowadays.
Chan-Ing, Li. The Sociocultural Significance of Semaq Beri Food Classification. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya, 2010. Print.
Counihan, Carole M. “Rules in the United States: Individualism, Control and Hierarchy.” Anthropological Quarterly 65, 2 (Apr. 1992): 55-66. Print.
Harris, Marvin. “The Abdominable Pig.” Etnoinfolab 2009: 66-79. Etnologiia. 26 Jul. 2015.
Meigs, Anna S. Food, Sex, and Pollution: A New Guinea Religion. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1984. Print.