Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

David M. Freidenreich

in Foreigners and Their Food

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780520253216
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950276 | DOI:
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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This chapter sets out the purpose of the book, which is to explore Jewish, Christian, and Islamic norms regarding food prepared by religious foreigners and the act of eating with such outsiders, in order to illuminate the ways in which ancient and medieval scholars conceptualize the identities of “us” and “them”, as well as the broader social order that both subsets of humanity populate. Regulations governing other people's food relate directly to the border lines demarcating religious communities, and advocates of such regulations embrace the proverb at the core of Robert Frost's “Mending Wall”: “Good fences make good neighbors.” By examining the classifications of foreigners and of foodstuffs embedded in these regulations, this study reveals several distinct definitions of what constitutes “good fences” and engages the insistent question of Frost's speaker: “Why do they make good neighbors?” In the process, this work also offers a model for the classificatory activity of contemporary academic scholars of religion. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords: Judaism; Christianity; Islam; food preparation; eating; us; them; social order; foreign food

Chapter.  6737 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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