The materiality of the kitchen house: building, food and history on Mere Lava, northern Vanuatu

Abstract : Houses and food in Vanuatu are prominent artefacts that materialise people's links to the land and social relationships. Nowadays on Mere Lava, a striking emphasis is put on the building or re-building of kitchen houses, n-ean̄ kuk, as architectural elements central to households. Drawing upon recent theories of material efficacy that consider objects as potent media through which people think, this thesis examines the underpinnings of the major cultural role these buildings play. It suggests that their prominence is grounded precisely in the ways their material features relate to people's conceptualisation of the world, such as the notion of histri, 'history'. Key material features of n-ean̄ kuk as well as the values they embody are explored through the lens of the technical processes of house-building and food processing, as well as through the different usages and roles of these artefacts in daily and ceremonial life. The mechanisms that bind artefacts to Mere Lava key social concepts and values are highlighted, in order to show how these artefacts become parts of an efficacious social aesthetic that ensure the continuity and transformation of the social order.
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Contributor : Marie Durand <>
Submitted on : Friday, October 23, 2015 - 12:14:07 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 1:30:38 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01219801, version 1



Marie Durand. The materiality of the kitchen house: building, food and history on Mere Lava, northern Vanuatu. [University works] Thèse de doctorat en anthropologie sociale, à la Sainsbury Research Unit, Université d'East Anglia, Norwich, UK. Bourse de recherche du département "Humanities" de l'Université d'East Anglia. Travail mené sous la direction du Pr. Steven Hooper et en lien avec le Centre Culturel du Vanuatu, Port Vila, Vanuatu., University of East Anglia. 2014. ⟨halshs-01219801⟩



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