Guest lecture by Professor Geoffrey Benjamin

Cooking, Eating and Orientation: The Malay and Chinese and Cultural Regimes Compared

In many (possibly all) populations, styles of cooking and eating provide efficient everyday means for the symbolical embedding of preferred modes of cultural orientation. A contrastive examination of traditional Chinese and Malay food-related patterns shows that they sustain differing orientational patterns (the ‘immanent' and ‘transcendental', respectively) that are reflected also in such other domains as family and kinship, interactional patterns, language, music and other expressive forms, and religion. In turn, these differing patterns, considered as cultural regimes, can be traced to the different trajectories of polity-formation in the two cultural traditions. This exploratory paper forms part of author's ongoing development of what he tentatively refers to as mode-of-orientation theory.

Geoffrey Benjamin is Professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.