Chupar frutas in Salvador da Bahia. A case of practice-specific alterities

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In this article we interfere with the naturalization of 'eating' by comparing two modes of engaging with fruits in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. One of these is comer, which translates as 'to eat'. The other is chupar, 'to suck'. In comer, a piece of fruit crosses distinct bodily boundaries and gets swallowed; in chupar, juices spill over hands, while stones or fibres that have made it into a mouth are taken out again. Some fruits, like apples, compel a person to comer; others, like mangoes, invite chupar. But fruits do not decide by themselves how they will be handled: at a dinner table, in public, or in places that need to stay clean, comer is advisable; chupar fits backyards and more intimate company. And then there are gratifications: comer may come with the pride of being educated; chupar offers such pleasures as overflowing juices and childhood memories. All in all, our comparison reveals that 'eating' is not a given precedent, but that comer and chupar evoke different worlds, populated by different entities (bodies, fruits), and coloured by different pleasures. One might say that the ontologies involved are different, but that is not quite strong enough, as the relevant alterities also include activities and normativities, while the boundaries between the worlds of comer and chupar are markedly fluid and shot through with partial connections.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-180
Number of pages15
JournalThe Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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