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Medieval NubiaA Social and Economic History$
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Giovanni R. Ruffini

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199891634

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199891634.001.0001

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Nubian Land Sales as Ceremony

Nubian Land Sales as Ceremony

Chapter:
(p.90) 5 Nubian Land Sales as Ceremony
Source:
Medieval Nubia
Author(s):

Giovanni R. Ruffini

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199891634.003.0005

This chapter explores the social and ceremonial aspects of Nubian land sales. It explores the food and drink sometimes paid to witnesses of these land sales. It argues, building on the theories of Marcel Mauss, that these payments are a form of gift exchange or conspicuous consumption designed to heighten the prestige of the givers and to liquidate wealth. This practice may be related to a more generic role for food in Nubian legal transactions, as suggested by obscure references to date eating in the context of document depositions. The ceremonial role of date eating, specifically, and the importance of food consumption, more generally, each have comparanda in modern Nubian society and in societies elsewhere in early modern and modern Sudan. This chapter also argues that the presence of witnesses serves more than a strictly legal function. The witnesses bring social legitimacy to a transaction and allow the community to create a public display of its lines of prestige and authority.

Keywords:   gift exchange, Marcel Mauss, conspicuous consumption, Wwtnesses, Feasting

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