National meal or tribal feasting dish? Jordan’s mansaf in cross-cultural perspective

Mohammed Shunnaq, Susanne Ramadan*, William C. Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


National discourses about mansaf, the most well-known dish in modern Jordan, tend to obscure its use in feasting. This study views mansaf as a “feasting food,” comparable to the dishes used in other societies and in earlier historical periods to recruit and reward allies, produce and reproduce differences in status or rank, and repay social debts. By placing mansaf in broad cross-cultural and historical contexts, this paper highlights features of mansaf that have not been dealt with explicitly elsewhere. The study also explores the local significance of mansaf in consolatory rituals and feasts. We argue that the members of a household and their guests assume socio-political roles while serving mansaf during feasting. They engage in forms of non-verbal communication that can only be deciphered by those who are familiar with this particular heritage food and its consumption. Thus, mansaf is used as a vehicle for transmitting non-verbal messages about reciprocity and alliance among households, extended families, and tribes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)977-996
Number of pages19
JournalFood, Culture and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Bedouin
  • feasting
  • funerals
  • heritage food
  • non-verbal communication
  • reciprocity
  • ritual
  • weddings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies


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