Segmented worlds and self : group life and individual by Yi-Fu Tuan

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By Yi-Fu Tuan

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35 It was, however, early in the modern period, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that books on manners began to multiply and gain wide influence. Demand for them rose because social stratification during this time had become notably less rigid and moving up the social ladder was a possibility for a larger segment of the population. By far the most influential of these guides was a short work by Erasmus, De civilitate morum puerilium (On Civility in Children). Fig. 2. The elaboration of utensils in the nineteenth century.

Besides these casual associations, peasants come together for planned festivals that might involve the entire village. The New Year and the period after harvest are such occasions in many parts of the world. The number of festivals and the days on which they occur vary from place to place, but without exception festivals come to pass when people are relatively free, that is, during the lax phases of the calendar year. Festivals, of course, strengthen the idea of group self. These are the times when the people as a whole express their joy in the success of a harvest, or the growing strength of the sun.

In ancient China, where one sat and the cardinal point toward which one faced boldly marked one's social 38 Food and Manners position. At dinner, knowing how guests of different rank should behave toward each other was a part of the savoir-faire of all cultured persons. Feasting, however, might go beyond good fellowship and manners and turn into an occasion for ostentatious display. Insecure officials then suffered from knowing that everything they owned, including vessels for food and drink, somehow revealed not only their wealth and social standing but also their taste and indeed the quality of their being.

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