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Hopi foodways: Biocultural perspectives on change and contradiction

Barrett Paul Brenton, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Amidst the socioeconomic and political constraints imposed from a dominant Euroamerican society, the Hopi, Native American farmers living in northeastern Arizona, continue to be resilient in maintaining an overall tradition of their foodways. A rise through time in diet-related disease testifies to the biological consequences of a changing diet encircled and catalyzed by social disruption. This change continues to be resisted and negotiated in prophesy and tradition. In this dissertation I present data documenting change in Hopi foodways from such varied sources as dietary surveys of Hopi women and children, food processing surveys of Hopi women, a survey of Hopi storage and agricultural practices, and historic documents. Underlying contradictions at the point where cultural action or inaction and biological change interact. The contradictions and subsequent actions or coping strategies needed to contextualize, explain, and confront these contradictions lie at the heart of a biocultural interface. I present two materialist models, one based in political-economy, the other in adaptation. These models outline conditions under which Hopi foodways have been transformed along with the subsequent consequences of such transformations. This approach seeks explanation and an objective view on a perceived problem related to diet and health. In order to contextualize the issues, I also offer mentalist views, which are embedded in ideology and originate from Hopi explanations of the same change as well as from my own subjective perspectives. The ideal expression of this endeavor is the linking of ideology with biology. This blend of materialist and mentalist paradigms, and the dialectic that emerges, are necessary steps towards an investigation of the biocultural interface. They also serve as a platform for engaging in discussions that can facilitate and confront change. In this dissertation I call for bioculturalism, the dynamic interplay of theory with praxis. This process is an integral part of a needed emerging synthesis in biological anthropology.

Subject Area

Physical anthropology|Cultural anthropology|Archaeology

Recommended Citation

Brenton, Barrett Paul, "Hopi foodways: Biocultural perspectives on change and contradiction" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9434460.