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Identity, Feasting, and the Archaeology of the Greater Southwest

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With contributions from sociocultural and linguistic anthropologists as well as archaeologists, this volume is the first to present case studies of social identity and feasting from throughout the Greater Southwest. A section of the book is also devoted to a synthesis and set of case studies on the archaeology of the pivotal Mexican State of Chihuahua.

Unlike many previous studies, the authors of this volume place emphasis on how differences within and between societies came about rather than why dissimilar structures arose, elevating the place of both agency and history in understanding the past. Identity, Feasting, and the Archaeology of the Greater Southwest will be of interest to all doing archaeological research in the Southwestern United States and those conducting research on social identity, cultural affiliation, and commensal politics. Contributors include Karen R. Adams, Jeffrey J. Clark, Patricia L. Crown, T. J. Ferguson, Catherine S. Fowler, Robert J. Hard, Jane H. Hill, Jane H. Kelley, Frances Levine, Micah Loma'omvaya, K. Tsianina Lomawaima, A. C. MacWilliams, Paul E. Minnis, Scott G. Ortman, David Phillips Jr., James M. Potter, John R. Roney, Lynne Sebastian, Katherine A. Spielmann, Joe D. Stewart, Scott Van Keuren, Laurie D. Webster, Michael E. Whalen, and W. H. Wills

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Researchers and students interested in case studies involving the research topics of social identity and feasting, and current theoretical trends in Southwest archaeology will find this volume useful...[T]he papers on feasting and social identity are refreshing in that at least some archaeologists are turning their attention back to the material culture and are stressing the importance of technological style in material culture analysis."
Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"This volume impressively continues the publishing tradition of the Southwest Symposium proceedings...[T]he papers exemplify a number of the salient research, legal, and political issues confronting researchers of Southwestern Native American cultures in the first decade of the twenty-first century."
Anthropological Science

"The reason to read this volume over others is clear: it brings together the work of researchers on the leading edge of emergent issues in archeology....[Mills'] synthesis is broad-reaching, bringing together archeological works from across the globe and incorporating works from other social sciences, while at the same time maintaining a straightforward style that is easy to read, follow, and comprehend."
—Bernard Schriever, Oklahoma Archeology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870817670
  • Publisher: University Press of Colorado
  • Publication date: 4/16/2004
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara J. Mills is professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona. She is the editor of Alternative Leadership Strategies in the Prehispanic Southwest and Ceramic Production in the American Southwest (with Patricia L. Crown).
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Identity, Feasting, and the Archaeology of the Greater Southwest

Proceedings of the 2002 Southwest Symposium


Copyright © 2004 University Press of Colorado
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-87081-767-0

Chapter One

Identity, Feasting, and the Archaeology of the Greater Southwest

Barbara J. Mills

Identity and feasting are topics of current interest to all anthropologists. There has been a longer history of research on these topics by sociocultural anthropologists (e.g., Barth 1969, 1983; Friedman 1994; Rosman 1971; Weissner and Schiefenhövel 1996), but archaeological studies are quickly catching up. Identity and feasting are now popular topics of discussion at annual meetings, in edited volumes, monographs, and journal articles (e.g., Dietler and Hayden eds. 2001; Jones 1997; Junker 1999; Meskell 2001, 2002a; Shennan 1989). Archaeological studies provide important perspectives that complement ethnographic work. These especially include investigations based on analyses of long-term change and case studies inaccessible except through archaeological investigation.

The chapters in this volume offer new contributions to the study of identity and feasting based on case studies from the Greater Southwest. Some are comparative and others are based on intensive analyses in one particular area. The majority are based on archaeological data, but in addition to thosechapters by archaeologists, there are studies by sociocultural and linguistic anthropologists who frame their studies in terms of broader issues of interest in the study of southwestern societies. This volume also includes recent case studies of archaeological research in a pivotal region of the Greater Southwest, the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where many of the theoretical questions raised in the chapters on identity and feasting are being investigated.

Recent interest in the topics of social identity and feasting represents a transformation of thinking about the past by archaeologists, including those working in the Greater Southwest. Although identity research can be broadly considered a continuation of interest in social organization, and feasting a continuation of research on political organization, "social organization" and "political organization" do not express the dynamics of current research. Past research more often focused on describing the ways that different social and political systems were structured. The goals of past research were to reconstruct past systems and then to explain the origins of these different systems.

By contrast, current archaeological research focuses on understanding the social and political dynamics that produced differences within and between societies, with an emphasis on how those differences came about. As Pauketat (2001) has recently articulated, questions about how elevate the importance of both agency (or practice) and history in archaeology by going beyond why specific structures arose. Although understanding why things happen is important, previous frameworks have tended to essentialize societies into neat boxes, trivializing explanations. Moreover, they did not appreciate the many alternative trajectories that were responsible for producing seemingly similar results (see also Mills 2000; Nelson 1995; Sebastian 1992; Yoffee 1993). A greater appreciation of both the diversity of social institutions and the alternative historical pathways of past southwestern societies underlies research on identity and feasting in the Greater Southwest.

This volume is divided into three parts. Part I focuses on current research on social identity in the Southwest and its intersection with studies of cultural affiliation. The papers in this section are the result of a session organized by T. J. Ferguson, who sees a convergence of academic and applied research on social identity among southwestern scholars. The papers in this section consider how social identity can be identified archaeologically, ethnographically, and linguistically through portable material culture, architecture, and language. These papers also consider the implications of regional differences in identity for understanding the histories of past and present groups in the region. A number of the papers are based on research conducted as part of cultural affiliation studies, an arena in which social identity is a fundamental concept, but which has been undertheorized. As Ferguson (Chapter 2) points out, both the concept of identity and the identity of archaeologically documented groups are often taken for granted. The papers in Part I collectively contribute to method and theory, as well as to a better understanding of the politics of identity.

Part II addresses the topic of feasting and commensal politics. The papers in this section of the volume are the result of a session on commensal politics in the Southwest, organized by W. H. Wills and Patricia Crown. As they point out in their introduction to the papers in their section (Chapter 9), food can be used "to create social relationships beyond the family." These relationships are what they and others refer to as commensal politics. Food provides the focal point, but the social contexts of these suprahousehold contexts of consumption can be highly varied. The chapters in this section address how feasting can be identified archaeologically and how the remains of feasting can be used to explore differences in the social scale, ideology, and politics of feasting events.

Part III explores the archaeology of one poorly studied region of the Southwest: the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. The papers are case studies of current research that follow up on one of the largest archaeological expeditions ever mounted in the Southwest: The Joint Casas Grandes Project. Minnis and Whalen (Chapter 14) introduce this section, providing historical focus to current archaeological research in Chihuahua. This is followed by chapters summarizing the results of more recent, multiyear projects that have substantially added to cumulative knowledge about the past in this understudied area. Although the chapters in this section of the volume do not explicitly focus on identity and feasting, they do provide examples of variation in the social and political contexts of Chihuahuan society through time and across space in this vast area of the borderlands region.

The goal of this chapter is to place the topics addressed at the symposium in the broader context of this current climate of archaeological research and to provide an introduction to the papers in the volume. Although the authors of the different chapters do not share a common theoretical approach, they do represent cutting-edge research that reflects a greater emphasis on how past societies achieved social and political distinctions. Their research emphasizes the ways in which different practices were structured by differences in social identity and how the practice of feasting was tied to political, and sometimes ritual, contexts. Finally, current archaeological investigations in Chihuahua illustrate the great potential of this area to address issues of importance to archaeologists on both sides of the border.


Jenkins (1996: 7) calls "identity" one of the "unifying frameworks of intellectual debate in the 1990s." It has been discussed in a number of intellectual disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, political science, and philosophy. Non-anthropologists who have influenced anthropological thinking on the subject include Anthony Giddens through his structuration theory (e.g., 1979, 1984, 1991) and Pierre Bourdieu through his theory of practice (e.g., 1977, 1990). What these and other theorists have recognized is that identity is multifaceted, situational or "negotiated," and can be expressed at different social scales, such as gender, age, class, residence, descent, religion, ethnicity, and so forth (Barth 1983; Meskell 2002a). Each of these different ways of expressing identity are important and variously constituted in each society.

The majority of papers in Part I look at identity in terms of ethnicity or large-scale social group identity. Archaeologists have frequently referred to identity at this social scale (e.g., Jones 1997; Shennan 1989). The use of the term ethnicity can be problematic, particularly for tribal societies in the Southwest, because ethnic groups, as we know them today, are arguably the product of interactions with nation-states (Alonso 1993; Clark 2001; Gellner 1983; Smith 1987). Cultural identity is also problematic because it suggests a package of traits without recognition of the various scales at which identity might be expressed. The very term tribe to refer to prehispanic groups in the Southwest has been similarly critiqued because these are the result of federal Indian policy. Even though an equivalent social grouping may have been present before the colonial era, the majority of authors in this volume use the more general term social identity to refer to the scale of social group membership that is at the community level or larger.

Social identity is ultimately about similarities between certain social groups as distinct from others-however one makes those distinctions. Some identities are institutionalized, others are not (Jenkins 1996: 25). Although identities have social boundaries, they may or may not be spatially bounded. In the past, this has been problematic for archaeologists who sought to find material correlates of social boundaries, particularly through stylistic distributions of portable artifacts such as ceramics and architecture. When spatial boundaries and social boundaries were not found to coincide, some archaeologists lamented ever being able to study social identity in the archaeological record. That situation has dramatically changed in recent years with new insights into what social identity is and how it is materially expressed.

As Ferguson points out in his introduction to Part I of this volume (Chapter 2), there are several distinct trends in the literature on social identity. These include studies of (1) technological style and social boundaries; (2) migration and identity; (3) historical processes of colonialism and ethnogenesis; and (4) the politics of identity. There is, of course, some overlap among these sets of literature. For example, the literature on technological style includes methodological studies that enable archaeologists to interpret social processes such as migration or ethnogenesis. Nonetheless, they represent important research foci within a pervasive literature on social identity in archaeology.

The surge of interest in practice theory (sensu Bourdieu) has opened up new lines for investigating social identity in the past, particularly through the concept of technological style (e.g., Dietler and Herbich 1998; Dobres 2000; Hegmon 1998). What practice theory offers, in contrast to the more trait-oriented approach of Childe (1925) and others, is the ability to go beyond assumptions of spatial boundedness to understand how similarities and differences in practice account for mosaics, and multiple layers, of social identity and their material expressions. The term technological style was originally coined by Lechtman (1977) as a way of pointing out that technology has style and that it should be analyzed in its social context, including symbolic and ideological factors. Although current usage continues this social constructionist point of view, the application is fundamentally different.

Current analysts focus instead on technological style as a way of doing, with an emphasis on the sequence of production of different artifacts (Lemonnier 1986, 1992; see also Hegmon 1998 for an overview). Technological style can be approached through house construction, craft production, cuisine, and mortuary behavior, among other activities. The advantages of this approach is that it is theoretically grounded in practice theory or Bourdieu's habitus and can be applied to a broad range of material culture. The challenge in the application of the technological style concept to identity research is that differences in technological style must be clearly demonstrated to be differences in social identity or ethnicity as opposed to other ways of expressing identity (gender, age, status, etc.). As many authors have pointed out, identity and craft production are related in many overlapping ways and one is not always sure that social identity is being expressed (Costin and Wright 1998; Jones 1997).

Some researchers have argued that in order to differentiate practices that are based on social identity or ethnicity, unconscious choices that are more habitual need to be used rather than intentional choices. For example, Clark (2001; Stark et al. 1998; see also Chapter 3, this volume) points out that similarities in artifacts can be because of the historical processes of enculturation, emulation, exchange, or migration. He argues that only unintentional choices, such as the way that coils are produced in coil and scraped pottery, are the most reliable indicators of the enculturative practices that are related to social identity. Other researchers, especially those working with ethnoarchaeological data, have shown that there are some attributes of material culture that are better than others in a particular area that can be used to locate social group identity, which may or may not be intentional. The problem lies in consistently being able to differentiate among the causes of different "ways of doing" within particular areas.

Whether intentional or unintentional choices are being looked at, many archaeologists agree that historical perspectives on how practices have been shaped and reshaped by participation in social interactions are critical. This approach requires long-term research on the archaeology of the particular area being investigated. Stahl's (2001) longitudinal research in Banda and the authors in Pauketat's (ed. 2001) recent volume focusing on the southeastern United States are examples of the explicit use of such historically situated studies. These studies demonstrate that archaeologists working intensively in a region can, case-by-case, begin to build connections that show how traditions related to social identity are intentionally and unintentionally invented. The papers in Part I of this volume all contribute to a better understanding of how the historical trajectories of groups in the Southwest were shaped, socially, linguistically, and technologically.

Identity has been implicitly and explicitly a part of all archaeological discussions about migration. A wave of migration studies in the last few decades has spurred interest in methods for identifying migrants as well as in understanding the social and economic context of migration (e.g., Anthony 1990; Bettinger and Baumhoff 1982; Renfrew 1987; Rouse 1986). Most of these studies, however, have been uncritical of how migrant groups are identified. At the very best, they have used multiple archaeological indicators of social identity. Even these approaches are lacking because the models assume continuous flows of material culture-and cultures that come in packages or "bounded, homogenous ethnic entities" (Jones 1997: 123).

Alternative models of migration provide a challenge to archaeologists. Ferguson (Chapter 2) shows that the migration process can be represented in different ways from trees to lattices to braided channels. Bottomley (1998: 1; see also Bellwood 1996; Dewar 1995) uses the term rhizomatic to emphasize the processes "which generate connections, heterogeneity, multiplicity, multiple entry points, routes rather than roots." Given that identities are situational and negotiated, each path that crosses another has the potential to produce different ways of materially expressing identity. New models of migration that recognize the complexity of migration processes are beginning to be applied. These models acknowledge the largely independent nature of language, social practices, and genetics in the historical trajectories of different groups and changing ways of expressing social identity following migration (e.g., Terrell ed., 2001).

The archaeology of colonialism is another dynamic area of research in which identity formation is explicitly discussed, especially by historic archaeologists (e.g., Lightfoot 1995; Orser 2001; Rubertone 2000). Colonialism is multiscalar and can involve social interactions of many different kinds. What unifies colonial processes is that there is a culture of dominance. As Lyons and Papadopoulus (2002: 1) point out, colonialism and the "policies of the dominant" "are maintained at the small scale by shifts in social practices through which new ways of being are forged." These new ways of being, or ethnogenesis, can be expressed in many ways, including architecture, cuisine, clothing, religious practices, naming practices, marriage patterns, and oral history. Studies of ethnogenesis link historical archaeologists and ethnohistorians because of the focus on change. However, insights into the process of ethnogenesis need not be restricted to periods of time in which historical documents are accessible. Regardless of time period, a major finding of ethnogenetic studies is that the emergence of new identities often takes place during periods of major reorganization, or what Hill (1996: 1) calls "general contexts of radical change and discontinuity."


Excerpted from Identity, Feasting, and the Archaeology of the Greater Southwest Copyright © 2004 by University Press of Colorado . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of figures
List of tables
Bibliography of the Southwest symposium
1 Identity, feasting, and the archaeology of the Greater Southwest 1
2 Academic, legal, and political contexts of social identity and cultural affiliation research in the Southwest 27
3 Tracking cultural affiliation : enculturation and ethnicity 42
4 Textiles, baskets, and Hopi cultural identity 74
5 Surviving extinction : the legacy of Pecos Pueblo 93
6 Material culture and the marking of Southern Paiute ethnic identity 107
7 Two styles for language and social identity among the Tohono O'odham 124
8 An interface between archaeology and American Indian studies : use of place and imagination in theories of identity 139
9 Commensal politics in the prehispanic Southwest : an introductory review 153
10 Community and cuisine in the prehispanic American Southwest 173
11 Crafting feasts in the prehispanic Southwest 192
12 Communal feasting, ceramics, and exchange 210
13 Large-scale feasting and politics : an essay on power in precontact Southwestern societies 233
14 Forty years after the joint Casas Grandes project : an introduction to Chihuahuan archaeology 261
15 Late archaic period hilltop settlements in northwestern Chihuahua, Mexico 276
16 Recent research in west-central Chihuahua 295
17 After the survey : further research around Paquime, Chihuahua, Mexico 311
List of contributors 327
Index 329
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