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Angela Gonzales

Katrin H. Lamon Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Sociology
Harvard

PROJECT:

The (Re)Articulation of American Indian Identity: Maintaining Boundaries and Regulating Access to Ethnically-tied Resources

Who and what is American Indian? Since 1960, when the United States Bureau of Census began asking people to identify themselves by race or ethnic group, the American Indian population has nearly tripled. More and more people are choosing to self-identify as American Indians—a practice called “ethnic switching.” At the same time, there are increasing efforts within the American Indian population to regulate identity and access to resources. Unlike other ethnic groups, who are eager to expand their definition and increase their official numbers, many American Indians seek actively to regulate ethnic group boundaries.

Before European contact, it was easy to answer the question “Who is Indian?” because nobody was. “Indian” is a European-derived word and concept. Prior to contact the indigenous inhabitants of North America were simply members of their own sociopolitical and cultural groups—what later came to be labeled “tribes.” Europeans used their own values and ideas, conceptual categories, and explanatory frameworks to define American Indians, and their definitions eventually became codified in United States federal laws. Whether classifying people collectively as “Indian tribes” or individually according to “blood quantum,” the federal government, through its judicial system, has defined American Indians in unique and contradictory ways.

It should come as little surprise, states Angela Gonzales, that the self-definition of American Indians has been shaped in part by the complexity of federal law. A tribally enrolled Hopi, Gonzales experiences these complications in many personal ways. “My Hopi card,” she says, “states that the tribe has the right to revoke my membership at any time.”

In her doctoral dissertation, “American Indian Identity Matters: The Political Economy of Ethnic Boundaries,” Gonzales examines American Indian identity within three different contexts—college admissions and financial aid policies, the marketing and sale of American Indian art, and tribal enrollment policies—to focus on contemporary American Indian identity and the social, political, and economic aspects of ethnic group boundaries.

Gonzales asserts that race-based public policies and programs that give preferential consideration to designated minority groups have raised problematic questions of entitlement and access. “In my work, I’m looking at ethnically tied resources. But in a larger sense, I want to create a space where we can talk openly about ethnic fraud, about self-identify, about being identified and stereotyped by others. I’m interested in the difference between identity and identification.”

Her residency at SAR offered Gonzales an unanticipated benefit: access to the New Mexico tribes. “I was able to use them for case studies in the dissertation,” she says.

“SAR’s offer of unencumbered time was invaluable. The support was amazing—from a computer technician on call to social events with other scholars. But most importantly,” Gonzalez notes with a smile, “they knew when to leave us alone.”

Beverly J. Stoeltje

Weatherhead Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Associate Professor
Folklore Institute
Indiana University

PROJECT:

Asante Queenmothers: Performance and Custom in Contemporary Ghana

Along with a cluster of neighbors, Sister Ataa waits respectfully one morning to register a complaint with the queen mother of her neighborhood. She glances at the man across the room, who figures prominently in her story: with his connections and her money, they had together set up a booth in the market to sell timber scraps, but she believes now he has cheated her. The local queen mother will consider the complaint and determine what should be done. What Sister Ataa does not know is that the man has come to court with a plan to invoke a curse on her and will threaten to kill her himself. She would have to take this problem to the formal court of the Asantehemaa—the Asante queen mother.

With the support of a Fulbright grant, Beverly Stoeltje spent many months in Ghana observing such disputes and resolutions in the queen mother’s formal court. Her book, Asante Queen Mothers: Female Leaders in Contemporary Ghana, will be the first study of these important figures and their role in the ancient system of custom and chieftancy. The Asante are the most studied people of Ghana, one of the Akan groups, known especially for Kente cloth, gold, and brass weights. Ghana was the first African country to gain its independence, in 1957.

Queen mothers are female authorities whose position parallels that of the chief in the indigenous political system known as chieftancy. Chiefs and queen mothers are never married to one another, but each has his or her own stool, the symbol of authority among the Akan. Queen mothers are responsible for selecting and advising the chief and for the welfare of women in their domain. They are especially important in settling disputes and resolving conflicts—their legislative domain could be compared to that of a small claims court.

Stoeltje describes her ethnographic study as “an attempt to bring together perspectives of power and authority with those of performance and discourse to demonstrate the actual practices of custom and the politics of chieftancy.” In contemporary Ghana, she explains, the influence of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank mixes with the forces of traditional authority, creating a complex and layered society in dynamic transition.

“My approach argues for a theory that recognizes the significance of the dual gender political system among the Asante and Akan peoples and the importance of viewing the political system, the legal system, the kinship system, and gender relations as one integrated system. Chieftancy provides a political as well as social foundation for the institutional practices of everyday life in Ghana today, bringing the modern state into conjunction with local affairs.

“My research on specific queen mothers in their local settings addresses the point at which cultural identity and modern politics intersect and identifies the significance of queen mothers in today’s Ghana.”

A native Texan who grew up barrel racing in the rodeo, Stoeltje began her anthropological career by studying American culture, specifically rodeos, cowgirls, and festival queens. She has coauthored a book, Beauty Queens on the Global Stage, with Colleen Ballerino Cohen and Richard Wilk. “My continuing interest in festivals was revived once again in Santa Fe by the fiesta and the burning of Zozobra,” she said.

Darna L. Dufour

Weatherhead Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Professor of Anthropology
University of Colorado

PROJECT:

Impacts of Urban Poverty on Women's Health and Nutrition: A Case Study

The woman balancing a basket of avocados on her head is a street vender in Cali, Colombia. She lives in a squatter settlement on the edge of the city, and she had a fight with her neighbor yesterday. This afternoon she discovered that all her money had been stolen, the equivalent of six US dollars. Would she make enough money at the market to feed her five children today? Or would they all go hungry tonight?

What do women living in poverty do when money to buy food runs short? Darna Dufour’s book project, “Impacts of Urban Poverty on Women’s Health and Nutrition,” considers this question along with many others, presenting a holistic view of the biological and cultural dimensions of poverty in a developing country. Reporting the results of a five-year study of the nutritional intake and energy expenditure of women living in squatter settlements in Cali undertaken by Dufour and two colleagues, the book places her fieldwork in the context of a growing interest in urban populations in developing countries. “The rapid urbanization of developing countries is one of the most dramatic demographic phenomena of our time, but its impact on human biology is not well understood,” said Dufour.

The book’s central theme is the diet and nutritional status of the women studied—the coping strategies they used during periods of economic constraint, their level of physical activity, and their strategies for times of low food availability. Dufour’s fieldwork in Cali revealed the paradoxical nutritional pattern of obesity in the midst of extreme poverty, a pattern also being noticed in Venezuelan cities. Following such urban obesity among the poor, Dufour says, could be “a tsunami of diabetes” and other chronic diseases.

A second theme is the life histories of the women, highlighting their role in the dynamic process of urbanization in Colombia. “Some of the women we studied were the pioneers who originally ‘squatted’ on the land and virtually built their homes from nothing. They are the food venders, domestic servants, and neighborhood child care providers, as well as the mothers and homemakers. This is a sector of the economy beyond the reach of the labor laws that define acceptable working conditions and minimum salary.”

A third theme focuses on the work the women did to earn a living, the reasons they chose one type of work over another, the conditions they endured, the economics of their work, and the place of their work in the larger urban economy. Dufour’s study will be the first to document physical activity patterns in urban settings. Finally, the book summarizes what the authors learned about the biological and cultural dimension of impoverishment.

These findings, Dufour hopes, will be used by policy-makers to implement changes—from immediate steps such as fortifying grain products to extended strategies helping the urban poor join the economy of the nation—in order to improve the living conditions of the avocado vender and the women she represents.

Dufour’s residency allowed her the time to assimilate the immense amount of statistical and quantitative data involved in her study. After immersing herself in the numbers for a year, Dufour looks forward to integrating into her work the case studies and stories of individual women. Her fieldwork was funded by the National Institute for Health.

Hsain Ilahiane

Weatherhead Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Anthropology
University of Arizona

PROJECT:

The Power of the Dagger, the Seeds of the Koran, and the Sweat of the Ploughman: Ethnic Stratification and Agricultural Intensification in the Ziz Valley, Southeast Morocco

The Ziz Valley, situated between two rivers on the edge of the Sahara Desert in southeastern Morocco, offered Hsain Ilahiane an ideal setting for the fieldwork supporting his dissertation—a political-ecological account of ethnic changes and their relationship to farming intensification. Surrounded by arid desert, the valley houses a dense, rapidly growing, and ethnically diverse population of Arabs, Berbers, and Haratine. Irrigated farming of cereals, olives, and dates, along with livestock raising, has dominated the lives of its inhabitants for centuries, with transhumant groups herding camels, goats, and sheep in the surrounding dry lands. Not incidentally, the Ziz Valley is also Ilahiane’s homeland.

Fluent in Arabic, French, and English in addition to his native Berber, Ilahiane supplemented ethnographic accounts, oral histories, and colonial archival records with socioeconomic and ecological findings based on a household questionnaire strategy. This multilevel approach allowed Ilahiane to situate the valley and its inhabitants in the historical events of the past century as well as locating them in their geographical and ecological setting. One Arab farmer told him, “If our ancestors would rise from their graves and walk among us they would not recognize the place they left. In less than four decades, almost everything has changed.”

In the dynamic situation of the Ziz Valley, Ilahiane found that the Haratine, traditionally sharecroppers, brought back cash from working abroad and—for the first time in the valley—have become landowners. “The combination of foreign cash turned into land acquisition has provided the Haratine with a solid political block in the community, allowed them participation in the politics of the village and the entire valley, and equipped them with an ethnic consciousness capable of refurbishing and innovating the old Berber and Arab stocks of traditions,” said Ilahiane. His dissertation, “The Power of the Dagger, the Seeds of the Koran, and the Sweat of the Ploughman: Ethnic Stratification and Agricultural Intensification in the Ziz Valley, Southeast Morocco”, provides a rare study of the Haratine, whose voices are almost nonexistent in North African scholarship.

Although Ilahiane expected to find that the Haratine were the most productive farmers per unit in the Ziz Valley, his study showed the Berbers to be slightly more successful. “This can be explained by the difference in land quality,” he said.

“By focusing on ethnicity,” Ilahiane explains, “this study demonstrates the inability of the major theories of development to explain the agrarian situation in the multiethnic communities that typify much of the developing world.”

In addition to completing his dissertation during his fellowship year, Ilahiane wrote a paper on Estvan, the sixteenth-century Moroccan explorer of New Spain, and identified several areas of future research. They include the use of remote-sensing technology to track temporal, environmental, and social changes in the Ziz Valley, the impact of globalization on traditional agricultural technologies, and a case study of how date palm disease has affected the oasis environment.

“At the School, I found a nurturing and mentoring environment,” Ilahiane said, “ranging from the mechanics of dissertation and proposal writing to guidance on professional networking.”

Nancy Lutkehaus

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Southern California

PROJECT:

Margaret Mead as Cultural Icon: Anthropology, Intellectuals, and the Media in American Culture

Margaret Mead, famous anthropologist, teacher, and public intellectual, at her death attained iconic status as “grandmother to the nation,” not only because of her research and writing but also because of her relationship with the media. Credited with popularizing the field of anthropology when it was first being discovered by the American public, Mead “attracted media attention through the public’s romance with anthropology as exploration and her position as a woman scientist-explorer,” explains Nancy Lutkehaus.

The seed of Lutkehaus’s new book, Margaret Mead and the Media: The Making of an American Icon, was planted in the 1970s when, as an undergraduate at Barnard College, she began to work for Mead at the American Museum of Natural History. “I was fascinated by the diversity of things she was doing,” Lutkehaus said of Mead. “I accompanied her to talk shows, to United Nations conferences in Europe, to professional meetings. In my book, I’m attempting to understand why this one woman came to be called upon by so many different people for her knowledge and insights.”

As a graduate student at Columbia University, Lutkehaus was also struck by the paradox that while Mead was acclaimed by the public, her reputation as an anthropologist was often dismissed by her own academic peers—perhaps because of the “female” topics she often focused upon (such as parent-child relationships and socialization), perhaps because of her theoretical focus on culture and personality, or perhaps simply because of professional jealousy.

Years later, after conducting research in Papua New Guinea and working as a consultant on two documentaries about Mead, Lutkehaus decided to focus on Margaret Mead as myth and symbol, much the way an anthropologist would go into another culture and ask, “What do stories about certain people tell us about that society?”

By analyzing newspaper, magazine, radio, and television coverage of Mead, as well as how Mead herself constructed her public image and the messages she wanted to convey about anthropology and its usefulness to American society, Lutkehaus identified four key images that recur in the media: Mead as feminist or independent woman, as anthropologist, as scientist, and as celebrity and public intellectual. Her book traces the contradictory meanings these images of Mead had for post-World War II Americans—a symbol to some of scientific expertise, to others of science fiction; a symbol of either women’s liberation or antifeminism; a symbol of either the best of liberal democracy or the worst of American liberalism.

Although initially Lutkehaus asked why there are no “Margaret Meads” in anthropology today, during her year at the School she began to frame the question differently and to focus instead on shifts in anthropology itself. “The challenge,” Lutkehaus maintains, “is to develop a new sense of identity for anthropology.” It should no longer be associated with the image of “the primitive” with which Mead was so clearly identified. But because Mead was in the forefront of the transformation of anthropology from the study of primitive people to the study of modern nations, Lutkehaus believes Mead’s later work can offer the discipline some clues.

Ross Hassig

National Endowment for the Humanities and Weatherhead Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Professor of Anthropology
University of Oklahoma

PROJECT:

Power and Ideology in Aztec Society

Ross Hassig became interested in anthropology through a course called “Anthropology and Law” while an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University. His fascination with non-Western legal systems focused first on the northern Plains Indian tribes and later on Acoma Pueblo, the topic of his thesis while working toward a master’s degree in law and anthropology at Vanderbilt.

When Hassig went to Stanford University to work on his Ph.D. in anthropology, his focus shifted to Mesoamerica, and he trained in regional analysis with an emphasis on the study of economic and political institutions. This led to a study of the Tarascans of Mexico, who appeared to be anomalous because they were a class society without a major city. On closer examination, Hassig realized that the Tarascans had achieved the equivalent of an urban system through the use of an extremely efficient system of canoe transportation.

With the Tarascan model in mind, Hassig shifted his attention to the lake system of the Aztecs. His first book, Trade, Tribute, and Transportation: The Sixteenth-Century Political Economy of the Valley of Mexico, dealt with the effects of the Spanish Conquest. Focusing on continuity rather than change, Hassig concluded that the arrival of the Spaniards was not the social watershed it had been thought. Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control, his next book, went on to explore the implications of his earlier work by dealing with one aspect of Aztec society. It was followed by War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica, which emphasized politics and warfare over more traditional ideological interpretations. Hassig dismissed the idea that imperial expansion “created” Mesoamerica and called instead for an analysis of specific traits and their associated mechanisms of transmission. “Who expanded where defines today’s cultural boundaries across all of Mesoamerica,” Hassig observed.

In his most recent book, Mexico and the Spanish Conquest, Hassig noted that the problem with studying the Conquest is that almost all of the sources are Spanish, and most have been taken at face value by scholars. His contribution was to work with all available sources from a nonideological point of view.

Collectively, his works to date provided him with a platform from which to launch his new study of time and history before and after the Conquest. Some ideologically driven notions of other scholars have been under intense scrutiny as Hassig has worked to show the political basis for observed changes in the archaeological and ethnohistorical record. One of the principal components of Hassig’s study during his resident year has been the Aztec calendar. It is one of the most complicated known, causing him to ask why and to track what happened to it with the introduction of the Christian calendar at the time of Conquest.

His current book is a reassessment of his own work against the backdrop of a vast and fascinating literature of Aztec culture and history in pre- and post-Conquest times. At the conclusion of his tenure at the School, Hassig said, “I hope that my rethinking of the significance of the Aztec calendar will find favor with my contemporaries, and that the next generation of scholars will be able to use the model to reinterpret Mesoamerican culture and history in pre-Aztec times.”