Foodways and their significance to ethnic integration: An ethnoarchaeological and historical archaeological survey of the Chinese in Tucson, Arizona
AdvisorLongacre, William A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation seeks to understand, from the ethnoarchaeological and historical archaeological perspectives, how material culture expresses ethnic identity in plural societies. It also identifies the changing patterns of ethnic boundaries over time. I focused my research on the behavior of food consumption and cooking utensils at household level among contemporary people and their predecessors in the past. My ethnographic investigation was conducted to observe the foodways of contemporary Chinese in Tucson. The observations were compared to archaeological evidence of early Chinese excavated from Tucson. In order to better understand the discoveries, historical documents were explored. I found that foodways are the sensitive component of a culture that expresses ethnicity. An entire assemblage of oriental-style utensils and food-consumption behaviors differentiate the Chinese from others. The Chinese, both in the past and present, have made every effort to retain their traditional foodways. However, such persistence in consumption patterns does not reflect an intention of the Chinese to separate themselves from the majority. It is a people's physical determinant--taste memory--that controls their behavior in maintaining traditional culinary practices. Foodways are not as much of an obstacle to cultural assimilation and ethnic integration as it might seem. Chinese immigrants have changed the public domain of their ancestral culture. Most of my subjects are regarded as well Americanized citizens, although they all consume Chinese-style food at home. Such balance--joining the majority while maintaining their taste preference--gives the Chinese psychological confidence and physical satisfaction in the course of ethnic interaction. Similar changes occurred with early Chinese, who were considered to be a culturally resistant group. It was the bias of document recorders and the misselection of research data by scholars that caused misconceptions about the Chinese. Similar to the experience of contemporary Chinese, the early immigrants might have been successful in "melting" into mainstream while retaining their ethnic foodways. I advocate a comprehensive analysis of the integrated data placed within a social and historical context. An archaeologist should approach the study of material culture from a historical perspective to filter up the kinds of information that convey meanings in interpreting ethnic relationships.
Degree ProgramGraduate College