Foodways and the Archaeology of Colonial Contact: Rethinking the Western Zhou Expansion in Shandong

Yitzchak Jaffe, Qiaowei Wei, Yichao Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Foodways, as powerful social practices influencing the demarcation and maintenance of group identity, provide an important element for the study and inspection of cases of colonial culture contact in the archaeological record. Even as archaeologists engage with theoretical perspectives that highlight nuanced frameworks of colonial contact, poor data sets often result in only the most basic utilizations of postcolonial theoretical perspectives. By looking at archaeological assemblages through the lens of foodways, seemingly mute archaeological artifacts—principally, ceramics—can be studied to reveal community foodways reflected in specific local utilizations and their role in the creation of a foodway habitus. Focusing on the entanglements of artifacts in locally specific community practices, the impact and results of colonial contact on the foodway habitus can be revealed. Illustrating our argument is a case study from Bronze Age China, where the study of ceramics as evidence of foodways reveals a new understanding of the Western Zhou (1050–771 BCE) colonial expansion. Rather than view specific vessel types and styles as perfectly corresponding to group identity, cooking and serving vessels should be investigated to uncover the idiosyncratic preferences of the communities who used them, and through them their ancient foodway habitus. [foodways, social identity, colonial contact, ancient China].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-71
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by the American Anthropological Association

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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