Communication ETDs

Publication Date



The purpose of this study has been to determine how food and food behaviors communicate symbolic meaning that reflects, transmits, and creates ethnic cultural identity among urban Diné. The effect of place is considerable in influencing the choice of foods, and also the enactment of specific food-related behaviors. Food and food behaviors elicit and are indicative of Diné patterns of communication. The findings are derived from participant observation, semi-structured interviews, extensive academic and general literature on food, culture, and communication, and furthermore, illustrated by photographs highlighting Diné food and food behaviors. Research on the sense of smell was included in the study to elucidate its role in ethnic identity and meaning with regard to food.

In general, the findings fall into base three types: findings that characterize culture-specific concepts (CSC), findings that characterize culture-specific values (CSV), and findings that characterize instances of intercultural communication (IC). Next, the findings were assessed in terms of the implications they have for communication theories of identity and the Diné Philosophy of Knowledge in order to a complementary and intercultural interpretation of the findings.

The findings of this study, from the standpoint of communication theories of identity, suggest that Diné ethnic identity, mediated through food and food behaviors, is largely rooted in performance. In terms of the Diné Philosophy of Knowledge the findings appear to indicate that food and food behaviors can be conceptually construed as being "between two worlds" for urban and possibly as well as rural Diné today. Given the link between food and food behaviors to identity, this study proposes that beyond the food­ related identity, a more encompassing Diné identity is also "between two worlds."

Overall, food and food behaviors offer the possibility of being read as symbolic in meaning, thereby allowing for an alternative approach with which to understand culture, communication, and identity. The intercultural approach as to the implications of the findings rendered a more balanced and multivariate assessment had only one culture­ specific framework of knowledge been used.



Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Committee Member (Chair)

Jack Condon

Second Committee Member

Bradley J. Hall

Third Committee Member

Miguel Gandert

Fourth Committee Member

Sally M. Davis

Included in

Communication Commons