Miguel Cuj

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Vanderbilt U.

Grant number

Gr. 10291

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Cuj, Miguel (Vanderbilt U.) "Maya Foodways and Cultures of Nutrition"

MIGUEL CUJ, then a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, was awarded a grant in April 2022 to aid research on “Maya Foodways and Cultures of Nutrition,” supervised by Dr. Edward Fischer. In Maya communities in Iximulew (Guatemala), food transcends its nutritional role to become a cornerstone of religious, cultural, and social life. This research endeavors to unravel the intricate tapestry of food allocation and organization within a K’iche’ Maya community. Employing a framework of “foodways,” the study delves into the intricate interplay of cultural and material dimensions that underpin local food consumption. K’iche’ women play a central role in food preparation, who are responsible for the food’s symbolism and social significance in their community. The research posits that K’iche’ women’s foodways are shaped by a dynamic relationship between material conditions and Indigenous knowledge of food. Through the ethnographic fieldwork, the grantee comes to see the food realities of K’iche’ Maya women as emerging from the entangled interactions between contexts, objects, and subjects. Particularly, one of the outcomes was the ways the K’iche’ women categorize different sorts of foods, and how those inform nutrition, agriculture, and consumption patterns Indigenous food knowledge defies easy translation into Western dietary norms, interweaving material, symbolic, and biological aspects in intricate ways. This research in food anthropology uncovers distinct aspects of Maya food in K’iche’ communities, enhancing our understanding of cultural-material interplay.