A Hopi Conundrum
Peter M. Whiteley
Anthropological representations of Hopi polity are ambiguous and contradictory. This article attempts to interpret Hopi structures, concepts and practices of "power" within their associated cultural contexts. It argues that the reason for the differing and confusing views of Hopi ethnography lies in the radical disjunction of Western conceptual domains (primarily "politics" and "religion") which tend to underpin anthropological thought. It is suggested that these anthropological preconceptions impede the understanding of cultural systems which do not manifest parallel epistemological divisions, but which still embody systems of social inequality and entrenched concepts and practices through which these are realised. The particular foundations of Hopi hierarchy are examined and a possible solution is suggested to the representational dilemma produced by the cultural bias of ethnographies based on Western formalist categories. --Author's Abstract
THE STUDY OF HOPI POLITICS IS RIDDLED WITH CONTRADICTIONS. The Hopi are variously described as a theocracy and a hierarchy ( Parsons 1933: 53), not a theocracy and not a hierarchy ( Titiev 1944: 59), as having "never developed a political society" ( Eggan 1964: 182), as an oligarchy ( Upham 1982: passim), as egalitarian ( Hieb 1979: 181), and as having "incipient social classes" ( Harvey 1972: 210). In general works, the Hopi have been situated at the "tribal" level of sociocultural integration (e.g. Lewellen 1983: 65), which is defined to entail a fundamental egalitarianism and the lack of hereditary leadership roles.
Whence comes such confusion? At first blush, it is tempting to seek its source in differing theoretical predilections. But in fact, long before anthropological par-____________________