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Food and the Status Quest book cover image
May 1996
Berghahn Books

College or Unit:

Food and the Status Quest

An Interdisciplinary Perspective
Edited by: 
Pauline Wiessner
Wulf Schiefenhovel

The use of food to negotiate status is found in all human societies. Here, for the first time, a single book brings together contributions from different disciplines to investigate, from ethological and anthropological perspectives, behavior that appears to have biological roots such as the tendency to seek status through the medium of food. It explores the limits that our biological heritage places on cultural expressions of such behavior, as well as the multiplicity of ways in which biologically based tendencies can be transformed by culture. Finally, it addresses the impact of status-seeking on nutritional programs in developing countries.


Pauline Wiessner is a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Her research focuses on social networks to reduce risk and responses of societies to the breakdown of traditional cultural institutions with modern resources and technology. She has conducted 40 years of research among the Kalahari San and 30 years among the Enga of Papua New Guinea.