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Maureen T. Schwarz

Contact Information:

Maureen T. Schwarz

Professor Emeritus, Anthropology Department

Highest degree earned

Ph.D., University of Washington, 1995


I am a cultural anthropologist who is interested in medical and religious forms of identity. My most current cluster of research and writing projects focus on how indigenous people accommodate biomedical technologies within the context of medical and religious pluralism. Most specifically, I am looking at how Native Americans use notions about the body to reinforce collective identity. This builds nicely upon my previous work since my area of specialization is Native North America and funding from a variety of sources has enabled me to conduct research on the Navajo reservation since 1991.

My first book considered Navajo cultural constructions of personhood with special emphasis on manipulations of the body in ceremonial contexts. My second major fieldwork based project focused on the life courses of Navajo women who are ceremonial practitioners.

I consider myself to be an advocate for Native people and their rights; thus, my first and foremost goal as a scholar is to foreground native voices whenever possible and to present native views with respect. My position of advocacy skews my choice of topics for study or curriculum building towards issues of direct concern to Native Americans. Accordingly, my current project was selected in part because the Navajo people have a growing problem with diabetes. Due to diabetes caused complications the Navajo have the highest lower extremity amputation rates any where in the world. End stage renal disease for which kidney transplantation is the optimal treatment therapy. These are, therefore, critical health causes for the Navajo Nation. 

Areas of Expertise

Advocate of Native North Americans and their rights, Navajo reservation, issues of representation, personhood, organ transplantation, blood transfusion, medical and religious pluralism.

Selected Publications


Forthcoming Fighting Colonialism with Hegemonic Culture: Native Manipulation of Time-Worn Stereotypes in the Contemporary World. SUNY Press.

2008 “I Choose Life”: Navajo Perspectives on Medical and Religious Pluralism. University of Oklahoma Press.

2003  Blood and Voice: The Life-Courses of Navajo Women Ceremonial Practitioners. University of Arizona Press. 

2001  Navajo Lifeways: Contemporary Issues, Ancestral Knowledge. University of Oklahoma Press. 

1997  Molded in the Image of Changing Women: Navajo Views on the Human Body and Personhood. University of Arizona Press. 


2012 “Fire Rock: Navajo Prohibitions Against Gambling.” Ethnohistory.

2009 “Emplacement and Contamination: Mediation of Navajo Identity through Excorporated Blood.” Body & Society 15(2).

2008 “’Lightning Followed Me:’ Contemporary Navajo Cancer Therapeutic Strategies.” In Religion and Healing in Native America: Pathways for Renewal, Suzanne Crawford O’Brien, volume editor, Linda Barnes and Susan Sered, series editors. Pp 68-109. Connecticut: Praeger Press.

2007 “Perpetuating Navajo Earth Stewardship through the Matrilineage.” ["Perpétuer le soin de la Terre par le matrilignage chez les Navajo"] chap. 2 (pp. 77-102) In Nicole-Claude Mathieu (ed.), "A House without a Daughter is a Dead House:" Person and Gender in Matrilineal and/or Uxorilocal Societies. [Une maison sans fille est une maison morte. La personne et le genre en sociétés matrilinéaires et/ou uxorilocales.] Paris, Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, viii + 504 pages, photo album 16 pages.

2006 “Native American Tattoos: Identity and Spirituality in Contemporary America.” Visual Anthropology 19:223-254.

2005 “Native American Barbie: The Marketing of Euro-American Desires.” American Studies 46:3/4:301-332

2002  "Collective Guilt, Conservation, and Other Postmodern Messages in Contemporary Western." American Indian Culture and Research Journals. 26(1):83-105. 

2001  "Allusions to Ancestral Impropriety: Understandings of Arthritis and Rheumatism in the Contemporary Navajo World." American Ethnologist. 28(3): 650-678.