Ruth Bunzel

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Ruth Leah Bunzel (born Bernheim) (18 April 1898 – 14 January 1990) was an American anthropologist, known for her studies of the Zuni people and of alcoholism in two Latin American villages. She started her career as the secretary of Franz Boas, founder of anthropology at Columbia University, who encouraged her to take up anthropology directly.

Bunzel became interested in the Zuni from having visited the people with anthropologist Ruth Benedict from Columbia, and because she was fascinated with the prominent role of women as potters in Zuni society. Her 1929 PhD dissertation, Pueblo Potter, describes the creative process of Zuni potters, who preserve and reproduce traditional patterns even as individual potters innovate and create new ones. She was one of the first anthropologists to study the creative process.[1][2][3][4] She later said, "Look, I was never studying pottery. I was studying human behavior. I wanted to know how the potters felt about what they were doing."[5]

Similarly, when studying drinking patterns in the Mexican and Guatemalan villages, she said she was not studying alcohol. She studied "people and their drinking habits as seen in their cultural contexts and the influences behind these habits."[5]


  • “Notes on the Katcina Cult in San Felipe.” Journal of American Folklore 41 (1928): 290–292
  • “Further Notes on San Felipe.” Journal of American Folklore 41 (1928) 592
  • Bunzel, R. L. (1929). The Pueblo Potter: A Study of Creative Imagination in Primitive Art. Courier Dover Publications.
  • Bunzel, R. L. (1932/reprint 2010). Zuni Origin Myths. Chicago: US Government Printing Office, monograph, 70 pages
  • Bunzel, R. L. (1932). Zuni Ritual Poetry. Chicago: US Government Printing Office.
  • Bunzel, R. "Introduction to Zuni Ceremonialism.” Bureau of American Ethnology BAE Annual Report 47: (1932) 467–554
  • Above three texts collected and reprinted as Zuni Ceremonialism: Three Studies, ed. by Nancy J. Parezo (1992)
  • Bunzel, R. “The Nature of Katcinas.” BAE Annual Report 47 (1932): 837–1006. Reprinted in Reader in Comparative Religion, edited by A.W. Lessa and Evon Vogt (1958): 401–404
  • Bunzel, R. “Zuni.” In Handbook of American Indian Languages. Part 3, edited by Franz Boas (1933)
  • Bunzel, R.L. “The Economic Organization of Primitive Peoples.” In General Anthropology, edited by Franz Boas (1938): 327–408
  • Bunzel, R. (1940). "The role of alcoholism in two Central American cultures". Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes.
  • Bunzel, R. (1952). Chichicastenango, a Guatemalan Village
  • “Psychology of the Pueblo Potter.” In Primitive Heritage, edited by Margaret Mead and Nicolas Calas (1953): 266–275
  • Bunzel, R. “The Self-effacing Zuni of New Mexico.” In The Americas on the Eve of Discovery, edited by Harold Driver (1964): 80–92
  • with Margaret Mead. The Golden Age of American Anthropology (1960)
  • Bunzel, R. (1976). "Chamula and Chichicastenango: A Re-examination", in Cross-Cultural Approaches to the Study of Alcohol, The Hague: Mouton & Co., pp. 21–22.


  1. ^ "Ruth Leah Bunzel", Jewish Women's Archives
  2. ^ French, B. M. (2005). "Partial truths and gendered histories: Ruth Bunzel in American anthropology", Journal of Anthropological Research, 513-532.
  3. ^ Murphy, Robert F. (1991). "Anthropology at Columbia: A reminiscence," Dialectical Anthropology, 16(1), 65-81.
  4. ^ Woodbury, N. F. (1991). "Ruth Leah Bunzel," in International Dictionary of Anthropologists. New York and London: Garland, S, 86.
  5. ^ a b Bunzel, R. (1976). "Chamula and Chichicastenango: A Re-examination", in Cross-Cultural Approaches to the Study of Alcohol, The Hague: Mouton & Co., pp. 21-22