21st-Century Hunting and Gathering: Foraging on a Transitional Landscape

Advanced Seminar

May 5–9, 2013

21st-Century Hunting and Gathering: Foraging on a Transitional Landscape21st-Century Hunting and Gathering: Foraging on a Transitional LandscapeAdvanced Seminar Co-chaired by Brian F. Codding, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah and Karen L. Kramer, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, May 5–9, 2013, Photograph by Jason S. Ordaz21st-Century Hunting and Gathering: Foraging on a Transitional LandscapeAdvanced Seminar Co-chaired by Brian F. Codding, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah and Karen L. Kramer, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, May 5–9, 2013, Photograph by Jason S. Ordaz

Today’s foraging populations live on a transitional landscape, encountering and adapting to external impacts caused by local and global neighbors. This seminar began with a simple premise: given all of the economic alternatives available to individuals in the 21st century, why do people around the world maintain hunting and gathering life-ways? While making a living by collecting and hunting wild resources has been the main economic pattern for most of our existence as a species, the domestication of plants and animals and the emergence of market relationships within a global economy have largely usurped foraging in favor of agriculture, wage labor and the like. This replacement suggests that these activities must somehow be better alternatives to foraging. But is this really true?

Experts working with various hunting and gathering populations around the world convened at SAR to explore these questions. Discussions centered around issues such as the fact that detailed economic analyses of the trade-offs between varying economic opportunities showed that the benefits of foraging often outweighed the alternatives. In addition, while some aspects of modern state relations to hunter-gatherer groups limit their abilities to forage, multiple cases showed that individuals may adopt new technologies to facilitate foraging in an altered setting. Researchers also found that the social costs imposed on an individual by removing oneself from the hunting and gathering network in which they are embedded resulted in the loss of all the accumulated social wealth stored in social relations. In this context, the costs of ceasing to forage were too high.

The seminar co-chairs stated, “Interestingly, we may turn the question of ‘why forage’ on its head, ‘why stop people from foraging’? We suggest it is due to the innate bias global political economies place on production that cannot be incorporated within global markets. Perhaps this is the reason why our findings are not already common knowledge: the biases against hunting and gathering are so strong, that no one ever thought to look.”

Brian F. Codding, Chair Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah Alternative Aboriginal Economies: Martu Livelihoods in the 21st Century
Karen L. Kramer, Chair Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah Diversify or Replace: What Happens to Wild Foods When Cultigens are Introduced into Hunter-Gatherer Diets
Rebecca Bliege Bird Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University Breaking the Invisible Web: Dreamtime Logic and Environmental Restoration in the Australian Western Desert
James Coxworth Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah What Now? The Recent History and Current State of Bardi Hunting
Russell Greaves Lecturer, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University Diversify or Replace: What Happens to Wild Foods When Cultigens are Introduced into Hunter-Gatherer Diets
Robert Hitchcock Adjunct Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, and Department of Geography, Michigan State University Discussant
Nicholas Blurton Jones Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles Why Have the Hadza Still Not Given Up Hunting and Gathering?
Richard Lee Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto "In the Bush the Food is Free": The Ju'/hoansi of Tsumkwe in the 21st Century
Karen Lupo Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University In Pursuit of the Individual: Recent Economic Opportunities and the Persistence of Traditional Forager-Farmer Relationships in the Southwestern Central African Republic
George Wenzel Professor, Department of Geography, McGill University Inuit Culture: To Have and Have Not, or Has Subsistence Become an Anachronism?

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