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Why Forage?

Hunters and Gatherers in the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Brian F. Codding and Karen L. Kramer

Foraging persists as a viable economic strategy both in remote regions and within the bounds of developed nation-states. Given the economic alternatives available, why do some groups choose to maintain their hunting and gathering lifeways? Through a series of detailed case studies, the contributors to this volume examine the decisions made by modern-day foragers to sustain a predominantly hunting and gathering way of life. What becomes clear is that hunter-gatherers continue to forage because the economic benefits of doing so are high relative to the local alternatives and, perhaps more importantly, because the social costs of not foraging are prohibitive; in other words, hunter-gatherers value the social networks built through foraging and sharing more than the potential marginal gains of a new means of subsistence. Why Forage? shows that hunting and gathering continues to be a viable and vibrant way of life even in the twenty-first century.

2016. 352 pp., 11 halftones, 2 maps, 6 charts, 31 tables, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Douglas Bird, Rebecca Bliege Bird, Brian F. Codding, James E. Coxworth, Russell Greaves, Robert K. Hitchcock, Nicholas Blurton Jones, Karen L. Kramer, Richard B. Lee, Karen Lupo, Maria Sapignoli, George Wenzel, David W. Zeanah

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“This is an excellent collection of papers reporting on a very satisfying combination of traditional field anthropology with scientific and quantitative approaches to hypothesis testing and problem solving. It is among the best of what anthropology can contribute to understanding human social behavior.”
Michael A. Little, Binghamton University, American Journal of Human Biology, March/April 2018


Why Forage? follows skillfully in the footsteps of the original symposium on hunter-gatherers, Richard Lee and Irven DeVore’s Man the Hunter conference of 1966. . . . Importantly, however, Why Forage? not only presents observational accounts of foraging societies but also provides detailed statistical analyses, including copious tables, significant regression analyses, and two invaluable appendices, all of which allow (and encourage) cross-cultural comparisons of, for example, different groups’ current levels of mobility, amount of foraged foods in the diet, and contemporary economic adaptations to market forces and opportunities. . . . The real value and academic contribution of Why Forage? lies in the ability (through both the case studies and the appendices) to see similarities across these widely dispersed hunter-gatherer groups living in diverse environments, including savannahs, rivers, deserts, tropical forests, and both monsoonal and arctic coasts. The authors bring to light fascinating connections between the ways different foraging groups cooperate, adapt, organize their societies, serve as stewards over the land, and interact with outsiders, whether neighboring groups, government officials, potential employers, tourists, or anthropologists. . . . It turns out that there are many interesting answers to the question ‘why forage?’, and by collecting several of these answers into one volume, Why Forage? is an indispensable resource.”
R. Fleming Puckett, Kalahari Peoples Fund, Journal of Anthropological Research, Spring 2018


“I found Why Forage? stimulating and well worth reading. In a single volume it provides case studies of eight traditional hunting-gathering groups across the globe actively foraging in the twenty-first century. Each case is documented with ethnographic context, historical background, and various empirical measures of the economic and social returns from foraging practices. And as a bonus there are two appendices; one with cross-cultural and demographic data and the other economic activities for foraging populations. As such, it will be a very useful introduction for advanced graduate students of all stripes interested in hunter-gatherers, whether biological anthropology, archaeology, or social anthropology. It should also be of interest to the teaching anthropologist as well, whose concern is less with specifics of foraging than the implications of extant hunter-gatherers for understanding the human experience at its widest breadth.”
Benjamin C. Campbell, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Human Nature, March 2019

List of Illustrations


Introduction: Hunters and Gatherers in the Twenty-First Century
Karen L. Kramer and Brian F. Codding

Chapter One: Diversify or Replace: What Happens to Wild Foods when Cultigens Are Introduced into Hunter-Gatherer Diets?
Karen L. Kramer and Russell D. Greaves

Chapter Two: Inuit Culture: To Have and Have Not; or, Has Subsistence Become an Anachronism?
George W. Wenzel

Chapter Three: “In the bush the food is free”: The Ju/’hoansi of Tsumkwe in the Twenty-First Century
Richard B. Lee

Chapter Four: Twenty-First-Century Hunting and Gathering among Western and Central Kalahari San
Robert K. Hitchcock and Maria Sapignoli

Chapter Five: Why Do So Few Hadza Farm?
Nicholas Blurton Jones

Chapter Six: In Pursuit of the Individual: Recent Economic Opportunities and the Persistence of Traditional Forager-Farmer Relationships in the Southwestern Central African Republic
Karen D. Lupo

Chapter Seven: What Now? Big Game Hunting, Economic Change, and the Social Strategies of Bardi Men
James E. Coxworth

Chapter Eight: Alternative Aboriginal Economies: Martu Livelihoods in the Twenty-First Century
Brian F. Codding, Rebecca Bliege Bird, Douglas W. Bird, and David W. Zeanah

Chapter Nine: Economic, Social, and Ecological Contexts of Hunting, Sharing, and Fire in the Western Desert of Australia
Rebecca Bliege Bird, Brian F. Codding, and Douglas W. Bird

Appendix A: Cross-Cultural Demographic and Social Variables for Contemporary Foraging Populations

Appendix B: Economic Activities of Twenty-First-Century Foraging Populations

List of Contributors

There are no working papers for this book at the present time.