ANT 384M • Hunter-Gatherer Studies
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
Few topics follow trends in the development of the field of anthropology as closely as does the study of hunter-gatherers. From hunter-gatherer as Noble Savage or primitive brute on the lowest rung of the evolutionary ladder, to hunter-gatherer as relic of the original affluent society in harmony with nature, to hunter-gatherer as opportunist navigating the complexities of the modern world, the study of hunter-gatherers has been linked to many of the varied theoretical approaches in socio-cultural anthropology and archaeology. Hunter-gatherers have been viewed through the lenses of cultural ecology, functionalism, cultural materialism, Marxism, symbolic and economic anthropology and the mathematical foraging models of behavioral ecology, to name but a few. Overriding all are concerns with the environmental, social, economic and historical forces that shape (and shaped) hunter-gatherer existence. To be sure, the foraging lifestyle was the only form of adaptation for the vast majority of human existence, but can hunter-gatherers be categorized as a homogenous "type," and do hunter-gatherers in the modern world tell us anything at all about the human past? Indeed, what can be learned from the study of hunter-gatherers?
This course explores these and other issues. We will deal with: 1) the diversity of hunter-gatherer lifeways, 2) changing ideas about what hunter-gatherers are (and were), and 3) how the study of hunter-gatherers can contribute to the field of anthropology. This is not a class designed specifically for archaeologists, and much of the course will take as its subject matter modern or recently documented hunter-gatherers. Of course, archaeologists have long been interested in hunter-gatherers as a means for understanding the past and have made noteworthy contributions to the field. Along these lines we will probably touch on all subfields of anthropology. In addition, you will have the opportunity to explore in detail approaches to hunter-gatherers relevant to your own intellectual background and research goals.
The Foraging Spectrum: Diversity in Hunter-Gatherer Lifeways, 1995, R. L. Kelly. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. ISBN: 1-56098-466-X Hunter-Gatherers: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, 2001, edited by C. Panter-Brick, R. H. Layton and P. Rowley-Conwy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN: 0-521-77672-4 Additional readings to be determined