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Size Matters!: The Scalability Of Modern Hunter-Gatherer Animism
Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 18:45
Cultural anthropology has for decades been committed to the multiculturalist tenet that all cultures should be equally approached, regardless of their population and community size. In this talk, I will highlight the unintended distortive effect of this approach when studying modern hunter-gatherers. I argue that the miniscule size of hunter-gatherer communities, shaping how they scale their world and imagine it, is a cardinal factor that should not be overlooked. I will examine the distortive effect of scale-blind studies of indigenous animistic beliefs, a long-studied topic that now enjoys much renewed interest. Key terms in the analysis of animism too often derive from large-scale modern social ontologies, as a result of which we fail to appreciate the intimate nature of interpersonal and interspecies relationships prevailing in the miniscule communities of hunter-gatherers.
More about Nurit Bird-David
Evening class information
Our evening talks include discussion, are free and open to all.
Next evening class
Jerome has many years experience in the field, working with the Bayaka hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin in Central Africa. This is a ground-breaking study of the central importance to women of the link between their bodies and the Moon. Bayaka men are made aware that even though, as husbands, they may have some sexual expectations, the Moon's own demands come first! Women's solidarity is fundamental to the unusually egalitarian dynamics of Bayaka society.