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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
Across Australia, Aboriginal myths say that during the Dreamtime, women held fire in their vaginas, hiding their firesticks whenever a man approached. The myths go on to say that one day, a male hero stole fire from women and handed it over to men. In this workshop, a number of different versions of the myth will be analyzed using the techniques developed by the founder of structural anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss. We will explore whether such myths help us to reconstruct changes in gender relations across Australia in the distant past.