Hunters and Gatherers in the Modern World: Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determination

Hunters and Gatherers in the Modern World: Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determination

Hunters and Gatherers in the Modern World: Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determination

Hunters and Gatherers in the Modern World: Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determination


In an age of heightened awareness of the threat that western industrialized societies pose to the environment, hunters and gatherers attract particularly strong interest because they occupy the ecological niches that are constantly eroded. Despite the denial of sovereignty, the world's more than 350 million indigenous peoples continue to assert aboriginal title to significant portions of the world's remaining bio-diversity. As a result, conflicts between tribal peoples and nation states are on the increase. Today, many of the societies that gave the field of anthropology its empirical foundations and unique global vision of a diverse and evolving humanity are being destroyed as a result of national economic, political, and military policies.

Although quite a sizable body of literature exists on the living conditions of the hunters and gatherers, this volume is unique in that it represents the first extensive east-west scholarly exchange in anthropology since the demise of the USSR. Moreover, it also offers new perspectives from indigenous communities and scholars in an exchange that be termed "south-north" as opposed to " north-north," denoting the predominance of northern Europe and North America in scholarly debate.

The main focus of this volume is on the internal dynamics and political strategies of hunting and gathering societies in areas of self-determination and self-representation. More specifically, it examines areas such as warfare and conflict resolution, resistance, identity and the state, demography and ecology, gender and representation, and world view and religion. It raises a large number of major issues of common concerns and therefore makes important reading for all those interested in human rights issues, ethnic conflict, grassroots development and community organization, and environmental topics.

Megan Biesele is President, School of Expressive Culture, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. She helped found the Kalahari Peoples Fund in 1973 and currently serves as its Coordinator. Robert H. Hitchcock is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Anthropology Department, as well as the coordinator of African Studies, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is involved in research and development project monitoring, evacuation, and implementation, primarily in southern and eastern Africa and North America. Peter P. Schweitzer is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Lecturer at the Institute of Ethnology, Cultural, and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna.


The world's hunting and gathering peoples have been the subject of intensive study and debate for well over a century. Today, at the beginning of the third millennium, those populations who have relied on wild plant and animal products for their livelihoods are actively engaged in interactions and debates with the governments of the states in which they live and with a variety of international organizations, both indigenous and nonindigenous. There is a worldwide movement among hunter-gatherers and other indigenous peoples aimed at promoting their basic civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights (Anaya 1996; Barsh 1996; Durning 1992; Hitchcock 1994; Lee and Daly 1999; Maybury-Lewis 1997). The actions taken by hunter-gatherers and those who represent them and advocate on their behalf have served to place indigenous peoples' rights firmly on the international agenda.

Hunters and gatherers have been the subject of anthropological study and debate as long as the discipline of anthropology has been in existence. At the time European colonization began in Asia, the Americas, and Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, approximately a third of the world's people were foragers. Over the past five hundred years, the percentage of the world's population that forage for a substantial portion of their living dropped precipitously, in part because of the actions of states and because of changes in population density, economic opportunities, and state and international social and economic development policies.

The modern anthropological appreciation of hunting and gathering societies received significant impetus in April 1966, when seventy-five scholars from various parts of the world met at the University of Chicago at the "Man the Hunter" Conference (Lee and DeVore 1968). Twelve years later, the First Conference on Hunter-Gatherer Studies (CHAGS 1) was held in Paris, France (June 1978). This meeting included scholars . . .

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