Contemporary Hunter-Gatherers: Current Theoretical Issues in Ecology and Social Organization
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 12: 193-214 (Volume publication date October 1983)
A Barnard
In lieu of an abstract, the publisher reproduces the first page of the article. (Link)

Letters to My Tutor…

My dearest Simone,

No particular thoughts jumped out at me while reading this article. I think it’s mostly that my thoughts are elsewhere at the moment. I made quick notes of things that I would like to read more on later. It also occurred to me that I should come up with a concrete list of books that I would like to read before the end of the year. The Rise of Anthropological Theory: A History of Theories of Culture by Marvin Harris is now high-up on that list. This work wasn’t specifically referenced, but Marvin Harris was mentioned. Before, during and after reading an article I tend to Google (capitalized?) people and concepts, and I was reminded that I would like to read more Harris.

I would also like to read more on James Woodburn’s immediate-return and delayed return systems. Barnard writes that “immediate-return economic systems are characterized by a behavior and attitude which rejects the notion of surplus,” while “delayed-return systems, in contrast, allow for planning ahead.” Woodburn was mentioned in a discussion of new typologies to characterize modern hunter-gatherer societies, but Barnard makes the point that this typology can be applied to all societies. I thought of the stories told in childhood that taught that hoarding behavior is good and virtuous. “The Ant and the Grasshopper” was a frequently repeated story in my elementary school. The ant spent the summer hoarding food for the winter while the grasshopper spent the summer singing and dancing. The story was not taught with nuance in my school. The ant was unquestionably good and responsible and the grasshopper was reckless and bad. The message seemed to be hoard or die – or be helplessly dependent on the kindness of strangers. The Wikipedia article on the tale seemed a good starting place for a discussion of the responses to and various versions and nuances of the tale.  I would like to read more on Woodburn’s typology with fables like this one in mind.

It’s late and I’m tired, so I’ll leave you with that.

Ever yours,