Re: Four fields and teaching intro cours

Wed, 5 Apr 1995 16:14:00 PDT

Riley writes:

" I don 't dispute that women gathered, but I can guarantee you that they
also participated heavily in hunting,...It is also clear that men gather in
some societies today..., especially where they are major shaman. What is not
clear is that the categories that we have established for the sexual division
of labor are as categorical as we would like them to be."

I think Riley's last comment is revealing: "...categories that WE have
established.... are [not] as categorical as we would like them to be." Why
should categories that we have established from an etic perspective be "as
categorical as we would like them to be"? Is the concern with understanding
the respective roles of males and females in society X as they define them,
or with mapping onto their behavior our etic categorizations? I teach a
course on Hunters and Gatherers via a comparative approach that emphasizes
the diversity in the ways in which hunting and gathering groups conceptualize
the respective roles of males and females. One of the least useful
perspectives for so doing is the cliche, "men hunt and women gather"--not
because men might gather and women might do some hunting, but because it a
false categorization that assumes that somehow there must be a mapping of
male to hunting and female to gathering, without any understanding of why,
and along what dimensions, sexual division of labor takes place. If we
remove our etic lenses and let them (the people concerned) inform us as
to what they are about, then we can begin to learn something. After we have
learned something, then we can take up again our etic perspective in a more
informative manner through a better understanding of what are the factors
that shape how a particular hunting and gathering group works out the
respective roles of females and males.

D. Read