Hunter Gatherer Research

Kinship and scale

On paradoxes in hunter-gatherer studies and how to overcome them

Hunter Gatherer Research (2018), 4, (2), 177–192.


This paper addresses the nature of ‘community’ for hunter-gatherers, in the wake of previous interest in their senses of the ‘person’. It is argued that in order to understand their senses of ‘community’, we must freshly take up issues of kinship and scale that have been marginalised for several decades now within hunter-gatherer scholarship. Newly approached, kinship and scale should be broadly integrated as key issues in describing, analysing and theorising hunter-gatherer life-ways. I examine how commonplace discursive norms in anthropological writing, unintentionally and yet effectively, jeopardise studying hunter-gatherers own understandings of their social reality, including identifying their groups by ethnonyms and their members as individuals. It is suggested that their human and non-human communities are better understood through relational kinship perspectives.

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Author details

Bird-David, Nurit