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The Gift in the Animal: The Ontology of Hunting and Human-Animal Sociality

Paul Nadasdy
American Ethnologist
Vol. 34, No. 1 (Feb., 2007), pp. 25-43
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4496783
Page Count: 19
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The Gift in the Animal: The Ontology of Hunting and Human-Animal Sociality
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Abstract

Many hunting peoples conceive of hunting as a process of reciprocal exchange between hunters and other-than-human persons, and anthropologists have tended to view such accounts as purely symbolic or metaphorical. To the extent that our theories deny the validity of northern hunters' conceptions of animals and the ontological assumptions on which they are based, however, we legitimize agents of the state when they dismiss the possibility that aboriginal knowledge and practices might serve as the factual basis for making wildlife management policy. In this article, I argue that our refusal to consider aboriginal accounts of hunting as perhaps literally as well as metaphorically valid has both contributed to the marginalization of aboriginal peoples and foreclosed important avenues of inquiry into hunting societies and the nature of human-animal relations. I focus on human-animal relations as a form of reciprocal exchange and argue that the development of a theoretical framework that can accommodate northern hunters' ontological assumptions is warranted theoretically as well as politically.

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