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Beyond Woman the Gatherer: Martu Women of the Western Desert of Australia

Wednesday, March 22 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Willard Building, 216

Rebecca Bliege Bird,
Professor of Anthropology, Penn State University

Martu women of the Western Desert of Australia challenge many of the stereotypes about hunter gatherers, including the generalization that women specialize on plant gathering either as a complement to men’s protein acquisition, or because hunting is too difficult or risky for women. Martu women take pride in their hunting ability, and in the fact that their hunting produces meat which is widely shared among women to provision others, generate prestige for the hunter, and build strong cooperative social networks. In this talk, I explore how gender differences in Martu subsistence are maintained and how women’s social and reproductive strategies are intertwined with hunting and sharing.

Dr. Bliege Bird is an ecological anthropologist interested in the socioecology of subsistence in small scale societies. She pursues such topics as the gender division of labor in hunting and gathering, cooperation, costly signaling, indigenous conservation/land management, and fire ecology, drawing on theory, models, and methods from behavioral ecology and landscape ecology to answer questions about how local social contexts influence economic decision-making and how such decisions impact local ecological communities.

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