The International Conferences on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS) advance knowledge about hunter-gatherer societies, generate intellectual exchange and debate, and have made significant contributions to our understanding of the human experience. CHAGS X and CHAGS XI both attracted unprecedented numbers of first-timers and students across the four fields of anthropology and beyond and showed that hunter-gatherer research is vibrant with new disciplinary crossways and approaches, with heartening concern for the “real world” problems that hunter-gatherers must deal with.
Since 2014, the institutional framework for CHAGS has been provided by the International Society for Hunter Gatherer Research (ISHGR), a learned society for the promotion of research and better knowledge about hunter-gatherer societies in the past and the present.
The ISHGR is a legacy of CHAGS X (convened by Larry Barham at the University of Liverpool in 2013), when the decision to found the Society was made in plenary.
The founding Board members and their current (2015–2018) positions are: Lye Tuck-Po, Universiti Sains Malaysia (President); Peter Schweitzer, University of Vienna (Vice-President); Khaled Hakami, University of Vienna (Secretary); Larry Barham, University of Liverpool (Treasurer); Jerome Lewis, University College London; and Thomas Widlok, University of Cologne.
ISHGR is the first ever formal network for scholars specialising in hunter-gatherer studies. One of its primary goals is to oversee the continuity of CHAGS. CHAGS XI (2015) was the first conference of the ISHGR, convened to great success by Peter Schweitzer at the University of Vienna with Khaled Hakami as Conference Coordinator.
CHAGS will now take place every three years in a different location each time, which is decided through an open call for conference convenors. The call for CHAGS XIII (2021) convenors will be released by early 2018 and the decision will be announced at CHAGS XII in Penang. Interested researchers are encouraged to begin thinking about submitting a proposal now. Preliminary inquiries can be addressed to the CHAGS Secretariat at email@example.com.
For CHAGS XII, we will place emphasis on Southeast Asian peoples, and what they continue to teach us. We aim to cultivate diversity in concept-building and good practices of working with and relating to hunter-gatherers.
How CHAGS began
CHAGS goes back to the historic “Man the Hunter” symposium organised by Richard Lee and Irven deVore in 1966 in Chicago. This meeting brought together some of the most prominent anthropologists and archaeologists of the day together with a then-emerging cohort of hunter-gatherer fieldworkers (totalling 67 scholars from 14 countries, although participants were predominantly North American). The result was the edited volume of the same name (Lee and deVore 1968), which has since become a landmark in the history of hunter-gatherer research, and continues to be consulted. Conference and publication both firmly established the study of hunter-gatherer societies as a defined field of study in its own right.
As recounted by Richard Lee, "Man the Hunter had been intended as a one-off event, but a decade later in 1978, Maurice Godelier convened a follow-up meeting on hunters and gatherers in Paris at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme. . .The Paris conference's success indicated that there was a serious demand for conclaves about hunting and gathering peoples." At the next meeting, at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada in 1980, "the term CHAGS was coined to provide a shorthand for what was becoming an ongoing enterprise."
Since then, the conference has been held every few years, bringing together a global range of specialists from fields as diverse as anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, biological anthropology, paleoanthropology, human evolution, sociobiology, genetics and, latterly, conservation, resource management, indigenous rights, gender, and development studies. The geographical coverage of the conference is extensive, and envelops all continents where current and former hunter-gatherers live.
The longest interval between CHAGS meetings was from 2002 to 2013. And then came CHAGS X, convened by Larry Barham at Liverpool. The conference is not only revived but now has an institutional home in the International Society for Hunter Gatherer Research. Hunter-gatherer studies is alive and well.