(P05) Hunter-gatherer representations of space and place
Convenors: Niclas Burenhult, Humanities Lab, Lund University; Carolyn O’Meara, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Mikael Rothstein, University of Southern Denmark; Peter Sercombe, Newcastle University
Abstract: This session provides an interdisciplinary meeting point for scholars interested in hunter-gatherer representations of space and place. It takes aim at the representational expression of spatial topics of core concern to hunter-gatherer studies, such as mobility, navigation, habitat, territoriality, and locational rituality.
Keywords: spatial representation, language, cognition, behaviour, intangible cultural heritage
Format: lightning talks (5 minutes each) and general discussion
Precirculated papers: yes
The last two decades have seen a cascade of studies of spatial representation in the languages of lesser-known communities, including diverse hunter-gatherer groups. As a result, we know a great deal about strategies, patterns and diversity in how humans represent spatial domains like motion, angular projection, deixis, topology, and landscape. At the same time, rapidly developing techniques of measurement have nurtured a number of studies of hunter-gatherer spatial behaviour during foraging and socialising. However, these two strands of inquiry remain unconnected. Furthermore, neither of them has been much concerned with its respective connection to more over-arching and abstract levels of spatial representation, such as those encoded in beliefs, myth, lore, ideology, and music. Our understanding of hunter-gatherer spatial cognition and behaviour would clearly benefit from a systematic integration of these fields.
This session provides an interdisciplinary meeting point for scholars interested in hunter-gatherer representations of space and place. Bringing together expertise from anthropology, linguistics, psychology, history of religions, musicology, archaeology, and the geo sciences, it takes aim at the representational expression of spatial topics of core concern to hunter-gatherer studies: mobility, navigation, habitat and habitation, environmental preferences, territoriality, foraging, social spaces, and locational rituality. Which cognitive, linguistic, ideological and ritual categories are at play in everyday spatial behaviour, communication, and decision-making? How do they coincide or interact? How do strategies compare across populations, habitats and subsistence modes? Is there a common hunter-gatherer approach to spatial representation? Can exploration of present expressions of space be of help in understanding prehistoric hunter-gatherers? Does a deepened analysis of spatial representation in a particular hunter-gatherer community help to unlock knowledge about other aspects of the society?
Our goal is to highlight the state-of-the-art in each field, to identify and discuss common interests, and to open up an arena for communication about ways forward.
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