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(P35) Where are we now? Understanding women and gender studies' contributions in hunter-gatherer research 

Convenors: Celine Camus, Spanish National Research Council, Barcelona; Debora Zurro, Spanish National Research Council

Abstract: The present panel focuses on women and gender related issues. It aims at reflecting about the evolution of women studies and feminist contribution and discussing how hunter-gatherer research benefits from this perspective. 

Keywords: feminism, gender, women and gender studies, knowledge production, neoliberal changes in academia 

Format: standard panel 

Precirculated papers: none required 


This panel focuses on gender related issues and on discussing how HG research may benefit from a feminist perspective today. Indeed, there are several ways in which feminist theories have contributed to the interpretation of prehistory and of the experiences of people under subjugation (Conkey 2005, Lamphere 2006). More than ever before feminist theories are becoming increasingly self-reflexive to resist the homogenization of women's experiences (Cobb 2005, Sterling 2015), to criticise the role of the “objective knower”, to listen to the voices of HG and to reflect on the processes of gathering and sharing knowledge (Brown and Strega 2005). This panel aims to reflect about the evolution of the gender studies in HG studies and to depict the most recent contributions highlighting the voices of HG women. Second, it proposes to tackle the reasons why some of the most rudimentary feminist insights are still omitted today although indigenous feminist approaches are increasing. The reasons might be related to the hegemonic use of some methodologies (e.g chronocentrism in archaeology) or to the current neoliberal changes occurring in academia (a decrease of public funding, gendered career asymmetries, etc.) impacting knowledge production (Cornell 2013, Lykke 2010). 

We welcome papers addressing one of the following questions:  

How has a focus on women/gender changed our understanding of past and present HG societies? Where are we now and what is the role and future of feminist perspectives?

Are there any challenges in considering gender among HG societies? How can the voices of HG women be better accounted for?

Which methodological questions are scholars confronted by in order to go beyond a gender-blind perspective and resist restrictive methods of Western positivist research?

How do organizational changes in academia may affect the development of feminist approaches in HG studies?




Rethinking gender in HG studies: is the connection with feminist perspectives lost?

Celine Camus, IMF CSIC, Spain. gather.csic[a]

Short abstract: This paper explores why most of the rudimentary feminist insights are still omitted today in HG studies.

Long abstract: Feminist critics regarding androcentrism and gender biases have questioned the man-the-hunter/woman-the-gatherer divide since the 1980s. They progressively discarded dualisms to turn to more historical and localized analysis (Gero and Conkey 1991, Lamphere 2006). Yet, for many feminist HG researchers, the relation with feminist perspectives has recently frayed. The idea that gender should be envisioned as intersection has made inroads neither in mainstream research nor in most research on Indigenous women whose voices remain ignored (Moreton-Robinson 2002). 

The present contribution aims at reflecting on the effects of the gender studies in HG research area. A focus on 220 selected articles investigating women and gender issues within the HG field of research since the 1970s constitute an exhaustive material to look at the development of gender issues in a multidisciplinary research context. I will show how the confusing uses of gender and the reluctance to engage with third-wave feminism might lock the HG studies in an outdated theoretical framework. To explain the reasons why most of the rudimentary feminist insights are still omitted today, I examine academic scientists at work confronted to the changing nature of academic time and the challenges to conduct critical research today.

Toypurina the Shaman and the Revolt at Mission San Gabriel: Gender, History, and Indigeneity in Southern California

Maria Lepowsky, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States. lepowsky[a]

Short abstract: This paper situates scholarly and popular reception of research on a young woman shaman who led a revolt against the Spanish in frontier California within considerations of women's and gender studies in hunter gatherer research.

Long abstract: In 1785 Toypurina, a young Tongva shaman, led a revolt against Spanish soldiers and friars at Mission San Gabriel, near the new settlement of Los Angeles. A hereditary ceremonial leader, she was, I show, an early prophet of a revitalization movement of moral renewal and political resistance. This nearly-forgotten revolt failed; Toypurina was exiled. Prophecies of returning ancestors and restoration of homelands despoiled by Spanish missions, pueblos, fields, and cattle spread over hundreds of miles for generations, direct precursors of the Ghost Dance. I situate reception of my Toypurina project within considerations of women's and gender studies in hunter gatherer research. Tongva and ChicanX/LatinX activists celebrate Toypurina as icon of resistance, shattering stereotypes of docile Indians gratefully accepting mission rule. Indigenous women, leaders of movements for sovereignty and sacred site protection, invoke her as inspiration. One historian attributes revolt leadership to Toypurina's male confederate. But most scholars and students endorse my interpretations. They resonate with popular preconceptions of hunter gatherer gender egalitarianism shared, since the 1970s, by feminist scholars. A challenge for feminist researchers: amassing evidence of female agency to counter those who overlook it while documenting any cultural particulars incongruent with sometimes overgeneralized assumptions of hunter gatherer gender equality.




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