This lecture provides an overview of pastoralism, covering following topics: 1. Definition: What exactly is pastoralism?
2. Origins: When & why did it arise?
3. Environmental/geographical distribution: Where does it occur? 4. Subsistence strategies: How does it work?
5. Social organization: What are its social correlates?
Various definitions & classifications, but simplest are these: 1) Pastoralism = subsistence system based primarily on domesticated animal production (meat, milk, hides, blood) (Note that this definition excludes groups specializing on wild herd animals, such as Plains Indian bison hunters) 2) Pastoralists = any population or segment of population subsisting primarily via pastoralism (if also practice significant amount of agriculture, termed "agropastoralists") The term "subsisting" is intended to exclude those who raise animals strictly for exchange value rather than direct consumption (e.g., commercial ranchers and dairy farmers), though as we'll see, most subsistence pastoralists rely on trade to some extent, even if large-scale impersonal markets & monetary currency are absent (or only became important in recent decades) Pastoralists can be categorized in terms of frequency of movement (nomadism): 1) Settled pastoralism = keeping animals in one place most or all of year, provisioning them with fodder (e.g., hay), which is the typical pattern for many traditional European pastoralists (or agropastoralists); this system is relatively capital-intensive (need substantial barns, means to transport hay, etc.) 2) Transhumance = regular round-trip from home base to pasture (e.g., move herds up into mountain pastures in summer, back to lowlands in winter), without any major dwellings or barns in any location 3) Nomadic pastoralism = moving herds to any avail. pasture, often on opportunistic basis over long distances and with no fixed pattern; characteristic of populations most dependent on pastoralism, and hence primary focus of this course
Under what conditions did pastoralism arise? What favors this specialization? Nineteenth-century social evolutionists (e.g., Morgan, Engels) believed nomadic pastoralism was an evolutionary stage between foraging and settled agriculture This seemed plausible, since foragers exercise relatively little control over subsistence resources and are often highly nomadic; agricultural populations greatly modify their resources (and associated environmental features) and are very sedentary; and nomadic pastoralists are generally intermediate in both regards On average, nomadic pastoralists also intermediate in population density, degree of socio-political complexity, etc.; hence seem to fit transitional stage of social evolution (between foraging & settled agriculture) quite nicely However, anthropologists no longer believe that pastoralism = widespread intermediate stage between foraging and agriculture, and doubt that pastoralism & animal domestication preceded agriculture and plant domestication Three main reasons for doubting that pure pastoralism precedes agriculture: 1) Difficulty of domesticating animals without some sedentary base and a localized staple food source (though foraging economies sometimes provide both of these) 2) Archaeological record of domestication suggests it occurred in settled communities that also had domesticated plants (though there is some difficulty in clearly detecting initial animal domestication in archaeological record) 3) Virtually no examples in ethnographic record of pastoralist societies that don't depend directly or indirectly (via trade) on agricultural products Main exception to these rules seems to be reindeer herders of No. Eurasia, especially Siberia, where agriculture was absent until very recent (industrial) times; but here it seems that sedentary fishing communities predate reindeer herding, and herders historically depended on trade with these peoples; in...
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