121-140 of 202 Results

Article

Timothy de Waal Malefyt

The word “magic” refers to a broad range of beliefs and practices that include animism, charm(s), divination, enchantment, fantasy, fetish, glamour, illusion, miracles, the occult, shamanism, sorcery, spells, the supernatural, superstition, taboos, trickery, and witchcraft. Magic―once thought a core feature of “primitive societies,” abandoned by more rational, bureaucratic and progressive beliefs―is, in fact, thriving in contemporary life, and central to practices of capitalism as well as to everyday behaviors. Magic is practiced in fields of finance, government, law, medicine and health, technology, advertising, marketing, sports, the gaming industry, and theatrical performances, among other institutions. When situations allow for the assemblage of a “magician,” “rite,” and “representation” within these complex social networks and when professional skills, ideas, conditions, contexts, media, and meanings align, magic acts as an agent of change. Magic is also practiced in everyday situations in which people need to feel a sense of control in circumstances where it’s lacking, such as performing well under competitive conditions or during times of crisis with indefinite outcomes. Consequently, they rely on magical thinking—in the forms of superstitions, wishful thinking, and taboo avoidance—which is often accompanied by charms, amulets, or acts of faith to guide them through uncertainty. Conjuring terms such as “fate” and “luck” to ward off illness or improve one’s chances at getting a hit in baseball, are, in fact, ways of expressing ambiguities and dealing with conflicts of temporal existence that all humans face in one form or another. Magic structured in institutions and practiced in everyday situations is a prime example of contradiction in contemporary life. Objective knowledge of facts is increasingly understood as contingent rather than permanent, leaving room for uncertainty, mystery, the unknown, and seemingly nonrational alternatives. Scientific evidence becomes as valid as alternative facts. Documenting recent developments, it is suggested that rationality and magic are not mutually exclusive. Rather, rational behaviors and practices are suffused with magic. Magical beliefs and specific rituals complement practical knowledge so as to enhance knowledge as a way to secure success. All of these ways of thinking and social practices have something at stake, in that risk, uncertainty, and ambiguity of outcome are prevalent, and hence call on magical practices to bring about change.

Article

Glenn Davis Stone

Robert Malthus’s 1798 Population has proven to be one of the most influential publications in history. Challenging ideas popular among Enlightenment writers, including the perfectibility of human institutions, he argued that since population could grow exponentially and agriculture only linearly, there was an inherent and irresolvable imbalance in nature that unavoidably led to population being checked by mortality among the poor. The policy implication was that aid to the hungry would only create more misery. The most famous “proof” of the theory came in Ireland in the 1840s, and Malthus’s policy recommendations were followed. However, Ireland was setting food export records during the famine, and agriculture has grown much more rapidly than population ever since. The basic tenets of Malthus’s have been debunked, but it continues to be influential, especially in the form of neo-Malthusianism, largely because of the interests it serves.

Article

The dynamic between indigenous descendant communities, archaeologists, and other heritage professionals in Mexico and Central America embodies a distinct regional history of relations between native peoples and the state. In contrast to the United States and other regions, where indigenous polities have a history of legal sovereignty, the legacy of Spanish colonialism has created few parallel avenues for native Mesoamericans. Linguistic, cosmological, and social continuities between living and ancient indigenous populations have long been an emphasis of Mesoamericanist anthropology. Nevertheless, laws for the management of heritage in those countries often marginalize descendant communities from the use and stewardship of the material traces left behind by their ancestors. The ethical dimensions of this dynamic are further complicated by the fact that many activities that are criminalized by existing heritage laws are, in fact, consistent with long-standing traditions of landscape use and material recycling in these societies. Lacking the sovereignty principle that shapes interactions between indigenous communities and archaeologists in the United States, a more inclusive practice of heritage in Mesoamerica involves new kinds of pragmatic dialogue and accommodation.

Article

Maritime archaeology in sub-Saharan Africa is still in its early development stage. An extensive literature survey indicated that relatively few projects of this nature have been undertaken in these parts. Even fewer warrant the adjective “scientific,” based on the dearth of peer-reviewed academic publications that have appeared to date. Based on the survey, it seems that most research is undertaken in South Africa, Kenya, and Namibia, and the emphasis therefore lies with these countries.

Article

Keir James Cecil Martin

Corporations are among the most important of the institutions that shape lives across the globe. They often have a “taken for granted” character, both in everyday discourse and in economic or management theory, where they are often described as an inevitable outcome of the natural working of markets. Anthropological analysis suggests that neither the markets that are seen as their foundation nor corporations as social entities can be understood in this manner. Instead, their existence has to be seen as contingent on particular social relations and as being the outcome of long processes of historic conflict. The extent to which, at the start of the 21st century, corporations satisfactorily fulfill their supposed purpose of managing debt obligations in order to stimulate economic growth is particularly open to question. This was traditionally the justification for the establishment of corporations as separate legal actors in economic markets. Some 150 years on, other sociocultural relations and perspectives shape their boundaries and activities in a manner that means that their purpose and character can no longer be assumed on the basis of such axiomatic premises. Instead, their actions can be explained only on the basis of historic and ethnographic analysis of the contests over the limits of relational obligation that shape their boundaries.

Article

In a world where scholarship is constantly evolving and adapting, Mātauranga Māori is emerging in Aotearoa–New Zealand as a unique and legitimate knowledge source. The word Mātauranga is composed of two parts: mātau, which means to know, be acquainted with, or understand, and the suffix ranga, which turns the word from a verb into a noun. Mātauranga Māori is knowledge passed down intergenerationally from Polynesian ancestors, linking kin across time and space. It is knowledge that belongs to Māori from their earliest beginnings in Hawaiki to descendants living contemporary lives in Aotearoa–New Zealand and in other parts of the world. Guiding and informing Māori lives, Mātauranga Māori is a continuum of ancestral knowledge that binds people. Importantly, relationships between whānau (family), marae and hāpori (communities), and hapū (sub-tribes) are melded through shared experiences and practices of Mātauranga. Shaping the Māori world, Mātauranga Māori is comprehensive and includes creation stories, genealogy, history, oratory, the creative arts, environmental and technological knowledge, and local traditions specific to places and communities. Additionally, it contains the meanings and values of other significant Māori concepts such as kaitiakitanga (guardianship), rangatiratanga (leadership), mana (authority), mauri (life force), whanaungatanga (relatedness), tikanga (customs and protocols), and whakapapa (genealogy). Mātauranga Māori has historically been excluded from New Zealand’s mainstream curriculum, but this is changing as its value and potential become recognized by the state. The body of knowledge offers new ways of seeing the world, and many scholars, both Maori and non-Māori, believe it may be used to address some of the critical issues we face as a global society. Along with the desire for Mātauranga to be included in Aotearoa–New Zealand’s mainstream education, a domain previously dominated by Western science, there is a deep concern that Māori knowledge will be appropriated to benefit “others” who do not whakapapa to the original Mātauranga sources. This is an issue that Māori communities and Māori researchers must address going forward.

Article

Jorge de Torres Rodriguez

During the medieval period, Somaliland and the rest of the Horn of Africa went through a number of important processes that laid the foundations of many of the historical dynamics of the 20th and 21st centuries in the region. These transformations included the consolidation of Islam, the expansion of international trade networks, the movement of the Somali people to the west, and the emergence of a score of Muslim principalities that progressively consolidated their control over significant territories and populations. Although the general outline of the period is well known through a number of Ethiopian, Arabian, and European texts, material evidence for this period is still scarce, especially in Somaliland where research had been discontinued until the 2010s due to political reasons. Research conducted during the 2010s has shown the coexistence of a network of permanent settlements with a rich nomadic culture, expressed in coastal trading posts, inland gathering places, and funerary monuments. Permanent settlements varied widely in size and functions, but showed a remarkable uniformity in terms of architecture, urbanism, and material culture. Nomadic gathering sites, on the contrary, show significant differences but share a common feature: their role as fixed nodes in an otherwise fluid landscape, where groups of different backgrounds could interact safely. Both types of sites were deeply involved in a complex trade system that connected the Horn of Africa with the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, India, and China, with Somaliland playing a key role in the import, export, and transport of commodities and goods. Nomads, urban dwellers, and foreign merchants collaborated in the maintenance of this key economic activity that, unlike in other regions of east Africa, did not lead to the emergence of urban centers by the coast. The western region of Somaliland shows clear similarities with nearby regions of Ethiopia, and was probably soon under the control or influence of the Muslim sultanates that ruled the region. On the contrary, the central region remained mostly a nomadic area until well into the 13th century. At this moment, the increase of trade around Berbera, the arrival of Islam, and the progressive influence of the Muslim states altered significantly the balance of the region, leading to the emergence of permanent settlements and deep changes in its social and economic parameters. Further to the east, the territory seems to have stayed a nomad’s land, far away from the Muslim states’ influence, although active relationships were established between the Somali clans and the Sultanate of Adal during the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 16th century, the complex balance established in previous centuries suffered a series of major setbacks due to the disturbance of the maritime trade routes by the Portuguese, the defeat of the Sultanate of Adal against the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia, and the Oromo expansion from the south. The network of permanent settlements was almost completely dismantled and state structures disappeared in the region until the 20th century, with most of the population embracing the nomadic life that has become the traditional Somali lifestyle into the 21st century.

Article

The megaliths of the northwestern part of the Central African Republic consist of monuments built with numerous large knapped stones crested on a mound. They appear at the beginning of the first millennium cal bc underlining a socioeconomic change that needs to be better characterized. During the following millennia, the archaeological record attests to an intensification of the building of monuments, together with a diversification of their form and function. Appendages such as funeral chambers begin to appear at this stage. These features have led scholars to explore the relationship of these monuments in the social dynamics and symbolic systems of their communities. The emergence of megalithism in a society marks major shifts in their cultural, economic, and political development, as the scale of these works requires significant coordination of materials and resources. In the Eastern Adamawa Plateau, these massive stoneworks allow the excavation and pinpointing of the development iron metallurgy, the diversification of funerary practices, the political development of villages and of the centers of ceramic production.

Article

Gregor D. Bader, Viola C. Schmid, and Andrew W. Kandel

The African Middle Stone Age (MSA) is the period in human history spanning roughly from 300,000 until 30,000 years ago. Here, we focus on the archaeological record of South Africa, with occasional glimpses at neighboring countries (Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia). During this time, modern humans evolved in Africa and brought forth a number of key innovations, including art and symbolism, personal ornaments, burial practices, and advanced methods of tool production using different raw materials such as stone, wood, or bone. The MSA is subdivided into several substages based on regional chrono-cultural differences, such as MSA II or Mossel Bay, Still Bay, Howiesons Poort, Sibudan, and the final MSA. Previous research has tended to concentrate on just two of those stages, namely, the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort, as they were considered to be pinnacles of innovation. In the past years, however, assemblages from other periods have gained increasing attention. Some of the major research questions include the nature and timing of both the onset and end of the MSA. The focus on diachronic cultural dynamics not only related to the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort techno-complexes and the increasing awareness of regional diversification during different phases, especially during Marine Isotope Stage 3 (57,000–29,000 years ago), but also to the inherent problems arising from them.

Article

Debates about migration, whether led by politicians or scholars, often approach migration as a relatively new challenge and categorize it as a “destabilizing force,” ignoring the fact that the world’s past and present has been built by human movement. Humans have always migrated. Individual and population mobility as well as settlement are part of humans’ shared history. To integrate migration into an understanding of humans’ shared past, present, and emerging possible futures, several concepts prove useful including migration regime, displacement, dispossession, conjuncture, colonization, border-making, nationalism, and racialization. Deployed together, these concepts identify moments in human history in which migration has been understood to be part of the human experience and when, where, and how migrants have been stigmatized, and those who move defined as culturally or biologically inferior. By coupling the concept of migration regimes with an analysis of changing modes of dispossession and displacement over millennia, scholars can illuminate the intersection of the economic and political transformations of governance structures as well as the varying concepts of “the migrant” and “nonmigrant,” and “native” and “foreigner.” Anti-immigrant ideologies preclude discussion of the broader economic and political restructurings that underlie both increased human movement and anti-migrant sentiments. They also deflect attention from a set of questions that are at the heart of the anthropology of migration: Why do people leave familiar terrains, family, and friends? How do they manage to move and settle elsewhere? How do they relate to the life they left behind? These are questions that can equally be asked of people who move to another region of a country or travel across political boundaries. To answer these questions migration scholars have explored the linkages between forms of human mobility and processes of dispossession, displacement, and resettlement. In these investigations, social networks prove to be central to mobility and settlement. Since the 15th century, changing Western theories about human migration and the origins of political and social boundaries reflected transformations in political economy. Globe-spanning migration regimes used violent force, border formation and dissolution, documents, surveillance, and criminalization to allow the migration of some and disallow the movement or settlement of others. During that period, marked initially by colonialism and slavery, and then by nation state building and anticolonial struggles, migration scholars including the anthropologists took varying positions on the significance of mobility and stasis in human life. By the beginning of the 21st century, the accumulation of capital by dispossession emerged as a process increasingly central to a historical conjuncture marked by both heightened migration and anti-immigrant nationalism. Political struggles for social and environmental justice began to merge with movements in support of migration. This political climate shaped a new engaged anthropology of migration.

Article

Nicholas Bainton

Anthropologists have been studying the relationship between mining and the local forms of community that it has created or impacted since at least the 1930s. While the focus of these inquiries has moved with the times, reflecting different political, theoretical, and methodological priorities, much of this work has concentrated on local manifestations of the so-called resource curse or the paradox of plenty. Anthropologists are not the only social scientists who have tried to understand the social, cultural, political, and economic processes that accompany mining and other forms of resource development, including oil and gas extraction. Geographers, economists, and political scientists are among the many different disciplines involved in this field of research. Nor have anthropologists maintained an exclusive claim over the use of ethnographic methods to study the effects of large- or small-scale resource extraction. But anthropologists have generally had a lot more to say about mining and the extractives in general when it has involved people of non-European descent, especially exploited subalterns—peasants, workers, and Indigenous peoples. The relationship between mining and Indigenous people has always been complex. At the most basic level, this stems from the conflicting relationship that miners and Indigenous people have to the land and resources that are the focus of extractive activities, or what Marx would call the different relations to the means of production. Where miners see ore bodies and development opportunities that render landscapes productive, civilized, and familiar, local Indigenous communities see places of ancestral connection and subsistence provision. This simple binary is frequently reinforced—and somewhat overdrawn—in the popular characterization of the relationship between Indigenous people and mining companies, where untrammeled capital devastates hapless tribal people, or what has been aptly described as the “Avatar narrative” after the 2009 film of the same name. By the early 21st century, many anthropologists were producing ethnographic works that sought to debunk popular narratives that obscure the more complex sets of relationships existing between the cast of different actors who are present in contemporary mining encounters and the range of contradictory interests and identities that these actors may hold at any one point in time. Resource extraction has a way of surfacing the “politics of indigeneity,” and anthropologists have paid particular attention to the range of identities, entities, and relationships that emerge in response to new economic opportunities, or what can be called the “social relations of compensation.” That some Indigenous communities deliberately court resource developers as a pathway to economic development does not, of course, deny the asymmetries of power inherent to these settings: even when Indigenous communities voluntarily agree to resource extraction, they are seldom signing up to absorb the full range of social and ecological costs that extractive companies so frequently externalize. These imposed costs are rarely balanced by the opportunities to share in the wealth created by mineral development, and for most Indigenous people, their experience of large-scale resource extraction has been frustrating and often highly destructive. It is for good reason that analogies are regularly drawn between these deals and the vast store of mythology concerning the person who sells their soul to the devil for wealth that is not only fleeting, but also the harbinger of despair, destruction, and death. This is no easy terrain for ethnographers, and engagement is fraught with difficult ethical, methodological, and ontological challenges. Anthropologists are involved in these encounters in a variety of ways—as engaged or activist anthropologists, applied researchers and consultants, and independent ethnographers. The focus of these engagements includes environmental transformation and social disintegration, questions surrounding sustainable development (or the uneven distribution of the costs and benefits of mining), company–community agreement making, corporate forms and the social responsibilities of corporations (or “CSR”), labor and livelihoods, conflict and resistance movements, gendered impacts, cultural heritage management, questions of indigeneity, and displacement effects, to name but a few. These different forms of engagement raise important questions concerning positionality and how this influences the production of knowledge—an issue that has divided anthropologists working in this contested field. Anthropologists must also grapple with questions concerning good ethnography, or what constitutes a “good enough” account of the relations between Indigenous people and the multiple actors assembled in resource extraction contexts.

Article

Pamela R. Willoughby

In evolutionary terms, a modern human is a member of our own species, Homo sapiens. Fossil skeletal remains assigned to Homo sapiens appear possibly as far back as 300,000 or 200,000 years ago in Africa. The first modern human skeletal remains outside of that continent are found at two sites in modern Israel, the Mugharet es Skhūl and Jebel Qafzeh; these date between 90,000 and 120,000 years ago. But this just represents a short, precocious excursion out of Africa in an unusually pleasant environmental phase. All humans who are not of direct sub-Saharan African ancestry are descended from one or more populations who left Africa around 50,000 years ago and went on to colonize the globe. Surprisingly, they successfully interbred with other kinds of humans outside of Africa, leaving traces of their archaic genomes still present in living people. Modern human behavior, however, implies people with innovative technologies, usually defined by those seen with the earliest Upper Paleolithic people in Eurasia. Some of these innovations also appear at various times in earlier African sites, but the entire Upper Paleolithic package, once known as the Human Revolution, does not. Researchers have had to split the origin of modern biology and anatomy from the beginnings of modern cultural behavior. The first clearly evolves much earlier than the latter. Or does it?

Article

Joshua Kumbani and Oliver Vogels

Rock art is ubiquitous in southern Africa. It can be assumed that playing musical bows was a similarly widespread cultural tradition in prehistoric southern Africa. But discerning musical performances from other uses of the bow in the rock art is not trivial. Qualified arguments for musical performances therefore rest on the ethnographic record. Depictions of musical bows have been identified only in two rock art collections from South Africa and Namibia. In South Africa musical bows are known from the Maloti Drakensberg mountains in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, and Maclear District in the Eastern Cape Province. In Namibia, the musical bows have been identified mainly in the mountainous massif called Dâureb (its local Damara name) or Brandberg (its foreign Afrikaans name) and the surrounding region in northwestern central Namibia. The occurrence of musical bows in the rock art sheds light on some of the musical instruments that were used in the past and their playing techniques. This is important in music archeological studies, which involve the analysis of music-related artifacts or sound-producing artifacts and their cultural background from the archeological record, or the investigation of the effects of sound in past societies. Rock art is an important source that can be used in music archeological studies. Ethnographic information also gives another depth in describing musical bows and allows one to differentiate contemporary music cultures from the past. There are some notable similarities and differences between the musical bows from South Africa and Namibia. These similarities and differences come in the form of the technical aspects of how sound is produced (organology) by the musical bows and playing techniques, exhibiting distinct music cultures. What stands out is that in most cases the string is turned away from the player, which is different when a bow is used for shooting, as well as the use of a tapping stick to play the bow. The musical bow depictions in Namibia do not have resonators, whereas most of those depicted in South Africa do. However, the musical bows in Namibia are braced or have a string that divides the bow string into two sections (tuning noose), whereas none have been recorded in South Africa.

Article

Shaheed Tayob

The anthropology of Muslim food practices is a burgeoning field that promises to shift the focus away from the dominant concern with rules, conformity, and piety. Food offers an embodied and material location through which to explore the way in which religion, economy, technology, ethics, and everyday life intersect. Studying food brings into view an aspect of Muslim religious and social life that is often commented on in popular media but rarely in scholarly debate. Halal consumption, a practice rooted in intra-Muslim trade and trust, is now a global consumer market. The halal certification industry has emerged to both produce and respond to the new discursive and material context of global trade, consumption, and increasingly scientific eating habits. The new terrain of molecular halal presents opportunities and challenges for Muslim consumption. Beyond halal, food is a substance thought to produce and transmit divine grace (barakat). All-night Ramadan markets and the annual festival of sacrifice are events that draw worldwide attention. Novel phenomena include ever increasing spectacles of feasting and consumption during Ramadan and the emergence of welfare intermediaries that cater to the distribution of sacrificial animals and meat across the globe. In each instance, one obtains an insight into how a discursive and material set of practices that link religion and food are inhabited and transformed in different economic, social, and political contexts. Further research calls for further investigation of these crucial global arenas of Muslim everyday life.

Article

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article. Narratives have always been primary modes in human communication and engagement across cultures and have been used as key analytical tools in numerous disciplines. But how many narratives do individuals produce on a daily basis? This question is difficult to answer given the high variability of the types of narratives that humans tell and the fact that not every sociocultural setting might consider narratives in the same way. Individuals tell stories in many communicative practices, and they have also elaborated ideologies related to what are considered “good” or “bad” stories. These ideologies are, of course, part of specific sociocultural and linguistic contexts and thus might acquire different meanings from a cross-cultural perspective. While defining what a narrative is—how many units it contains and so forth—has been a daunting task in narratological studies, it is important to emphasize that, since the narrative turn in the 1980s, narratives have been appreciated not only for their content, or “denotational text,” but also for their pragmatic effects in the here-and-now of speech participants’ interactions, or their “interactional text.” More specifically, linguistic anthropologists and sociolinguists consider narratives-as-practices instead of relying only on narratives-as-texts. From the classic Labovian model—in which narrative units are key elements for a narrative to be considered as such—to the more pragmatic and discursive approaches to narratives, many theoretical advancements have been made in this field. A linguistic anthropological analysis of a set of narratives collected in northern Italy (2003–2022) and in the United States (2017–2022) illustrates these discursive and pragmatic approaches to storytelling. These analyses thus demonstrate that narratives are interactional events in which their sociocultural surrounding is fluid, unpredictable, and, crucially, it always influences the story in significant ways as it unfolds in interaction. In this respect, while the Labovian model has been widely used, linguistic anthropologists and sociolinguists have meaningfully advanced this field by adding an important pragmatic layer to their narrative theories and analyses. In their view, narratives need to include not only the sociocultural context in which they are told but, importantly, speech participants’ contributions during the storytelling event. Within this analytical and theoretical framework, scholars can unveil narrative patterns that would remain covert otherwise, such as the various spatiotemporal (or chronotopic) configurations that are encapsulated in the collected stories. In this sense, participants’ past stories can become part of the here-and-now interaction. Thus, narratives hardly have a clear division between past story and the present storytelling event, which, at times, conflate and become one.

Article

Robert Fletcher

Neoliberal conservation describes a dynamic wherein prominent organizations around the world concerned with biodiversity protection have increasingly adopted strategies and mechanisms that seek to reconcile conservation with economic development by harnessing economic markets as putative mechanisms for financing nature conservation. Since the turn of the millennium, a vibrant discussion around this topic has arisen across anthropology, geography, and related fields. Within this discussion, the rise of neoliberal conservation is generally treated as part of more widespread processes of neoliberalization occurring throughout the global economy since the 1980s, promoting a constellation of core principles including privatization, marketization, decentralization, deregulation, and commodification. Neoliberal conservation arose out of a growing concern among prominent conservation organizations to include poverty reduction and economic development within their mandates as well as to capture additional funding via partnerships with wealthy corporations. It is commonly implemented through a series of so-called market-based instruments (MBIs), including ecotourism, payment for environmental services (PES), and biodiversity and wetlands banking, as well as financial mechanisms such as green bonds. However, evidence suggests that promotion of neoliberal conservation rarely achieves intended outcomes in actual implementation. This has led some researchers to argue that these activities are thus not neoliberal at all, while others defend this characterization within an understanding of neoliberalization as a variegated process. Researchers also point to the rise of right-wing authoritarianism as a potential challenge to neoliberal hegemony, yet the implications of this trend for conservation policy and practice remain little explored. Thus, the important open question is raised of whether neoliberal conservation was the product of a particular political era that is coming to an end, and if so, what will arise in its aftermath.

Article

Judit Kroo and Ilana Gershon

In the early decades of the internet, many saw new channels of communication as potentially beneficial disruptions, analyzing largely through a utopic lens, albeit often with a technolibertarian bent. This did not last, and by the 2020s, scholars were increasingly pessimistic about how neoliberal logics structured the ways these technologies produced and extracted economic value. The heady promise of newness associated with recently invented communicative technologies had disappeared, to be replaced by despair of surveillance capitalism. Anthropologists of communication are especially well-equipped to study the construction of newness underlying this trajectory from revolutionary promise to all-too-familiar capitalist containment and control. Anthropologists analyze how media are socially constructed as new by attending to the participant structures that tend to accompany new media use—that is, studying the communicative roles and role fractions that participants can adopt or eschew while interacting with, storing, or circulating utterances. To understand how capitalist forms of exploitation so easily undercut the liberatory potential of new media, anthropologists have turned to how neoliberal logics increasingly shape how people value labor and interpret job roles. And in general, anthropological analysis provides a productive attentiveness to the gaps between what people understand about how media affect the message and what people’s actual media practices are, a gap that can reveal nuanced insights into the clashes between people’s hopes and work’s realities.

Article

Alice Leplongeon

Research on the northeastern African Stone Age is intrinsically linked to the study of human occupation along the Nile, which flows north through the now hyper-arid eastern Sahara to meet the Mediterranean, forming a natural route toward the Sinai Peninsula. Since this is the only land bridge between Africa and Eurasia, the region is often referred to as a “corridor,” with the hypothesis that the Nile Valley may have repeatedly acted as a possible route used by hominins out of (and back into) Africa guiding many research projects on the Stone Age of this region. However, past human occupation of northeastern Africa is far from restricted to the Nile Valley and includes evidence from areas that are now desert on either side of the Nile, as well as the Red Sea Mountains. Throughout the Pleistocene (2.58–0.01 Ma), the region was subject to climatic and environmental fluctuations that may have alternately rendered the desert habitable or the Nile Valley inhospitable for hominin settlement. Researchers have used both European and African terminologies to describe the northeastern African Stone Age record. In particular, the terms Early Stone Age and Middle Stone Age are often used for earlier phases, but Upper Paleolithic, Late Paleolithic, Epipaleolithic, and Mesolithic are commonly used for the later phases. Evidence for the Earliest Stone Age is sparse, but numerous sites are attributed to the later part of the Early Stone Age, the Late Acheulean, after c. 0.6 Ma. The Middle Stone Age is known by many surface scatters of lithic assemblages and few stratified sites, sometimes associated with raw material extraction features. Only a few sites document the Upper Paleolithic in the region, whereas a rich archaeological record documents the hunter-gatherer-fisher societies of the Late Paleolithic. While Acheulean and Middle Stone Age sites are located in the desert areas as well as the Nile Valley, for the later periods until the beginning of the Holocene, c. 12 ka, sites are mainly restricted to the Nile Valley. The study of the northeastern African Stone Age reveals complex human-environment interactions with implications for the potential central role of this region in hominin dispersals out of and back into Africa during the Pleistocene.

Article

The term “ochre” has many meanings: a colored stone, a pigment, sunscreen, a curiosity item, a mustard hue, or even an object used for ritual. Ochre found at archaeological sites is described as a range of earthy, ferruginous rocks with red–yellow–purple streaks. The use of ochre in the past has proven valuable for interpreting not only cognitive capabilities of its users but also for its potential to shed light on behavioral and social factors. The late Pleistocene, and specifically the Middle Stone Age in southern Africa, is a time of significant behavioral and cognitive advances for Homo sapiens—this coincides with the habitual use of ochre. By looking at the collection and use of ochre in the African Middle Stone Age, placed within a global and temporal context, important behavioral conclusions can be made. Ochre has many potential uses, making interpretations of ochre use in the past complicated. Ethnographic and modern analogies are considered as well as the experimental work that has been produced by numerous researchers. All accounts have deepened our understanding of the many ways that ochre may have been used in the distant past. It is likely that both its color and mineralogical content dictated its use in the past.

Article

The South Asian subcontinent contains a vast mosaic of environments and lifeways. Agriculture and pastoralism are important food producing systems within this mosaic but coexist alongside hunter-gatherer-fisher-forager groups, shifting cultivators, and nomadic pastoralists that are often marginalized. This interplay between different lifeways has deep roots in South Asian history and prehistory. Despite this, discussions of early South Asian agriculture and pastoralism often depict a limited and narrow dataset, confined to a few sites. As a result it has been argued that the origins of agriculture and pastoralism in South Asia are hard to pinpoint. However, archaeobotanical, zooarchaeological, and genetic data, alongside the growing archaeological record, are showing that the South Asian subcontinent is a rich ground for exploring the complexity and nuance of changing lifeways during the transition to agro-pastoralism. People in South Asia incorporated both nonnative crops and animals from southwest Asia, Africa, and China into existing systems, domesticated local taxa in multiple regions, and continued to exploit wild resources throughout periods of established agro-pastoral systems. A diversity of Neolithics are therefore demonstrated within the subcontinent, and the mixing of traditions is a hallmark of South Asia and is critical for discussions about what early agriculture and pastoralism looked like and what the impacts of changing lifeways and economies were over time.