Heider Chapter 6
Patterns of Production
I clearly remember my PhD chair requiring me to read in an area of study called the ‘political economy of
o I understood the health piece, after all I was a student of medical anthropology.
o I was resistant to the political economy component! Why?
It was a macro-level analysis of production, distribution and consumption of health care.
I thought that reading about nation-states would be a waste of my time.
Of course I was wrong, but my views did reflect those of many anthropologists (and still
does) in that we tend to focus on micro-level issues, what some call small-scale societies.
One major theme of economic analyses is that of transactions (or exchanges), and Chapter 7 will look at
In Chapter 6 we address another theme, issues of production: the creation and reproduction of goods, as
well as the knowledge of how to make and use these goods.
Cultural Adaptation and Production
• Economic anthropology studies economics in a comparative perspective.
o An economy is a study of production, distribution, and consumption of resources.
o Mode of production is defined as a way of organizing production—a set of social relations through
which labor is deployed to wrest energy from nature using tools, skills, organization, and
o Similarity of adaptive strategies between societies tends to correspond with similarity of mode of
production: Variations occur according to environmental particularities.
• Production takes place in real settings
o This means we need to look at the interactions between culture and environment.
o As these factors are accommodated, cultural adaptation occurs both as a process and as the
resulting cultural changes.
Food production strategies can be altered through innovation:
Environment can be adapted
Culture changes when new ideas take hold
• Each culture presented represents a different way of cultural adaptation
o Therefore, we need to pay attention to local knowledge:
Also called folk science: the ideas, skills shared by a local group.
For instance, you may know where the best parking spots are on campus
Or where the best source of fresh produce is.
Case Study: Dirty Dani Pigsties
• One example of the interaction of culture and environment can be seen by looking at the Dani and their
relationships with pigs.
• In the 1980s, some Indonesian officials (remember the Dani are situated in Irian Jaya), became alarmed at
the sanitation of Dani pigsties, especially as they kept them in their homes.
o First, remember that many Indonesians are Muslim and so not predisposed to the eating of pork.
o Second, a plan to separate sties from homes was proposed, but never carried through.
• What were the potential consequences of this proposed move/elimination of pigs?
o Because pigs are scavengers, they can use the food wastes of humans. Carrying food to the pigs
would be more labor-intensive
o While dirty and smelly, pig feces are also an excellent fertilizer. Without pig feces, many plants
would have not thrived.
o Stealing pigs is fun, and causes problems. When pigs are further away they are more easier stolen.
o Not mentioned in the book, but important, because pigs often are near houses, malaria-bearing
mosquitoes bite the pigs and leave humans alone.
• This Western focus on the removal of traditional cultural adaptations is common.
o Remember the Goddess and the computer example from Chapter 1?
o The most famous example was written by Marvin Harris concerning the British proposal to decrease
cattle number in India. His work was called India’s Sacred Cow.
o Michael Dove suggests we pay more attention to local knowledge: the ideas, knowledge and skills
that a particular culture group shares (folk science)
• Technology is the means of manufacture and production. It includes two important components:
o The artifacts such as tools used by the culture. This includes tools and other material goods.
o Cultural ideas (schemas) represent the non-material components of technology.
• Here is where we need to be clear that there can be simple material culture, but never non-material
o Remember, there are no primitive cultures
o It is easy to slide back into that way of thinking, but remember the mindset of the late-1800s and
classification of peoples by biology, culture and technology as an example of a cautionary tale.
• The importance of technology as a means of cultural adaptation is especially clear in environments which
are the most severe, such as for the Inuit or when the Polynesians were voyaging great distances.
• Example is Polynesian voyaging
o Well before Western explorers entered the Pacific, the Polynesians had discovered the entire South
Pacific (from Hawaii to Easter Island, to New Zealand and Guam).
• Artifacts included the boats, food stored, etc
• Intellectual property: They knew where they were going
• When native knowledge becomes marketable, ownership is questioned
• Today, there are many conflicts over indigenous intellectual rights
o On a separate note, in Hawaii, and much of Polynesia, there is a cultural revival movement.
Moving out from under colonial rule, and its effects, many of the traditional practices are
Polynesian voyaging is one, the hula in Hawaii is another.
What Does the Environment Determine? 1
• Julian Steward was a founder of cultural ecology
o He worked with food foragers in the US
o He emphasized the connections between technology, environment, and what he called the “levels
of cultural integration” (size and complexity of social group).
He suggested that technologies have different outcomes in different environments.
His ideas fall within the theory family of functionalism (as does Marvin Harris, FYI).
• We need to remember that some cultural features are less tied to environment and technology that is
suggested by Steward.
o One example of this is a comparison of Australian Aborigines and the Ju/’hoansi of South Africa.
Both groups live in deserts, both are food foraging groups, both live in small mobile bands
Their kinship and art differ though
The Ju/’hoansi are little concerned with tracing kinship outside of immediate family,
but the aboriginal populations of Australia have some of the most complex (and
geographically) far reaching kinship structures known anywhere
The art of the Ju/’hoansi is less elaborate, but that of the Australians incorporates
Dreaming (not Dreamtime, FYI) and elaborate art forms.
I disagree with Heider here; he is ignoring Ju/’hoansi rock art, song, dance, and
What Does the Environment Determine? 2
• Heider discussing another example: the Inuit and the Kwa Kwaka’ Wakw
o Both American Indian groups were foragers, but the environments were strikingly different
Inuit in the snows of the far North where the sources of food are the oceans and rivers.
With no trees, they build houses of snow
They make their clothes from the animal resources, and use animal resources to
acquire more of them
Kwa Kwaka’ Wakw in a luxurious setting, with abundant resources
These peoples of the Pacific Northwest (along with other PNW cultural groups) draw
from a myriad of sources for food, shelter, and even wealth.
This group used their abundance to expand into cultural practices surrounding
feasting, stockpiling of resources, carving and painting.
Unlike the Inuit, the PNW peoples distributed this wealth unevenly, creating social
hierarchies referred to as ranked societies (based on kinship, especially among chiefs)
The key message is that the environment allowed this system to develop, but it did not
determine it (in other words, it was not an inevitable outcome of the environment, but one of
The Division of Labor 1
• Emile Durkheim (early French sociologist, who also influenced anthropology) looked at the variation in how
labor is assigned cross-culturally
o As with many sociologists of his time, he was concerned with the increased role of individualism
and how this was affecting social groups.
He was concerned that larger societies were vulnerable as they became more specialized in
He observed that as persons became more specialized, division of labor increased.
His big question was “what holds a society together when there is no necessity for
• There is a continuum of specialization
At one end of his continuum, specialization of labor is based on age and gender, and rarely
any other demographic.
This is the least seen in any society and is largely based on physical and mental capacities
(also called human labor)
He tended to see non-industrial societies simplistically
o A the other end of the continuum, the degree of specialization is not enough to hold these types of
• He identified two different mechanisms by which cultures maintained cultural cohesiveness: mechanical
and organic solidarity
The Division of Labor 2
• Mechanical solidarity
o At the “lower end” (according to Durkheim)
Specialization according to gender and age
Based upon physical and mental capabilities
Based on strongly held and shared values, beliefs, customs
Having the same basic world view
o Family is economically self-sufficient
o No full-time nor part-time specialists
Durkheim concluded that common beliefs keep the group together, not economic necessity.
Examples: Dani, Ju/’hoansi , & Yanomamo
• Organic solidarity
o At the “high end” of the continuum
Extremely dependent upon others for goods, services, and survival
Each member has specialized knowledge and skills and contributes different to the
He found that as division of labor (specialization) increases, interdependence
becomes more important
o Durkheim concluded that strong sharing of cultural beliefs diminishes
The Division of Labor 3
• At least a minimum economic division of labor exists in all societies
• Division of labor by age and gender is always present (are universals)
Small children perform little jobs, while older children may perform adult tasks
Middle-class American adulthood may be as late as early 20s, but in the 19th century
England, children performing adult work at age 10
Males and females have different jobs
Men often engage in heavy labor, jobs requiring short spurts of intense energy, and
work far from home
Women often engage in long-lasting work (child care, gardening) and home work
Reasons for division of labor by gender
Men are generally stronger (upper body)
Only women become pregnant and give birth (lower body)
But in any society, some women are stronger than some men, but there is no society
that makes gender a secondary criterion for roles, even the US
Food Production Strategies
• A fundamental adaptation of any culture is how people get food.
• There are only 3 main food production strategies:
o Foraging (often called hunting-gathering)
o Farming (which ranging from horticulture to industrialized agriculture)
o Animal husbandry (also called pastorialism)
• There is a tendency to label cultural groups by their primary means of food production. This causes
o The first is that most groups use mixed production strategies (say foraging and trading for goods)
o The second problem is the terms create a gloss (covers too many different cultural groups to have
any real usefulness)
• This is the among the first of human strategies for gathering food (scavenging is the other)
• Even well into the 20th century this was the primary strategy of some groups (such as the Ju/’hoansi)
o Today, we define a group as foragers if >75% of resources are acquired this way.
o Among the groups which we have discussed where this occurred: Inuit, Kwa Kwaka’ Wakw,
Australian aborigines and the Bumbuti (often called the pygmies of Central African rain forests)
Even among the groups who are foragers, there is great variation in land use, kinship
patterns, property rights, division of labor and tools.
It is important to keep in mind that each of these examples is from a group at an extreme
(likely due to lack of colonial desire for these areas) so they are not likely to represent the
range of foraging practices
• Correlates of Foraging
• Band-organization is typical of foraging societies, because its flexibility allows for seasonal adjustments.
• Members of foraging societies typically are socially mobile, having the ability to affiliate with more than one
group during their lifetimes (e.g., through fictive kinship).
• The typical foraging society gender-based division of labor has women gathering and men hunting and
fishing, with gathering contributing more to the group diet.
• All foraging societies distinguish among their members according to age and gender, but are relatively
egalitarian (making only minor distinctions in status) compared to other societal types
• The Ju/’hoansi as one example of foraging culture
o First they do not represent prehistoric foragers for many reasons:
They have been trading with farmers and ironworkers for goods that were not available 50,
000 years ago
They have been changing (as all cultures do)
Prior to farming, the rich lands would have been used by prehistoric foragers.
o There have been many names given this group
Bushmen is a term derived from Afrikaans term Bojesman). The Ju/’hoansi applies to a
specific people of Namibia and Botswana.
San replaced bushmen, but is a term no considered to be deragotory by the members of the
Khoisan is a term invented by Schapera, a linguist, to group together the languges that are
based on clicks
o Until the later part of the 20th century the Ju/ were mostly foragers
In the 1960s, anthropologists, studying with these people, put to rest the stereotype that
they were struggling in starvation regularly
In fact, their knowledge of plants and animals was literally encyclopedic
Animal Husbandry and Pastoralism 1
• Animal husbandry (pastoralism) is the second food production strategy
o It is the raising of animals for food and other products.
o The range of importance across groups varies, from the Dani who use animals for special
occasions to those who are full time pastoralists
• Among the animals most often used by pastoralists include:
o Cattle in the Near East, East Africa and Central Asia
o Yaks in Central Asia
o Camels from North Africa to India and Central Asia
o Sheep (and goats) among the Navajo, and in Asia
o Llamas, alpacas, and vicuña in the Andes
o Reindeer in Eurasia
• The Nuer
• A prototypical pastoralist culture is the Nuer of the upper Nile regions of East Africa.
o They depend greatly on their animals for subsistence
o Focus much of their symbolic, ritual, and social life around their animals
o Move their settlements according to the rhythms of the seasons
o They live in fairly marginal land that is not suited to farming
• The Nuer do spend part of the year farming grains and other crops, as well as doing some fishing
Animal Husbandry and Pastoralism 2
• The regular movements of pastoralists varies greatly.
Pastoral Nomadism: all members of the pastoral society follow the herd throughout the year.
Transhumance or Agro-pastoralism: part of the society follows the herd, while the other part
maintains a home village (this is usually associated with some cultivation by the pastoralists).
• A female pastoralist who is a member of the Kirgiz ethnic group in Xinjiang Province, China.
• Today, due to the technology, politics population growth and ecological sensitivities have caused the
available land to shrink
• There is one exception:
o Decentralization, decollectivization and increase of privatization and market economies in Mongolia,
China and Tibet changed the picture.
o There pastoralism is on the increase
• Farming is the third food production strategy and is seen as the planting and harvesting of vegetable foods.
o Somewhere around 15,000 the first farmers began to appear in the archaeological record.
o V. Gordon Childe called this change the Neolithic Revolution, with an impact as important as the
In archaeology one of the most important questions is “why farming”?
The answers are as varied as one might expect, given that farming was invented at least 10
times by separate groups.
• Farming is actually a broadly used term that covers many practices but can be evaluated using these
o Tools: range from digging sticks to plows to tractors
o Land tenure: ranges from constantly shifting fields to centuries-long occupations
o Alteration of the land: ranges from virtually none to ditching, terracing, and irrigation canals
o Soil enrichment: ranges from minor (ashes from trash fires) through local fertilizers (pig droppings)
to high-tech imported insecticides and fertilizers
o Crops: range from mixed cropping to monoculture
o Purpose: ranging from minor dietary supplements to subsistence to cash cropping.
• Slash-and-burn, or Swidden, Farming
o Slash-and-burn cultivation and shifting cultivation are alternative labels for horticulture. Another
common name used is swidden agriculture (or horticulture)
• This is the typical pattern in tropical, hilly forestland around the world.
• This is an ecologically sound practice.
o But in recent years this is not as accurate
o With increased populations, the land is left in production to long in many areas.
• Usually these farmers are also engaged in various types of foraging to supplement the diet
• Horticulture is non-intensive plant cultivation, based on the use of simple tools and cyclical, non-continuous
use crop lands.
• Also called extensive agriculture is non-mechanized system of food production that relies on human labor
and small plots.
• It is midway between the slash-and-burn strategy and what is called intensive (plow or tractor) agriculture
• These terms blur easily though
• Focus Culture: The Dani (and the film Dani Sweet Potatoes)
• When the ancestors of the Dani first occupied their land, likely practiced swidden farming, but at some time
in the past, they drained the low-laying swamps and created drainage ditches.
o In fact, the oldest evidence for irrigation anywhere is found at Kow Swamp in PNG.
o The ditches are used as water reserves during dry spells, compost sites for garden wastes, barriers
to foraging pigs, and also for the soaking of stone adzes as a part of their production
• There is a gender-based division of labor: men clear fields, fertilize the fields; women plant, weed, harvest
and cook the crops.
• Pigs are important to the Dani, as we discussed earlier in this chapter
• Land rights are informal, no formal titles to land.
o Newcomers would talk to elders as to where to plant
o This has been a disadvantage as the Indonesian government sees this as open land and is taking it
aware from indigenous peoples for the benefit of their Javanese settlers
• A garden may be used for up to 10 years before it is fallowed
• The diet is about 90% sweet potato (originated in South America and transported in by the Spanish)
Intensive and Industrialized Agriculture
• Agriculture is farming using plows and tractors, permanent occupation of the land, irrigation, fertilizers and
insecticides, and often the growing of single crops.
• With intensive agriculture, the crop feeds a large number of persons
o Not many wild mammal species were ever domesticated.
According to Jared Diamond a set of criteria needed to be meet before an animal could be
domesticated (Listed in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel)
Eat many foods and eat low on the food pyramid
Reach sexual maturity quickly
Be able to bred in captivity
Be less aggressive and not dangerous to humans
Not be too skittish as they are harder control (the zebra as an example)
Be part of a social hierarchy into which humans can place themselves as the leaders
So what species have been domesticated?
Near East: Cattle, goats, horses, pigs, and sheep, cats; Mediterranean: Rabbits
Mexico/Central America: Turkey; South America: guinea pig, llama/alpaca,
Asia: Chicken, water buffalo, Bactrian camel, yak; and Africa: Donkey, dromedary
o Intensive agriculture is often associated with cash cropping today , as compared to growing for
• Industrialized agriculture is a response to colonialization.
o Food is now globally traded
o Even so, within industrial societies foraging and other forms of subsistence production continue in
the forms of gardening, hunting, gleaning (gathering a second harvest), and foraging (wild
mushroom hunting, etc)
Rice farmers of Luzon in the Philippines (picture not displayed)