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Nets and Arrows: Gender and Social Organization Among the Mbuti One of the very controversial issues in the anthropological research on the Mbuti, foragers in the Ituri Forest, concerns subsistence, gender and social organization. It has to do with women’s participation in net hunting and archery hunting…
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Cultural Research Paper
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Download file to see previous pages This paper considers an economic explanation and an ecological one, along with an analysis of forest symbolism and a sociological analysis of honey collecting, to form the thesis of this paper: that the impact of hunting and honey-collection subsistence activities of the Mbuti, on gender and social organization, is mediated by forest symbolism that serves as a basis for their ideology, and that Forest symbolism and consequent social organization, of this hunter-gatherer society, shapes gender practices with respect to net and archery hunting, and also to honey collection. Five distinct theories are presented in this paper. The first, by Bailey and Aunger, is basically an economic theory. They argue that net hunting is participated in by women in areas where Mbuti find it to be more economically rewarding than working in the village gardens of agriculturalist outsiders. In archery hunting areas, this is not so. The second is Abruzzi’s, ecological theory about population pressure. Abruzzi argues that the net hunting and archery hunting division is an adaptive response to the invasion of Mbuti territory by non-Mbuti outsiders. The third theory, core to this paper, is from a fascinating descriptive analysis by Mosko. Mosko’s paper introduces a structuralist theory of forest symbolism and kinship representation, nothing overtly specific to net and archery hunting, but actually, it would appear, quite central to it. The symbolism of the forest, as conceived by the Mbuti, and described by Mosko, places men at the center, the hearth, the vaginal entry to and exit from the womb, and similarly as close as possible to the center of the forest, the sacred space where it is forbidden to disturb by hunting. It places women at the periphery, near the food baskets in huts, and similarly in labor contact with the agriculturalists, at the periphery of Mbuti territory. Having read the other two papers first, and later reading Mosko’s paper, the idea dawned (the fourth theory being the theory stated as the thesis of this paper) that the connection between gender and subsistence and social organization, as it pertains to net and archery hunting, actually has its roots in the forest symbolism of which Mosko spoke, although he did not apply it to that consideration. It follows to ask why, then, as so many anthropologists and ethnographers have asked before; why do women participate in net hunting but seldom to never in archery hunting? How might this unique, non-materialist way of looking at Mbuti social organization, from a more emic perspective of forest symbolism contribute to answering this question? The fifth theory considered in this paper is an ecological and sociological analysis of honey collection activities and norms. Ichikawa emphasized that honey collection, among net hunting Mbuti, is an activity that strengthens social organization, and that women and children participate in honey collection activities but do not, themselves, actually collect the honey, as that is done only by men. Inputting honey-collection information into consideration of the thesis of this paper, remaining sensitive to Mosko’s explanation of emic forest symbolism, the question of “why” might be more confidently answered. The impact of hunting and honey-collection subsistence activities of the Mbuti, on gender ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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