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date: 25 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The term ‘hunter-gatherer’ is argued to have acquired its anthropological and archaeological meanings only in the last 250 years in the contexts of colonialism, capitalism, and increasing concerns in western Europe about property rights and the economy. Prior to that it is difficult to trace the presence of any concept that consistently equates to a similar category. Examples from ancient Greece, southern Asia, and China are discussed to demonstrate how axes of alterity vary according to cultural and historical context. The ways in which the modern idea of hunter-gatherers grew out of various othering discourses present in medieval and early modern times, and in conjunction with a nascent capitalism are then considered. It is proposed that the category has outgrown its initial purpose and context and may now have only a limited use: investigations exploring alternative aspects of alterity and cultural diversity may often be found a more stimulating approach.

Keywords: archaeoloical, anthropologically, hunter-gatherer, colonialism, history, alterity

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