The anonymity of the hunt: A critique of hunting as sharing

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33 Citations (Scopus)


Hunter-gatherers are often ascribed a “monistic” worldview at odds with the nature-society dichotomy. The centerpiece of this claim is that they view hunting as similar to sharing within the band and prey animals as part of a common sphere of sociality. This article challenges this thesis. An examination of the work of its main proponents shows that it conflates two different senses of “animal”—the flesh-and-blood animals of the hunt and the animal Spirit that is said to control the animals. The sharing motif in hunting makes sense with respect to the anthropomorphic Spirit but not to the animals hunted. The conditions of the hunt as a spatiotemporal event provide further grounds for skepticism toward the idea of hunting-as-sharing. Drawing on biologist Robert Hinde’s model of relationships, I argue that hunting represents an anonymous one-off interaction that cannot develop into a personal relationship, in stark contrast to the durable forms of personalized sociality associated with the hunter-gatherer band. This is not to deny the possibility of human-animal cosociality in the form of personal relationships but rather to redirect the search away from the hunt to the interface with domesticated animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-355
Number of pages22
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • anthropology, hunting, sharing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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