Theories of Cooperative Subsistence of Indonesian Whale Hunters
Michael Alvard Principal Investigator
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This project studies how indigenous whale hunters of Indonesia cooperate and share the proceeds from their hunting. By recording the economic activity of marine hunters by individual boat (manned by 7-14 men), as well as the distribution of the meat on shore, being attentive to kinship relations, the data will allow the researchers to test hypotheses drawn from evolutionary ecology. These hypotheses have to do with the nature of sharing of valuable resources under conditions of scarcity, unpredictability, and long-term relations. Specific hypotheses deal with `tolerated theft or scrounging`, reciprocity and variance reduction in valued resources, the `showing off` hypothesis which deals with non-economic exchanges to productive hunters, mutualism, and kin selection. The researchers include an anthropologist and graduate students from SUNY Buffalo, who through participant observation, video-taping of resource transfers, anthropometry, and intensive interviews. The project will create valuable data on whale hunting, sharing and exchange, and will advance our theoretical understanding of the roots of human economic cooperation in a context that has been important in our evolutionary past, large game acquisition, defense and distribution..