Circumpolar Lives and Livelihood


Circumpolar Lives and Livelihood

A Comparative Ethnoarchaeology of Gender and Subsistence

Edited by Robert Jarvenpa and Hetty Jo Brumbach

332 pages
Illus., maps


March 2006


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December 2008


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About the Book

Circumpolar Lives and Livelihood is a cross-cultural ethnoarchaeological study of the gendered nature of subsistence in northern hunter-gatherer-fisher societies. Based on field studies of four circumpolar societies, it documents the complexities of women’s and men’s involvement in food procurement, processing, and storage, and the relationship of such behaviors to the built landscape. Avoiding simplistic stereotypes of male and female roles, the framework of “gendered landscapes” reveals the variability and flexibility of women’s and men’s actual lives in a manner useful for archaeological interpretations of hunter-foragers.

Innovative in scope and design, this is the first study to employ a controlled, four-way, cross-cultural comparison of gender and subsistence. Members of an international team of anthropologists experienced in northern scholarship apply the same task-differentiation methodology in studies of Chipewyan hunter-fishers of Canada, Khanty hunter-fisher-herders of Western Siberia, Sámi intensive reindeer herders of northwestern Finland, and Iñupiaq maritime hunters of the Bering Strait of Alaska. This database on gender and subsistence is used to reassess one of the bedrock concepts in anthropology and social science: the sexual division of labor.

Author Bio

Robert Jarvenpa is a professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Albany. His books include Northern Passage: Ethnography and Apprenticeship among the Subarctic Dene. Hetty Jo Brumbach is an associate curator of anthropology at the State University of New York at Albany. She is the author of many reports and articles, which have appeared in such journals as Arctic Anthropology, Man in the Northeast, American Antiquity, and Human Ecology.


“This is a highly readable and useful study that adds to the understanding of the ways that social relations inhere and are embedded in tasks. The explication of the research methodology and the structured approach to the reporting add to the strength of the combined case studies. . . . Circumpolar Lives and Livelihood is a significant contribution to the growing literature about circumpolar peoples that has been made possible by the end of the Cold War.”—Pamela Stern, Polar Record

“The subject matter, organization, and editorial control exercised in pulling together this volume make it a ‘must’ for academics interested in circumpolar peoples. It is also a great classroom text for courses on the ethnography, ethnoarchaeology, or archaeology of foragers. Each case study is valuable in its own right, and the complementary chapters (one ethnographic, the other presenting the task differentiation analysis) work well as stand-alones. . . . The editors’ Introduction and concluding chapters do more than simply tie the studies together—they draw out tantalizing and well-reasoned generalities while tempering each with the caveat that archaeologists desiring a gender attribution ‘road map’ should look elsewhere.”—Arctic

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