Peter Sercombe presents at Hunting-Gathering conference in Vienna

Peter Sercombe recently attended the ‘Eleventh Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies’ (CHAGS), in Vienna, giving two presentations related to his interests in language and communication in hunting-gathering communities.


He presented in two panels: In the first – ‘Is hunter-Gatherer Kinship Special and (how) Does It Change? Perspectives from Anthropology, Linguistics, History and Beyond‘ – Peter’s paper (‘The Changing Face of Penan Nomenclature’), described and attempted to explain decline in the use of Penan teknonymy and necronymy.

Peter’s second paper (‘Markedness and Intra-Ethnic Communication among Penan’), in which he considered innovations in Penan intra-communal talk, was part of a panel entitled ‘Oral Tradition, Sociolinguistics, Language Contact in Hunting and Gathering societies. An Ethnolinguistic perspectives on identity matters’.

Peter also co-chaired a panel on Religious Beliefs and Practices as defining Features in Small-Scale Hunting-Gathering Societies’; below is a description of the panel below:

Traditionally, it has been assumed that beliefs among foragers typically include a reverence for nature and ongoing belief in higher powers (such as gods or spirits), commonly linked to totemism, shamanism and the idea of a medium or a ritual expert (Guenther 1999). It is also recognized that foragers have tended not to distinguish between the natural and supernatural realms, and that beliefs can often be linked to a time before a group’s existence. Belief systems and ritual practice, nonetheless, vary markedly between foraging groups, thus making statements of uniformity highly problematic with reference to hunting and gatherers in general. Diversity is compounded by the ‘fluidity of myth and lore’ that is a feature or oral literature, given the high likelihood of individual differences in recounting myths. This session proposes a re-evaluation of traditional assumptions and offers, as a point of departure, a list of features intended to frame important aspects of the versatile concept of hunter-gatherers’ religions.

You can learn more about the CHAGS event on Facebook and Twitter.

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