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From Dr. Victor Thompson: " Considering Ideas of Collective Action, Institutions, and “Hunter-Gatherers” in the American Southeast"

Black and white map of southeastern US with labels of field sites

Dr. Victor Thompson has recently published the article, "Considering Ideas of Collective Action, Institutions, and “Hunter-Gatherers” in the American Southeast," in the Journal of Archaeological Research. 


Archaeologists have not readily applied collective action and institutional approaches to the study of hunter-gatherers. This is especially true of the American Southeast. Here, I use a review of the recent literature to illustrate the value of such approaches to understanding long-term histories. This review of hunter-gatherer archaeology spans the entire temporal range of Native American history in the Southeast. I argue that the term “hunter-gatherers” itself is constraining. In its place, I suggest that a focus on institutional change and collective action provides a way to better connect histories across temporal units, which then allows for a greater understanding of how such traditions developed, were maintained (or abandoned), and reinvented over the course of history. At the end of the review, I pose five key research areas that archaeologists should focus on that speak to institutions, the nature of public and private goods, common pool resources, and collective action regarding large-scale labor projects.

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