Women’s Work in Indigenous Societies.

Session Organizer(s): 

This session will explore the roles of women in different Indigenous subsistence economies, which could be pastoralist, hunting and gathering, as well as, horticultural subsistence systems (including small-scale farming and fishing). The geographical area is global, from the southern part of the globe stretching to the north including the arctic. Women’s work is often unrecognized both on the local level as well as the international level; in calculating the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in economics, the women’s unofficial work such as preparing food, taking care of children, cleaning, and washing clothes, is not included. However, the work of women is not limited to the domestic sphere, women also do work outside the domestic sphere with fishing, hunting, herding animals, which is considered by anthropologists as well as the local men, as men’s work. In addition, historically, women are gathering fruits and plants in a hunting and gathering society, and women often tend to the fields in small-scale farming while the men do clearance of the forest for farmland.

The session welcomes presentations about Indigenous women’s work either in the past or in present day. The research can be archaeological, historical, or anthropological. We are especially interested in presentations, which focus on understanding how the role and the status of Indigenous women in subsistence economy were transformed over time due to colonization.The presentations can also address the issue concerning; gender roles in the Indigenous communities are changing and new strategies for surviving and maintaining different Indigenous identities are being formed in present day. Many women in Indigenous communities are today working as wage-laborers and professionals, bringing in money to the family. Their income often facilitates the continuation of the subsistence practices, leading to changed power relations and changed practice of the subsistence activities. Still they are not always recognized as the breadwinners in the national legislation and not granted the same rights as the men. We welcome explanations drawing on historical factors, such as the legislation and regulation of Indigenous peoples and anthropologists’ ethnographic description of them, for creating this situation.