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Barker, G. & Janowski, M. 2011. Why cultivate? Anthropological and archaeological approaches to foraging-farming transitions in Southeast Asia. Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs

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Does it make sense to understand the prehistory, history and present-day patterns of life in Southeast Asia in terms of a distinction between two ways of life: 'farming' and 'foraging'? This is the central question addressed by the anthropologists and archaeologists contributing to this volume. Inherent within the question 'Why cultivate?' are people's relationships with the physical world: are they primarily to do with subsistence and economics or with social and/or cultural forces? The answers given by the contributors are complex. On a practical level they argue that there is a continuum rather than a sharp break between different levels of management of the environment, but rice-growing usually represents a profound break in people's relations to their cultural and symbolic landscapes. An associated point made by the archaeologists is that the 'deep histories' of foraging-farming lifeways that are emering in this region sit uncomfortably with the theory that foraging was replaced by farming in the mid Holocene as a result of a migration of Austronesian-speaking Neolithic farmers from southern China and Taiwan.


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