The Ecology of Production, Reproduction and Cooperation among the Mardu

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project investigates production, reproduction, and cooperation among the Mardu, a hunter-gatherer society in the Western Desert of Australia. The research focuses on the social and reproductive benefits men and women gain from status as a good hunter or good seed collector, and the links these may have with hunting and other cooperative behavior, asking why individuals often choose to acquire food that goes to feed others, and why individuals cooperate in some hunting and collecting tasks, but not others.

The researchers will use ethnographic interviews concerning social status, demography (household, marital and reproductive, and grouping history, and observations on prey choice, time allocation, food sharing, and cooperative hunting to understand how changes in economy and mobility have changed Mardu resource selection, social status, demography and marital patterns, food sharing, and cooperative labor over the last 40 years.

The broader impacts of the project include educational benefits gained through training graduate and undergraduate students in field research and analysis; and research benefits from data and models addressing current debates and problems in social science, particularly the relationships between gender differences in production, mating strategies, and collective action.

The results from this research will be relevant to collective action theory in small-scale societies, and in understanding the role of acquired status (such as that gained through hunting) in egalitarian society. In addition, this study will provide the first detailed investigation of the social status of women hunters in a foraging society.

Effective start/end date8/1/039/30/05


  • National Science Foundation: $275,000.00


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