Poyer and Kelly on the Mystification of the Mikea

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[Madagascar hunter-gatherers, the] Mikea who juggle maize horticulture, wage labor, fishing, foraging, and entrepreneurship have a certain value in the regional community. But mysterious forest-dwellers who run naked through animal paths in a deep thorn forest--now there's a moneymaker...

The place that hunter-gatherers hold in the imaginations of nonforaging peoples is an unavoidable element of their identity.

As international research and tourism continue to expand, responses to their economic stimulus will affect the evolution of foraging identity. Although population growth and environmental degradation will limit its economic viability, foraging may well continue as an element of a mixed economy in the world, including the Mikea Forest. At the same time, the attraction of foraging--or more accurately, what the Western world takes foraging to be--to the business of research, tourism, and journalism may prove to be a strong factor in shaping the future of hunter-gatherers.

Lin Poyer and Robert L. Kelly. 2000. Mystification of the Mikea: Constructions of foraging identity in southwest Madagascar. Journal of Anthropological Research 56:163-185.
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