Foraging and Gender

Livelihoods oriented around hunting and gathering remain important in many Indigenous societies, and patterns of work in these societies are often complex and variable. Research in the HEnDy lab is focused on social and ecological factors that influence stasis and change in the patterns of work. We focus on two aspects of this variability: what factors influence changes in foraging decisions in modern contexts, and what shapes gendered tendencies in practices of production?

In nearly all societies around the world, labor is gendered: some economic pursuits tend to be more within the realm of men while others are often dominated by women. But patterns in gendered work vary in different historical and social contexts, and among people who forage for a living there are often overlapping emphases in gendered work. How can we explain such variability? While some hypotheses for this pattern argue for an economy of scale in household labor, where men and women specialize on tasks that each can do most efficiently given their different constraints, it may be just as likely that there are other forces at work. We’ve investigated the hypothesis that gender differences can emerge in local contexts of differential variance sensitivity: one or more genders are biasing subsistence decisions either toward more variable resource types that may function to ensure efficient advertisement of underlying qualities or toward less variable subsistence activities that increase the certainty of a given reward.


Codding, B.F., D.W. Bird, and R. Bliege Bird (2015). The real cost of closing remote communities. Arena Magazine

Bliege Bird, R., B.F. Codding, and D.W. Bird (2015). Holding the Dreaming: economic, social and ecological benefits of hunting, sharing and fire in the Western Desert of Australia. In 21st Century Hunting and Gathering, B.F. Codding and K. Kramer (eds). SAR press, Santa Fe.

Bliege Bird R and Codding BF (2015) The sexual division(s) of labor. In: Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Robert Scott and Stephen Kosslyn, eds. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p 1–16. 

Zeanah D, Codding BF, Bird DW, Bliege Bird R, Veth P (2015) Diesel and damper: disintensification among the Martu of Western Australia. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 39:51–62.

Scelza, B.A., Bird, D.W., and Bliege Bird R. (2014) Bush Tucker, Shop Tucker: production and consumption in an Aboriginal outstation. Journal of Ecology of Food and Nutrition 53(1) 98-117.

Codding, B. F., Bliege Bird, R. and Bird, D.W. (2011) Provisioning offspring and others: risk–energy trade-offs and gender differences in hunter–gatherer foraging strategies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 278(1717): 2502-2509.

Bliege Bird, R. (2007) Fishing and the sexual division of labor among the Meriam.  American Anthropologist 109:442-451.