Special Plenary Address


Dr. Richard Lee will present: “The Myth of Hunter-Gatherer Ultra-Violence: A Critique of the ‘Bellicose’ School.”

Abstract: The question of violence in early human society and in human nature has been an issue of philosophical importance since the days of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. Recently some social and biological scientists have sought to provide empirical support for the Hobbesian view of life in the “state of nature” as “the war of all against all.” Hunter-gatherers, ancient and modern, form a crucial component of their arguments. This lecture examines the evidentiary bases of their theses, evaluating the ethnographic and archaeological research on hunting and gathering societies. Serious deficiencies are found in the arguments of the “bellicose school.”  The lecture attempts to reset the terms of the debate on firmer empirical and theoretical grounds.

Richard Borshay Lee  (Ph.D. UC Berkeley) is a University Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. He has held academic appointments at Harvard, Rutgers, and Columbia Universities, and research positions at Australian National University and Kyoto University. His research interests include human rights and indigenous peoples, ecology and history, medical anthropology and AIDS, and the evolution of human behavior. He is internationally known for his studies starting in 1963, of hunting and gathering societies, particularly the Ju/’hoansi-!Kung San of Botswana and Namibia. His 1979 book The !Kung San: Men Women and Work in a Foraging Society was ranked among the top 100 works in science of the 20th century by American Scientist magazine. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences  (Foreign Associate), he is past-president of the Canadian Anthropology Society and holds honorary Doctorates from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and Guelph University for his research and advocacy on behalf of indigenous peoples.