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Rewild your inner hunter-gatherer: how an idea about our ancestral condition is recruited into popular debate in Britain and Ireland

2023-11-01, Lavi, Noa, Rudge, Alice, Warren, Graeme

We examine how hunter-gatherers are imagined in popular debate in Britain and Ireland, demonstrating that aspects of hunter-gatherer lifestyles are presented as both the antithesis and antidote to perceived crises in contemporary society. We apply an anthropological lens to four areas of popular discourse: physical health, mental health, bush-craft and survivalism. We identify how the imagined hunter-gatherer in these debates is constructed through processes of commodification, which often reveal nostalgic colonial values regarding ‘human nature’. This repeats and sustains damaging perceptions of hunter-gatherer lifeways. It also highlights how archaeological, anthropological and other academic research on hunter-gatherers is manifest in popular debates that reinforce assumptions about human nature and the significance of our evolutionary past within a neoliberal, colonialist context.