Labor specialization and the formation of markets for food in a Shipibo subsistence economy

  • Behrens C
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Traditionally, the Shipibo economy was subsistence-based with shifting cultivation supplying calories, principally in the form of plantains and root crops, while fishing and hunting provided animal proteins to the diet. Some men, who recently began producing rice for sale in regional markets, now allocate less time to wild food procurement. Moreover, this trend has been accompanied by the nucleation of households, a growing cash market for agricultural labor, and the intravillage sale of faunal foods. This paper shows that with cash cropping, some Shipibo now freely distribute less food to others in relation to the amount they produce. To account for this change, a theory is developed based on time allocation and patterns of economic behavior reported throughout the Amazon. This theory is then applied to explain specialization and the formation of cash markets for food labor among the Shipibo.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Shipibo, time allocation
  • decision-making
  • labor specialization
  • mathematical model

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  • Clifford A. Behrens

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