When Worlds Collide
Hunter-Gatherer World-System Change in the 19th Century Canadian Arctic
Max Friesen has adapted and expanded world-system theory in order to develop a model that explains how hunter-gatherer interaction networks, or world-systems, are structured—and why they change. He has utilized this model to better understand the development of Inuvialuit society in the western Canadian Arctic over a 500-year span, from the pre-contact period to the early twentieth century.
As Friesen combines local archaeological data with more extensive ethnographic and archaeological evidence from the surrounding region, a picture emerges of a dynamic Inuvialuit world-system characterized by bounded territories, trade, warfare, and other forms of interaction. This world-system gradually intensified as the impacts of Euroamerican colonial activities increased. This intensification, Friesen suggests, was based on pre-existing Inuvialuit social and economic structures rather than on patterns imposed from outside. Ultimately, this intense interacting network collapsed near the end of the nineteenth century. When Worlds Collide offers a new way to comprehend small-scale world-systems from the point of view of indigenous people. Its approach will prove valuable for understanding hunter-gatherer societies around the globe.
“Friesen presents an important and powerful demonstration of an archaeological scientific hypothesis-testing methodology, and he provides an excellent example of a problem-oriented approach to archaeological practice. It should receive attention beyond the confines of its regional content precisely for its rigorous theoretical approach.”—Stephen Loring, co-editor of Honoring Our Elders: A History of Eastern Arctic Archaeology