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4 The G|ui/G||ana of the Central Kalahari

4 The G|ui/G||ana of the Central Kalahari

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Education and Learning During Social Situations Among the Central Kalahari San

!Oi!om residents who favored relocation began to move to

Kx’oensakene, a new settlement outside the CKGR. Migration snowballed, and most CKGR residents resettled in

Kx’oensakene. Then, national and international movements

were organized to fight for the rights of the San, and a case

was filed against this policy implementation, claiming that it

was forced relocation. After a protracted legal battle, in 2006

some Kx’oensakene residents were allowed to return to the

camps inside the CKGR. Despite this landmark court victory, however, it is still difficult for the G|ui/G||ana to make a

sustainable living inside the CKGR. Notably, the right to

freely enter the CKGR was not granted to the majority of the

G|ui/G||ana, who were relocated before 2002.

I collected literature and field data on trips to Southern

Africa that covered a total of 42 months (up to January

2015), beginning in 1997. The field research for this paper

was mainly conducted in Kx’oensakene. During the field

research, the population of this area was approximately

1,000 G|ui and G||ana in Kx’oensakene (as of April 2000). I

recorded their interactions using a video camera, while periodically visiting their houses, as well as accompanying their

foraging activities. I also conducted interviews with people

about relevant activities. Interaction analysis (Nishizaka

2008) provides one of the frameworks to analyze these

video data. This analysis was derived from conversation

analysis (Schegloff 2007), which discusses human sociality

based on the detailed empirical analysis of language use.

Interaction analysis has been advanced with the expansion of

the modes of communication to be analyzed and the theoretical framework of conversation analysis (e.g., Streeck et al.



Cooperative Action in Social Situations

Below, I perform an interaction analysis of the following:

(1) the mutual accommodation that occurs while caregivers

and infants engage in nursing and “gymnastic” behaviors

and (2) the process by which children imitate each other

during singing/dancing activities. These examples encourage us to focus on the relationship between the participants

of interactions, rather than individuals, as the unit of analysis, and to inquire into the sequential organization of

microlevel interactions, which will allow us to consider

education and learning in everyday life.


The Mutual Accommodation Between

Caregivers and Infants During Nursing

and Gymnastic Behaviors

The relationship between caregivers and infants is

characterized by the intercorporeal uses of their bodies.


This corporeal field, as the embodiment of values and the

setting of cultural practices, works as the ground engendering their characteristic intersubjectivity. Previous studies

have shown that across language/area-based groups, young

children of the San have extremely close relationships with

their mothers. The degree of mother-infant physical contact

is much greater than that between their counterparts in

Western societies (Konner 1976, 1977). Moreover, nursing

usually occurs for only a few minutes at a time, several times

each hour for 1.5 years after the birth of infants (Konner and

Worthman 1980). From detailed analysis, Takada (2005b)

determined the following reasons that form this kind of

frequent short-interval nursing among a group of San (!


First, mothers could nurse their infants at any time, in any

location. For example, mothers breastfed their infants while

cooking, sewing, or smoking. Moreover, mothers did not

hesitate to nurse the infants when other people were present.

Second, mothers nursed their infants to soothe them. Infants

tended to stop fussing when their mothers started to nurse

them. Third, sucking was negatively correlated with “gymnastic” behavior (defined as a series of behaviors in which

caregivers keep infants standing or jumping on their laps; see

below). Moreover, breastfeeding was sometimes terminated

at the onset of gymnastic behavior. Fourth, sucking negatively correlated with the caregivers’ gaze. This could be

because when mothers nursed, the mothers became more

relaxed than usual. Consequently, it was not until infants

started fretting that mothers took action. Fifth, the rate of

jiggling after a break in sucking was almost the same as the

base rate. Kaye (1982) reported that in the United States,

there is a contingent, turn-taking relationship between

sucking and jiggling, which enables breastfeeding to be

prolonged. This finding is important because in postindustrialized society, extending the duration of breastfeeding

bouts is considered to be an indicator of the development of

the stable lifestyle of the infant (e.g., Baba 2000, pp. 22–24;

Imamura 2001, pp. 108–109). Moreover, Kaye and his

followers asserted that turn-taking between suckling and

jiggling is a fundamental, universal feature of mother-infant

interaction (Kaye 1982; Masataka 1993). Conversely,

repeated jiggling-sucking turn-taking hardly occurred

among the San (!Xun). The caregivers do not react to

the onset of a pause in sucking, but to the infant fretting or


Similar frequent, brief nursing has also been observed

among the G|ui/G||ana. Figure 8.3 shows the serial photos

that captured their nursing practice. In this case, a

woman, M, nursed her infant, Ax, who was 7 weeks old, in

front of her hut. Inside the hut, there were two children: Gt,

who is the older sister of Ax and 39 months old, and P, who

is the nephew of M (M’s older sister’s son) and was approximately 10 years old at the time.


Fig. 8.3 Gymnastic activity

occurring directly after nursing

A. Takada



At the beginning of the video clip, M was nursing Ax

while sitting in front of the hut. M talked to Gt about her

grandfather and his friend, who were some distance away,

while nursing (Fig. 8.3a). After a short sucking period lasting for approximately 34 s, Ax dropped the nipple from her

mouth and started swinging her extremities. M immediately

looked into Ax’s face and tried to make Ax bring her mouth

to the nipple, using her right hand. This attempt failed,

however, and M voiced “ʔo ʔo: ʔo ʔo:” to Ax to soothe her

(Fig. 8.3b). Nonetheless, Ax kept swinging her extremities.

After looking to the left, M gazed at Ax again and put Ax in a

sitting posture by holding her body up by her hands

(Fig. 8.3c). After a brief moment, Ax’s movement of her

extremities slowed. Moreover, after glancing to the left, M

picked Ax up and kept her in a standing position by holding

Ax’s body (Fig. 8.3d), making Ax engage in gymnastic

behavior, which included a continuous stepping movement

of Ax’s legs. M then gazed at Ax’s body, grabbed Ax’s body

twice, and then tapped Ax’s body repeatedly while engaging

her in the gymnastic behavior. She reduced the pressure of

her hands, which were holding up Ax’s body. Consequently,

Ax shifted to a crouched posture because she still could not

sustain her body weight by herself. M looked at Ax and once

again put her into a sitting position.

The above interactions demonstrate that when the infant

starts fretting, the mother reacts to her/him. The mother

tends not to gaze at the infant while the infant engages in



quiet sucking. Naturally, a 7-week-old infant in a reclining

position can only perform a narrow variety of actions, such

as sucking the nipple and moving the extremities. Using

these actions, however, Ax apparently reacted to the given

context. In the meantime, the mother was dealing with a

much broader context while she sat and nursed the infant in

front of their hut. Even within this short fragment of

interactions, she looked in front of her and gossiped about

her relatives with her older daughter, Gt, in addition to

continuously holding the infant and caring for her. She was

thus involved in a complicated participation framework, as

well as multitasking. This is one of the reasons why the

mother tended not to gaze at the infant while she was

sucking and reacted only after the infant started fretting.

Early studies considered the close mother-infant bond

among the San as a type of behavior that was opposite to

that of their Western counterparts. The former tended to

be understood as an original, affectionate relationship

between mother and infant, whereas the latter places more

emphasis on exercising the child’s independence. However,

recent literature on attachment reconsiders this premise and

recognizes the cultural diversity of caregiver-infant

relationships in small-scale societies (e.g., Quinn and

Mageo 2013). The present study supports this view. San

mothers have their own contexts of caregiving. Their distinctive style of nursing should be appreciated in terms of

these circumstances.


Education and Learning During Social Situations Among the Central Kalahari San

Note that in the above example, gymnastic behavior

occurred directly after the nursing activity. Elsewhere I

have described the practices of gymnastic behavior among

groups of San and have discussed the role of this distinctive

caregiving behavior with respect to socialization (Takada

2002b, 2004, 2005b, 2011b). Takada (2005b) noted that

sucking negatively correlated with gymnastic behavior,

and breastfeeding was sometimes terminated at the onset

of this behavior. Among San groups, infants frequently

engage in gymnastic behavior, beginning only several

weeks after birth (Konner 1973, 1976; Takada 2002b,

2004, 2005b, 2011b). In the early stages, caregivers hold

the infant softly and move them gently, and then along with

the development of the infant, gymnastic exercise becomes

increasingly active, and the infants are even sometimes

thrown up in the air. Other people in eastern and western

Africa (Super 1976; Bril et al. 1989) also practice such

gymnastic behavior.

Gymnastic behavior induces the stepping reflex in an

infant. This reflex, also called the U-shaped primitive reflex,

is present at birth, but usually disappears within the first few

months of life. Subsequently, the stepping response

reappears when the infant begins to stand and walk (Cole

and Cole 1993, pp. 136–137, 152; Bly 1994). However, I

found that among San groups, including the G|ui/G||ana,

gymnastic behavior induced the stepping reflex and

prevented its disappearance in infants over 2 months of age

(Takada 2002b, 2004, 2005b, 2011b). This finding supports

the hypothesis that the stepping reflex is not innately

programmed to disappear, but is a flexible behavior that

will occur in certain situations. Moreover, my data suggest

that gymnastic behavior occurred in a cheerful atmosphere.

In many cases, including the above, infants made a fuss just

before the gymnastic behavior occurred, and caregivers tried

to soothe them by engaging them in gymnastic activity

(Takada 2002b, 2004, 2005b, 2011b). Accordingly, the

mother created rhythms collaboratively with the infant in

the course of gymnastic activity.

The above uses of the body characterize the cooperative

stance between mothers and infants among the San.

Although the 7-week-old infant is far below the age of

being able to understand the intentions of the mother, mother

and infant mutually accommodated their behaviors by

reiterating a minute coordination of their posture, attention,

gaze, and other senses in the course of their interactions. It is

noteworthy that, in these interactions, the mother’s and

infant’s bodies were used in distinctive manners. Both frequent breastfeeding and gymnastic behavior provide the

infant with physical pleasure. Breastfeeding not only

satisfies the infant’s hunger but also provides the infant

with the simple rhythmical stimulus of sucking.8 Moreover,

the mother changed the posture of the infant often. The

mother placed the infant in a lying position while


breastfeeding and held the baby in a standing position for

gymnastic behavior. In these manners, various aspects of the

body of the mother, as well as those of the infant, were used

as semiotic resources for their communicative practices.

Moreover, uses of their bodies are embedded in the setting

of culturally formed conventions and thereby provide the

basis engendering the characteristic intersubjectivity of the

G|ui/G||ana. The fact that both infant and mother become

gradually accustomed to these conventions in their everyday

life provides the foundations for G|ui/G||ana education and

learning. In other words, the accumulation of their

interactions shapes “microhabitats” in which the participants

of interactions dwell. Microhabitats include both “corporeal

niches” (e.g., infant held upright, lying down in caregiver’s

arms, etc.) and “material niches” (e.g., slings, blankets, etc.)

(Ochs et al. 2005, pp. 554–555), both of which can be seen as

variants of “developmental niches” (Super and Harkness

1986). The culturally distinctive habitus (Bourdieu 1977)

of G|ui/G||ana is generated from the microhabitats. As the

next section shows, through expanding their microhabitats,

children gradually develop their habitus.


Imitation in Singing/Dancing Activities

of Multiaged Child Groups

Among San groups, when the close mother-child relationship declines, children begin to switch from a strong attachment to the mother to an attachment to a multiaged group of

children. Older children habitually take care of youngsters

without the supervision of adults (Konner 1977, p. 290;

Takada 2010a, b). This trend is also observed among G|ui/

G||ana children. Like other San groups, G|ui/G||ana

multiaged child groups enthusiastically practice singing

and dancing activities, which provide a place and opportunity for socialization. Below, I discuss how the young G|ui/

G||ana children become involved in these activities.

Song is inseparable from dance for the G|ui/G||ana. In the

G|ui/G||ana language, |{{́ denotes song and dance. Singing

and dancing provide one of the major sources of pleasure for

G|ui/G||ana children. When children gather, they frequently

form a circle and perform a variety of songs and dances.

When children hear and see others engaging in a singing and

dancing activity, they often join the circle one after another

(Takada 2010b). An example is given in Fig. 8.4, taken from

a video clip recorded in Kx’oensakene.


Additionally, breastfeeding facilitates hormone production in

mothers. For instance, frequent breastfeeding constitutes a key variable

in maternal gonadal suppression that could account for the long

interbirth interval (Konner and Worthman 1980).


A. Takada







Fig. 8.4 Performance of dance steps by a toddler

We focus on Gt, who was 39 months old at the time and

was already introduced in Fig. 8.3. Besides Gt, there were

four teenage girls. A and B formed a circle in a standing

position; C was sitting on the ground while holding Ax, who

was 7 weeks old and was the focal baby in Fig. 8.3; also next

to C, D was also sitting on the ground. Soon, A and B began

rotating, while performing rhythmical dance steps. Seeing

this, Gt also started making dance steps while protruding her

buttocks (Fig. 8.4a). When A saw Gt dancing, she said “Gt,

dance! Gt:, DA::NCE!!” and thereby encouraged her to

dance. Noticing this, Gt briefly stopped making steps and

then started making steps again (Fig. 8.4b). This time she

swung her head while making the steps, whose pattern was

similar to the previous ones (Fig. 8.4c). The teenage girls

began paying attention to Gt’s actions. A instructed Gt,

saying “Gt, look. Turn around and then go over there!”

Then, according to A’s instruction, Gt turned around and

went outside the video frame. Gt came back quickly into the

video frame. Next, in front of D and B, Gt performed her

dance steps in rhythm with the older girls singing (Fig. 8.4d).

All of the older girls were paying attention to Gt’s actions.

Again, Gt turned around and went outside the video frame

(Fig. 8.4e). Soon she came back into the video frame while

dancing, with a smile on her face (Fig. 8.4f).

At the beginning of the above excerpt, except for C who

was watching Gt, the teenage girls did not pay attention to

Gt’s movements. When Gt began to imitate the actions of the

dancing girls, they involved Gt in the singing/dancing activity. Although it is not surprising that at the age of 39 months

Gt could reproduce the demonstrators’ behaviors with the

same goal as that of the demonstrators, it is notable that Gt

imitated not only particular actions but also the common

orientation or “we” intention of the singing/dancing activity.

Gt then repeatedly appeared at the center of the dance circle

and improvised her dance performance by combining various movements of her body (e.g., dance steps, swinging of

her head and arms).

The above dance performance performed by the

multiaged child group that included Gt has much in common

with the dance script that has been practiced by G|ui/G||ana

women for a long time. This dance script is summarized as

follows: the participants form a circle, after which each

participant performs unique dance steps in turn at the center

of the circle, while other participants forming the circle keep

singing songs and clapping their hands. In the above excerpt,

the “we” intention embodied in the particular singing/dancing activity was associated with the culturally formed dance

script developed at the institutional level in G|ui/G||ana

society. That is to say, Gt and the other girls unfolded the

dance script in the course of interactions, where Gt played an

appropriate role in the singing/dancing activity of the

multiaged child group. Notice that, although A’s verbal


Education and Learning During Social Situations Among the Central Kalahari San

instruction provided Gt with a key to invoke the dance script,

she did not display any perceivable model of back-and-forth

movements and dance steps that she made at the center of

circle.9 Despite this, Gt was able to do more than what she

saw and what she was told to do (i.e., she was able to

improvise her dance performance). Subsequently she could

make appropriate actions along with the unfolding temporal

horizon of the singing/dancing activity. As such, participation in the singing/dancing activity amplifies reflexive consciousness regarding possible actions in the course of

interactions with reference to the culturally formed dance

script, which is not lodged in the brain of each individual,

but is sustained by the continuous flow of dance


In other words, the requirement of the dance script assures

the progress of the singing/dancing activity and makes the

temporal structure of the activity projectable. This helps

young children carry out SL’, namely, perceive and become

involved in the sequential organization of the activity without the explicit intention of a particular educator. It should be

remarked that the singing/dancing activity usually comprises

multimodal (e.g., lyrics, rhythms, utterances, gestures, facial

expressions) and multiparty interactions. This brings about

the complex organization of the singing/dancing activity.

The complexity provides young children with a variety of

clues for taking part in the activity, even if they do not fully

understand its entire structure. In addition, the singing/dancing activity renders space meaningful; that is, when the

singing/dancing activity arises, insignificant space is

transformed into meaningful place (e.g., the center of the

circle as the stage of dance steps) through contingent mutual

accommodation among the participants. In brief, participation in the singing/dancing activity provides children with

opportunities for learning and educating through (re)

generating the culturally formed dance script.


Concluding Remarks

To conclude, I draw a few theoretical implications derived

from the analysis of everyday interactions. In this paper, I

redefine/reoperationalize the uses of SL and IL as learning

that occurs in a social situation (SL’) and as a learning

process that occurs within each individual (IL’). From this

approach, I analyzed two culturally distinctive G|ui/G||ana

social situations in which both SL’ and IL’ occurred.


Although it has been said that most hunter-gatherer societies, including

that of the G|ui/G||ana, traditionally do not have a system in which

experienced members introduce mature skills to inexperienced members

in specialized settings, such as school, at the level of institutions, it is not

unusual for experienced members to instruct inexperienced members at

the level of actions, as shown in this excerpt.


The analysis clarified the microprocesses by which one

participant in an interaction aligns and affiliates (Stivers

et al. 2011) with other participants during culturally distinctive activities. These dynamics serve as the foundation for

the education and learning inherent in the collaboratively

organized sequences of interactions, by means of which

experienced and inexperienced humans participate in social

situations (Goffman 1964) such as those analyzed above.

Indeed, most collective patterns of human actions are

thought to be shaped by the education and learning that

occur during social situations. In contrast, even the nonhuman great apes, which have highly established cognitive

ability, are rarely observed to engage in cooperative actions

through which an individual shares knowledge with other

individuals and cooperates with them (Tomasello and

Camaioni 1997; Cartmill and Byrne 2010).

The analysis described in this paper also facilitates a

reconsideration of the individualistic perspectives of ability,

one of the basic premises underpinning most approaches to

the study of education and learning. SL’ at its core is not that

one (an individual) acquires ability that is assumed within

the individual and enables him to do something across a

variety of situations, but that one achieves socialization

through accumulating actions that are appropriate at a certain place and time. To accomplish such actions, it is

required that each participant exerts agency and creativity

while taking into consideration the context of interactions

embedded in the particular social situation.

Education and learning that promote appropriate actions

in social situations also function to construct such social

situations and, moreover, to maintain and restructure the

given society. Thus, there exists a recursive link among a

society, social situations that characterize the society, and

learning and education that occur in social situations. Hence,

in various societies, we can recognize movements that try to

promote education and learning, furnish social situations that

are structurally distinctive in the given society, and systematically institutionalize the pattern of learning and education.

This suggests that if the institution related to education and

learning does not function well, it will be difficult to maintain the distinctive social situations, and eventually the

foundations of the given society may suffer a breakdown.

This is what we can actually recognize in Kx’oensakene,

where the school system was introduced by the government,

and San students are often badly beaten by their teachers

who have a Tswana background (Akiyama 2004,

pp. 211–215). In such situations, the indigenous institutions,

which have similar functions to those found in the Western

educational system, do not function well, and subsequently,

the parents sometimes try to rescue their children and

remove them from school. It appears that the original aim

of the government was to integrate the San people into the

majority society and strengthen the unity of the nation state.

To avoid dire consequences contrary to the original aims of


the state, the recursive links among practices of learning and

education, social situations in which learning and education

occur, and regional society under favorable educational

conditions must be appreciated and reestablished.

Acknowledgments I would like to express my gratitude to the government of Botswana for providing us with permission to conduct this

research (OP 46/1 XLII (43)). This work is financially supported by the

JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (S) “Cultural formation of

responsibility in caregiver-child interactions” (Project No. 19672002

headed by Akira Takada), JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research

(A) “Cultural and ecological foundations of education and learning: An

anthropological study on rhythm, imitation, and exchange (Project

No. 24242035 headed by Akira Takada),” and JSPS Grant-in-Aid for

Scientific Research on Innovative Areas “Replacement of Neanderthals

by Modern Humans: Testing Evolutionary Models of Learning (Grant

No. 1201 headed by Takeru Akazawa).”


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Constructing Social Learning in Interaction

Among the Baka Hunter-Gatherers

Koji Sonoda


This chapter shows how children and adults of the Baka Pygmies in eastern Cameroon

construct social learning. Although the “easygoing” nature of the relationship between

children and adults has been argued, previous hunter-gatherer research has given little

attention to the children’s participation in hunting and gathering activities and the details of

oblique knowledge transmission during these activities. I collected data by video recording

naturally occurring interactions between adults (or adolescents) and children during the

children’s participation in collective hunting, gathering, and other cultural activities such as

butchering animals. The ages of the focal children ranged from 5 to 9 years old.

The findings show that the adults’ and adolescents’ actions contributed to the children’s

building of situation-embedded knowledge. The focal children were able to adopt a social

and cooperative stance toward the activities being performed, and the activities gave them

access to various learning resources (other participants, phrases spoken during an activity,

objects, tools, the immediate environment in which the children participate, etc.). From

these findings, it becomes clear that the knowledge built in every social situation was not a

one-sided endeavor, but rather a collaboration between experts and learners. The cognitive

state and the body positioning of the children were taken into account by adults

(or adolescents) in these learning contexts in order to facilitate the (re)production of

knowledge by the children. This fact leads us to the conclusion that experts’ sensitivity

to learners and the learning contexts where they are situated are distinctive key

characteristics of social learning in humans.


“Easygoing” nature  Adult-children relationships  Social situation  Knowledge making



This article investigates how children and adults in a modern

hunter-gatherer group construct social learning. Following

Takada’s work (this volume) on the G|ui/||Gana, particular

attention is paid to the “social situation” (Goffman 1964) in

K. Sonoda (*)

Graduate School of Asian and African Studies, Kyoto University,

Kyoto, Japan

e-mail: ksonoda21@gmail.com

order to illustrate the organization of knowledge and skills as

the targets of learning in the midst of moment-to-moment

interaction. This is also an attempt to provide a view of the

learning behavior of modern hunter-gatherers.

Many hunter-gatherer ethnographers have noted the easygoing nature of the relationship among children, adults, and

adolescents (see Turnbull 1962, 1965; Blurton-Jones and

Konner 1976; Woodburn 1982; Hewlett and Cavalli-Sforza

1986; Kamei 2005; Bird-David 2005; Hewlett et al. 2011;

Terashima 2013). As Bird-David (2005) asserts, children do

not constitute a noticeably separate social group in modern

# Springer Japan 2016

H. Terashima, B.S. Hewlett (eds.), Social Learning and Innovation in Contemporary Hunter-Gatherers,

Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series, DOI 10.1007/978-4-431-55997-9_9



K. Sonoda

hunter-gatherer societies, as children and adults spend much

time together. Although the adults organize work, leisure,

and living spaces, “there is no reason for confining children

or excluding them from certain activities” (Draper 1976,

p. 205). This tendency is also attributed to the cultural

emphasis on egalitarianism. For example, Hewlett and his

colleagues observed that “foragers value autonomy and egalitarianism, so parents, older children or other adults are not

likely to think and feel that they know what is best or better

for a child and are generally unlikely to initiate, direct or

intervene in a child’s social learning” (Hewlett et al. 2011,

p. 1173).

Children’s participation in hunting and gathering

activities also occurs within this easygoing context. The

author frequently observed Baka children participating in

such activities with adults. However, previous ethnographic

research has given little attention to children’s active participation in hunting and gathering activities and the details of

oblique transmission of knowledge about these activities.

among African Pygmy hunter-gatherer societies. This study

supplements this body of work by building an understanding

of how knowledge and learning are socially constructed

within the “easygoing” context adult-children relationships

among Baka foragers and by focusing on learning situations

involving the participation and interaction of multiple actors.

In order to illustrate such dynamics of social learning, we

ground our analysis of face-to-face interaction between

participants in learning situations based on Goffman’s

(1964) work. Goffman (1964, p. 135) claimed that “a social

situation arises whenever two or more individuals find themselves in one another’s immediate presence, and it lasts until

the next-to-last person leaves.” Here, I work from the premise that the social situation continues for as long as knowledge specific to that situation is being produced and

confirmed by the participants. The aim of this article is

thus to show how knowledge is mutually constructed by

children and adults in the course of their interaction in

daily activities.



Knowledge and Social Learning

Situated learning theory (Lave and Wenger 1991) has had a

wide influence, affecting studies of learning in psychology,

anthropology, and cognitive science. This theory suggests

that knowledge that exists in one’s body, mind, or brain is

also derived from the ongoing interactions embedded in the

immediate environment in which learners participate. In

other words, much of what is learned is specific to the

situation in which it is learned (Anderson et al. 1996).

Marchand (2010) argues that cognitive processes of interpretation are individual, but knowledge-making is social.

Therefore, making knowledge is a dynamic process

“entailing co-ordinated interaction between interlocutors

and practitioners with their total environment” (Marchand

2010, p. S2). In this approach, cognitive ability and learning

environment can be understood to be mutually constituted.

Note that, here, the “environment” is limited to the focal

activity with which participants are engaged (Goodwin


Previous studies of learning in hunter-gatherer societies

have focused on individuals’ innate learning capacities and

propensities – how and from whom individuals acquire

socially transmitted knowledge. Such studies have

investigated modes (pathways) of transmission (Hewlett

and Cavalli-Sforza 1986) and demonstrated children’s imitation of adult activities (Harako 1980; Kamei 2010;

Turnbull 1962, 1965) and patterns of alloparenting (care

given by non-parents) (Hewlett 1991, 2004; Fouts 2008;

Fouts and Brookshire 2009; Ivey 2000; Tronick

et al. 1992) and physical and emotional proximity (Fouts

2008; Hewlett 1991; Hewlett et al. 2011; Tronick et al. 1992)

The Baka

The Baka hunter-gatherers number between 30,000 and

40,000 (Bahuchet in Hewlett 2014) and inhabit the rain

forests of southeast Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, and

Gabon. Under the influence of the government-imposed

sedentarization program in the 1960s (Hewlett 2000), the

Baka have gradually given up much of their former mobility,

settled in semipermanent villages, and adopted agricultural

subsistence practices. However, hunting and gathering

remains an indispensable part of their livelihood, and they

continue to forage for many forest products, including meat,

yams, nuts, etc., for both cash income and consumption. The

Baka and neighboring farmers have long lived in association

and interact in social and economic settings on a daily basis.

Mainly in the dry season, many Baka men, women, and

children work in the farmers’ fields – planting, weeding,

and harvesting.

All Pygmy hunter-gatherers speak languages related to

those spoken by either current or previous non-huntergatherers neighbors (Bahuchet 2012). No family of Pygmy

languages exists (Bahuchet 1992). The Baka language is

classified with Adamawa-Oubanguien (IA6) branch of

Niger-Congo (Cavalli-Sforza 1986). However, Mayer

(1987) argued that the plural suffixation that some Pygmy

languages share in Gabon may be vestige of an ancestral

Pygmy language. Paulin (2006, 2010) has examined the

impact of changing lifestyles on language use among the

Baka in Gabon, illustrating word borrowing and codeswitching during interactions with non-Baka neighbors.

At least five stages of development have been identified

in the ethnotheories of the Baka: babyhood (dínd

o: 0 to 1 or


Constructing Social Learning in Interaction Among the Baka Hunter-Gatherers

2 years of age), infancy (lιɓenda`: 1 to 2–5 years of age),

childhood (yandε: 5–15 years of age), adolescence (wanjɔ

for males before marriage and sia for females before marriage), and adulthood (kobo: all individuals after marriage).1

In this article, “children” (yandε) refers to individuals who

are about 5–10 years of age. Hirasawa (2005) found that

older Baka children (ages 6–10) usually follow their

mother’s requests without protest. Additionally, Boyette

(2013) and Hewlett and colleagues (2011) found that 4–12year-old Aka children in Central Africa form mixed-aged

groups but remain within the visual range of an adult. During

my fieldwork, I observed many activities, such as collective hunting (primarily for giant rats), butchering of game

(giant rats, tree hyraxes, duikers, etc.), gathering

(mushrooms, insect pupae, termites, etc.), and dam and bail

fishing, in which adults and adolescents were frequently

helped by children. Game was butchered primarily by male

adolescents, who were often observed and helped by younger children. Collective hunting was frequently performed

by a wide range of age groups, including adults, adolescent

males and females, and children. Gathering and collective

bail fishing were performed by females, but these activities

were watched and partially engaged in by young children.

For Baka children, experience of these activities can be

characterized as what Rogoff (2003) referred to as “guided

participation.” Children’s participation in collective hunting,

gathering, and other cultural activities such as butchering

animals is structured by their adult and adolescent

companions. In all of these cultural activities, for example,

simplified tasks are divided and given to the children, objects

are positioned so as to be in view of children, and older

companions are open for responding to children’s actions.



My data consisted of videotaped recordings of actual

conversations that occurred during my stay at one of the

Baka people’s camps and their village. The videos captured

total of 799 min of interaction among adults, adolescents,

and children in the course of their daily hunting, gathering,

and leisure/play activities.

Although most of the verbal exchanges discussed herein

were conducted in the Baka language,2 some included several French words and words taken from neighboring

farmers. Transcripts3 were made in collaboration with two


The age distribution was based on Kamei’s (2010) work.

The spelling of Baka words is based on Brisson’s (2010) dictionary.


Symbols used in transcripts are modified from Schegloff (2007). A

colon (:) indicates lengthening of the current sound. A dash (-) marks

the sudden cutoff of the current sound. Equal signs (¼) indicates a



Baka translators who were well acquainted with camp

members. The interaction analysis was based primarily on

the “conversation analysis” technique developed by

Goodwin and Heritage (1990). This technique treats talk as

an action and focuses on how basic participant roles such as

speaker, hearer, and overhearer are categorized, constituted,

and deployed, clarifying how the recipients of action operate

as active participants. This technique also focuses on the

multifaceted ways in which participation facilitates a further

understanding about actions in which others are engaged

(Goodwin and Heritage 1990). Children engage in social

learning via mutual cooperation with adults and adolescents.

Descriptions of this process improve our understanding of

situation-embedded knowledge that children achieve as a

result of support from adults and adolescents.




Entrance into Social Situation

I first illustrate how adults and adolescents coordinate their

actions when children enter social situations involving ongoing activities. The following examples also show that children learn several “stances.”

Example 1. Social Stance The following exchange

occurred during a hunting activity in the forest. A boy –

A (7 years old) – started to look for a rat’s burrow in

response to his mother’s (M) request. Hunting the giant rat

(Cricetomys emini, called gbe` in Baka) involves three steps.

First, the oldest person in the party positions him/herself at a

burrow found in the forest. Then, he/she instructs the others

about the direction of the tunnel and the location of another

burrow entry where the rat may emerge. Following these

instructions, the rest of the party, including young children,

spread out to find other burrows. Finally, the leader (i.e., the

person positioned close to the burrow in the first step) fills

the burrow with smoke to kill the rat.

continuous flow from prior talk. Comments (e.g., descriptions of relevant nonvocal behavior) are given within double parentheses: (()).

Numbers within single parentheses (e.g., (3.0)) mark silences in

seconds and tenths of a second. A degree sign ( ) indicates that the

conversation that follows is being spoken in a low volume. Square

brackets ([) connecting talk by different speakers mark the point

where overlap begins. An up arrow (") marks an increase in the pitch

of the voice. Talk between “more-than” and “less-than” symbols has

been compressed (><) or slowed (<>). Stressed words have been

underlined (_). (.hhh) indicates inbreathe, in proportion to number of

“h”s inserted, and (hhh) indicates exhalation, in proportion to the

number of “h”s inserted.


K. Sonoda

Example 1 shows one of the ways in which young children enter a social situation with the help of surrounding

adults (Fig. 9.1). Approximately ten people participated in

this hunting expedition, and M and A were a short distance

from the main party. M was rearranging items that she had

gathered on the way, such as mushrooms and chrysalises,

and A was using a machete to cut down a tree.


child. It is also noteworthy that M was looking in the direction of the burrow again, just as she did when she summoned

P. This shift entailed a change in his social stance to one

that mirrored that of an adolescent. Furthermore, the words

“I say, A” were uttered rapidly, so that the child would heed

the request before the rat emerged.

Consider the utterance “Y(ou)” in line 9. In the original

text, M said ngamo`, an emphatic way to express “you”.4

This draws attention to the imperative sentence: “come to

stan-(d).” M’s statement “Another old burrow:: wa:s there:

eh".” in line 10 was spoken with a rising intonation. By

ending her turn with “eh",” M asked A a question about

whether he was going to the designated place in a way that

presupposed that he indeed was going to go there. This

action skillfully garnered the child’s next utterance: “(.)

Mam where#” in line 11, which constitutes other repair

initiation.5 After using these words to address M, A began

to run. M’s change in the form of address confirms that

A had access to a burrow and led the child to ask about the

location of the burrow.

Example 2. Cooperative Stance A cooperative stance is

“the visible display that one is organizing one’s body toward

others and a relevant environment in just the ways necessary

to sustain and help construct the activities in progress”

(Goodwin 2007, p. 70). The exchange in this example

occurred immediately following a rat hunt, when the hunters

resumed foraging. A father (F) was talking to himself about

the rat hunt while walking slowly to his child (C, 5 years old)

when the child saw a pupa on a branch above (Fig. 9.2).


Fig. 9.1 M asks A to keep watch on a burrow

In line 1, M asks P, a female adolescent, to watch another

burrow that M found because other participants, including

her, were not spreading out. M’s request was not heeded, as

these participants continued to chat and did not move. In line

8, M attracts A’s attention by saying, “I say” to change her

focus. This drawing of attention was followed by the use of

A as a form of address. It should be noted that the request for

attention was redirected from P, an adolescent, to A, a young


mo` is the normal expression in Baka.

There are at least five types of repair initiation, in which a speaker

corrects an earlier mistaken utterance. The type occurring here consists

of “the question words who, where, when” (Schegloff et al. 1977,

p. 367).


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