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The Dobe Ju/'hoansi

Notes on Richard B. Lee's ethnography
by

Megan Anderson

on 20 May 2013

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Transcript of The Dobe Ju/'hoansi

Where? Some History Foraging Overview Hunting On an average night there are 31 mouths to feed. Week to week, the !Kung spend 1.9-3.2 days finding food. (An average of 2.4). Women don't hunt, but men DO gather. Men provide 45% of the food, females 55%. 70% of the diet is vegetables, 30% meat. Feeding the group Kinship & Organization Marriage
Notes on Richard B. Lee's ethnography -The Kalahari Desert in South Africa
-Live in bands
-Settle around waterholes
-No permanent settlements
-Settlements are five co centric circles
1. Houses
2. Ash heaps/garbage
3. Cooking pits and earth ovens, where butchering takes place
4. Empty area
5. Area of defecation -Virtually unknown until the 1950's
-When dealing with people like this, you have to be careful not to be racist or romantic about it
-Represent basic human adaptation without agriculture, urbanization, advanced technology, national/class conflict
-People are short:
-men 5'2", women 5'
-Called "bushmen" by the Dutch
-Now estimated to number more than 50,000 -Mongogo nuts are a big deal! - most important
-Women gather 30-50 lbs of nuts each
-Men gather 15-25 lbs each
-Vegetables are the mainstays of their diets (not meat)
-Only a digging stick is used in gathering
-100+ wild plants are classified as edible
-Sorted into "strong" (/gau) and "weak" (/ta/tana)
-Ju/'hoansi are highly selective in their diet In hunting, guns are almost absent. The Ju/'hoansi are superb trackers can tell by prints where the animal goes, when it passed by, the species, sex, age, speed, health, what it feeds on, and whether it is alone. They have four types of hunting techniques: mobile hunt, hunting with dogs, underground hunting, and snaring. A hunter will usually shoot a poisoned arrow and go home, then the next day comes back to find it dead and butcher it. Once brought back, there is a tradition of "insulting the meat" so that the hunter doesn't get a big head. He then has the honor of distributing it. -Everyone is named after an older person (repertoire of names)
-Camps of 10-30 people, but numbers change daily/monthly!
-Ju usually move when their patience is exhausted
-Two types of relationships: joking or avoidance
-Joking: relaxed (ex: grandparents with grandkids)
-Avoidance: respectful and reserved (parents with kids)
-People in avoidance relationships don't marry, even if unrelated
-There are no neutral relationships
-Joke with spouses and spouse's siblings of the same gender (of spouse)
-A man and woman must never have the same name
-No surnames, but nicknames are extensive
-Woman may not marry a man with her father/brother's name
-The older you get the more "control" you have over your kinship -In 1964 illegitamate children were rare
-Search for a marriage partner beings soon after their birth
-All first marriages are arranged by the parents and may
involve a decade or more of gift exchange before being wed
-Kamasi: gift exchanged between parents of prospective bride/groom
-Parents look for a son-in-law that is a good hunter with no reputation as a fighter, come from a congenial family that like to do hxaro (gift exchange)
-Marriage may be called off if either side doesn't keep up with gift exchange
-Uxorilocal = groom lives with the bride's family for a period of years after the marriage and hunts for them (only after several kids can they move)
-Frequently they decide to stay with the wife's people
-Girls usually marry age 12-16, boys 18-25
-Marriage ceremony of carrying the bride, paint w/red ointment
-If a girl protests long enough the marriage is called off
-Majority of Ju are monogamous, but polygamy is
allowed (women don't want it)
-Usually those polygamous are
healers The Dobe Ju/'hoansi Marriage & Sexuality Cont. -Sexual jealousy is very strong (wives threaten to leave if there's a 2nd)
-Many Ju/'hoansi are single in middle/old age due to death/divorce
-Many remarry, and 2nd or 3rd marriages tend to be the happiest!
-Sexuality and marriage choices are two of the main foci of social solidarity and social conflict
-Homicide is most likely triggered by men fighting over a woman
-Marriage alliances=social security (can get food/water from in-laws)
-Sexual play is considered a normal part of childhood
-Virginity has no real meaning
-Homosexuality isn't common but does occur (more with men)
-Most Ju/'hoansi have happy marriages; there is relative equality between the sexes Conflict and Politics -Groups of people own the land, not individuals
-You must get the owning group's permission to live there (rarely refused)
-Rarely cause for conflict over land
-No chiefs...the Ju groups do have leaders who may develop influence in group discussions, but no hereditary basis to their role
-When fights do break out, there's no one with enough force to separate the parties and settle it
-Ju/'hoansi have many mechanisms for controlling aggression
-Three levels of conflict:
1. talking
2. fighting
3. deadly fighting (may use poisoned weapons)
-Most frequent topics of dispute: improper meat distribution or hxaro exchange, laziness, stinginess
-Fission (separation) can be good conflict resolution
-When someone is killed, it's hard not to follow it with another killing, execution ends it
-"Court" has become popular, offers a legal umbrella Exchange - Major means of maintaining and fostering good relations is gift-giving
-Barter = equivalent value and immediate return
-Hxaro can be months later and doesn't have to be equal as long as it evens out
-Any two people may do hxaro together
-Most frequent items: ostrich-eggshell bead necklaces, other beadwork, arrows, spears, knives, things of European origin like clothes, cooking pots, enamelware, etc
-Trade was present in prehistoric times
-Food and people are not traded
-Care is taken to play down the gift
-Wealth doesn't come from the number of goods, but from friends
-"Circulates useful goods and spreads the risk of ecological disaster so that everyone may live with an adequate, if not luxurious, food supply" Religion/World View/Healing -Their universe is inhabited by a high god, a lesser god, and minor animal spirits that bring luck and misfortune
-Recently decease Ju "//gangwasi" are the main actors in the world
-n/um = spiritual medecine from the gods in the pit of stomach of medicine owners
-Healing trances take place at night dances
-There are several origin myths
-//gangwasi make people sick
-Movement of dancers heats the n/um up, it rises from the stomach and explodes in the brain, then healer lays their hands on the chest/back of a person
-Healers can see the dead, pull sickness out, put n/um into people, tell people how to eat
-Dances serve as a social and sacred function
-Women sing and tend the fire, men dance and enter trances (sometimes women enter trances as well)
-Every young Ju/'hoan man wants to be a healer, but it's a difficult, painful task
-Women's Drum Dance and the Giraffe Dance are important dances
Social Change (Modern Ju/'hoansi) -Women become increasingly subordinate (work in household)
-Cash circulation creates uneven distribution of wealth that didn't exist before
-Conflict is more frequent, sharing less frequent
-Alcoholism increased
-Instead of relying on hunting and gathering, now have small cattle herds
-Schools, stores, clinics and airstrips built
-Hunting and gathering is only 30% of their food now
-Involvement in South African Defense Forces (SADF) military
-August 1991: local authorities to respect Ju/'hoan land rights
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