All About the Band Societies

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chapter 3

Band Societies
© Mark Edwards/Photolibrary

GOALS
By the end of the chapter, you should be able to do the following things: • Realizethatforagingsocietiesdonotstruggle tosurvive;rather,theyhavesufficientfoodand plentyofleisuretime Understandtheimportanceofreciprocityasa survivalstrategyforforagers Describedifferentwaystoreduceconflict Grasptheimportanceofkinrelationships andhowtheydifferfromothertypesof relationships Appreciatethedifferentformsofreciprocityin bandsocieties • Understandthatwomenplayacentralrole inprovisioningthehouseholdandthatthis affordswomenapositionofequality Listthecharacteristicsofanegalitariansociety Describetheculturalmisunderstanding betweencolonialpowersandforagersabout propertyownership Grasptheimportanceofkinshipandmarriage anddescribedifferentsystemsofkinship reckoningandmarriagearrangements Discusstherolesofritualandhealing practitioners









section 3.2

CHAPTER3BANDSOCIETIES

3.1 INTRODUCTION

I

n this chapter, we will explore the sociocultural characteristics of bands, the oldest social structure in human existence. For most of human history people have lived a foraging, or hunting and gathering, lifestyle. It is the oldest form of human society,datingbacktothePaleolithicperiod,atleastamillionyearsago.Peopleresidedin small,self-sufficient,mobilegroupscalledbands.Bandsocioeconomiclifeisbasedonthe exploitationofthelocalfloraandfauna.Foragersmoveovertheirlandyearafteryear, knowingwherealltheprimelocationsareforthefoodsandwaterneedednotonlyfor basicsurvivalbuttothrive. Most foraging people live in small, independent communities, which break up and rejoin withdifferentmembers.Theyfollowanomadiclifewithinadefinedterritoryandlivewhatis calledasubsistence economy,inwhichpeopleproduceonlywhattheyneedfortheirsurvival. Amongforagers,thereisacontinuousmovementofgoodsthroughkinshiptiesandresidential proximity, which strengthens people’s obligations to each other. The obligation toshare,andthemobilelifestyle,inhibittheaccumulationofindividualwealth.Noone exercisesownershipintheformofaccessorcontroloverresources;thus,therearenodifferencesinwealthbetweenpeople.Allofthesefeaturesresultinanegalitarian structure inforagingsocieties.

3.2 ENVIRONMENT

A

lthoughforagingsocietiesliveindiverseenvironmentsaroundtheworld,there arecertainsimilaritiesintheirsocioculturalpatterns.Themostimportantsimilarityisthattheydependontheenvironmentfortheirlivelihood.InWesternculture, wealthcomesfromwhatpeoplecangeneratefromtheenvironment,butamongforagers, wealthandtheenvironmentarethesame. Diversityintheirenvironmentsalsocreatesdiversityamongforagers.Arctichuntersfocus onlargeanimalsanddolittlevegetativeforaging,whereasinthetropics,wherethereisa greatdealofbiodiversity,peopleexploitabroadrangeofplantsandanimals. Foragershaveaverydifferentrelationshipwiththeirenvironmentthandoothertypesof societies.Contemporaryforagers,unliketheirpredecessors,areconfinedmostlytothemost marginal environmentsintheworld,suchastheArctic,thedesert,andtherainforest.These areplacesthat,untilrecently,othersdidnotwanttoinhabitbecauseofenvironmentalbarriers tofoodproduction.Thesearealsolocationsthatallowtheforagingcommunitiestoremain relatively isolated, having contact with other cultures on their terms. Some foragers have livedintheirpresentlocationforthousandsofyears,suchastheSaninsouthwestAfrica,but others,liketheBatekofMalaysia,probablylivedinlessmarginal...
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