Colin M. Turnbull’s Book the Forest People Analysis

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In Colin M. Turnbull’s book The Forest People there were many examples of theoretical approaches that he describes that the Pygmies use to maintain there social order. One of the elements that I noticed the most was interpretive or symbolic anthropology. In this book, Turnbull showed that in Pygmy society your social status and economic well-being are heavily dependent on the acceptance and respect you receive from other members of the community. Turnbull used interpretive/ symbolic anthropology to try to uncover and interpret the deep emotional and psychological structure of their society. Turnbull went under the experience of being a member of this specific culture and made that experience available to the reader. In chapter five, The Crime Of Cephu, The Bad Hunter, Turnbull made it clear to the reader that the Pygmies social control depends entirely on informal social pressures. Because they are nomadic hunter-gatherers; their primary economy is net hunting (and by “economy” I mean a way to make a living – in this case food). Net hunting is among the earliest economies and is unique in that all members of a society take part. This includes the men, women, and children. The particular case described in this chapter, Turnbull regards the misbehavior of Cephu. Several families from the group as a whole have gone hunting together. In this instance, the first two drives have left Cephu with nothing. Cephu slips away from the group and sets up his net in front of the semi-circle that includes the other men, so that animals are more likely to reach his net first. This is a potentially serious violation of the basic norms of Pygmy society, since if hunters felt free to set up nets wherever it would be best for them personally, the cooperation required by the hunt would be jeopardized. By setting up his net in front of the others Cephu wanted to enlarge his “piece of pie”. He didn’t want to be limited to what was doled out after the collective hunt. In so doing he...
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