Cultural Research - Mbuti Pygmy Tribe

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Cultural Research - Mbuti
Benjamin Williams
ANT 101 – Intro to Cultural Anthropology
Jason Gonzalez
October 24th, 2011

Cultural Research - Mbuti
Throughout history, from the beginning of mankind to present day, there have always been many different types of cultures. These cultures can define an entire race of people, or define a single village. These cultures can also define where a community will live, and what methods are used in their day-to-day survival. This paper will focus on one such culture; the Mbuti Pygmy tribe. The Mbuti are a foraging society, and this type of society impacts many aspects of their culture. This paper will further identify and examine their cultural subsistence. The impact of their society type on kinship, social organization, political organization, economic organization, and their beliefs and rituals will be examined as well. A close look at their beliefs system will show how all aspects of their culture are in some way affected by the center of their spiritual symbolism. So, what exactly is a foraging culture, and how do they function? The foraging lifestyle is the oldest type of society that humans have lived, dating back to more than million years ago. It’s also the type of society that we humans have been categorized as for the longest amount of time during our existence. Foragers employ a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, as they move from spot to spot, yet within a defined area of land in order to maximize their resources while only consuming what they need. The Mbuti live in the Ituri rainforest, which is in the Congo region of Africa. They employ several different camps within the Ituri, and the camps are typically organized in a spherical pattern. The camps, or bands, will all be about a day’s travel apart from each other, and in the center of the spherical pattern is what the Mbuti refer to as “no-man’s land”, to “which none of them lays exclusive claim lies at the center of the Ituri. This region serves as a sanctuary of the Forest's very essence, since all hunting (except perhaps for the infrequent spear-hunting of large game) is prohibited there” (Mosko, pg. 900). The “Forest” defines their domain, and provides their sustenance.

The first aspect of the Mbuti culture to be examined is the social, or kinship, organization. Typically, bands within foraging societies are comprised of nuclear families. For the Mbuti, it’s quite a bit different from that: “The band consists of bilaterally extended family relations, as the terms for categories of "kin" or "relatives" are applied to all band members regardless of "actual" or "known” biological connection. The band consists, then, of a metaphorical representation of the relationships obtaining between and compounded among members of the nuclear family, on the one hand, and of the Mbuti collectively as a unit in relation to the Forest on the other” (Mosko, pg. 903). This implies a couple different layers of kinship within the Mbuti community. The extended families form their own bands, while the entire community will be familial and joined with the Forest. The most inclusive womb or sphere of all - the Forest - itself encompasses all Mbuti in a fundamentally kinship-based relationship; they are, after all, its children” (Mosko, pg. 904). Sub-bands also exist within the Mbuti community, and they typically consist of the males along with their spouses and children.

Marriage among the Mbuti doesn’t really seem to fit either exogamy or endogamy, but rather seems to encompass both. Due to the blurring of the kinship lines within the entire community of bands, the perspective can be defined as both exogamy and endogamy. “Mbuti marriage is regulated according to a plurality of stated rules and preferences generally consistent with "sister exchange" between exogamous sub-bands” (Mosko, pg. 905). Proximity and genealogy both seem to define how closely related the bands are. Ideally, when looking for a spouse,...
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