The Dobe Ju/'Hoansi

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Cultural Anthropology

The Dobe Ju/’hoansi

Commonly referred to as Bushmen by the general public and thought of as being harsh wild people that live in the “unlivable” Kalahari Desert. The Ju /’hoansi tribe native to the southern African desert, located along the border of Namibia and Botswana, have been misunderstood and stereotyped for a long time. This is until a man by the name of Richard B. Lee came along and wrote an ethnography about the local systems of the Ju and completely changed how an outsider might view this rural tribe, along with being a fine example of proper long-term field research in social anthropology. This highly regarded book on the Ju /’hoansi is titled “The Dobe Ju /’hoansi.” Although Lee states in the preface to the first edition that a book like this, “can only hint at the fragility of this quality of life”(Lee 2003: xi) it can also scream- understand these people more thoroughly because of how unique and fragile their lifestyle actually is. This paper is going to take a look at what exactly makes this particular material something worthy of critically analyzing in cultural anthropology. Questions that would need to be examined to analyze critically from an ethnographic standpoint would consist of; what are some goals by the author? what role does the structure play in sequencing? Is there a particular method used? What kinds of theories are addressed?

As the dissection begins an important topic to embark on is the function of the book. Richard B. Lee had an unmatched desire to learn how this culture has survived and how a holistic approach can redefine previous notions on how the Ju /’hoansi live. The book is structured into thirteen chapters strategically sequenced to become more in depth the more you read. Lee states, “we have to be careful to avoid the twin pitfalls of racism and romanticism” (Lee 2003: 3) expressing his meticulousness in his research, but also being the most non-objective a person from America can be....
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