The Mbuti Culture
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology ANT 101
December 1, 2012
The Mbuti Culture The way a culture makes their living impacts many aspects of cultural behaviors and has been a very effective way to organize thoughts and studies about different cultures. For most of human history people have lived a foraging or in other terms, hunting and gathering type of lifestyle. It has been said that foraging is the oldest form of human society and it was dated all the way back to the Paleolithic period, which was at least a million years ago (Nowak & Laird, 2010). The Mbuti are Bantu speaking foragers, who live in small, independent communities within the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There actual location is found in the southern part of the Ituri Forest (The Mbuti of northern congo, 2006). Mbuti people have a nomadic lifestyle within a certain territory and live in a subsistence economy, meaning they only produce what they need to survive (Nowak & Laird, 2010). They make their living by hunting and gathering, and this has had a big impact on their kinship, political organization, and their beliefs and values. The Mbuti culture has also had to overcome many changes throughout the past seventy years. Among foragers such as the Mbuti, there’s an endless movement of goods through kinship ties and residential closeness that have a positive impact on people’s obligations to one another. The responsibility to share and the traveling lifestyle prevent the buildup of individual wealth. No one person owns or has control over the resources and there are no differences in wealth among individuals (Nowak & Laird, 2010). However, individuals do have rights over the natural beehives or termite mounds which they have located and marked (The Mbuti of northern congo, 2006). The Mbuti culture has certain beliefs and customs regarding marriage. When people from the Mbuti culture marry, it involves the payment of bridewealth or either the exchange of sisters or other close female relatives. The bridewealth was usually paid with iron implements or bark clothing, but today it’s paid in cash. Nowadays, exchanged marriages are the most common in bridewealth and they account for nearly half of the marriages in some bands. A rightfully married couple most of the time lives virilocally, which leads to the band structure of partilineally related men and their wives and children. Families are involved in clans with each specific clan having certain names and totemic animals that are avoided by members (The Mbuti of northern congo, 2006). “Actual band composition is, however, more composite, with uxorilocal residence, and band fission and fusion” (The Mbuti of northern congo, 2006, p.3). Aside from kinship, the political organization is another feature that is greatly impacted by the primary mode of subsistence. It has been said that, the main difference between our society and the Mbuti’s society is that, ours is based on discrete or “separated individuals”, while theirs is a single corporate group (Ground, 1983). Within each band, there is a spokesperson called the kapita. Until recently, the kapita’s role was limited to liaison work with horticultural villagers and regional administrators. The kapita handled things such as tax collections, census taking, and administrative demands. If those demands were not in-fact handled, the kapita was called into the local administrative office. Oddly enough, the kapita authority was recognized by other band members, through recognition of his sufferings on behalf of the community. Conflicts within the band were handled usually by face-to-face interactions, especially when it had to deal with labor, food, material culture, and bridewealth (The Mbuti of northern congo, 2006). Decisions that needed to be made...
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