The !Kung San of the Kalahari Desert
Freddy B. Jerez
ANT101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
August 14, 2011
From the beginning of human history people have lived as foragers. Foragers are a cultural society that depends on the gathering of food. The women are the primary food gathers which will allocate 80% of wild foods and the men will hunt and fish gathering the another 20% in meat; for the diet. Nowak, B. & Laird, P., 2010. The women keep the men informed of what animals they encounter when they are gathering food and men when they come back from hunting or fishing bring back information about plant food that is ripe or abundant. Women can collect enough food in one day to feed their families for a full week, while men hunt or fish two or three days a week. The rest of the time is spent in leisurely pursuits: visiting, playing, sleeping, and just enjoying each other's company (Lee, 1979). Nowak, B. & Laird, P., 2010
For this critical thinking paper on the kinship organizations, I decided to choose the San Culture (a forager culture) who lived mainly in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana and Namibia. With hunting and gathering food as a lifestyle, (Nowak, B. & Laird, P., 2010, Ch. 3.1), in the past, the San people have been called “Bushmen” by southern African whites. The San people do not control their resources (there is no understanding of ownership); reciprocity is a way of life for them. Generalized reciprocity has many functions! As an economic function the “Big Man” or “Headman” show power to other bands or tribes, and is a technique in acquiring allies. Nowak, B. & Laird, P., 2010
In the San Culture, family, marriage and kinship, gender, and age are the key principles of social organization society. San people are related to each other either as consanguine, sharing a common ancestor, or as affine (what we call in–laws) through marriage. The nuclear family is the most common type of family in San foraging society. A nuclear family is composed of a mother and father and their children. In the San culture, nuclear family is most common because it is adaptive to various situations. The San society lives in an unforgiving environment. The San culture seems to be related directly to their harsh environment, so closely linked that San women become sterile during periods of long drought when the land cannot support any more children. Nowak, B. & Laird, P., 2010
Kinship connections in the San culture can be divided into two categories: marriage and descent. Marriage is the socially recognized union of two or more peoples; creates affinial bonds. Affinial bonds are relationships that only occur because of marriage. These would include the in-laws and subsequent family. The two recognized forms of marriage are monogamous, a marriage between two people, and polygamous: multiple spouses. Under the term polygamous, are two sections polyandry, one female multiple husbands, and polygyny, one man and multiple females. Polygyny is the more common of the two. In the San foraging cultures, marriage is not necessarily a lifetime commitment; people might have multiple partners over their lifetime. This is called serial monogamy. Nowak, B. & Laird, P., 2010 In both of these scenarios there is the presence of a nuclear family the one in which they are a child (family of orientation) and the one in which they are a parent (family of procreation). Most societies practice a third category. This is the bond called fictive kin. These people are as close as blood relations, yet are not related in any way. They are chosen relatives. These include godparents and the family friend who is an “aunt” or “uncle”. It is important to remember that cultures often use different kin terms for family members. Nowak, B. & Laird, P., 2010
When anthropologists examine kinship, they pay particular attention to descent. This is a cultural rule defining social categories through the...
References: Nowak, B., & Larid, P. (2010). Cultural anthropology. San Diego, Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
National Geogrphic Magazine retreved at website:
Gordon, Robert J. The Bushman Myth: The Making of a Namibian Underclass. Westview Press, 1992.
Katz, Richard. Boiling Energy: Community Healing among the Kalahari Kung. Harvard University Press, 1982.
Skotnes, Pippa. Miscast: Negotiating the Presence of the Bushmen. University of Cape Town Press, 1996.
Smith, Andy, and others. The Bushmen of Southern Africa: A Foraging Society in Transition. Ohio University Press, 2000.
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