Eating Christmas in the Kalahari
Eating Christmas in the Kalahari is an intriguing article written by Richard Borshay Lee. In the article, Lee tells of his time working as an anthropologist in the Kalahari and studying the hunting and gathering subsistence economy of the !Kung Bushmen.
Lee (1969) writes: The Bushmen’s idea of the Christmas story, stripped to its essentials,
is “praise the birth of white man’s god-chief”; what keeps their interest in the holiday
high is the Tswana-Herero custom of slaughtering an ox for his Bushmen neighbors as an
annual goodwill gesture. Since the 1930’s, part of the Bushmen’s annual round of
activities has included a December congregation at the cattle posts for trading, marriage
brokering, and several days of trance-dance feasting at which the local Tswana headman
is host. (p. 1)
Lee decided that he would partake in the custom as a way of thanking the !Kung Bushmen for their cooperation with his field work. Lee eventually learns other customs that are common with the !Kung Bushmen. Schaefer (2012) defines Gemeinschaft as “a close-knit community, often found in rural areas, in which strong personal bonds unite members” (p. 108). The !Kung Bushmen are most definitely a Gemeinschaft society. According to Schaefer (2012), “gossip is a common way for social control to be maintained in Gemeinschaft societies. It is normal in Gemeinschaft societies for people to place little emphasis on individual privacy” (p. 109). Lee (1969) writes, “The next morning word spread among the people that the big solid black one was the ox chosen by /ontah (my Bushman name; it means, roughly, “whitey”) for the Christmas feast” (p. 1). This quote from Lee’s article is a great example of how the gossip of the chosen ox spread so quickly through the !Kung Bushmen. There are many references to status in Lee’s article. Schaefer (2012) defines status as “a term used to refer to any of the full range of socially defined positions...
References: Lee, R.B. (1969). Eating Christmas in the Kalahari. Natural History, December 1969.
Retrieved from: web.mnstate.edu/robertsb/110/EatingChristmas.pdf
Schaefer, R.T. (2012). Sociology (13th ed.) McGraw-Hill Higher Education
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