The San Kinship System and Its Impact Upon San Culture
Prof. Colin Garretson
November 29, 2012
The San Kinship System and the It’s Impact upon San Culture The San Culture is interesting, and its kinship bbehaviors are varied. In this paper, I will first share information about the hunters and gathers know as the San or Bushman who live in the of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. Second, I will Identify and describe their kinship system, briefly describe their culture, and identify three specific examples of how the San’s Kinship System impacts the way they behave, think, act, and live. Lastly, I will compare and contrast a specific San Kinship behavior to American society, and give details that describe whether or not this same behavior has an impact on my life. In Cultural Anthropology, by Nowark and Laid (2010), I learned about the unique aspects and structure of the San Kinship System. Kinship involves how people classify each other, the rules that affect people's behavior, and people's actual behavior. In the San kinship system, both family and kinship relationships are recognized and valued through the practice of marriage, sharing, and generalized reciprocity. Kinship also means time for socializing with kin and friends. Meals are prepared with the items from everyone’s hunting and gathering which allows everyone to share equally in what has been made available. Food is distributed until everyone is sufficiently supplied. Generalized reciprocity is practiced which helps to reinforce social ties. Sharing is a way of bonding families and strengthening relationships amongst neighbors, parents, siblings, and spouses. Nowark and Laird (2010), stated, “Generalized reciprocity helps foragers in times of environmental unpredictability. Sharing is the foragers' safety net.” (ch. 3, sect. 3.3, Economy, Generalized Reciprocity, para. 3). When there is lack sharing increases. This is a surprising statement but, Nowark and Laird (2010), supported this observation by saying, “In situations in which there is widespread scarcity, evidence indicates that generalized reciprocity among foraging communities not only does not break down, but rather, the amount of sharing actually increases.” (ch. 3, sect. 3.3, Economy, Generalized Reciprocity, para. 10). No one person has exclusive ownership of property, instead bands with ties and rights to resources would be associated with having authority to give permission for the use of the a particular resource like a waterhole. The hierarchical order followed in San kinship is age, gender, family, extended family, and marriage which help determine how people behave toward one another. Older people teach younger people. Older people have the authority to give names to family offspring. The family unit is usually nuclear but, the extended family is said to be most common and adaptive. Marriage is important and seen as a bridge to stronger ties socially, politically, economically. Nowark and Laird (2010), summed up San kinship this way, “Kinship remains at the core of social relations, but marriage customs and other kin–related rules change to deal with new relationships in terms of property, denser populations, and conflict. Among foragers, kinship needed to be flexible to deal with small, constantly changing bands. In food–producing cultures such as cultivating cultures, social relationships need to cope with a more sedentary life.”(ch. 4, sect. 4.5, Economy, Social Organizations, para. 1). The San Culture is interesting, and the San kinship bbehavior is varied. The San, or Bushmen as they are called live in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. Their culture is one know for hunting and gathering. They live in a harsh desert environment with barriers such as water scarcity and isolation from other cultures. But, even though the environment is harsh, the San value their environment. In discussing the...
References: Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010). Cultural Anthropology. Retrieved from:
Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010). Cultural Anthropology. Retrieved from:
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