The Dobe Juhoansi

Lee, Richard B., 1993, The Dobe Ju/ ?hoansi. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, (second edition).

Bushman: a member of a group of short-statured peoples of southern Africa who traditionally live by hunting and foraging. While the term ?bushman? has come to be known as both racist and sexist, it is easily the most recognized term when describing the people living amongst the bush of southern Africa. The San, as they are now known as, are a cluster of indigenous peoples of southern Africa who speak a click language and who have a tradition of living by hunting and gathering (10). In the book The Dobe Ju/?hoansi, Richard B. Lee, an anthropologist from the University of Toronto, takes an interesting and in-depth look into the San life by centering his studies on one specific group. Lee?s focus of study takes place on the border between the countries of Namibia and Botswana in an area called the Dobe. Here there live a tribe of people known as the Dobe Ju/?hoansi.
Lee centers on several important issues of the Ju/?hoansi culture and lifestyle throughout the book. He provides a tremendous amount of information that is broken into twelve chapters that continually draws deeper into the internal thinking of the Ju/?hoansi culture. The method of bringing out this information is delivered first externally with their environment and examples of hunting techniques while moving into deeper issues such as sexuality and religion. Lee also informs the reader on the Ju/?hoansi?s kinship, social organization, marriage, as well as conflict, their politics, and social change.
Lee begins the case study by providing an interesting lead-in as to the trials and tribulations of locating the Dobe people. I thought that this was an interesting device in order to grasp the reader?s attention towards the immense isolation that the Ju/?hoansi remain in. Once contact has been established, Lee delves into covering basic background information such as the environment that they live in including climate, physical features, and settlement patterns. I found this information to be very helpful in my attempt to familiarize myself with the Dobe Ju/?hoansi as to how they live. While Lee covers a great deal of information about the Dobe Ju/?hoansi, I found that the most important issues lie within their subsistence, kinship, and sexuality.
The Dobe Ju/?hoansi are a hunting and gathering group of people, which is thought to be how early man lived. Therefore, it is easy to see why Lee acknowledges the importance of studying the Ju/?hoansi while they are still relatively isolated. Here we are able to view a culture that retains our early ancestral pattern. As recently as 1964, 85% of their calories were the result of hunting and gathering (156). That number has since decreased due to the increased Westernization. The most interesting feature of the Ju/?hoansi foraging is the relatively little amount of work needed to feed a village. As Lee observed on a trip to a mongongo tree, that within a two-hour period, a woman gathered 30-50 lbs. of nuts enabling a person to eat for ten days (40).
The kinship of the Dobe Ju/?hoansi is very important in creating order to interpersonal relationships, inheritance, and marriage (foreword, v). Lee suceeds where others have failed in that he is able to take a difficult and complex topic (social organization of kin) and create an easier way to understand it. Instead of diving right into the organization, Lee provides a diagram showing what and where the terms are as seen on pages 66 through 69. The most interesting part, in my opinion, was the limited number of personal names. There are only 35 men?s names and 32 woman?s names in use in 1964 (71). In fact 75% of all the men had one or another of the eleven most popular names, while 73% of woman had one of the twelve most popular names (72). The reasoning behind this was due to the Ju/?hoansi belief that a child must be named for somebody. A first-born son is named after his father?s father, and the daughter named after her father?s mother. Never are parents allowed to name their children after themselves. This varies greatly with our society where it is a commonality.
The sexuality