The Effects Of A Changing Environment On The Ju/'hoansi Lifestyle

1473 words - 6 pages

The way of the Ju/‘hoansi life has changed dramatically in many ways throughout the years. However, it is still possible to reflect upon their original way of life and compare it with their present state of living. Most of the changes occurred due to environmental, economical, developmental, social and cultural changes. All of which play a vital role in determining a Ju’s way of life. Although the land of the Dobe and !Kangwa have developed and changed in recent years, there are still some remnants of how the environment used to be. A significant shift in social and cultural aspects of the Ju/‘hoansi life can be observed in the new environment. However, some important aspects of their culture and belief system are still reflected in their everyday lives.

The biggest component which marked the shift in Ju/‘hoansi life would be the change from a hunter gatherer society to an agricultural society. The transition was not an easy one, as the unreliable rainfall and drastic seasonal changes made settling in one area a challenge. However, the Jus managed to raise livestock such as cattle and goats and grow ten different crops including tobacco, sorghum and maize.(Lee, 2003) Although these changes were beneficial as it increases the stability of the food supply in a community, it also restricted the mobility of the people. Farm life resulted in children having to start working at a young age and the subordination of women became more prevalent as they became housebound while their spouses left to seek job opportunities. Men started to leave home grounds to work at the mines to buy food and other goods. It was observed that these men incorporated the hxaro exchange system to the goods they bought, preserving traditional practices.

Richard B. Lee described the Ju/‘hoan system of gift exchange, called hxaro, a far-reaching and ingenious mechanism for circulating goods, lubricating social relations, and maintaining ecological balance.(Lee, 2003) It is a delayed form of nonequivalent gift exchange between two or more tribes.(Lee, 2003) The aim of the practice is to maintain social relations between groups. Although material goods have become readily available in the lands of Dobe and !Kangwa, the role of hxaro exchanges in circulating goods has only decreased slightly. About 50% of goods are still received through hxaro exchanges(Anthropology and the Human Condition 2010), therefore the maintenance of social relations through gift exchanges are still held in high regards.

In the Dobe area, there were two forms of economic linkage between tribes-the barter system and the mafisa system. The barter system involved the trading of desert goods for manufactured goods while the mafisa system was a loan cattle labour exchange system which involved a well-to-do Tswana farming out cattle to others such as the San to be maintained. (Solway and Lee, 293) The San client maintained the herd on behalf of the Tswana patron,...

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