6
An Original Affluent Society?

The 1960s were times of great change, in Botswana as well as in Europe and North America. George Silberbauer proposed the establishment of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in 1960, and in 1961 the Bechuanaland Protectorate authorities agreed to it, as a device to protect both the wildlife and the indigenous human inhabitants of the area. Botswana gained its independence in 1966, and the new government took on the great task of formalizing a splendid, and long effective, mix of traditional Tswana democracy and British parliamentarianism, complete with a House of Chiefs modelled on Britain's House of Lords. A near-biblical seven years of drought in most of the country was followed by seven years of abundance. It was not only rainfall and consequent wild foods and pasturage which appeared: diamonds were soon discovered too.

The year 1966 also marks the great 'Man the Hunter' conference, in which Marshall Sahlins first presented his ideas on hunter-gatherers as 'the original affluent society' (Sahlins 1968a). His comments there, and the ethnography presented from various parts of the world, challenged the traditional Hobbesian view of hunter-gatherers as having a difficult struggle for existence. While the ethnographically knowledgeable had known since the nineteenth century that hunting and gathering took less time than herding or cultivation, it took Sahlins, not a hunter-gatherer specialist but a Polynesianist interested in social evolution, to overturn the misconception.


Man the Hunter

Why are hunter-gatherers important? That was the question 'Man the Hunter' was to raise, as between 6 and 9 April 1966 some seventy-five anthropologists from all inhabited continents gathered in Chicago for one of the most important conferences in the history of the discipline. The often-quoted words from the preface to the conference volume explain it well: 'We cannot avoid the suspicion that many of us were led to live and work among the hunters because of a feeling that the human condition was likely to be more clearly drawn here than among other kinds of societies' (Lee and DeVore 1968a: ix).

'Hunters', of course, meant hunter-gatherers: anthropology was yet to wake up to the fact that gathering was not only economically but also conceptually

-67-

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Anthropology and the Bushman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: From Early Encounters to Early Anthropology 11
  • 3: Victorian Visions of the Bushman 23
  • 4: Beckoning of the Kalahari 39
  • 5: Amateurs and Cultural Ecologists 53
  • 6: An Original Affluent Society? 67
  • 7: The Return of Myth and Symbol 83
  • 8: Kalahari Revisionism and Portrayals of Contact 97
  • 9: Advocacy, Development and Partnership 113
  • 10: Representations and Self-Representations 129
  • 11: Reflections and Conclusions 143
  • References 149
  • Index 172
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