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Lecture 5

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Donna Young

Week 3: Thinking About Time and Space Bovine Idiom: “Their social idiom is a bovine idiom” Idiom: A group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (eg. raining cats and dogs”); -A form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people “he had a feeling for phrase and idiom”; -The dialect of a people or part of a country -A characteristic mode of expression The Nuer tend to define all social processes and relationships in terms of cattle. Nor is Nuer interest in cattle confined to their practical and social functions. The over-emphasis on cattle is thus strikingly shown in language---whatever the subject of speech it is expressed in terms of cattle as the superlative value of Nuer life. The Nuer are willing to fight for their cattle: Cattle were the primary source of friction with the colonial government. Raiding for cattle was a condition that shaped their character, economy, and political structures. Why did E-P argue the goal of anthropology should be interpretation rather than functionalist explanation? Ecology: Clay soils, flat, thinly wooded, high grasses, heavy rainfalls followed by draught—a severe ecology suitable to transhumant adaptation of the herdsman. Pg 55, E-P asks “To what extent are the Nuer controlled by their environment as herdsmen, fishermen and gardeners?” - The herds and environment shape mode of life. - Land is better suited to herding than agriculture - Climate necessitates nomadic movement o Floods-head to higher grounds o Draughts-head to flood plains seeking water for cattle. o Fire grasses to promote new shoots of grass o Small herds –splitting up - prevents over-grazing during the draught Camps and villages Villages protect against floods and mosquitoes-practice agriculture, millet farming, corn and beans. Camps- fishing – herding Time and Space Concepts of time and space are values – but one of many possible responses. Our humanity lies in this sort of variability – our adaptations are not simply organic and or instinctual – they are mediated by cultural practices: Creative, learned socially- they belong to structural principles which belong to a different order of reality. WE ARE CULTURAL What gives us “common sense” is society, our shared understanding of the world based on what we have been taught. So stop, visualize. Draw a map of Nuer land, and then add in the temporal, cyclical, annual activities. (Two students went to the chalkboard. One visualized the rainy season, one the dry season) Diet well balanced, but there is no surplus, thus a high value on sharing. The division of labour directly related to social relations. ** Ecology influences social relations but does not over- determine all aspects of social life in a simple fashion. P 94: E-P “partly dependent on it and partly existing in its own right’ Ecological Time – An annual cycle based on our yearly activities: dependent on environment and livelihood. Tot-Rains Ruon – Draught
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