Band-Level Eden: A Mystifying Chimera

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Essay Excerpt

In short, I suspect that the peacefulness characteristic of many but by no means all "band-level" societies is independent of their mode of subsistence except insofaras the egalitarianism and flexibility foraging demands somehow require nonviolence. If the societies and groups discussed above have anything in common, it maybe acceptance of defeat by more powerful groups or by similar traumas inherent in living, followed by withdrawal to geographical or social refuge areas and regrouping in adaptive ways that include egalitarian techniques of settling disputes without violence, absence of authoritative belief systems. Without arguing here for this interpretation,[2] I suggest that the myth of peaceful foragers can be a distraction from the sort of careful ethnographic description that we need. A careful and detailed comparison of peaceable Zapotec, Montenegrins and AAs, for example, would be useful, though none of them are foragers and none except perhaps AAs seem primafacie defeated. (Dentan, 281)

About the Author

Robert Dentan is a Professor of Anthropology at the University at Buffalo. He received his Ph.D from Yale University. His research interests are cultural anthropology, social organization, ecology, and ritual and studies in Southeast Asia and Africa. 

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