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The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People

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This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most impo This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.


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This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most impo This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.

30 review for The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    In reading this book, it is extremely important to recognize that it a criticism of Thomas Hobbes' LEVIATHIAN. The way that E-P describes the Nuer not only fits Hobbes' description of humans in a state of nature, but at many points borrows language from Hobbes. The Hobbesian argument is that the state of nature compels humans to create government. E-P's argument is that the Nuer, even as examples of Hobbes' imagined state of nature, have no government. This is an important point, and a challenge In reading this book, it is extremely important to recognize that it a criticism of Thomas Hobbes' LEVIATHIAN. The way that E-P describes the Nuer not only fits Hobbes' description of humans in a state of nature, but at many points borrows language from Hobbes. The Hobbesian argument is that the state of nature compels humans to create government. E-P's argument is that the Nuer, even as examples of Hobbes' imagined state of nature, have no government. This is an important point, and a challenge to a great deal of political theory. It is easy to get bogged down in recent criticisms of E-P and represent this book as somehow complicit in British colonialism. Yet, once one is aware of the underlying political debate in which E-P is engaging, then one realizes that he was undoing the political assumptions on which the Colonial Office operated. Anthropology is far more sophisticated now than in the 1930s, but I think E-P's criticism of Hobbes is still of great value.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    In the grand tradition of unself-consciously Othering the subject of study. With about 70 pages on cattle.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Helene Dahl

    Probably the driest ethnography ever written, with about 80 pages about cattle alone, but hey, it's a classic so you're supposed to say it's good anyway, right?

  4. 5 out of 5

    ThienVinh

    Methodology: lots of details, glossing over of concepts, then generalization to fit his structuralist framework Attempts to be a neutral participant-observer, but come on! “No high barriers of culture divide men from beasts in their common home, but the stark nakedness of Nuer amid their cattle and the intimacy of their contact with them present a classic picture of savagery” (40). While his analysis is rooted in a structuralist paradigm, he does address conflict... He writes about feuds and you ca Methodology: lots of details, glossing over of concepts, then generalization to fit his structuralist framework Attempts to be a neutral participant-observer, but come on! “No high barriers of culture divide men from beasts in their common home, but the stark nakedness of Nuer amid their cattle and the intimacy of their contact with them present a classic picture of savagery” (40). While his analysis is rooted in a structuralist paradigm, he does address conflict... He writes about feuds and you can read the observations about "power" and the distribution of resources. Essentially, there's this magical mechanism that deals with conflict and violence – fusion and fission – within the systemic system that allows it to restore equilibrium all the time. uhhhh I had many problems with this text, but that's probably because I'm not a fan of structural functionalism and I don't like old white men calling the "natives" they observe "savages." How uncouth. Regardless, he makes many good observations and it's an ethnography worth reading...sorta...I mean, read it and decide for yourself.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Liza Bolitzer

    I promise that I am not going to chunk up my reading list with school books, but this was pretty interesting both as a time capsule and a way of understanding the Sudan. There are also a couple of funny, why-won't-these-savages-respect-me-as-an-important-anthropogist moments. I know that when reading Dave Eggers book I wish a had a better sense of tribal systems and in its overly western theoretical style, this book provides that. What I am mainly recommending here is a leaf through.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    colonialist nonsense, but a first effort at true ethnography, just misguided.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    It's a classic and worth a read if you are interested in understanding the development of anthropology and ethnography.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Beale Stainton

    Anthropological publications are not my main source of reading pleasure, and I say that, as someone who holds a BA degree, with Anthropology as one of my majors. Am I admitting that I passed an entire three year degree without ever reading a full, ethnographic classic? Well what if I did? Who really learns anything in undergraduate degrees anyway? That was about fifteen years ago. Did I learn more about the subject of Anthropology in the past few days, while reading EP’s Nuer, than I ever did du Anthropological publications are not my main source of reading pleasure, and I say that, as someone who holds a BA degree, with Anthropology as one of my majors. Am I admitting that I passed an entire three year degree without ever reading a full, ethnographic classic? Well what if I did? Who really learns anything in undergraduate degrees anyway? That was about fifteen years ago. Did I learn more about the subject of Anthropology in the past few days, while reading EP’s Nuer, than I ever did during my three year degree? Well, let’s look at it this way, I was only eighteen on nineteen back then. I’ve lived a full life in between. I’ve actually traveled to these places. I’ve woken up in the arms of women in the Horn of Africa. I’ve hitch hiked the back highways of highland New Guinea. I’m no longer an out of high school kid, who at nineteen, thought he knew all there was to know. So the book? Reviews here seem to suggest it’s a boring over rated work, over done on the cattle description. My opinion? That can’t be more further from the truth. Look at it this way. You’ve got these beautiful people who live side by side with these strange bovine creatures. In an ecological environment that’s akin to outback Australia. Half the year it rains and floods. The other half it’s dry and parched. It’s this basic dichotomy in the climate that determines the economic mode and political structure of these people. When it rains they live in settled villages where they harvest crops of millet and maize. You can say they’re agricultural. When it’s dry they migrate with their cattle to the edges of dried up rivers and lakes where they fish and hunt. The transhumance mode takes over. It is this division in mode of living that gives the Nuer their distinct character, and as they shift between agriculture and hunting, (depending on the ecological season), it is their cattle that remain constant and dependable providers, of not only food, but also clothing, jewellery and energy needs. This is why cattle are so prized in their society. On a final note, EP lived among the Nuer between the years of 1930-1936, in which time he mastered their language and almost became one of them. British Anthropology at the time was seeking to discover the glue that held preindustrial societies together and they succeeded. They discovered kinship, in all its fascinating manifestations. So not only is Nuer about a people who switch between village and hunting camp, depending on the season being wet or dry, but it also describes the distinct social structures of tribe, lineage and age set, in relation to economically determined migration between wet and dry territories. This is remarkable research and analysis. That there is a record of the livelihood of the 1930’s Nuer, in such a book, in such a keen perspective, is something I believe, should be celebrated all these years after the fact, rather than discarded as a defunct way of seeing ourselves. For what more was cultural/social anthropology than an attempt to understand ourselves?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Giulia Paolucci

    Faccio parte di quella minoranza di lettori che è partita con Evans-Pritchard alla scoperta di questa "anarchia ordinata" senza essere una studiosa di antropologia. Probabilmente è anche la ragione per cui questo testo mi ha appassionata tanto. Infatti, nonostante anche i meno esperti possano notare che si tratta di un lavoro datato (per metodologia, per approccio..), ha saputo stupirmi senza annoiarmi. Questi gruppi di pastori transumanti vivono in simbiosi con le mandrie, tutto viene e torna a Faccio parte di quella minoranza di lettori che è partita con Evans-Pritchard alla scoperta di questa "anarchia ordinata" senza essere una studiosa di antropologia. Probabilmente è anche la ragione per cui questo testo mi ha appassionata tanto. Infatti, nonostante anche i meno esperti possano notare che si tratta di un lavoro datato (per metodologia, per approccio..), ha saputo stupirmi senza annoiarmi. Questi gruppi di pastori transumanti vivono in simbiosi con le mandrie, tutto viene e torna alle mucche, perfino i nomi delle persone. Ci sono più di cinquanta modi di descrivere il manto del bestiame. Il tempo è scandito dalle attività umane e le stagioni variano con l'acqua che li circonda. Ore e minuti non esistono. Per non parlare delle peripezie che l'autore ha affrontato per scrivere questo libro, dai bagagli andati perduti nel viaggio, al passare mesi in mezzo ai Nuer senza sapere come comunicare, e senza essere accettato. Ho letto questo libro come se fosse un messaggio da un mondo dimenticato e perduto, quasi difficile da immaginare. Sicuramente la mia percezione è molto romanzata, ma d'altronde anche la narrazione lo è stata. "Al di là del ciclo annuale, il calcolo del tempo è una concettualizzazione della struttura sociale e i punti di riferimento sono una proiezione nel passato delle relazioni attuali tra i gruppi di persone. Più che un mezzo per coordinare gli eventi, è un mezzo per coordinare le relazioni e, pertanto, mira di più al passato perchè le relazioni si spiegano in termini di passato".

  10. 5 out of 5

    Martin Empson

    In summary, what Evans-Pritchard's detailed studies show, is that people who have different modes of production have different social organisation which consequently shapes different ideas in peoples heads. Trying to get the heads around these ideas, is very difficult for those who view from outside. This is why it is so wrong to described pre-capitalist, or even pre-class modes of production as "primitive". They're anything but. It is for this reason that the author spends so much time looking In summary, what Evans-Pritchard's detailed studies show, is that people who have different modes of production have different social organisation which consequently shapes different ideas in peoples heads. Trying to get the heads around these ideas, is very difficult for those who view from outside. This is why it is so wrong to described pre-capitalist, or even pre-class modes of production as "primitive". They're anything but. It is for this reason that the author spends so much time looking at the details of inter-tribal relations and the like. But for most of us, we can simply delight in reading about a different way of organising society, not because we want to return to such a way of living, but because it shows that human-nature is not fixed and may well change again. Full review: http://resolutereader.blogspot.co.uk/...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sandro

    Mi è piaciuto. Il tipo di libro di stampo scientifico (antropologico, nello specifico) che però riesce ad avere un taglio documentaristico e al contempo intrigante, vista la grande distanza tra la cultura occidentale e quella dei Nuer. ENG I liked it. The type of scientific-style book (anthropological, in particular) which, however, manages to have a documentary and at the same time intriguing cut, given the great distance between the Western culture and the one of the Nuer.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I don't usually go out of my way to review school books but my god. This is the driest, most boring steaming pile of cow feces that I've ever read. Why are there 80 pages about cows? no one asked for this, literally no one. I can understand and appreciate why this was an important work of ethnography at the time but his attempts to be a passive observer are tainted by inherit colonialist perspectives.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Meegan

    I had to read this for my graduate seminar....it was good overall, but I don't know if I will read it again.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vitória Barenco

    Persiga a vaca.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Litsa Pitsa

    Lots of cows. Cool photos. Kind of dated "western" view of native tribes.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    One of the finest novels in the English language, but unputdownable.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marcelo Reis

    "The Nuer" is a superb ethnographic work done by Evans-Pritchard. But when you realize the forces behind his work, it's really difficult to not read the book as a military report: here and there you'll find strategic information about Nuer's manners and institutions, information used, of couse, to better control the Nuer people. From E.-P. account we learn that the Nuer created an almost anarchist society -- they don't had political chiefs, and live under no authority pressure. Evans-Pritchard no "The Nuer" is a superb ethnographic work done by Evans-Pritchard. But when you realize the forces behind his work, it's really difficult to not read the book as a military report: here and there you'll find strategic information about Nuer's manners and institutions, information used, of couse, to better control the Nuer people. From E.-P. account we learn that the Nuer created an almost anarchist society -- they don't had political chiefs, and live under no authority pressure. Evans-Pritchard noted that, and I suspect he treated the political system of Nuer as a kind of superior to our own (western). And in some parts of the book you can really find a certain awe to Nuer: from between them Evans-Pritchard himself had to live like a Nuer, and the Nuer treat him like an equal.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    I'd like to congratulate Evans-Pritchard on his ability to destroy fun. This anthropologist successfully took the rich, incredible, fascinating culture of the Nuer, and turned into the most boring, snooze-worthy technical functionalist manual I could possibly imagine in my wildest dreams. It's as if someone asked him to cook the best meal you could imagine, and he cooked it with no spices, no moisture, no flavor, and on top of that, burned the shit out of it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Messerlie

    Although this book is packed with some very interesting information, it is dry, and casual readers of ethnographies may have a hard time reading it. I also have to say that although he is writing from a British structural functionalism perspective, he is still very liberal in his description of the Nuer. In short, very interesting, but also, very dry.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ilaria

    In poche parole, i nuer non hanno voglia di coltivare, non hanno voglia di uccidere bestiame, selvaggina o pesci, non mangiano frutti selvatici, non commerciano e poi si lamentano se patiscono la fame... l'importante è aver, finalmente, finito i compiti.

  21. 5 out of 5

    M. Benesh

    Evans-Pritchard was true to his time when it comes to kinship and social theory. Women are irrelevant in discussions about society, political and domestic domains are separate, etc. This is a great book to read to study how these theories are applied, and it also shows how lacking they can be.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    a man before his time, or outside of it. ha.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Noelle

    Bone chilling. This demonstrates what colonial powers have been asking anthropologists to do for centuries.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jillian

    My first anthro/ethnography experience. Not nearly as painful as I expected.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Professor Young's Ethnography class reading. Very in-depth descriptions about social structures at play.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Classic British structuralist anthropology.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lesley Mcneely

    I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/11246823 I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/11246823

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Fricker

    anthropology

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    Classic. Colonialist. Depressing. And way too much about cattle. Yet important to know where Anthropology's roots are in order to help it grow away from them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    An incredibly dry read, with a lot of Evans-Pritchard's voice in it. Remains one of the leading texts on the Nuer, but could be quite out of date.

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