The Mountain People

The Mountain People

by Colin M. Turnbull

In 'The Mountain People', Colin M. Turnbull, the celebrated author of the classic 'The Forest People', describes the dehumanization of the Ik, African tribesmen who in than three generations have deteriorated from being once-prosperous hunters to scattered bands of hostile, starving people whose only goal is individual survival.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Anthropology
  • Rating: 3.78
  • Pages: 309
  • Publish Date: July 2nd 1987 by Touchstone
  • Isbn10: 0671640984
  • Isbn13: 9780671640989

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THE GARDEN OF EDEN First Colin Turnbull, English anthropologist, wrote a book called The Forest People in 1961, an account of the idyllic life of the Mbuti, who are Congolese pygmies. THE EXPULSION FROM THE GARDEN OF EDEN Then he made another two year field trip in 1965-6 to study an obscure Ugandan tribe called the Ik. IK = HELL The account he gives is horrendous. One day he said his wife was sick. Then after a while, when I still had not once seen her, his brother-in-law, the beady-eyed Lomongin, sidled up to me and said he supposed I knew that Atum was selling the medicine I was giving him for his wife. And later I was told this was the best thing to do with old people who died. And later, regarding another old man In a very short time Loomeraniang was dead, and his son refused to come down from the village above and bury him; his sister hurried over and snatched his few belongings, leaving the corpse. MORE TALES FROM HELL caption on a photo After eighteen years of age Ik women lose their ability to charm the cattle herders who are a different tribe, and their fellow Ik have neither the energy nor the affection to spare. As Murai said, surely, it is better that one lives than that they both should die. CT remarks that in famine conditions There simply was not room, in the life of these people, for such luxuries as family and sentiment and love. So close to the verge of starvation, such luxuries could mean death, and is it not a singularly foolish luxury to die for someone who is already dead, or weak, or old? Whether it makes them or us any different from other animals is a matter of opinion, but I must confess that early during fieldwork I wrote back that I could not believe I was studying a human society ... But I dunno, the notion of a white intellectual paying the natives to build him a hut and a road to the hut so he can get his fucking Landrover up the hill, and living in this hut for a couple of years, and trying to learn all about this society, and then after this brief period trotting back to the University of Rich White America and writing down what he thinks about these poor benighted starvelings kind of sticks in my throat more than somewhat. THERE WAS A VIOLENT REACTION TO THIS BOOK One reviewer said the authors manner of presentation is distasteful and his general comments about the nature of man and society are both simplistic and questionable. And Rather than being a study of the Ik, this is an autobiographical portrait of the author utilizing the Ik as counters for expressing his personal feelings and experiences in the field. Dr. Turnbull clearly had a dreadful field-trip and has succeeded in conveying this to the reader (Reviewer : T.O. BEIDELMAN) Another colleague, Frederik Barth, entitled his review of The Mountain People On Responsibility and Humanity: Calling a Colleague to Account and he said (I will quote him at length, it's good) It is emotionally either dishonest or superficial. Then he used to sit and watch while I read the mail, studying the expression on my face to see if all was well. When one day Kauar fell dead on his return marathon, Turnbull is indignant at the lack of compassion shown by the Ik, while "I still see his open, laughing face, see him giving precious tidbits to the children, comforting some child who was crying, and watching me read the letters he carried so lovingly for me. And I still think of him probably running up that viciously steep mountainside so that he could break his time record, and falling dead in his pathetic prime because he was starving" (p.

This is a very strange anthropological study of the Ik people in Uganda, based on field work done by Turnbull in the mid 60s. What strikes me with this account is that it is to a large degree rather modern as an anthropological account in that Turnbull criticises his own work.

This was a pretty incredible account of how devastating the transition can be for a hunter-gatherer culture suddenly cut off from their subsistence base and forced into sedentary farming. One of the parts I appreciated most about Turnbull's account was how he plainly drew parallels between the degeneration of Ik culture and modern industrialized culture.

Anthropologist Colin Turnbull was born London in 1924, and raised in a surreal upper class family, which he described in his important book, The Human Cycle. In the 1950s, he spent lots of time in the Congo, with the Mbuti Pygmies, who inspired his masterpiece, The Forest People. It was a beautiful life-changing experience to live with healthy, happy humans who were profoundly in love with their sacred forest nothing like the zombies of England. For unknown thousands of years, they had been hunter-gatherers in the Kidepo Valley, an arid mountainous savannah. Turnbulls study ran from 1965 to 1967, and the first two years were back-to-back droughts. Turnbull described the cultural meltdown in The Mountain People. Turnbull wrote, The hunter and gatherer gives little thought for the morrow, getting his feed fresh, from day to day, with the ready assurance of someone who has come to terms with the world around him. One time, a leopard ate a baby. He wanted to create a new village, where the abandoned people could be properly cared for. Turnbull fed her, and gave her some food. Turnbull spent 18 months eating by himself in his Range Rover. He hoped that we who have been civilized into such empty beliefs as the essential beauty and goodness of humanity may discover ourselves before it is too late. I first read The Mountain People in 2001, and it snapped my mind. In 2017, I read the book a second time, and it blew me away again, for another reason. Near the end of the book, Turnbull shared some troubling conclusions that I was too dazed to grasp in my first reading. Having spent years with the Mbuti, he had directly experienced a healthy functional society. We pursue those trivial, idiotic technological encumbrances and imagine them to be the luxuries that make life worth living, and all the time we are losing our potential for social rather than individual survival, for hating as well as loving, losing perhaps our last chance to enjoy life with all the passion that is our nature and being. The populace learns not to believe, trust, love, hope, or think. When lonely consumers are starving for love in modern society, many choose to purchase companions. When it was released in 1972, The Mountain People got a lot of attention.

Turnbull is trying to make some case involving the concept of altruism and how it clearly doesn't exist among these people, and really would it be so bad if they died out?

But while I've read refutations of the book, none of them are quite convincing at dispelling its heart--a portrait of humanity scraped clean of anything but craven self-interest.

As for the language, you can just go ahead and miss me with that point too, all I got to say to that is "3 years". Nice try, of corse it was durng a famine, that's what the book is about and basicly his entire point. A great book that brings up a lot of points about humanity and its limitations, and what it really is that makes us "human" and what that really means.