Eating Christmas in the Kalahari Essay

In his article “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” ( 1969 ) . Richard Borshay Lee Tells of his three old ages spent populating with the! Kung San Bushmen. of some of their imposts. of how they celebrated Christmas and of how they dealt with ‘gifts’ or instead his gift to them in peculiar.

Lee explains that the local people thought him a miser because he “maintained a two-month stock list of transcribed goods” ( p 111 ) which was in direct contrast to the Bushmen “who seldom had a day’s supply of nutrient on hand” ( p 111 ) . and it appeared he was determined to rectify this position.

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Lee writes that it “is the Tswana-Herero usage of butchering an ox for his Bushmen neighbours as an one-year good will gesture” ( p 111 ) at Christmas. By buying the Christmas ox for the Bushmen’s one-year banquet himself. Lee hoped that it would be seen as a generous ( separating ) gesture. a ‘thank you’ for their cooperation – as in Western civilization – and possibly besides the accelerator for chase awaying their position of him as a miser.

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Lee appears to desire the reader to believe that he was confused about his failure to derive the ( expected ) grasp from the Bushmen for his generousness but was alternatively ridiculed for his pick of ox with sarcastic descriptions such as ; “scrawny” ( p 112 ) . “old wreck” ( p 111 ) . “sack of backbones and bones” ( p 111 ) . “old” ( p 111 ) . “thin” ( p 111 ) and “sick” ( p 113 ) . Lee farther leads us to believe that his confusion became more profound on Christmas Day when the ox was slaughtered and was found to hold a thick bed of fat covering the meat. Although Lee indicates that he felt vindicated in his pick of ox. the derision and irony continued throughout the slaughtering procedure.

Lee writes that he subsequently sought elucidation and account from several of the local people and was finally told that the Bushmen’s irony or “obligatory abuses over a kill” ( p 114 ) . was their ‘custom’ and was a mechanism used to forestall huntsmans from acquiring an hyperbolic self-importance and/or seeing themselves as better than anyone else.

I have a job with Lee’s history inasmuch as I find it highly hard if non impossible to believe that after disbursement three old ages populating with and analyzing the lives. activities and imposts of the Bushmen. Lee had ne’er one time seen. heard nor heard of this ‘custom’ and I would be loathe to put more than a nominal sum of religion in the honestness and rightness of this or any other of his Hagiographas or observations as a consequence.

That the Bushmen included Lee in their imposts and constructed a gag around him at his disbursal are inclusionary actions that would usually bespeak an credence into a group and I believe that Lee’s Hagiographas were self-serving in that he wanted the reader to believe the Bushmen had thought extremely adequate of him to include him and handle him as they would one of their ain.

I besides believe that Lee has taken autonomies with the interlingual renditions of a figure of conversations with assorted persons in order for the reader to hold no uncertainty about what it was that Lee himself wanted to convey. I do non believe that words and footings such as ; “arrogance” ( p 114 ) . “hogging” ( p 112 ) . “nevertheless” ( p 114 ) . “scrawny” ( p 112 ) . “rascal” ( p 113 ) . “braggart” ( p 113 ) . “you have ever been square with us” ( p 111 ) . “sack of backbones and bones” ( p 111 ) . “old wreck” ( p 111 ) . “I suppose” ( p 112 ) . “feeling as we do” ( p 112 ) . “another one pipes up” ( p 113 ) . “you must react in kind” ( p 114 ) . are portion of the native linguistic communication as Lee would aver in his quotation marks of conversations with the indigens. These quotation marks are peppered with linguistic communication that is more attributable to a certain category of indigen of the UK. non one of the Kalahari.

From my reading of Lee’s article. I believe it is nil more than a ill veiled effort to promote his ain importance in the head of the reader and possibly even his equals. I feel that Lee has done a immense ill service to non merely himself and his ain credibleness but besides to that of the profession of anthropology. What does Lee’s article say about his experimental strengths in the field if after three old ages he fails to observe what appears to be a really
powerful and meaningful runing usage?

In shutting. I admit to holding with Lee’s statement “there are no wholly generous acts” ( p 114 ) . Every act of gift giving is inextricably attached to an expected or preconceived return or reciprocality either in mode or sort and this may be nil more than ‘feeling good’ .



Lee. Richard Borshay

1969 “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” reprinted in A. Podolefsky and P. Brown ( explosive detection systems. ) . Using Cultural Anthropology: an debut. ( 1991 ) . Mountainview: Mayfield. pp. 110-114.

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