Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen

For more than 25 years, anthropologist James Suzman has lived, worked with and studied the Bushmen of the Kalahari region in southern Africa. In this mix of memoir and scientific analysis, he shares a comprehensive history of one group in particular, the Khoisan, whose ancestors were among the earliest humans on earth. He traces the changes they have endured, particularly those created when Western explorers arrived in the 1600s and commandeered the land, forcing the Khoisan into increasingly smaller areas, a displacement similar to that of Native Americans onto reservations in the U.S.

Using personal stories from his adoptive family, Suzman discusses the Khoisan's methods of hunting with poison-tipped arrows, the importance of meat in their diet and the effects of drought and overhunting by nonnatives, including the widespread slaughter of elephants. He also explores the Khoisans' concepts of time, money, work and personal freedom. Many of this group, however, are turning their backs on the old ways, preferring cell phones and connecting on social media to scratching out a living in the sandy soils of the Kalahari. Ironically, Suzman shares, there are Khoisans of this latter demographic who earn a meager wage by living in mock tribal villages. These facsimiles harken back to the days of their ancestors and give eager tourists the opportunity to see "real" Bushmen. Suzman's thoughtful details preserve an insightful link to a shared human history. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Powered by: Xtenit