Re: ST:Geopolitical Lessons from the Bambuti Tribe - by Yulia Latynina
- Dear list,
This is off-topic, but since the claim appeared in a posted article, I
think it needs a comment. Latynina cites Colin Turnbull. Turnbull was an
anthropologist who studied various African peoples in the 50s and 60s.
The mentioned story is from one of his books, and it is what could be
called"anthropological fiction". I.e., it is based on his general
experience and not on concrete facts. Turnbull was a child of his time.
He romanticized some African groups and vilified others. He was
especially sympathetic towards the Bambuti tribe and described them in
the European tradition of the "noble savage". The story of the
"unusually thick jungle" and the Bambuti who had no experience with
distances is obvious nonsense, to put it nicely.
It's not necessarily so that Turnbull made it up. There is a legion of
examples how the "savages" made fools of Western anthropologists and
ethnographers by telling them crazy stories, either just for fun or
because they understood - trying to be friendly - that the researchers
want to hear something really fascinating. Whole theories have been
built on such stuff.
I remember one comment on Turnbull's stories to the effect that "they
are telling more about the European anthropologist than about the
Something similar can be said about much of today's experts dealing with
Chechen and North Caucasian anthropological issues. One only needs a
look at the stuff that populates the sites with "high quality" Russia
analyses. In a way it's even worse, since some leading present-day
"Caucasus experts" are happy with second and third-hand material, often
from Russian "academic" sources with obvious agendas. The "Black Widow"
myth is a good example.
> Issue #1292 (58), Friday, July 27, 2007
> St.Petersburg Times
> Geopolitical Lessons from the Bambuti Tribe
> By Yulia Latynina
> In the mid-20th century, British-American anthropologist Colin
> Turnbull observed the Bambuti pygmies living in the Congo. As a result
> of the unusually thick African jungle, the Bambuti never saw anything
> from a great distance.
> Turnbull didn't suspect anything unusual in that until he took one of
> the tribesmen, the courageous young Kenzha, on a long journey. The
> first thing that astounded the pygmy upon seeing an open plain were
> buffaloes grazing in the distance. He asked Turnbull, "What sort of
> insects are those?" But when he got closer to the buffalo to show him
> the animal's actual size, Kenzha was totally confused. How had the
> buffalo managed to grow so quickly? Or was this some sort of witchcraft?