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Richard Lee's case study examines the lives of the Ju/'hoansi culture by going to the people themselves, asking about their past, while simultaneously investigating their present. The Ju/'hoansi or "Ju" live around the Adobe water holes, in Botswana, which stretch 3,000 square miles. Nearby tribes included from Herero and Tswana, who were Bantu speakers. These tribes had a distinct appearance and an utterly unheard of way of life. Geographically, the Dobe region incorporated four types of habitats- dunes, flats, melapo, and hardpan & river valleys. There are five major seasons, and droughts occur quite frequently and mongongo is the major plant food in the Dobe area. The Ju people live in grass huts formulated in a circle, creating miniature villages. These villages are easy to set up and relocate because they change locations depending on the season. They are comprised of 5 rings; each ring represented a different function to the village in order to keep daily life smooth running. The first part of the novel conveys an idea, in which the Ju ancestors were hunter-gatherers, or foragers, and that the Europeans came to their land in attempt to colonize them. Along with the Europeans, the Tswana herders were among the first to penetrate the area, and it is said that the Ju incorporated their political system.
Throughout the book, Lee portrays accounts referring to his personal experiences in Botswana. The story that is most prominent describes how Lee took a select few of the tribe to a mongongo grove so the people could pick nuts. And they did- they pick enough food to tame the hunger of ten people for fourteen days. This is extremely significant because the action of these individuals is the quintessence of what a hunger-gatherer really is. When foragers have the resources to get as much food as they can get their hands on, they would never pass it up, because there is no certainty of when the next abundance of nutritious food will be present.
The novel stresses the message that the Ju/'hoansi were extreme believers in allocating whatever they obtained with the rest of the village. They recognized over 100 kinds of wild plants as edible, ranging from what Lee deems to be as primary, minor, major, supplementary, rare and problematic. He explains exactly why mongongo is the most common element of their diet- because it is easily found, and is highly nutritious. The most proper demeanor for a hunter is to be modest in the Ju/'hoansi tribe. Although the Ju/'hoan believe they are doing well for themselves, Westerners think differently. They insist that their society is bound to fail because of their "steady work, steady leisure and adequate diet" (58). Another social aspect of the Ju/'hoan is that they have arranged marriages, that are decided when a child is born. The villagers have the utmost respect for the elders. Groups of people, not individuals own the land in a village and there is no headman or chief among the Ju people.
In the second half of the book, we learn of the cultural alterations that the tribe experienced. When social changes developed, education became more common, however the Ju/'hoan were very suspicious of the introduction of the scholastic system. Prior to the emergence of the education system, the Ju/'hoan had no perception of geography- they were unaware that they lived on a large body of land called Africa or that the large land of water located to the West was in fact the Atlantic Ocean. The Ju/'hoan culture soon became dependant on craft making as well as the buying and selling of beer. Today, the Johan have decreased their reliance on sharing, thus increasing the level of poverty. The development of the construction of their houses changed- they were now building semi-permanent mud-walled houses. In the 1990's the government stepped in, veering development towards the right direction, and even created drought-relief programs to help supply food. The emergence of other societies to the once nomadic life-style of the Ju/'hoansi tribe, has no longer placed them in solidarity, but has introduced new aspects of culture- some being beneficial to the Johan, and others leaving their traditions behind.