- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Douglas & Mcintyre; New edition edition (Oct. 1 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1550548069
- ISBN-13: 978-1550548068
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.3 x 23.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 703 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #642,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers and the Shaping of the World Hardcover – Oct 1 2000
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"The hunter-gatherer mind," writes anthropologist and filmmaker Hugh Brody, "is humanity's most sophisticated combination of detailed knowledge and intuition." Whereas an agriculturalist or, by modern extension, an industrialist takes on the task of controlling and shaping the world, of "separating manipulable resources from the rest of the environment," the hunter-gatherer recognizes that every endeavour is subject to chance and to forces--the movement of herds, changes in the weather--far beyond human control. The hunter, the nomad, consequently dispenses with planning, moves with prey and season, and reckons with the world's ambiguity and conditionality.
The modern world finds little room for such people, and hunter-gatherer groups are rapidly disappearing. Brody's wide-ranging survey, which draws heavily on his fieldwork with the Dunne-za of British Columbia and the Inuit nations of Nunavut, thus sometimes takes on the air of salvage ethnography. More than that, however, it offers a view of hunter-gatherer ways of seeing the land, of organizing knowledge, of interpreting experience, and of living from day to day. His well-crafted narrative takes the reader into alternate worlds where dreams and metaphors are taken as seriously as facts, and introduces concepts of anthropology and linguistics as it moves along. Readers who admire the work of Bruce Chatwin, Farley Mowat, and other intellectual explorers will find Brody's book rewarding. --Gregory McNamee
Top customer reviews
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Anthropologist Hugh Brody's newest book is an antidote to all that. Without sentimentalising or romanticising them, Brody describes with the utmost sensitivity the lives of the Innu and Inuit he has lived among during his significant career.
He challenges with fairly hard evidence the view that hunter-gatherer cultures are necessarily destined to become agricultural, and that population pressure makes this shift inevitable. He calls us to examine our prejudices - just think of how we use the terms 'civilised' and 'uncivilised' and the implications of this for the latter group.
His main hypothesis is that we cannot know what it is to be human unless we take seriously the 'alternative' world of hunter-gatherers. For Brody, theirs is in no sense an 'inferior' culture, but a series of cultures of infinite richness and vitality. Moreover, many of the virtues of agricultural society can be regarded as the merest vestiges of much older qualities, dependent on our hunting and gathering origins.
Brody's argument, the point at which he becomes polemical, is hinted at in the sub-title of the book, 'Hunters, Farmers and the Shaping of the World'. Brody holds that farmers have shaped the world we have inherited, largely at the expense of hunters, who have been disposessed, re-educated and exterminated, often 'for their own good'. While it may not be possible to turn back the clock, we can at least examine what is happening in the here and now, rather than dismissing it as the march of progress. The litany of misdeeds recorded by Brody is painful but necessary. Because the process he decries is even now continuing, Brody's book is essential reading.
That said be ready to take off for faraway places, ideas & behaviors!
The hunters have been all but vanquished, yet in this profound and passionate book, Brody dispels the notion that theirs is a lesser way of life, & reveals the systems of thought, belief, & practice that distinguish them from the farmers.
The hunters' deep attachment to the places & ways of their ancestors stems from an enviable sense that they are part of a web of relationships in the natural & spiritual worlds. Brody's aim is not to elevate one mode of being over another, but to suggest that we move beyond dichotomies & accept that there are various ways of being fully human.
"The Other Side of Eden" is an exciting, generally well-written saga of the dreams & accomplishments of a dying culture, & as such should be part of everyone's education.
I have the pleasure of engaging university students in discussing a range of topics in relation to Western science, anti-racism, de-colonization, economies and ecologies and the like.
While I don't have them buy the book. It's on my suggested list for them and I do employ various ideas from Brody as stimulation for discussion, tying it in to discussions on world views (and the outcomes of particular views), relationships to the land, religious beliefs and value systems etc... in relation to the topics above.
As one of my scholarly colleagues is of Inuit heritage, a speaker, with a strong ethno-cultural upbringing, we have had some good discussions around Brody's views.
Brody has some good insights to offer, illuminated for me further by my friend.
There's a lot more to say...but I think most inquisitive minds would appreciate this book. If you are of such a mind...you won't be sorry in buying it.
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