The Study of Nomads NEVILLE DYSON-HUDSON The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, U.S.A. I NOMADS HAVE BEEN the subject of attention from western writers for a very long time indeed, and it is possible to compile a long bibliography of items in several languages about them. But the simple if somewhat gloomy truth is that we really know extraordinarily little about human behavior in nomadic societies. Certainly much of what passes for knowledge about nomads (inside or outside the anthropological profession) is quite misleading. Apart from commenting on the place of this particular set of essays in the general anthro- pology of nomads, I would therefore like to use this introduction to explain (as far as I can) why nomadic studies are so backward, and to suggest the direction in which a more coherent and satisfactory study of nomads might be developed. Nomadic studies seem always to have had a curiously inchoate, non- cumulative character. To go back only a century, the work of Robertson-Smith in the 1880s should have provided the same kind of impetus for the anthro- pological study of nomadic groups as did the armchair reflections of his con- temporaries for the study of Australian aborigines.
Journal of Asian and African Studies (in 2002 continued as African and Asian Studies) – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1972
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