Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version

May 1976


Published in Kalahari Hunter-Gatherers: Studies of the !Kung San and Their Neighbors, edited by Richard B. Lee and Irven DeVore. Harvard University Press, Cambridge & London, 1976. Copyright © 1976 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1999 by the authors.


The usual approach in studies of socialization is to look at the interaction among cultural values, social structure, and child-training practices. The approach used here evolved during my two years in the field living with the !Kung, when it became clear to me that the major constraints on child life derived from the nature of adult work and from the organization of people in space. By the "nature of adult work" I refer to the hunting and gathering subsistence economy, to the rhythm of work routines, and to the accommodation to scarce and unevenly distributed water sources. By "organization of people in space" I refer to the actual settlement pattern of !Kung living groups and to the overlying network of social use to which the living space is put.

In approaching child life through a focus on these more concrete features of social life, I hope not to skimp on the rich ethnographic detail that can be conveyed in writings about child-training practices in other cultures. Instead, by specifying more fully the stage settings and the traffic rhythms of the social actors in camp life, I hope to open to the reader a view of the niche of children in this society.

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