Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version

May 1999


From To Have and to Hit: Cultural Perspectives on Wife Beating, Second edition, edited by Dorothy Ayers Counts, Judith K. Brown, and Jacquelyn C. Campbell. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999. Pp. 53–72. Copyright © 1999 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used with permission of the University of Illinois Press. No part of this article may be reprinted, reproduced, photocopied, posted on another website, or distributed through any means without prior written permission from the University of Illinois Press.


Among the !Kung San of Botswana, women are sometimes beaten by their husbands and coerced by other men, particularly their fathers. The factors that contribute to this form of aggression are various and are changing over time as a consequence of new economic and residential practices now seen among the !Kung as they have transformed themselves from mobile foragers to primarily sedentary food producers. The responses of women and their supporters to incidents of wife abuse are also changing. In this essay several episodes of wife beating that came to my attention during recent fieldwork among the !Kung will be reported and discussed in terms of the cultural values relevant to their former nomadic life and in terms of the realities of life-styles in the 1980s. In a concluding section, the prospects for future patterns in wife abuse will be discussed.

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