The Importance to Studying the Nuer

In our class, as we read and study The Nuer by E.E. Evans-Pritchard, I am always left at the end of class time reflecting on my other classes I have taken and thinking about other tribes we have studied. The Nuer are by far the most interesting. Applying Durkheim’s theory to the functionality of the Nuer and their culture it is absolutely interesting how they function so well as a community.

With Durkheim’s theory,” He viewed industrial society as a stable, self-renewing entity.” The Nuer in order to function as a society, they all have their own jobs they do in order to thrive and function. The biggest way they function in their community is through their cattle. They raise their cattle, use their cattle to create products they will use, they tend to them on a day-to-day basis; they even use their cattle in trades when their children get married. The cattle essentially is the property of the man, but the woman/wife is to help tend to them, and through tending to them it is also theirs as well. While the men take them out to pasture, the women help maintain them, by getting the milk from them. Their cattle is what makes their whole world revolve.

In their society, they also believe they cannot force someone to do something, that the person should be convinced on their own free will to do what they believe is the right thing. Their society is so in tune with one another, it’s incredible. It makes you wonder why even in today’s modern society, why can’t we function like that? Durkheim placed a strong emphasis on “function” within a society, that the Nuer have perfected this functionality over the many years they have been around. They hunt together, eat together, they tend to every day tasks together that they have it truly down to a tee.

In our society, we take a lot for granted. It’s becoming harder and harder to come together as a community, when everyone seem’s to be divided. Unity is becoming a far gone entity in our society and meanwhile. Tribes like the Nuer and even the Yanomamo tribe in South America have figured out how to get along with one another through 100’s of years. In a society where we work ourselves to the bone and it seems rare that anyone has our back, we strive to be better, but we can’t seem to quite get it. Going to work becomes trivial and even calling to talk to a friend on the phone seems like a hassle.We unfortunately have become so use to the new and improved ways of life that we forget we are actually human beings and that we have a lot more in common then we think. Religions, where we come from, education ( a large majority of us), how we think about politics and so much more. Why is that tribes who have come in to contact with modern day people are still able to maintain their harmonious ways of life and show each other compassion and meanwhile, we are unable to work together to create a safer world when we actually created such a dangerous one?

Engaging Anthropological Theory: A Social  and Political History. Moberg, Mark. Published in 2013.

The Nuer. Pritchard, Evans, E.E. First Published in 1940.

5 thoughts on “The Importance to Studying the Nuer

  1. Yes, I agree their community works well together. Before the advancements in technology when live may have seemed simple we had much more community. As kids played outside and gathered at that one house on the block and families knew each other they all had a sense of community. When you knew a neighbor was ill or had something going on people helped out with meals or caregiving the pace in life may have seemed slower. Today with the constant stimulations of electronics and distractions we are losing out on having that sense of community that brought more compassion and caring for our neighbors. We could learn a lot from these other cultures on working together to create that harmonious way of life.

    1. But don’t we create new kinds of community through being able to keep in touch with our family and friends via phones, texts, and social media? I was able to inform a wide range of people of family deaths in a timely manner because of that. Isn’t that good, too?

  2. I really liked your post! I feel that the Nuer as a society should be a good basis for all of us. In addition, as we observed, if you watched the Olympics, our society can harmoniously coexist with another society when we all have a common purpose. As I see it, isn’t as much as individuals within the society whom cause life to not to be harmonious, but the politics and socioeconomic dynamics within the society that cause it not to be harmonious.

  3. Very interesting post. Now try to think of our complex, urbanized, industrialized, and global society as Durkheim would. All societies create the kinds of institutions they need to maintain solidarity. What would Durkheim think we ought to do in our own complex society today?

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