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Title: Mbuti hunter-gatherers and rainforest conservation in the Ituri Forest, Zaire
Author: Kenrick, Justin
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1996
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Based on anthropological fieldwork in Zaire, this thesis focuses on the relationship between Mbuti hunter-gatherers, their Bila farming neighbours and their forest environment. Earlier descriptions of Mbuti/Bila relations as being essentially one of opposition (e.g. those of Colin Turnbull) are shown to reflect the nature of colonial control rather than the fundamental interdependence which exists between these two groups. The way people attempt to cope with extractive economic forces is examined historically and in present Mbuti involvement in gold extraction. Local responses to the Forest Reserve (created in 1992) are shown to range from viewing it as resource appropriation to viewing it as a marriage. The author's study of daily Mbuti life in the forest highlights the importance of economic exchange with the Bila, and the impact of broader political forces. Conflict, gender and power are examined in the Bila/Mbuti nkumbi circumcision ritual, and in the Mbuti molimo ritual. For the Mbuti and the Bila the forest is not sacred in itself: the interactions of past generations with the forest render it sacred. This experience of the forest encompasses fearing sorcery and the evil spirits of the dead, and attempting to control and manipulate - or trusting, joking and sharing with - the "forest as ancestors". The nature of the Mbuti net hunt, demand-sharing, and sharing with the forest in song and ritual, are ultimately centred in egalitarianism and their strong identification with the forest. The argument advanced in this thesis supports that of writers such as Nurit Bird-David and Tim Ingold who argue that identity, for the Mbuti and other hunter-gathers, can be grounded in a sense of sharing with a living environment. However it collapses Ingold's absolute opposition between Mbuti and Western approaches to the environment arguing that - although Mbuti cosmology tends towards an identification with the environment, and Cartesian cosmology tends towards a belief in separation and opposition - in practice both the Mbuti and people in the West move between these opposing modes. Conversation projects in the Ituri are shown to embody a Cartesian cosmology which sees humans as separate from the environment, the latter being essentially a passive realm for humans to exploit or protect. Recent developments in these projects, combined with policies which would support local peoples' cosmology of inclusion, suggests a conservation approach which seeks to deepen, rather than restrain, local peoples' involvement with their environment.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available