The Mountain People
by Colin Turnbull
In The Mountain People, Turnbull describes the dehumanization of the Ik, African tribesmen who in less than three generations have deteriorated from being once-prosperous hunters to scattered bands of hostile, starving people whose only goal is individual survival.
Forbidden by the Ugandan government to hunt game in the Kidepo National Park, the Ik are compelled to farm and forage for food in the barren mountain heights adjoining the park. Drought and starvation have made them a strange and heartless people, mistrustful of their own kind – their days occupied with constant competition and the search for food. Isolated from one another, each family is separated in its own compound within the village’s fortress walls. And each family is itself divided: husbands, wives, and children remorselessly avoid helping one another find food.
Sad, disturbing, and eloquently written, The Mountain People is a moving meditation on human nature, our capacity for goodness, and the fragility of human society. It is a brilliant, modern classic of anthropology.