Industrialized Societies Essay, Research Paper
Our modern world consists mainly of industrialized societies. We live in one place most of our lives,
have specialized occupations, rely heavily on modern technology, and are ruled by a bureaucratic central
government. However, there are still people around the world that follow a less complex way of life. In a world
dominated by industrial nations, it can be extremely difficult for these nonindustrial cultures to survive. In
“Nomads on Notice,” anthropologist Daniel Stiles documents the changing lifestyle of the Gabbra pastoralists, just
one of the numerous nomadic societies at odds with the industrial world.
The unforgiving environment of Northern Kenya is divided among several tribes, all of whom defend
their territory fiercely. This region is home to the 35,000 Gabbra pastoralists, who claim the dry, salty mud flats of
the Chalbi Desert and the eastern shore of Lake Turkana. The Gabbra must move often, up to ten times a year,
due to the scarcity and temporary nature of water sources and vegetation. Camps will often split and travel in
smaller groups to accommodate the carrying capacity of the land. The Gabbra have few possessions, and can
pack a settlement and be on their way within a matter of hours. Gabbra societies are lead by married men,
whose levels of authority are based on age. The main livestock of Gabbra society are camels, goats, cattle, and
sheep. The animals giving milk are usually kept at the main camp, or ola, and the animals not given milk are
sent off to distant camps called fora. This is done to prevent overgrazing. The fora serve as the border of tribal
territories, and are run by young warriors in order to prevent raids by other tribes. The areas between the tribal
territories are sparsely populated. Stiles and paleontologist Richard Leaky witnessed a horrifying attack on the
Gabbra in one of the insecure areas by the Dassenech, who crossed over from Ethiopia. The Gabbra had no
choice but to flee, because the Dassenech were armed and they were not.
The Gabbra society is characteristic of many pastoral societies mentioned in Cultural Anthropology.
Pastoral societies travel in small groups, usually less than 100. They travel frequently, usually on a seasonal
basis, to find the most nourishing land for their livestock. The typical livestock of pastoral societies are goats,
camels, sheep, cattle, and llamas. Animal husbandry is the main source of income, but people may occasionally
trade with farmers for certain supplies. It is also not unheard of for them to engage in a limited amount of
horticulture. Almost all Pastoral societies are strictly male dominated.
In order to fulfill great labor needs, the Gabbra rely on their extended kinship and social ties for help.
People live as extended families in large households, and each male in the household may have a different herd
(all belonging to the head of the house) to care for. Their duties may be paid for with food or stock offspring.
People may obtain animals as gifts from relatives, as inheritance, or on a loan. For this reason, it is difficult to
figure exactly how many animals one Gabbra may own. The Gabbra do not allow someone to obtain more
animals than he and his dependents actually need. If a person does have an excess of livestock, he either
redistributes them to the needy as loans or gifts. This system of redistribution minimizes the burden placed on the
The Gabbra usually store little food, because it is in short supply. What food they do store, however,
can be kept for long periods of time. The two most common forms of stored food are a thick yogurt made from
soured milk, and beef treated with fat. Enough animals must be managed to survive the fluctuating food supply.
This is usually twenty-eight camels or cattle (six to eight lactating) for a family of six. In the past years, disease
and drought have caused the herds to drop below this level.
The recent problems facing the Gabbra are nothing new, but they are being heavily influenced to deal
with them in much different manners by Westerners. Foreign relief services, missionaries, and government
officials, among others, are not only providing food relief, but telling the Gabbra that their way of life is
backwards and primitive. Raiding has also become a problem, due to the lack of livestock and political problems
in Ethiopia and Somalia. Because of these factors, officials are strongly pressuring many Gabbra to join
settlements and learn how to cultivate crops.
The life of the Gabbra can improve if the rain returns and neighboring countries regain stability. If the
conditions do not improve, the Gabbra may be forced to change their way of life altogether. This is a prospect
that horrifies most members of the tribe. Not only is herding the main source of income for the Gabbra, but it is
also the basis of their entire culture.
Too many times cultures have been destroyed, or nearly destroyed, because of assimilation. It has
happened to cultures such as the North American Indians, and it will happen to the Gabbra unless action is taken.
That is why it is imperative that all people who attempt to assist the Gabbra, as well as any nonindustrial culture,
understand that they must accept their way of life, rather than change it. Only in this manner may they truly be