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cultural anthropology

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Millennium videotape.

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"Strange Relations"

  In the News

From the series

Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World

by David Maybury-Lewis

(60 min., 1992, UM DULUTH Martin Library Video Cassette VC 1974, pt. 2)


UMD Kanopy Link:
  "Strange Relations"

[Nepal, Niger, France, Canada]


"The most romantic city in all the world" is ... [click here]

or so "they" say

Obituary: David Maybury-Lewis -- Guardian (2/5/08)

Romantic Love -- Wikipedia

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In the News . . .


"[This series is] designed to stimulate reflection and inspire a new look at what the modern world can learn from tribal societies as we [approached] the millenium. Explores the values and different world perspectives that hold many tribal societies together. Presents tribal peoples in the dignity of their own homes and captures their customs and ceremonies with extraordinary photography."


From Alice Reich, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Regis University:

"The film begins with a myth told by the Nyinba people of Nepal: a story of spirits so fearsome that the people will not say their name -- they are thought to kill children and the weak. Condemned to live eternally between life and death, their crime was adulterous and passionate love. The myth is only 30 years old, for only that recently has romantic love come to threaten their society."

"Maybury-Lewis takes us to the land of the troubadours and tells us about the West's version of romantic love: Courtly Love, which made it clear that love and marriage are opposites. Romantic love, that dangerous heresy that threatens the family; marriage is about property and responsibility and romantic love is about freedom and selfishness. Societies need people who will live for the children, not those who will die for love."

"We go to the Wodaabe of Niger, a pastoral, patrilineal, polygynous people. We hear the story of Fajima, a 'given wife' who wants to leave her arranged marriage and become a 'love wife.' She can do this because she has no children. She arranges to meet Djajeejo at the gathering of the tribe at the market and Yakke dance. Though Djajeejo has two wives, both with children, he wants a new wife. The two of them, Djajeejo and Fajima, run off together, madly in love, though when they return to Djajeejo's camp it is clear that Fajima has become just another wife. Women don't leave their husbands even though they don't welcome the new wife because they would have to leave their children."

[After a brief return to the land of the troubadours, "there is a story of a blended family in Canada -- his second marriage, her first, though she already has two children."]

"The Nyinba of Nepal are an agricultural, patrilineal, and polyandrous society. They have no word for love -- the closest they come is 'beautiful from the heart.' Zumkhet and Sonam meet at a dance (men and women, fully clothed, dancing men on one side and women on the other of a fire) which their elders regard as erotic and dangerous. They are each unhappy in their marriages and go to a holy man to give them sanctuary while divorces from their former spouses are set in motion. Zumkhet comes to live in Sonam's household, consisting of his father and mother and his three brothers. Zumkhet has her first child, by Sonam's older brother, Ghoka. She is traditional, believing in the polyandrous system of her culture: the family and the family holdings are held together through the one wife. More modern Nyinba, following a more romantic notion, split into couples and partition the land. Sonam leaves for school and Zumkhet muses on what is better: education and change, or the old ways."


The host, Harvard anthropologist, Professor David Maybury-Lewis, is "well-known for his best-selling book and TV series, Millenium in which he tried to present indigenous people as human beings, not just exotics. Professor Maybury-Lewis is the founder of Cultural Survival, an organisation he set up to protect the interests of indigenous peoples and he speaks of the continuing strength of native cultures against attempts to weaken or even to wipe them out."

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