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The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers, and the Shaping of the World Paperback – April 30, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1st edition (April 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865476381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865476387
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #796,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author, anthropologist and documentary filmmaker Brody offers a fascinating if sometimes digressive glimpse inside the world's vanishing hunter-gatherer cultures. Drawing on nearly three decades of experience living and working in indigenous societies from the high Arctic to the Kalahari, he challenges traditional assumptions and serves as a passionate advocate for hunter-gatherer societies. Brody argues convincingly that farmers are the true nomads, forced to continually break, transform and control new ground, while hunter-gatherers tend to stay rooted in one place for centuries, carefully balancing needs and resources and flourishing because of a sophisticated blend of detailed knowledge and intuition. Brody also demonstrates a deeply held commitment to respectful, egalitarian relationships among people in hunter-gatherer societies. Particularly captivating are his firsthand observations of the Inuit in the high Arctic, with whom he traveled and studied extensively. Less compelling is a protracted and often confusing effort to demonstrate that the book of Genesis provides a mythic rationale for the farming culture that now dominates most of the world. Wide-ranging references to linguistic, sociological and historical theories enable Brody to make connections between hunter-gatherer societies separated by time and distance. In so doing, he convincingly dispels the notion that such societies are more primitive than our own; indeed, he sees evidence of the "hunter-gatherer mind" in the urban world's visionaries, artists, speculative scientists and others who choose freedom over certainty. Yet by the end, he makes a compelling case for respecting both cultures' unique place.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Anthropologist, author, and documentary filmmaker Brody (Seasons of the Arctic) presents a sympathetic and informative study of several indigenous hunter-gatherer peoples of the North, including the Innu, Inuit, Nisga'a, and Dunne-za societies. He focuses on both the essential value of symbolic language (e.g., Inuktitut) for human culture and the ongoing struggle between sub-Arctic or Arctic hunters and the intrusive farmers. Full of facts, insights, and anecdotes, his analysis captures the joys and hardships of these peoples, who live in a world of ice, snow, ferocious winds, and treacherous waters. Brody takes the reader into the mental makeup of these oral, nomadic cultures, which stress equality, individualism, and a respect for the existential bond between self and place, as well as a deep respect for nature. He is very critical of the biases, prejudices, and negative stereotypes about hunters and gatherers that continue to be voiced by their farming neighbors. For its unique contribution to understanding and appreciating these hunter-gatherers of the frozen tundra, this book is recommended for all anthropology collections. H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

The good old days were over.
Richard Reese (author of Sustainable or Bust)
I would recommend this book for anyone who finds language fascinating and who is looking for yet another culture to explore.
Kusha_chan
Brody shows that the hunter-gatherer way of life is one which combines co-operation, equality and "individualism".
P. Webster

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. Griffiths on March 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The road less travelled in this case is that of hunter gatherers. in a world presently dominated by agriculturalists (that's us), it's easy to overlook the lives and cultures of hunters and gatherers. When we do think of them, there's a tendency to triumphalism - a sense of inevitability about the rise of the farmers, and a sense that agriculture is simply superior.
Anthropologist Hugh Brody's newest book is an antidote to all that. Without sentimentalising or romanticising them, Brody describes with the utmost sensitivity the lives of the Innu and Inuit he has lived among during his significant career.
He challenges with fairly hard evidence the view that hunter-gatherer cultures are necessarily destined to become agricultural, and that population pressure makes this shift inevitable. He calls us to examine our prejudices - just think of how we use the terms 'civilised' and 'uncivilised' and the implications of this for the latter group.
His main hypothesis is that we cannot know what it is to be human unless we take seriously the 'alternative' world of hunter-gatherers. For Brody, theirs is in no sense an 'inferior' culture, but a series of cultures of infinite richness and vitality. Moreover, many of the virtues of agricultural society can be regarded as the merest vestiges of much older qualities, dependent on our hunting and gathering origins.
Brody's argument, the point at which he becomes polemical, is hinted at in the sub-title of the book, 'Hunters, Farmers and the Shaping of the World'. Brody holds that farmers have shaped the world we have inherited, largely at the expense of hunters, who have been disposessed, re-educated and exterminated, often 'for their own good'.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Hugh Brody is an anthropologist & documentary filmmaker who has worked and traveled extensively among indigenous peoples. He has spent nearly three decades studying, learning from, crusading for, & thinking about hunter-gatherers, who survive at the margins of the vast, fertile lands occupied by farming peoples & their descendants, now the great majority of the world's population.
That said be ready to take off for faraway places, ideas & behaviors!
The hunters have been all but vanquished, yet in this profound and passionate book, Brody dispels the notion that theirs is a lesser way of life, & reveals the systems of thought, belief, & practice that distinguish them from the farmers.
The hunters' deep attachment to the places & ways of their ancestors stems from an enviable sense that they are part of a web of relationships in the natural & spiritual worlds. Brody's aim is not to elevate one mode of being over another, but to suggest that we move beyond dichotomies & accept that there are various ways of being fully human.
"The Other Side of Eden" is an exciting, generally well-written saga of the dreams & accomplishments of a dying culture, & as such should be part of everyone's education.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kusha_chan on September 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
This was a great book. I bought it for $.99 at a local bookstore and was pleasantly surprised by the hours of insightful enjoyment I got out of it. This book is not just about hunter-gatherers versus farmers. While it is true, many of the stories relate back to this, it is not the only or even the most important theme of the book. The other side of Eden explores how language is embedded with culture. It describes in a colorful and easy to understand way how language is used to depict everything from one's surroundings to the very values held within society. The commentary was brought to life in the first part of the book, which is essentially a travel memoir into the rarely seen world of the Inuit. While the last third of the book was a bit academic and the summary felt like an overly beaten summary, this is still a great read. I would recommend this book for anyone who finds language fascinating and who is looking for yet another culture to explore.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on June 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Other Side Of Eden: Hunters, Farmers, And The Shaping Of The World by anthropologist and documentary filmmaker Hugh Brody is a meticulously researched, superbly presented, anthropological study that looks closely at the life of hunter-gatherers in prehistory. Comparing the hunter-gatherers to farmers, Brody persuasively proposes that it was the farmers and colonizers who were the true nomads, whereas the hunter-gatherers adapted a strong attachment and sense of place to their lands. The Other Side Of Eden is a simply fascinating, iconoclastic, thought-provoking, highly recommended study re-examining long-standing anthropological beliefs about the nature of early human life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. Webster on March 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
Defenders of capitalism tell us that it is futile to try to create a more co-operative and equal society because they claim that human society has always been, and always will be, unequal, class-divided, competitive and driven by the innate selfishness of human beings.

But for over ninety percent of the time that Homo sapiens has existed, until the development of agriculture twelve thousand years ago, all humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies. These societies were classless, egalitarian and co-operative. (Marx and Engels called this type of society "primitive communism".)

Hugh Brody's book is about hunter-gatherer societies that still exist in remote parts of the world today. Brody has spent years living with hunter-gatherers, particularly the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic, and helping them to resist the encroachment of "civilised" modern society.

The book has two elements. There is a narrative about Brody's time with the Inuit and other hunter-gatherers, and there is a general discussion about hunter-gatherer societies. Personally, I found the constant jumping backwards and forwards between narrative and analysis rather annoying. But the book is still well worth reading.

Of course, present-day hunter-gatherer societies are not exactly like their prehistoric equivalents. For one thing, none are untouched by more "advanced" societies. For another, the only remaining hunter-gatherers today live in marginal areas of the world: farmers and more developed societies have taken over the best bits. Nevertheless, today's hunter-gatherers still see their homelands as "lands of plenty".

Incidentally, there is evidence from the archaeology of bones that hunter-gatherers had a healthier diet and life-style than later farmers.
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