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

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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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.
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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 (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hugh Brody is an English anthropologist. His parents were Jewish, and a number of their relatives died in the holocaust. Brody spent three decades in Canada hanging out with natives raised in hunter-gatherer societies. He worked for the government, and made documentary films.

Brody was raised in a nutjob civilization. He found the hunter-gatherers to be fascinating, because they had many virtues that were missing in modern society. The natives were kind and generous people. They radiated a profound love for the land of their birth, the home of their ancient ancestors. They deliberately had small families. Nobody gave orders to others. Everyone made their own decisions. Children were never disciplined.

He described his experiences in The Other Side of Eden, an excellent book. It examined the vast gulf between farming societies and hunter-gatherers — the broken and the free. In many ways, it was a predator-prey game. Wild people were useless obstacles to the insatiable hunger of the powerful empire builders and soil miners.

Conquered hunters had to be broken — turned into educated, Christian, English-speaking wageworkers. They had to be made dependent on a farm-based civilization, and this required turning their lives and minds inside out. It was different in India, where the British colonized people who were already farmers. These folks were allowed to keep their language, religion, and culture. The empire simply skimmed off a portion of the cash flow and became a morbidly obese parasite.

Brody’s family was Orthodox and Zionist. Later in life, his mind-altering experience with hunter-gatherers compelled him to reexamine his cultural programming. Genesis was essentially the creation story of western civilization.
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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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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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