Last time I’ve posted on this subject, it was dissecting the association between magical thinking and technological progress among Africans proposed by Rinderman. In general, I found it wanting of an up-to-date understanding of African anthropology, either in material culture or belief systems. This time, however, the central subject can’t be dismissed on the matter of ignorance. In fact, in a rather awkward way, his dismissal in on the grounds of how much he knows in bot his field and his own writings.
Henry Harpending, deceased, has been listed by the SPLC as a “white nationalist”, though it is the specific content of his quotes in regards to Africans, in light of his admittedly impressive contributions to SW African anthropology, is the major focus than classifying the nature of his bias. The claims in question are
- He has never meet an African who has a hobby, that is, one with the inclination to work.
- Hunter Gatherers are impulsive, lazy, and violent.
- Africans are more interested in breeding than raising children.
- Africans, Baltimore Aframs, and PNG natives all share the same behavior in regard to points 2 and 3.
- Superstitions are pan-african and the only Herero he’s met that was an atheist had a ethnic German Father.
So Harpending seemingly has the edge given his background in Anthropology with specific experiences with Africans…this only makes the only more painful to articulate.
- This will set the theme for the nature of my responses…his own work contradicts these assertions. The Herero refugee descent from Botswana, the main strain of Bantu-Speaking Africans he had studied, were described and calculated as prosperous in regards to cattle per capita and ownership of rural homesteads that stand apart from typical Botswana farming infrastructure.
Today, they are perceived as one of the wealthiest ethnic groups inBotswana and Namibia. They are known for their large herds, for theirs kill at managing cattle, and for their endogamy and staunch ethnicity even while participating fully in the developing economy and educational system of Botswana.
- Violence among the Khoi-San groups I’ll admit has been undermined. However, the Hadza, known for their discourage mean of conflict, express this through much lower rates of violent deaths compared to most others. The general consensus is that there is a mix, with the general trend towards higher rates but with cautious interpretation into the causes. On the charge of Laziness, however, is once again unfounded by his work on the lesser resources faced by mobile bands of foragers compared to sedentary ones on labor camps. The same link on the Hadza also pinpoints the hours spent in HG life working and accounts for the difficulty of those hours.
- Harpending actually made a model of cads versus dads that he actually attributed to non-genetic factors. Otherwise, we are left with his work on the oddity of “Herero Households”.
If women cannot provision themselves and their offspring without
assistance, then the “cad/breeder” corner of Fig. 2 is not feasible, and we are left with “dad/feeder.” Draper and Harpending argue that this is true of the Ju/’hoansi, and other mobile foragers in marginal habitats. Among swidden agriculturalists, on the other hand, female labor is more productive, and men can afford to do less work. The theory thus predicts that such populations will be more likely to fall into the “cad/breeder” equilibrium, as in fact they seem to do. Although this theory is couched in Darwinian terms, Harpending and Draper do not see genetic evolution as the engine that accounts for variation within and among societies. Instead, they suggest a facultative adaptation: humans have “evolved the ability to sense household structure in infancy” and to alter their developmental trajectories in response to what is learned during this early critical period (1980, p. 63).
There does not seem to be any durable group of associated individuals that we could usefully characterize as a household among the Herero. If forced we would say that the Herero have two parallel types of households. The “male household” is the homestead, consisting of an adult male, his wives, sisters, and other relatives, and it is defined by the herd and the kraals that he maintains for the herd. The “female household” is a woman and the children for whom she has responsibility, localized in a hut or hut cluster within a larger homestead. These aregynofocal households, rather than matrifocal households, since matrifocal implies mother and offspring while the Herero unit is a woman and children under the care of that woman. These children may be her own, her grandchildren, children of relatives, or even children leased from other tribes to work on the cattle. Men do not appear prominently in daily domestic life. They are gone at first light pursuing their own interests and careers with cattle, with hunting parties, or with other stereotyped male activities. Similarly, women are not prominently present at male areas like the wells where the cattle are watered. There is, then, not a Herero household, but rather there is a Herero male household that includes cattle and female households, and these females may be wives, or sisters, or other female relatives. The female households are the loci of domestic production and consumption.
However, it does not follow that the lack of interpersonal interaction means the lack of acknowledgement in parenthood within households. One is by association.
We interviewed 161 adult Herero (112 females, 49 males) intensively about the residence of themselves, their siblings with whom they share a mother or a father and about their legal children (children born in marriage or children in whom they had purchased parental rights). None of the men we interviewed whose fathers were still alive (n = 10) considered his residence to be in a homestead different from his father’s. Only two of the men had sons with residences elsewhere –one was a child who had been purchased but was living with the mother and the other was a child borne by a wife from whom he was now divorced. We also heard of very few men ascertained in several hundred shorter demographic interviews that were residing in a homestead other than their fathers’. Most of the men(24/39) with deceased fathers had their own homesteads. Brothers who had both the same mother and father were more likely to stay together, however, than brothers who had different mothers.
The other comes from Harpending’s own blog post regarding his Herero friend who claims the children of his new wife as being of his household despite not actually conceiving them. Note, he also describes the man as “prosperous”.
- I sadly lack data on Bantu rates of violence, swearing I once found data showing it to be low compared to that of the Khoi-san. If anybody has quantified data like in the link regarding the Hadza then that would be appreciated. In regards to parenting however it doesn’t reflect that by comparing non-resident fathers. Regarding Africans, here’s a perspective from a female perspective.
- This point once again warrants the mention of superstitions still being quite common in non Western societies like China in regards to evil spirits and luck. Likewise, traditions are known to be modified or dropped among Herero in major urban centers. The Herero Harpending encountered that he labeled “employees” nonetheless grew up near the study areas.
Before I end this, I want to cover some further discrepancies by another author who refers to his work, Steve Sailer.
The small, yellow-brown Bushmen, hunters who mated more or less for life and put much effort into feeding their nuclear families, reminded Henry of his upstate New York neighbors. If fathers didn”t work, their children would go hungry.
In contrast, the Bantu Herero (distant relatives of American blacks) were full of surprises. In general, black African men seemed less concerned with bringing home the bacon to provision their children than did Bushmen dads.
This doesn’t deviate too far from what Harpending explains. That comes later.
In black African farming cultures, women do most of the work because agriculture involves light weeding with hoes rather than heavy plowing. Men are less expected to contribute functionally to their children’s upkeep, but are expected to be sexy.
So technically this is correct but only to a certain degree in regards to division of labor. It’s particular to farming schemes where root/tuber agriculture is done, and in those areas forest clearing is done by males.
One parallel is that Baumann views climatic and environmental factors as closely
associated with differences in the participation of the sexes in agriculture. He observes that the northern boundary of women’s predominance in agriculture is constrained by the limits of the tropical forest region, and that the boundary of female agriculture also tends to coincide with that between root crops and cereal grains. Baumann’s view of the economies of labor is also similar to our own. He emphasizes that land clearing is more difficult in the forest than in the savannah, and that males often perform clearing in the forest zones in spite of the predominance of female labor, whereas soil preparation is more difficult in the savannah than in the forest. He notes the higher male participation in agriculture in the savannah region of the Sudan than in the West African and Congo forest regions, and more generally, that women are much more likely to participate in root cultivation than in cereal cultivation.
Not mention other activities such as crafts and trading. Baumann’s old scheme as it is is still simplistic. More research shows that labor between sexes shift depending on circumstances. See this on Igbo yam farming or West African Cocoa farming. This trend of shifting continues into the modern day.
In many places in Africa, traditionally there has been a
strict division of labor by gender in agriculture. This
division of labor may be based on crop or task, and both
types of division of labor by gender may occur
simultaneously. Women may mobilize male labor for some
tasks involved in their crops and men frequently mobilize
women’s labor for crops that they control. These divisions
are not static and may change in response to new
Likewise, male development in connection to their father is represented in this early anthropological text through inheritance of property and apprenticeship. Collective Fatherhood through the extended family is also recognized, with actual absence being highly due to migrant labor in Southern African countries.
The “Sexy” part is rather presumptuous and absent from the text, where it is in fact the woman that is scrutinized uphold standards in the chapter of Ibo courtship, which seems to be widespread. The simple and lazy role reversal is obvious, as it assumes that female labor undermined the general trend of patriarchy since they weren’t always dependent on the male.
So with all this said, what is there to make of it?: As far as direct connections to the Herero go, Harpending didn’t show any particular malice. Any such was more towards western phenomenon that he draws parallels with. As far as his conference comments, obvious bias is just that. His blog posts don’t even read as such, clearly contradicting it comments of industry among Africans according to his experience for one matter.
It may sadly suggest the type of filter scene through experience in this “field”.