"Primitives"? Surely not the Mongols!

mike salovesh (T20MXS1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Thu, 13 Oct 1994 10:01:00 CDT

I don't know if Warren Sproule, speaking of Mongols, "primitives", or
nomads, has Dan Foss arse-around--but he, and Scott Holmes, did get
ME wrong. It's probably my fault for being unclear: primitive is a
word I was applying to a form of conflict, not to people in the first
place. And when I mentioned the word "nomad" it was in context
a reference to Julian Steward's view of one form of the hunting/
gathering way of life. I guess my choice of the word nomad (or
nomadic) was a bad one and the source of misunderstanding. It just
didn't occur to me that people would think I was talking about nomads
when I meant non-sedentary, low population density, technologically
simple hunter/gatherer bands such as what Steward presented as the
Shoshone. OK, I agree "nomadic" was a bad choice when I might have
said what I just did in the previous sentence.

But the topic was "primitive war", not "war among the primitives".
Neither the Mongols nor Asiatic steppe pastoralists fit the model
I was trying to present--but they do raise interesting questions about
territorial control. Which Dan Foss has answered neatly as far as
the Mongols are concerned.

I throw in the steppe pastoralists because it's always struck me that
Kroeber's dictum about peasants,"part societies with part cultures",
also fits them. Their way of life demanded interaction with both
agriculturalists and cities. To try another dictum, that of Owen
Lattimore, "the only pure pastoralist is a poor pastoralist". Rich
ones go to live in cities. The poorest ones either die or go back
to farming. But none of them are hunters and gatherers!

mike salovesh <t20mxs1@mvs.cso.niu.edu>