Re: Murder most foul

William Loker (wloker@FACULTYPO.CSUCHICO.EDU)
Mon, 7 Oct 1996 13:11:00 PDT

Thanks to Timothy Mason for his reply. I have a few comments

-- [ From: Timothy Mason * EMC.Ver #2.5.02 ] --

William Loker, citing Lee's figures for homicide among the !Kung, asks
we approximate a "murder rate" from the !Kung based on these figures?>

Do the figures for the !Kung include all forms of homicide? Nancy Howell
reports 6 infanticides by !Kung women in 500 live births - which may be
underestimate. Lee's figures seem to refer only to male on male violence,
and do not mention males killing females - is this because there were no
cases, or because this form of violence was not of direct interest to

According to Lee, his figures include all cases of homicide he could
document over the time period involved. As mentioned, 3 of the 22
victims were female. All perpetrators were male. Lee does not include
(or mention) cases of infanticide.

Daly & Wilson calculate the rate from Lee's figures to be 293 / million /
annum. This is considerably higher than the average rate for the USA -
is also much *lower* than the 1980 rate for Miami, which stood at c. 350,
and the 1972 rate for Detroit, which topped the 400 mark. It is also, I
believe, lower than the current rate for Columbia. It is very, very much
higher than rates for Western Europe.

Thanks for providing this figure of 293/million. This strikes me as
astoundingly high for a group of people often perceived of as "peaceful"
by many anthropologists.

Also, please note the spelling of Colombia.

Whether such comparisons are meaningful or not is another question. Some
of the 19 cases cited by Lee appear to have arisen from blood feuds -
is to say that they would be considered *legitimate* by the !Kung
, much as self-defence is considered legitimate in most modern societies.

Much violent conflict - including homicide -- on the streets of Cali and
Medellin (as well as Detroit and DC) is also, in a sense "blood feuds" -
that is pay back killings for real or imagined insults, revenge killings
for past murders, trespassing on turf, double-crosses on drug deals, etc.
However, the point is well-taken that homicide is a culturally
constructed term.

Bill Loker
Tim Mason