In this project, I set out to learn what kind of images comprise the representation ofthe !Kung San in etnographic works and film. I discuss hunter-gatherer ethnographic works, comparing the images found in past works to present ethnography. I also make an anthropological and philosophical inquiry about the subject of truth and relativity in representation, and discuss the massive debate over objectivity and subjectivity in ethnography. In conducting the analysis of the film, The Gods Must Be Crazy, I discovered that the movie perpetuates images ofthe !Kung San as a "pristine" and "isolated" society. The stereotype of the "primitive Other" parallels images found in early ethnographic observations of the San. I suggest that cultural representations, such as ethnographies, are partially subjective in nature. For the future of hunter-gatherer studies, I propose that we take into consideration a revisionist approach: the !Kung San are not an "isolated" society, contrary to what early depictions imply; nor is there culture destroyed. Different cultures have various belief systems, and in order to decipher these we must engage in intense research, and minimize our ethnocentric ideas by adopting a cultural relativistic perspective. In addition, when perceiving cultural representations, we should consider the following: an element of reflexivity in the representation as well as our own reflectivity, the ethnographic present of the work we are observing, and the methods used by the researcher to collect the cultural information. Perhaps with these considerations, we can get past the partial subjectivity of ethnography, and the problem of truth and relativity, and really get to the "heart" of the culture. The presence of cultural diversity in our surroundings can provide a beautiful theater for our performance as one human race, only enabled by mutual understanding.


Kardulias, P. Nicholas


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

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© Copyright 1998 Nikoo R. Kasmai