Attention: This site looks better in the latest Mozilla or Internet Explorer.

The Humanities Conference 2003

Home | Newsletter | Call for Papers | Register

Presentation Details

 Download: Poster | Brochure 1 | Brochure 2    

What is it to be a Man? What is it to be a Woman? What is it to be Human?: Himba Voices From a Generational Divide.

Dr David Peter Crandall.

The Himba of northwestern Namibia (in southern Africa) are often described as one of Africa’s few remaining ‘traditional’ peoples, and to some extent, perhaps, this is so. Yet during the past decade, subtle challenges to their cattle-herding, geroncratic society have steadily increased through the availability of consumer goods and a growing stream of tourists wishing to see and photograph the tall and picturesque Himba. Exposure to exotic consumer goods, often in the form of cheap trinkets left behind as payment for photographs, has fuelled an unparalleled interest in the larger world. Because elder Himba only occasionally participate in the cash economy, the concept of ‘pocket money’ is unknown. The younger generation---especially adolescent and young adult males---enjoy these drips and trickles of ‘global’ consumer culture, though they are limited in the extent to which they can indulge in it. In this paper I explore the changing conceptions of manhood and womanhood by comparing the view of the younger generation to that of the elder. In so doing, it becomes clear that while both generations share much in common, the younger generation views the importance of kinship obligations, respect for the authority of the elders, extreme patience in accumulating wealth (primarily in livestock), arranged marriages as opposed to love marriages, and a number of other topics, differently from the elder generation. Emerging from this intellectual chrysalis are not only subtle changes in praxis, but the beginnings of a variant answer to the question of what it is to be human, and what the great obligations of life happen to be.


Dr David Peter Crandall  (United States)
Assoc. Professor
Department of Anthropology
Brigham Young University

  • Himba
  • Africa
  • Gender
  • Social change
  • Globalisation

(30 min Conference Paper, English)