The Mountain People

ISBN: 0671640984
ISBN 13: 9780671640989
By: Colin M. Turnbull

Check Price Now


Africa Anthropology Culture Currently Reading Ethnography Favorites Non Fiction Nonfiction Sociology To Read

About this book

In 'The Mountain People', Colin M. Turnbull, the celebrated author of the classic 'The Forest People', describes the dehumanization of the Ik, African tribesmen who in less than three generations have deteriorated from being once-prosperous hunters to scattered bands of hostile, starving people whose only goal is individual survival.

Reader's Thoughts


A grim book about a tribe undergoing extinction. A vision of the social Hell humankind is capable of creating when resources are scarce. One of the most depressing but most memorable nonfiction books you will ever read.


this is the most amazing and yet horrifying books I ever read.Colin Tumbull document the IK the and there survival tactics. this book really put to the human will to the test.


An excellent glimpse into the true nature of human society. Read this book for education not entertainment - it is dry in some parts. Provides evidence that there are no such thing as intrinsic human values and that the nature of people and society depends greatly on the environment.


An amazing book. Turnbull stayed for two years with the Ik, an African tribe in which individualism and mutual exploitation have replaced love, compassion, and family. Women laugh as their babies crawl into the fire. Children pummel their starving grandparents and steal the food (literally) from their mouths. It all calls into question if humanity has any basic quality of goodness.The book is also the story of an anthropologist's capacity for objectivity imploding. Toward the end are lines like this: "I am hopeful that their isolation will remain as complete as in the past, until they die out completely." Readers will, and probably should, hedge their bets a little more. But while I've read refutations of the book, none of them are quite convincing at dispelling its heart--a portrait of humanity scraped clean of anything but craven self-interest.

Scott Ford

In this companion piece to The Forest People, Turnbull describe life among the Ik, an indigenous group dessimated by drought and starvation, and the unraveling social fabric that results.

Michelle Commeyras

This was a hard read because the lives of the people was so dismal. I remember that sometimes all they had to eat was "dirt."


Wonderful book.


Some anthropologists may disagree with his interpretations, but it's a very well written ethnography that certainly presents enough information for the reader to draw their own conclusions. I think anthropologists need to recognize this for the type of literature it is and allow for that when critiquing it. Isn't the nature of an ethnography - to present the writer's experience and to provoke questions? I was very much intrigued by the effect this experience had on Turnbull's attitude. The book continually kept my interest and got me thinking about the society we live in and the role our attitudes and actions towards others play in its success or failure.


Gifted to me by Mary Kuhn, but only now finally reading it. Heart breaking thus far.

Gwen Burrow



Quoting Margaret Mead on the back cover, "A beautiful and terrifying book of a people who have become monstrous almost beyond believ....As Turnbull's writing weaves in and out between outrageous acts and his own outrage, he emphasizes again and again how fragile the structure of a society is."


Disturbing anthropological work about a society in decline. Frightening.

Lawrence Bish

This look at what happens to human beings when they lose their connection to their traditions and connection to others within them. A worthwhile read.


Oh shit. Shit. Shit. SHIT. What is this??? I am reading it because of school and it's terrifying! How coul'd live people like this??? I don't underestand. Oh my god. I am crying so hard when I'm reading it. Selfishness. Malignancy. Absence of love. Suffering... Awful.


This is a book I've come back to every few years because it's controversial, depressing, and Turnbull's conclusion was rightly admonished. Basically, it's about the Ik people of Africa a few decades ago and their survival in a remote place with little resources. Everyone's starving. Turnbull is trying to make some case involving the concept of altruism and how it clearly doesn't exist among these people, and really would it be so bad if they died out? An abominable idea of course, and he paints a society where the old are shunned and left to die (after all, they shouldn't be eating valuable food). Children are kicked out of the home at an early age to fend for themselves and people don't think twice about inducing another to vomit to steal their food. Horrendous, right? But cultural relativism, if you believe in it, requires that we try to understand all contexts. Fascinating.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *