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January 6 2013
The west's dwindling connection with the natural world puts it in increasing peril, says the distinguished anthropologist in his new book. Many of the practices of tribal cultures can help us to rediscover our way, he argues – from respecting the environment to letting toddlers play with knives.
The Kaulong people of New Britain used to have an extreme way of dealing with families in mourning. Until the 1950s, newly widowed women on the island off New Guinea were strangled by their husband's brothers or, in their absence, by one of their own sons. Custom dictated no other course of action. Failure to comply meant dishonour, and widows would make a point of demanding strangulation as soon as their husbands had expired.
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