Beyond Borders: A Deep Dive Into the Nomadic Way of Life
A recent article on nomadic cultures by The Chronicle of Higher Education quotes British expat Tomer Meir’s opinion that the term ‘nomadic’ has now become redundant in reference to the travel, adventuring and nomadic lifestyle commonly described by those of the tribe. Meir cites the fact that the term became popular in reference to the nomadic life in the second half of the 20th century, but since then has had a much more neutral, technical and descriptive use. However, he is not the first to posit that the term ‘nomadic’ has now become outmoded to denote such a lifestyle. In the early 1960s, the anthropologist Margaret Mead used the term in a similar way to describe the nomadic lifestyle of the indigenous peoples of Alaska. According to Mead, there was ‘little difference between the lives of Eskimos and Natives, for both move according to a common pattern, they live in tipis and hunt and fish and build canoes and trade with other tribes’.
The modern and modernist usage of the term is often contrasted with the more ancient and historic usage, which describes a way of life that has been in existence for thousands of years.
One cannot but wonder where the term originated to give so much energy to those who are living their lives in a relatively new and modern way. According to this definition, it would seem that everyone who does not live on the traditional nomadic life – even if they are from the tribes of the Himalayas, for example – does not truly practice nomadic life, and the modern and modernist usage of the term is often contrasted with the more ancient and historic usage, which describes a way of life that has been in existence for thousands of years.
The word ‘nomad’ has become very popular to describe different types of people, and those who practice the nomadic lifestyle are generally referred to as nomads. However, a closer look at the word ‘nomad’ reveals that its root is ‘nomad of the heart’. The word ‘nomad’ has always referred to a person who has moved from one place to another by choice. However, it was not until the advent of modernity that this new lifestyle became widely popular, and that modernity gave the term a negative connotation with regards to ancient ways of life.