To Live With Herds

David MacDougall
Judith MacDougall
1 hour and 8 minutes


The Jie are a semi nomadic pastoral people living in Northeastern Uganda, who are striving to maintain their way of life in the face of unsympathetic government policy, and a dry season famine.

Following a period of relative isolation under the British Protectorate government, the Jie are now under increasing pressure to exchange their traditional culture and subsistenc economy for a cash exonomy and participation in a modern nation-state.

Dealing as it does with the relation between government and Jie pastoralists, the film makes a political statement of undoubted ethnographic importance. It is a lucid account of the historical and social conditions, which bear upon the Jie. The point that Jie life depends on maintaining a balance between herds and people, requiring seasonal movement between cattle camp and homestead, is contrasted with the government's desire to turn the jie into a stable unit for the purposes of administration and taxation. As a consequence of tax demands, Jie now have to sell their cattle for cash, involving themselves in transactions with dealers before whom they are in a weak bargaining position.

David and Judith MacDougall lived with the Jie while making this film, using a technique, which has been termed "participatory camera". The film is remarkable for its sense of intimacy and for the way in which it allows the Jie to emerge as individuals with their own views of the reasons for the famine and what was to be done about it and with powerful and lucid statements about changes which have taken place in Jie society. This was achieved by the skilled use of synchronous sound, translated in sub-titles, and by the device of restricting a great deal of the action to the day-to-day happenings in a single homestead.

David MacDougall
Judith MacDougall
Suggested readings: 
Gulliver, P. H.The family herds : a study of two pastoral tribes in East Africa : the Jie and Turkana London : Routledge, 1998. XV, 273 s., pl. : ill. (International library of sociology, The sociology of gender and the family ; 6)
(Original.: London : Routledge & K. Paul, 1955.)