MODERN NOMADS
RURAL (real) AND URBAN (metaphoric) NOMADS

‘Traditional’ definition of nomads:
A nomad is a member of a people who move from place to place to find pasture; a person who leads a roaming or wandering life. From Latin nomades (plural) nomas (singular), from Greek nomad, nomas roaming about, especially for pasture, from base of -nemein - to pasture.
The origin of the word ‘nomad’ refers to three components – a mobile lifestyle, a certain territory or pasture, and pastoralism. Regarding the origin of the word, the term ‘nomad’ differs from terms such as vagabonds or migrants because a nomad operates in a fixed  area or pasture and works as a pastoralist. A nomad is thus defined as a rural mobile stockbreeder whose entire social group corporately participates in the movement within a fixed territory.

‘Postmodern’ definition of nomads:
The philosopher Vilém Flusser defines a nomad as a person who can be described in neither space nor time, by contrast with a person living a sedentary existence who can be defined in space and time. This corresponds to the postmodern definition in the debate at the end of the twentieth century.
The components of a fixed territory and of pastoralism are omitted from the modern interpretation of the nomad, and the aspect of a mobile lifestyle is stressed. Here the term ‘nomad’ opens up to become a metaphor for a (urban) person acting in a mobile way.
However, the postmodernist definition is used exclusively to refer to privileged Western people, such as leisure nomads, business nomads, luxury nomads or science nomads. They are also called big-city nomads or new/modern nomads.



The so-called ‘traditional’ (real) nomads in rural environments are no less modern.
Also, (non-privileged) nomads have existed in urban environments for a lot longer than the last few decades. In fact, the English city ethnographer Henry Mayhew was already investigating them in the mid-nineteenth century and included them in his monograph on the costermongers (mobile vegetable, fruit and fish dealers) in London.


RESEARCH ON NOMADS:
- 2) Nomadism / Pastoralism
- 3) Postmodern Nomadology
- 4) Nomads and Globalization in the Sahara
- 5) Nomadology - New Approach in the Anthropology of the Nomads

 

Chapters from the article:
Research and Nomads in the Age of Globalization
Anja Fischer
in:
Anja Fischer / Ines Kohl (eds.)
Tuareg Society within a Globalized World