Imagine a famine that affects everyone in a community simultaneously. Food is so limited people hardly ever share. Sharing is so rare; even family members are unwilling to share with each other.
Now, imagine you are an anthropologist who happens to study this community only during this time of famine. You may wonder what it is about the culture that makes them this way? As an outsider, you might conclude that people within this community do not value generosity and that their very culture is selfish and unkind.
Such a community exists. The Ik, a group of former foragers in northeastern Uganda, experienced a famine in the 1960s so severe they were inappropriately dubbed “the selfish people” (Turnbull, 1972).