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After many thousands of years, the nomads are disappearing, swept away by modernity. Robyn Davidson has spent a good part of her life with nomadic cultures - in Australia, north-west India, Tibet and the Indian Himalayas - and she herself calls three countries home. In the last Quarterly Essay for 2006, she draws on her unique experience to delineate a vanishing way of life.
In a time of environmental peril, Davidson argues that the nomadic way with nature offers valuable lessons. Cosmologies such as the Aboriginal Dreaming encode irreplaceable knowledge of the natural world, and nomadic cultures emphasise qualities of tolerance, adaptability and human interconnectedness. She also explores a notable paradox: that even as classical nomadism is disappearing, hypermobility has become the hallmark of modern life. For the privileged, there is an almost unrestricted freedom of movement and an ever-growing culture of transience and virtuality. No Fixed Address is a fascinating and moving essay, part lament, part evocation and part exhilarating speculative journey.
"I watched him out of the corner of my eye. A man unused to sitting still, restless hands, darting eyes. Looking for water, feed, camping places, villages for food and medicine, thinking '... when will the cotton here be harvested, should we risk that jungle area ...' - calculating, observing, comparing, deducing, holding massive amounts of information in the head, juggling it around - the paradigm of human intelligence. This was what nomadism required - resilience, resourcefulness, versatility, flexibility." —Robyn Davidson, No Fixed Address