Now that this semester has come to an end, I cannot help but think upon what I have learned this semester. While during the middle of this semester I may have felt like this class was very difficult and that I would walk away not learning that much since theory has never been my strong suite, but now I as I review and decide who I want to write on for this last blog post on I am seeing that I have learned far more than I would have thought. The class has given me the skills to read theories with an open mind and not be scared to try to understand them. Each time I write these blog post I tend to sit here unsure what to write but as I flip through the theorists chapters somehow something always comes to mind showing me the information is there that I have remembered and I will continue to use that information for the rest of my life.
For this blog post I would like to talk about Eric Wolf. While I did discuss him in the last discussion I would like to expand more on his theories since I found them interesting and it is still fresh in my mind. This time I want to talk about his theory with Peasants, because I think it can connect to the Nuer. For example, Wolf distinguishes peasants with three categories, “they are rural agriculturalists, they retain control over land, and their goal is subsistence rather than business” (Moore, pg. 310). While there is a lot of other things that goes into what Wolf defines as peasants, I would consider the Nuer as the closed corporate peasant community due to community ownership in land, and traditional technologies for agriculture. However, the major difference from where the Nuer stand out from Wolf’s theory in Peasants is that the Nuer do not do this because they are “poor” they choose this lifestyle with their cattle as currency within their group. Due to this I would like to mention the word use of “peasants” I do not think works for the Nuer.
Another way the Nuer divide from this theory is when Moore explains, “as men gain prestige, they lose wealth” (Moore, pg. 311). For the Nuer it is the opposite, in order to climb the ladder of hierarchy the men must obtain more cattle (wealth). However, if you look at it from the family of the bride giving away their daughter to a man in order to keep their family growing and “moving up on the hierarchy”, they must loose wealth by putting together ceremonies and giving cattle to do this. While this theory of politico-religious systems may not fit completely into the Nuer lifestyle, it is still interesting to see if you can connect theories to cultures you are learning about in order to try to understand them better. One way of connecting of course is through connecting theories with the society you live in. While we do not consider certain places in the United States as “Peasants”, I think it would be interesting to expand this theory in our nation on “poor” communities to understand how they work and why they work that way. As i mentioned in my discussion the United States is made up of many different cultures and understanding each how they work together and in their own terms I think is very important. As Wolf said, “(anthropologists) have erred in thinking of one culture per society, one subculture per social segment, and that this error has weakened our ability to see things dynamically” (Moore, pg. 313).
While theory is still not one of my favorite topics, after taking this class and talking about theorist through time and connecting them with indigenous groups such as the Nuer, I feel like I need to continue the learning of theorist in modern times and how theories have changed to fit societies today. When learning Anthropology we tend to always look at the past, which is very important, but as I expand on my knowledge of anthropology I can see there is so much more to it. Hopefully throughout my last year of college I can continue to expand my knowledge and continue learning theory that sparks my interest and gets rid of my dislike of it, this class was definitely a step in the right direction.
Moore, Jerry D. Visions of Culture: an Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists. Rowman & Littlefield, 2012.