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Post-Modernism in Today’s Modern World

Within the fieldwork of post-modernism theory states that the individual’s own experience can never be replicated, also-known-as the crisis of replicability. Take for instance the image featured above of the blind men who are feeling each a different part of the elephant. Each man feels, smells, hears something different the person next to him. This same premise is done within field research, each and every person has the own unique understandings of the world around them. When conducting fieldwork, it is important to think about the voice of the individual(s) represented. In order to provide a good and accurate fieldwork, one has to triangulate, which is when you receive descriptions and explanations from all different viewpoints. In today’s society, you can produce triangulation just by going into social media platforms and read the comments from all different walks of life.

Take for instance the following the controversial post of Woods Cross High School, Utah student, Keziah Daum. Keziah posted on Twitter her prom dress which was a traditional Chinese dress even though she is not of Chinese descent. The vast amount of responses to this twitter post demonstrate how each and every person has their own unique viewpoints. One post supported Keziah’s dress and said that it is “cultural appreciation” (Chen). Another person said that their culture is not Keziah’s dress. These posts are examples of how one can triangulate through the use of social media. Thousands of comments can be made on just one image, one post, one song, and each comment is just one view of the content of which is happening.

As an anthropologist, you need to embrace the contradictions and controversial points of view in order to get a better and fuller understanding of the world around you. Not only can this be done by physically doing this in person but also through written documentation, such as history and news, but also in more recent times such as social media comments.

By Kate Grabowski

Works Cited

Chen, Stacy. “Teen Defends Chinese Prom Dress That Sparked Cultural Appropriation Debate: ‘I Would Wear It Again’.” Yahoo! News, Yahoo!, 2 May 2018, http://www.yahoo.com/gma/teen-defends-chinese-prom-dress-sparked-cultural-appropriation-110304598–abc-news-fashion-and-beauty.html.

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Moana, Malinowski and British Structural-functionalism

There are many names for the theory that focuses more on the practices that support or express social relationships in situations, this theory is British Structural-functionalism or Hyphenated functionalism. British Structural-functionalism was introduced through the work of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. Malinowski focused on long-term, highly detailed fieldwork and redetected the idea of evolutionary states and of the ’primitive’. In addition, he focused on ‘psychic unity’, now known as human mind, where all humans are universally the same psychologically and cognitively. The drawing above, The Far Side, by Gary Larson shows anthropologists, who are represented by those individuals who are in the boat heading up to the houses to start to conduct their work. Whereas in the house you see three native individuals, two are rushing away with electronics and one is shouting “Anthropologists! Anthropologists!” To let his fellow individuals know that they are coming. This picture represents that Malinowski’s concept of ‘psychic unity’. This is because many of the anthropologists who come to view individuals don’t recognize that the natives are the same psychologically and cognitively as they are. This main concept within British Structural-functionalism is done by Malinowski through the use of observing the chiefdom society on the Trobriand Island and their use of the Kula rings to signify rank.

Moana_VideoPoster-660x351

Within our society today we can correlate the concepts of British Structural-functionalism to the entertainment we watch today. For instance, the movie Moana, produced by Disney in 2016, is about a chiefdom society located on the Polynesian island Motunui. In the movie, Moana is the daughter of the chief and wishes to help her people when their main sources of food, which consists of growing coconuts and fishing, are starting to fail due to a curse on the island. To help her village she goes on a voyage to find the demigod Maui, put back the heart of Taki causing the curse to be lifted and her village to start anew. Like the Trobiand Islands, the people of Motunui are horticulturalists whose main form of distribution is redistribution and have a great reliance on generosity. Within the Trobiand Islands in order to be a chief and of higher status you must show great generosity. Moana thought that it was enough to be generous within the contents of giving time to help her people to become a great chief but it was ultimately her bravery and generosity which makes her a great chief. Within our society, we can also show great bravery and generosity to gain status. Fundamentally, we all are equal just as Malinowski described.

By: Kate Grabowski

Works Cited

Amidi, Amidi. “Fijian Boatmakers to Disney: We Want Compensation for
      ‘Moana’.” Cartoon Brew, 9 Dec. 2014, http://www.cartoonbrew.com/disney/fijian-
       boatmakers-to-disney-we-want-compensation-for-moana-105257.html.
Smith, Laine. “Functionalism.” Theory + Anthropology, 11 Oct. 2010,
       anthrotheory.pbworks.com/w/page/29531810/Functionalism.

 

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Through the Looking Eyes

As we discuss anthropological theory we have on particular lenses that help us perceive our world around us. In order to perceive the theories and cultures we are immersing ourselves in we have to practice cultural relativism, not our standard bias of ethnocentrism.  Cultural relativism can be defined as the practice of perceiving another’s culture within their through their own eyes, not your own culture’s eyes. Unlike, ethnocentrism where we perceive another’s culture through our own biased eyes which have been submerged within our own culture. When observing another’s culture like Evans-Pritchard did within when he lived with the Nuer, he had to view their lives within the practice of cultural relativism, from their viewpoint, not his own.

The previous image of evolution is how I perceive the following quote from E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s  ethnographic book the Nuer.

“A man must judge his labors by the obstacles he has overcome and the hardships he has endured, and by these standards I am not ashamed of the result (9)”.

In its original context, this quote is in response to how Evans-Pritchard views his time and ultimately his understanding of the Nuer society. However, for me, I feel that this quote better relates to a possible mantra that society could follow.

In addition, when we look at images with our eyes whether or not we view the cultural objects in the cultural relativism or ethnocentric perspectives our brain analyzes and process them differently. Within Donald Hoffman’s TedTalk named Do we see reality as it is? we see states of images as our consciousness perceives them. Within our class we watched a documentary when Nuer men were making cuts on their faces, ultimately making scars on their faces. As an individual in your ethnocentric eyes you see him harming himself, you see pain and am unsure why anybody would do that. Your conscious self is confused. What you don’t see is that is a specific dynamic individualizing characteristic of the Nuer people.

Everybody on this planet comes from different backgrounds, yet we cannot begin to understand each other without looking first at where we came from and where we are going. We should all become less emerged in our own ethnocentrism and try to look at another’s culture through the practice of cultural relativism.

References:

Evans-Pritchard, E. E. The Nuer: a Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969.

“Cultural Evolution.” Theory Anthropology [Licensed for Non-Commercial Use Only] / Cultural Evolution, anthrotheory.pbworks.com/w/page/29531638/Cultural Evolution.

Hoffman, Donald. “Do We See Reality as It Is?” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, Mar. 2015, http://www.ted.com/talks/donald_hoffman_do_we_see_reality_as_it_is/transcript.

In-text Citation

~Kate Grabowski

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