Abu-Lughold & Guests of the Sheik

Lila Abu-Lughold is an anthropologist from Columbia University who believes that ethnographies should as a story from the perspective of the anthropologist than generalizing an entire society (Moberg 2013, 322). By telling only from the perspective of the anthropologist and only stating what he/she has seen readers can see where the author is coming from when writing or stating certain scenes in certain ways.

When I was in my Cultural Anthropology class, we read an ethnography that followed Abu-Lughold’s method. The book was called, Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea and in her introduction of her book she explains who she is. By doing so, before diving in the book, the readers can see where Fernea is coming from. She was a newly wedded wife who spent her first years of marriage in an unknown place.

Having no experience in Iraq, one can possibly say her feelings were genuine. Writing her book in first point of view, she also does make it like a story so when I was reading her ethnography, I was more engage than E.E. Evans Pritchard’s book, The Nuer. Both book have their pros to but, for me personally, it was easier to digest Fernea’s writing and what the culture of the Iraqi village was compare to Pritchard’s.

Reading her book, I felt that it was literally a story and if I did not know if an ethnography was I would of still thought this was a really well written novel. The way she wrote her book, in first point of view, it really connected me to her life experience living there than The Nuer. By having dialogue between her, the village women, etc. made it more believable in my point of view.

I think if ethnographies were to be told as a story than a third party perspective, it would be easier to connect to the author and their experience.


Diffusionism & Hmong Culture

The Hmong people are group of people who came to the United States because of the Vietnam War. Due to the movement, many cultural traditions did not transition well. Because some customaries could not be done in the United States, the Hmong people had to borrow traits that were customary in the United States in order to carry on what they could do.
An example of this is the sacrificing of black dogs. From my parents views on dogs, they were not valued as much as they are in the United States. Since there is no high value of dogs in the Hmong culture then, it was not look down upon to use a black dogs for spiritual sacrifices. Now that the Hmong people are in the United States, that custom could not carry over because of the values that Americans had for dogs. So instead of using dogs now, they are able to use black dog stuff animal instead. Even though the Hmong people do not use real dogs now the belief is transferred into the black dog stuff animal. This is an example of the diffusionism that has happened with the Hmong people. Since chickens, cows and pigs are more seen as food compare to dogs, that custom of using them for rituals still happen because of the same value American culture and Hmong culture share.
Another example of diffusionism in the Hmong culture is the Bride wealth that occurs. During the wedding process, it was customary for the groom’s side of the family to give some sort of payment to the bride’s family such as silver, animals, and other valuables. Since coming to the United States, the value of bride wealth has alter because money today in American society is more value than animals so the Hmong people has changed their value of bride wealth which has cause some commotion within the culture because the value of what bride wealth was in Laos and Thailand cannot compare to what bride wealth should be in the United States.
These two examples are of diffusionism that has happened within the Hmong culture after coming to the United States.


E.P Thompson & Unnatural Time

According to Alan Sears and James Cairns from one of our current textbooks, A Good Book, In Theory, following clocks is something relevantly something new among people and we has humans have relied on the natural cycles to organize our daily lives (2010, p. 137). Reading this today, we might find this odd because most of us may have been born around unnatural cycles and dealt with it our whole lives.

Though we might think, it is not so bad because with this unnatural cycle, clocks, we can trace back memories, moments, to any particular time we want. When you get married, when you have your first child, first home, first job, or first anything, there is a clock for you to look at and remember when it happened. On the other hand, there is a clock too for the bad times such as deaths, break ups, losing a job, and much more. Therefore, clocks can be a double edge sword.

Besides the emotional attachments that clocks can give us, E.P Thompson argues that clocks are “related to new forms of discipline associated with capitalist work relations…”(Sears and James, p. 139). Which is true if you think about your current job that you have right now. It is probably hourly based isn’t it? Managers, CEOs, the government want to know how much time you are taking to do to your work. By going by this clock, it tells you how much time you have spent doing a job and because of that, your job can determine how much you deserve to be paid.

I can relate this to my own personal job on campus that was a stipend paid job and not by the hour. It was so you can say, clock base, in the form that by the end of the semester I need to complete certain tasks. By completing those tasks, I get my paid amount. However, recently, during our winter break, University of Wisconsin system has changed their way about stipend paid jobs in the universities in Wisconsin. Stipend jobs must now be hourly jobs and must be converted into ways employees can be paid based on the hour.

Reasons to this change is due to health insurance issues that the University of Wisconsin system has stated, but I do not know much about that side of it.

Looking at this though, one can see that this can be a form of the capitalist work relations that Thompson spoke about. Instead of having my own clock to complete tasks, I must now follow these new University of Wisconsin System rules in order to determine my pay. It has its ups and downs, but by having this new policy all employees who were stipend are now watched and regulated by the system.

— Maikou Lor