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Postmodern Ideology and the Narrative Format

One of the key ideas in postmodern anthropology is the rejection of the rhetorical strategies by past researchers to make themselves seem as though they were objective researchers. This stems from the idea that the third-person perspective doesn’t show how a researcher knows a fact that they are trying to assert. The third-person separates the researcher’s personal experience from an attempt to be objective, but this creates biases that are not always evident when reading their ethnographies. While many postmodernists have presented ideas to counter this historical way of writing, they fail to realize the full extent of possibilities available to them. Some have touched on it, but they fail to realize exactly what is necessary. In the postmodern world, it is crucial for modern anthropologists to learn the narrative format of fiction writers.

This is not to say that anthropology should evolve to strictly be more similar to journalism, this is simply a way for readers to understand where the anthropologist’s assertions are coming from and what biases are present in their research. By studying the narrative format, field anthropologists can tell their experience through their own lens. By making a book in the first-person, with the anthropologist as a sort of “main character”, we can come to an understanding of how these field researchers came to their conclusions. Think of this as creating a history of the anthropologist’s experience that can then be used as a basis to use for the rest of their research, as well as be a data set for future researchers.

While this does not present a solution to understanding the “others” voice, it will lead to a greater understanding of how the gap of cultural difference can be crossed. This can be done in a similar fashion to how the main character evolves throughout the book. It starts with a character being placed into unfamiliar surroundings, and through trials, this character can now gain a good understanding of the culture they are studying. This is a great way of showing exactly how a field researcher can claim to be an expert. It also would allow for an outsider to look in and debate if an anthropologist can truly claim to be an expert.

Just as a helpful side note, this form of writing can help counter the idea that most researchers don’t make that much money. When this style has been used in other fields of study, they have become bestsellers. So embracing a narrative format has potential in both the world of academia and in the economic world.

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The Legacy of the Oedipal Complex

Freud’s Oedipal complex theory states that the son is in constant conflict with his father. This will lead the son to strive to become his father’s better, and, in Freud’s example, to want sex with their mother. When most people hear about this their immediate reaction is to be grossed out by the idea. Who in their right mind would want to have sex with their mother? But Freud’s theory is a bit more complex than that. The want for sexual relations with a parent is just an example used by Freud. What Freud is instead doing is attempting to understand tensions within the family unit. These tensions can be sexual, but also economic and social. For the sake of brevity, I will only focus on the sexual. While most will say that they have never had sexual thoughts about a close family member, the popular porn site Pornhub has released statistics to say otherwise.

On January 9, 2018, Pornhub released statistics on their viewer habits. I will spare you all the details of the statistics and instead focus primarily on the United States. This is simply because it accounted for a good percentage of viewers. When looking at the statistics for search terms from the United States, a very strange picture pops up. Of the top twelve search terms, four of them can be related to incestual themes. Specifically the search terms “milf,” “step-mom,” “step-sister,” and “mom”. And in his book Everybody Lies, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz says that of the top 100 search terms, 16 are incest related. These include “brother and sister,” “step mom fucks son,” “mom and son,” “mom fucks son,” and “real brother and sister”. There are also some interesting statistics from Google that show similar results. Sorry if that was piled on a little thick, but I want to prove this point. These search results and porn habits of Americans show clear signs of sexual tensions within the home. The only outlet for these tensions is in the fantasy of porn.Pornhub US Searches

So if these fantasies are becoming commonplace, then why is actual incest not more popular? To answer this I turn to the theories of Max Gluckman. In his ideas on ritual rebellion, he states that rebellious/deviant tendencies in society will actually lead to more social cohesion. To relate this to the Oedipal complex seen in porn searches, the ritual, deviant behavior of watching incest related porn films will actually strengthen the resolve of the incest taboo. This temporary moment of indulgence in fantasy will stave off the want to have incest. The reason that we don’t see it more in society comes from the idea of denial. If these practices are in turn reinforcing the taboo, then those who are participating in these practices are heavily denying taking place in them.

In Anthropology, a major problem we face is the Hawthorne Effect. This states that people will act differently when they believe they are being observed. The data that the anonymity of the internet provides can be a valuable asset. When people believe they are not being watched, they are more likely to be open and honest about their “fantasies”. If Freud had only lived 100 years longer.

 

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Tylors Survivals in the Modern Drag Show

During one of our readings, I became fascinated with Tylor’s idea of survivals. His idea claims that some cultural practices continue to survive long after the time period that gave rise to it, albeit in a different form. I primarily became fascinated with it because it suggested to me a historical approach to anthropology. And once I had read it I became obsessed and tried to find out why humans continued to do these practices. Well, recently I went to my first drag show. And while sitting there, I began to try and apply this theory to the show I was watching.

Tylor’s idea of survivals can be seen shining clearly through in today’s drag show. But in order to understand how, we must take a look at a slimmed down understanding of the history of cross-dressing and drag. Cross-dressing has been a motif in literature and entertainment for a good long while. Shakespeare used it multiple times to display how women can be equals in a “mans” world. And it is known that most stage actors on big stages were men. Even the female parts were given to men. While not exactly considered absurd, I’m sure that the idea of a man in women’s clothing amused a few in the crowd. When women began becoming more prominent on the stage, this absurdity needed a new place to go. I suggest that it moved to the phenomena of the bearded lady in the circus shows. And from there it continued to evolve as television became popular. Normally in television it was used as a foolish act in comedies, but nevertheless, it was still entertainment. And this continued until the gay movements in the United States, where cross-dressing became legitimized.

The point that I am trying to make is that you can still see the historical survivals in the act of a drag show, as well as in the crowds. The performance was filled with gaudy costumes, an abundance of glitter, and a very nice light show. All of which are staples of a circus performance. I believe that rather than trying to separate itself from its roots, it adopted and changed the way it looked at its performance. And while I hate to say it, I heard more than a few people laughing when different performers came to the stage. Considering this was not isolated to one group, I can assume that these people still saw it as the foolish entertainment that it sprung up from. So the modern drag show has two different types of survivals. The first being in the performance aspect of the show, and the second being the attitudes toward cross-dressing.

If it wasn’t for the cultural shift after the gay movements, I would not be calling these survivals. But because of the shows new found legitimacy and it no longer being considered absurd, it brings a new show to light. The roots of the show have been lost but if you look closely at it, the show still holds onto some of those traditions from its past.

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