“Think of all the good the purge does…”

In Moberg’s chapter on Decolonization and Anti-Structure, he discusses the backlash British Structural Functionalism began to receive due to its lack of explanation about conflict and change.  Moberg goes on to explain that some anthropologists wanted to address conflict while still maintaining the functionalist perspective; one of these anthropologists was Max Gluckman.  Gluckman analyzed conflict as not in opposition to functionalism, rather as a contributing a functional purpose to the system.

While Gluckman was conducting field work he observed a pattern of behavior practiced by many stratified African societies, ritualized rebellion.  He described these rituals as a brief reversal of social order and the roles people fulfill.  Gluckman proposes that these events grant a psychological release for those that do not hold an authoritative role.  It is an opportunity to discharge any frustrations, while also providing a warning to the rulers of what could happen if the people so choose.  These momentary role reversals become a way to balance and preserve the system (Moberg 2013, pg. 206-7).

Ritual rebellion reminds me of a recently released movie, The Purge, where all crime is temporarily legalized for 24 hours, and all emergency services are closed.  It is assumed that if allowing citizens to engage in any behavior they desire for 24 hours, the system will be able to maintain order the other 364 days of the year.  While I do not believe, even for a moment, that the logic assumed by this movie is any way feasible or moral, I do see an overlap between what Gluckman observed, and the plot to this move. Citizens are provided an opportunity to act on deep seeded revenge or festering anger; these 24 hours offers a form of liberation.  It is a mechanism created by the system, for the system, to dissolve any chance of revolution


A Universal Teaching

I found this cartoon to be quite amusing, especially because we consider ourselves a rare and odd breed, and I thought it would be perfect for the blog because we discussed the advancements in field-work, standardized by Boas.
In my Criminal Justice Research Methods class we discussed participant- observation, and my professor had mentioned that some anthropologists become so consumed by a culture they are studying, they suffer from “going native” while I’m sure she was reciting from research she has conducted on the subject, when I asked her to explain what “going native” meant, it sounded so similar to what is purposefully done to create rapport with the society being examined. It demonstrated how misunderstood anthropological field research really is, and the stereotype of anthropologists to be crazy, as depicted in the picture with the bleeding, injured anthropologist recording his experience.
With so many misconceptions about what anthropologists do, even among anthropologists, based on the various theories many produced about what should drive their own work, it easy to see where people are misled, and that is precisely what led Boas to establish fundamental methods still utilized today, because often speculation is offered as evidence and unfortunately some people will blindly accept it. Boas created a theory that was effectively, and rightly, used to shed light upon the inherent racism produced by popular scientific theories, it is applicable to numerous situations, including personal standards I choose to live by.

Do not blindly agree with another’s interpretation, gather all the facts and make your own conclusion.

It is easy to apply your own feelings to a particular situation, but until you observe and understand the context in which events occurred, you should avoid judging other’s behavior.

Speculation leads to stereotypes, which are harmful generalizations that persecuted many. Boas may have missed key elements by not allowing himself to produce universal laws, but he did create a universal teaching, a standard that can travel beyond the anthropological perspective.

Saraya Kohloff


A Universal Teaching

General Theory

A link between Anthropology and Criminal Justice

Dual majoring in Criminal Justice and Anthropology requires me to compare and contrast concepts that are taught in both fields.  While reading the last 3 chapters of A Good Book, In Theory I have seen the most connections between the fields than I ever have before, in my 5 years at UW-Parkside.  In Criminal Justice (CJ) we have four theories we focus on to identify why criminal behavior manifests in certain individuals; Structural Functionalism, Conflict theory/Marxism, Interactionism, and Habermasian, the last two you may not heard of, but Conflict theory/Marxism is what resonates closest to me in connection with this course, and what I’ll concentrate on in this blog post.

The nurture versus nature debate is not so much a debate anymore, as we recognize it is often a combination of both that explains particular behaviors.  In terms of nurture, if we zoom out of the individual level, and focus on the macro forms of nurturing provided by the government (nationally, state-wide, and municipally), we can see the disregard for human life, we can see this oppressive and exploitative force the Conflict Theory suggests, that targets lower classes in the United States.  We see a similar oppressive force when we discuss fourth-world peoples, or those who are often marginalized by a larger entity.  Sears & Cairns discuss, on pg. 128, the types of environmental hazards that are inflicted on the working class, people of color, and the impoverished.  In a lecture series hosted at UW-Parkside last semester called Environmental Racism, one speaker explained the types of establishments that are imposed, toxic-waste dumps, large factories, and major highways.  These establishments not only cause extreme health risks, but lower the value of surrounding property thus making it next to impossible to better the conditions of the area.  The people living in these areas do not have the same opportunities or availability to resources as the middle and upper classes, and have little to no authority to stop these institutions from degrading their neighborhoods.

These anti-nurturing conditions elicit an adaptive behavior, and criminal activity could be a behavior produced.  I am not saying all impoverished, or working class, or minorities engage in criminal activity, just like not all pastoralists love cattle as much as the Nuer, but there is a clear correlation between oppressive forces and criminal activity as an adaptive behavior.  The criminal activity I am referring to is not serial killing, acts of terrorism, or assault, but rather petty theft, burglary, prostitution, and drug dealing or smuggling, crimes that have financial or social gain to support a lifestyle.  The cost of living is rising, but minimum wage has remained static, and with much of the work available to the impoverished and working-class being limited to labor, criminal activity is a way to supplement a low income.  I am not condoning any criminal behavior, or stating it is exclusively caused by oppression, I am just astonished on how a theory in Anthropology shed light and further expanded my comprehension of a Criminal Justice theory.

-Saraya Kohloff