Culture and Personality, General Theory, Perception

Down the rabbit hole with no spoon by Rick Tufnell

In the 1999 action blockbuster The Matrix, Morpheus asks these seemingly simple questions “What is real? How do you define real?” As students of anthropology these questions intrigue because it is our job to observe and analyze people and their culture. Yet, in order to do this we as observers have to answer those very questions.
Morpheus continues by offering an explanation of sorts saying “If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” For now let us center on the experiences that we observe in the people we watch. If a young man must pass a test of manhood to be earn his place as adult, and the young man invites us to observe him as he slays the beast. Did we experience the rite of passage as our subject did, or was our experience different? Was it a lesser experience, was it less real?
Later in the film Neo, meets spoon boy; a bald headed young man that appears to be bending a spoon with nothing more than the sheer force of his will. He offers the spoon to Neo and this conversation ensues.
“Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
So I guess it does not matter what is real or how we define real, all that matters is that we find the truth. The truth is something that can only be understood by going through our journeys both as people and as observers of people. It is in these times that we can really free ourselves from that which holds us back.
Remember these parting words from Morpheus as you decide whether to seek the truth or not. “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

All quotes taken from The Matrix and provided by

Culture and Personality

Thoughts on Mead

Many criticized Margaret Mead’s work by saying it was “too flowery” or that she was only reporting the details that she wanted. Now, of course, I was not there so I could not testify whether she omitted details or if maybe she was seeing something that others had not. Mead’s analysis on the social and gender roles of the Arapesh caused some drama. She reported that males and females held similar roles and were both important. To our culture at the time, it was fairly clear that males had roles that females couldn’t do and the same went vice versa. Ethnocentrism wouldn’t be a surprising product of this news. We naturally compare something foreign to ourselves in order to try to understand and, unfortunately, this can often lead to irritation and feelings of superiority.

I can also understand why the way Mead wrote bothered other anthropologists, however, her more-casual approach made her work more inviting to the general public. I would think this would be beneficial to anthropology because it would get their research “out there”. What is the research and data collected worth if no one knows about it? Non-academic individuals probably don’t seek out Anthropological journals in their free time so when you write your results in terms the general public can understand, everyone will benefit. She knew that in order to change how her society thought, she was going to have to write to themImage

Mead worked hard, probably much harder than any male anthropologist would ever have to. Her work will always be influential and will always be criticized because of its pioneering qualities. As a professional, she’s a hero and definitely someone to look up to. She helped bring anthropology to normal, everyday people. That effort is truly important because if we can educate ourselves, we can better ourselves and grasp the idea of what it truly means to be human.



Culture and Personality, General Theory, Perception

I’m Going Mental For Anthropology

It seems that anthropology looks at the norms of different societies, but I haven’t seen them look at the abnormal things in societies, such as mental disorders. I am pretty sure that other cultures have mental disorders and clearly deal with them in different ways. Through my classes in psychology we have not only talked about how different tests are designed to help find people with disorders, but also understand the degree of the disorder in both the United State and many other cultures. Although, I highly doubt that they have made a test compatible for a culture such as, I don’t know, the Nuer. I know that any tests that have been created will not work for smaller cultures like the Nuer because they focus on the general population in major societies.

            I know that in “Engaging Anthropological Theory”, by Mark Moberg, he talked about the wonderful Freud and how they took a look at his Oedipus complex based theory.  Moberg also talks about transference and projection and other things like that; but, what I am looking at is mental disorders such as schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. I know that a good amount of them can be transferred through genetics, but I’m sure that these smaller cultures can’t escape some of the disorders. If they could, I am pretty sure that psychologists and anthropologists would jump on how to effectively rid these people from having these disorders. I know that a lot of mental disorders are triggered by stressful events and traumatic experiences, but I just haven’t seen them addressing these symptoms in other cultures in any of the books we have read so far.

            I wondered what people would do if any of these cultures did have someone in their village with a mental disorder? Would they try to faith heal them, exercise or banish them from their village. I know that in the film we watched in class they had a scene where they believed someone to be possessed by a dead relative. I couldn’t help but think: did this person had something wrong with them or did a confirmation bias occur. Oh, if you don’t know what a confirmation bias is, it is when people will favor their beliefs until it becomes their reality even if everyone else views it as wrong (side note: I wonder if a confirmation bias happens a lot in anthropology as it does in other areas).  It is interesting to see how misunderstood people with mental disorders are treated in our society, but at the same time fascinating to see how other cultures view them.

            If you don’t know what some of the major mental disorders are, they include: schizophrenia, border-line personality, bipolar, and character disorders (which include eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, etc.).  If you would like to know more about these disorders, please comment on this post and I can try to explain them to you.

Back to the main point, my question is: do other smaller cultures, such as the Neur, experience any of these disorders? Since I am new to anthropology I am very curious to hear what everyone else thinks about this topic.

Culture and Personality

Notes on “Four Families,” Margaret Mead on socialization of infants

Right at the beginning, Mead makes the axiomatic statement of the Culture and Personality school: A human child can be any type of person – through unformed, infinite possibilities. Through socialization, they are made into particular kinds of people, with particular personalities, traits, skills, attitudes.

This film exemplifies a particular kind of comparative method (this is Boas’s comparative method, not the unilineal evolutionists’). One of the principles of the comparative method is that we shouldn’t compare societies that are different from each other. They must be similar in particular traits, so, do not compare rich and poor, or rural and urban.

The examples are India, France, India, Canada.

Although each vignette starts with contextualizing information, such as the type of livelihood, gender roles, daily activities, the role of the government, inheritance, etc., the main focus is actually care for infants and toddlersIn this, I think she’s very influenced by Freud. For instance, in the French case, note how she associates pleasure and the delights of food and the mouth, that is orality as a cultural trait. The traits focused on in the film arise out of western psychotherapy that was common at the time.  So, the films focuses on bathing and everyday care of the infants; the family meal, focusing on family dynamics expressed in the sharing of food; practices for putting children to sleep; and weaning practices. Psychotherapists of this era thought that weaning practices, like the ways that different parents treated defecation and bodily fluids, were highly significant in the formation of personality and that mental illness could be attributed to mothering techniques. Issues of the ‘best’ way to raise children were points of discussion and debate in the 1950s.  This is the period when America was transitioning to bottle-only feeding, valued as more scientific, rational, and ‘better’ for the child; and Dr. Spock was advocating the importance of scheduling of feeding and sleeping for American infants.

It’s very qualitative, and despite Mead’s emphasis on appropriate cross-cultural comparison, I don’t know how she knows that these case studies are typical.  Others in the Culture and Personality school attempted to operationalize these assumptions and test them cross-culturally. I also feel that she’s not ‘stepping back’ to observe. Rather, she inserts herself right into the interpretation – her emphasis on the orality of French culture and food seems to me to be a reflection of American idealizations of French food and life as well as her uncritical acceptance of Freudian concepts.  What do you think? Am I being too harsh?

She is making a critical connection between individuals and culture (between agency and structure).  But she ignores history. Could the authoritarianism and disciplinary style reflect that people are poor, especially following on the trauma of WWII?

Here is the link to Miner, 1956: <a href="” title=”Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”>

<a href=" Is my assessment of Mead’s analysis too harsh?” title=”Poll” target=”_blank”>