Christmas in Kalahari

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“Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” by anthropologist Richard Lee demonstrates many more concepts in sociology. In the article Lee is doing fieldwork in the Kalahari desert observing the hunting and gathering practices among the !Kung (Ju/’hoansi). Lee experiences many times of cultural misunderstandings related to naïve realism, cultural shock, and also not fully understanding what is culturally and ethically appropriate. He learns a very valuable lesson when, in his eyes, has a perfect idea for an appreciation gift to the Ju, because of their incredible cooperation during his study. Which unexpectedly turns into an unpleasant joke that Lee will never forget.

In America Christmas is a happy, festive time filled with great spiritual importance. Caroling, feasting, and gift giving along with prayers and wishes – the Christmas holiday is celebrated with high spirits all over the world. Lee stated in the article that, “Christmas is supposed to be the day of friendship and brotherly love”(Lee, Eating Christmas in the Kalahari pg. 3). The entire time Lee had to remain an objective participant-observer of the !Kung, and was viewed as a “miser”, which means stingy and cold-hearted, as he did not help out even in times when the people had trouble feeding themselves. Therefore, it being the last Christmas Lee would celebrate with them, he wanted to give a gift out of holiday spirit, and show his appreciation. Since in America we typically show our thanks by giving the best possible gift. He thought the best gift would be the biggest and meatiest ox he could find, to ensure a great feast! This is a perfect example of an ethnocentrism gesture. Lee is automatically assuming that !Kungs practice the same norms that American’s do during the Christmas holiday. However, the !Kung do not celebrate the same way we do in America. The local Tswana headman hosts a gathering to celebrate the holiday with several days of trance-dance feasting, where there is also a slaughtered ox for...
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