Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and the Errant Anthropologist

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Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and the Errant Anthropologist Reflection In his book Mad Dogs, English, and the Errant Anthropologist, Raybeck discusses his observations as he immerses himself in Wakaf Bharu, a city in the state of Kelantan, Malaysia. Throughout the ethnography, he discusses the various differences that he observes with the Kelantanese culture and the American culture, while using his prior knowledge to explain the observations he takes note of. By using these observations, Raybeck proceeds to answer different Naturalistic Questions which explain how Raybeck gathers the information and in what ways his studies impact the culture. Then, he elaborates on the economical aspect of the culture he studies, explaining how relationships and activities affect the economics of the culture. Finally, I will share my thoughts regarding the ethnography and what types of ethnocentrisms were shown throughout the ethnography and some which I felt.

At first, the most important item for Raybeck was the location of the fieldwork as it had to fulfill the set requirements. Raybeck focused on the resources available: a close distance to the capital, a local building which kept all local demographic records, and a population which was not too large or too small. Using these guidelines, he chose Wakaf Bharu as the site where he would conduct his fieldwork, using the villagers as the subjects of his studies. Next, was gaining entrée, or entrance to the village (Omohundro 63), he was to find a modestly priced house in the village where he and his wife Karen could live in, which he was able to do with some help. The only thing that Raybeck had to do was fulfill the landowner’s obligation of doing guard duty which proved to be a good resource in collecting information and gaining contacts within the village. After settling in, the culture shock starts to kick in for Raybeck which varied from different sources, ranging from the lack of privacy within his home to the straight forward discussion regarding bowel movements, which he and his wife found very inappropriate but important to the villagers. However Raybeck was not the only person who felt a culture shock; this shock was reciprocated by the villagers through Raybeck’s lack of knowledge with certain Kelantanese way of life, especially in regards to dressing and the act of bargaining. His western style dressing in the beginning of the book, and tendency to not be able to bargain shocked the villagers to a point where Raybeck started to conform. To lessen his impact on the village, he and his wife adopt the traditional sarong called kain and also take lessons from a local merchant in regards to bargaining (Raybeck 43, 45). Moreoever, with his new acquaintances, he learns about the do’s and don’ts of the Kelantanese culture, immersing himself into the culture more.

Using both the naturalistic and humanistic approaches, Raybeck is able to engage with and develop a greater understanding of Kelantanese culture. The humanistic approach requires a great deal of immersion into the culture being studied and Raybeck does that very thing. Early on Raybeck learns the language in order to successfully study the culture. Using this skill, he spends hours talking to villagers about local affairs, learning about the culture as well as gaining rapport, or mutual understanding (Omohundro 64), from the village. His interviews were structured so that each question would not be in the form of a leading question, questions that led to specific answers, so the most honest response would be given (Raybeck 56). As he interviews more locals and presents himself as a researcher studying the Kelantanese culture, he unofficially gets the role of being the village’s personal scribe, taking notes about the happenings of the society (Raybeck 51). With this role and the well respected image he garners, he notices a greater acceptance by the locals who show appreciation for the work that he does. And by using this...
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