Sociocultural Anthropology Through Film

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  • Topic: Culture, Apache, Ethnocentrism
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  • Published : December 14, 2012
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Sociocultural Anthropology Through Film

1. Give examples of ethnocentrism from readings and films.

Despite efforts to achieve cultural relativism, ethnocentrism can be observed in the works of countless anthropologists. In Bohannan’s Shakespeare in the Bush, she initially explains her erroneous belief that Hamlet has one universal interpretation due to our fundamentally constant human nature. However, she realized that this notion was false as she struggled to adapt the play to make it more accessible to the West African Tiv tribesmen. They relentlessly judged all aspects of the play by their own cultural beliefs/standards and consequently arrived at their own unique interpretation of Hamlet. Ethnocentrism is also observed in Kayapo: Out of the Forest; it is a video account solely chronicling the struggles and opinions of the Kayapo people fighting to protect their land from the detrimental effects of a Brazilian construction project. Because the audience never hears any rebuttal from the Brazilians, they are urged to adopt the Kayapo’s ethnocentric views about them.

2. Give examples, from ethnographies we have read and viewed, of the knowledge gained by taking a “holistic” approach to studying another culture.

Assuming that such an approach is even possible, Turner’s ethnography of the Kayapo people is an excellent example of this. His detailed account takes the audience on a journey as an objective third-party observer to see what had happened to the Kayapo people from a bird’s-eye view of sorts, and how their way of life adapted with the changing times, in a rather matter-of-fact way. Due to this approach he found that the Kayapo “developed social consciousness” in light of the contact they now had with other societies. This holistic approach was also seen in the film, Number Our Days, where the audience is given a comprehensive view from an insider perspective of a middle-class senior Jewish community. Due to the anthropologist’s existing roots in the community, her diverse selection of interviewees appeared more comfortable expressing themselves. This allowed us an in-depth look from various angles at a multifaceted culture.

3. Does an anthropologist’s gender make a difference to the knowledge that he/she produced of a particular society?

As seen in Abu-Lughod’s Veiled Sentiments, gender can play a crucial role in the amount and type of information available to a researcher. She quickly realized that it would not do to flit back and forth between the world of women and men, and that there were only so many socially acceptable topics that she may discuss with the men. Consequently, she opted to focus on the women and found that she may have had more access to information than a man would have. This is because Bedouin men would speak freely in the presence of women while the reverse did not hold true. This is also true because it was acceptable for her to speak freely with her highly informative male host and his male relatives who would often visit. Furthermore, young males would deliver news to their mothers, aunts, etc. while the men received none. “A conspiracy of silence excluded men from the women’s world”. (Abu-Lughod 16, 23)

4. What is the difference between an Apache who stereotypes whites and whites that stereotype the Apache?

The simple answer to this question is that there is no difference. Both the Apache and the Whites quickly banded together as a close-knit in-group, each ignorant to the cultural values, customs, language, etc. of the other. Out-group homogeneity is clearly evident in Basso’s To Give Up On Words: Silence in Western Apache Culture. The article explains how any Anglo strangers speaking to the Apache are assumed to “want something”, and all of their attitudes so poisonous that they refuse to speak to their children upon their return home from boarding schools where they were under Anglo influence. Similarly, the Whites hold the misconception that all...
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