Friday June 28, 2013
“Eating Christmas in Kalahari” by Richard Borshay Lee
“Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” by Richard Borshay Lee, shows not only how tough it is for an ethnographer to get away from his own beliefs, but it also gives us an example of how personal interpretations can interfere between people. At the very beginning, Lee said himself that he came “to the Kalahari to study the hunting and gathering subsistence economy of the Kung Bushmen” p12, for that reason, Lee should have known how they interact with each other’s and what Christmas meant to them. Lee thought that the ox that he bought couldn’t be better. He was just perfect for him: fatty with a lot of meat. It was the ideal gift to thank them during Christmas time. However, he became very disappointed when the tribe told him “Do you expect us to eat that bag of bones?” p13 although “It looked enormous” p13 to him. At this particular point, Lee got to thinking about what he learned along his ethnography and kept asking himself what was wrong with the Kung Bushmen. At no time he thought that the problem might be something within himself “Are you out of your mind?” p 15. When he realized the joke “Yes, when a young man kills such meat he comes to think himself as a chief or a big man. And he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors […] so we always speak of his meat as worthless” p 17, Lee remained shocked: it was about humility. What Christmas meant to him, “With us Whites […] Christmas is supposed to be the day of friendship and brotherly love” p 16, did not have the same meaning for the villagers. The culture that Lee shared for years with the Kung Bushmen suddenly appeared unknown, unfamiliar to him. He became subjective instead of staying objective because what was happening was directly linked to him. Even though, Lee had been living with the Bushmen for 3 years and knew the situation concerning social conflicts, he was not yet...
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