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Class Reading for Cultural

Conformity and Conflicts
TRACS Postings
Culture and Ethnography p.1-14
• The concept of culture and ethnography is what sets
anthropology apart from other social and behavioral
• 2 explanations for group differences
– Behavior was inherited, born that way which can in a
malignant form lead to racism
– OR learned, as acquisitions –what anthropologists focus on
• “Doing Fieldwork”: participating in activities asking
questions, fundamenatally- doing enthography
– Ethnography (learning from ppl): work of describing a culture,
understand another way of life from the native point of view
• 3 Fundamental aspects of human experience: What
ppl do, know, & make
– Cultural behavior (DO): common activity *reading
– Cultural artifacts (MAKE): things ppl make/shape from natural
resources *books
– Cultural knowledge (KNOW): rules and meanings recognized
• By identifying it as fundamental, we merely shift the
emphasis from behavior or artifact to meaning
• Much deeper than cultural behavior or artifacts- can’t see it
Culture and Ethnography
• Concept of culture, as acquired knowledge is in
conjunction w/ Symbolic Interaction: (explaining
human behavior in terms of meanings)
– Roots of in sociologists like Mead, Cooley, & Thomas
– “humans act toward things on the basis of the meanings that the
things have for them, not what they themselves mean”.
– “Meanings arise out of the social interaction that one has with
one’s fellows”
• Shared system of meanings: learned, revised, maintained,
and defined in the context of ppl interacting.
– “Meanings are handled in, and modified through, an
interpretive process used by the persons dealing with
the things he encounters”.
• Culture (like a cognitive map) serves as a guide for
acting or interpreting recurrent activity, doesn’t
compel us to follow a particular course

R. Lee: Eating Xmas in Kalahari
• Richard Lee exposes !Kung perception of generosity & teach him of his own culture.
– Lee procures the largest ox but is incessantly teased, having it “called thin & worthless”
to his bewilderment
• Christmas was brought by London Missionary Society in early 1800’s to the southern
Tswana tribes which spread about.
– Interpreted as “praise the white mans god-chief”
• 1930’s began the annual custom of slaughtering an ox at the December gathering as
a sign of goodwill.
• “of course we will eat it, it’s food. It won’t fill us up to the point where we will have
enough strength to dance. We will eat and go home with stomachs rumbling”
• “We love fat meat, layers of white fat: fat that turns to into a clear thick oil & gives
you diarrhea”
– Ontah = whitey, name given to Lee while studying Kung bushmen in
– Gom = evacuate bowls
– U!au = spear
• When there is little meat, accusations of hogging or taking too much occurs
• Breast bone cut is 1st as to assess the layer of fat up to an inch thick in this area,
allows easy access for removing viscera
• “When I take my rifle & go hunting with them, if I miss they laugh at me for the rest
of the day. If I hit and bring one down, it’s no better”
– It’s our way, one must not become a braggart. We will tease and you respond in kind. We
do this to insult a mans arrogance. When a man kills much meat he comes to think of
himself as a “chief or big-man”- it’s our way of forcing humility
• There are no generous acts, all have an element of calculation
• Lee claims a similarity btw them and Good Solider Schweik and this with
Bohannan: Shakespear in the Bush

• Deals with Naïve Realism and it’s role in cross-cultural misunderstandings

• “one can easily misinterpret the universal by misunderstanding the
• “Bohannan”Hamlet is universal classic
• "That is the way it is done, so that is how we do it."
• “…it is clear that the elders of your country have never told you what the
story really means.” 
• “only a fool calls a case against the man who will be his judge”
• “a chief doesn’t want any other man to grow as powerful”

Gmelch: Lessons from the Field
• Q: What did students learn about Bajan culture?
• Q: What did students learn about themselves?
• “I have never been in a situation before where I was a minority purely due
to the color of my skin, and treated differently because of it. When I
approach people I am very conscious of having white skin. Before I
never thought of myself as having color.”
• “One student wrote that although she knew she wasn't black, she no
longer felt white.”
• “At home [Vermont] when I go into a convenience store and buy a soda, I
don't think twice about handing the clerk a 20 dollar bill. But here when
you hand a man in the rum shop a 20 dollar bill [equals $10 US], they
often ask if you have something smaller. It makes me self conscious of
how wealthy I appear, and of how little money the rum shop man
makes in a day.”
• "I remember bringing some perfume to Barbados because I was used to
wearing it every day. But when I got there I only wore it once, it just
seemed unnecessary, and I haven't really worn perfume since. Even
now, ten years later, I don't mind wearing the same clothes often. I just
think Barbados taught me how to find comfort in simple things.”
• “In the U.S. one's body is a personal, private thing, and when it is invaded
we get angry. We might give a boyfriend some degree of control over
our bodies, but no one else. Bajans aren't nearly as possessive about
their bodies.” 
R. Lee: The Hunters Scarce
Resources p107-122
L. Cronk: Reciprocity & the Power
of Giving p147-154
P. Bourgois: Office & the Crack
D. McCurdy: Family & Kinship in
Village India p193-201
C. Geertz: Life Without Fathers or
Husbands p202-216
• Only tribe that doesn’t marry! Anthropologist Cia Hua studies the Chinese Na tribe-
matrilineal society that lacks marriage. Women and their children live with
brothers & other close matrilineal kin. Men make appointments to “visit” arriving
at night and leaving at dawn. Will have several sex partners w/ no permanent
bond. The sys has worked until recent pressure from the government, to marry in
“approved” fashion, has caused break down.

M. Wolf: Uterine Families & the
Women’s Community p.210-17
• Rural Taiwanese women in a patrilineal society
• What happens with a mother who is not happy, bonds with her children and receives
their loyalty. As years go on kids marry and she adopts the position of mother-in-
• Have to have this system b/c on the ground women are the ones that are taking care
of things.
• Patrilineal society, natural form of birth control –WOLF
• Writing this article based on a need for feminist definition of kinship, tries to correct a
male centered thing. There are all these dynamics occurring from the women's
point of view. Male ideologies that exclude women, makes accomodations.

M. Harris: Life Without Cheifs p284-
M. Goldstein: “When Brothers
Share a Wife”
J.Diamond: “The Worst
Mistake in the History of the
Human Race”
R.Robbins: “The Cultural
Construction of Social
R.Robbins: “The Cultural
Construction of Identity”
Urla/Swedland: “Measuring Up
to Barbie”