What is anthropology and why we should study it? Essay
What is anthropology and why we should study it?
There are lots of areas of study out there but the one field that intrigues peoples and civilizations is the actual study of themselves and how they interact with other human cultures. I don’t think that I would have enrolled for this class if it hadn’t been for the minor requirement in my business major. Although this class started early in the morning and required a lot from me, I am glad that I took it. I grew up in two cultures simultaneously and the experiences I incurred have made me the person I am today. I think that it is important to familiarize yourself with other cultures not just in business but it will aid in smoother business transactions. In the following paragraphs I will discuss the breadth of cultural anthropology. Anthropology and the vast fields that are included in the study cannot be summarized in one paper. I will attempt to cover as much as I can in the following pages. I will also relate Anthropology to college students today and explain the importance of understanding other cultures. Finally I will elaborate on some of the presentations that I liked the most and offer helpful hints and comments on those groups.
The discipline of anthropology studies humankind in the cultures of the world, both past and present. This study includes humankind’s physical development and the wide diversity of lifestyles people have created. The main goal of Anthropology is to understand objectively the reasons for both similarities and differences among humans, their behaviors and ideas. Using the central concept of culture, a system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and material objects that members of a society use to cope with their world, anthropologists investigate and gather data on the human condition. Cultural anthropology is a broad subject and not only includes different ethic cultures but social economic cultures as well. Cultural Anthropology seeks to understand and describe each culture in its own perspective and in comparative perspective. Cultural anthropologists gather data through first-hand field study in other cultures and do cross-cultural comparative studies which provide insight and understanding of the modes and patterns of human life.
In the group presentations, the group that did the Italian Mafia intrigued me and got me thinking about subcultures within cultures. It showed how deep cultural anthropology really is. Studying about Italian immigrants and their way of life is interesting as it is, but including a subgroup, a group that was not mentioned in official textbooks is amazing. The Mafia, which stands for family was originally practiced in Italy as a way of helping people and neighborhoods out. I remember seeing the video that the Mafia group did and the interview with one of the group member’s fathers. He had the stereotypical New York accent and spoke very highly of the original beliefs of the Mafia. He did however note that he did not endorse or condone the illegal actions of the Mafia. I think this group did a very good job in their presentation. Their layout was very smooth and the topic of the Italian Mafia is always an attention grabber simply because of the nature of the topic.
I think that the overall breadth of anthropology is meaningful to me because I think that the more a person knows about a topic the less they are to prejudge someone or something before getting to know about it. The presentations were an excellent way to introduce each group’s topics and cultures in an entertaining and informative way. I don’t think that I would have ever known anything about “Hindu Marriages” or “Single Family African American Homes” if it weren’t for the presentations. I think that prejudice would be lessened if people were more educated with the cultures and traditions of other races. This would prevent possible ethnic clashes when hard times arise, for instance the LA riots. During the LA riots in South Central LA, African Americans destroyed Korean businesses using the Rodney King verdict as an excuse.
A few months earlier, a black male entered a Korean owned convenience store and walked out with a case of beer without paying for it. The clerk, who was a family member shot and killed the victim. When it went to trial and he was found not guilty of murder, the black community was outraged and thus the hatred of Koreans by African Americans was started. If both groups had been educated more about each other’s differences and culture this could have been prevented.
Cultural Anthropologists seek to understand both the cultural and individual bases for behavior; and how political, economic, and social factors affect both the individuals and various groups. Although statistical and other quantitative methods are used, much of Cultural Anthropology is qualitative-descriptive. Classical anthropological fieldwork requires prolonged residence (of one or more years) with a particular group in order to understand their way of life. Until World War II, Cultural Anthropology focused especially on non-Western cultures, including Native American Indians, gaining a unique perspective on human life and behavior. More recently this perspective and fieldwork method have been applied as well to Western culture. People with anthropological training are actively employed in many fields in which their anthropological training and cross-cultural perspectives are valuable. Some of the fields are: investment banking; international and domestic merchandising; health care; personnel work; government; advertising; broadcasting; law; social work; and many areas of business. Cultural anthropology is extremely relevant to students today more than ever because the United States is becoming more and more inhabited by cultures other than Anglo-Americans.
Statistics predict that the Anglo race will become the “minority” in the next 30 years and that mostly Hispanics and African Americans will contribute the next ethic explosion in the US. Therefore it is crucial that the educated youth of today have a firm grasp of the cultures that are around them. International business will be improved and ethnic bonds will be formed through understanding the other’s culture. This might not have been possible without the education of that group’s culture. The presentation of the “Veil” was very informative because it showed me a different side of women wearing the veil. Before the presentation I looked at the veil as unfashionable attire worn by Middle Eastern women. After the presentation I realized that the veil represents the culture and magnifies the women who wear them.
The American culture today does not really emphasize being pure in body before marriage and thus is the major reason why over 50% of marriages end in divorce after one year. The rate of divorce in Middle Eastern countries was next to none until recently. I believe that there is deeper meaning in this. The veil, to me signifies a pure unseen and untouched woman. A woman that is only to be enjoyed by her husband. As traditional and old fashion as that might seem, Middle Eastern marriages outlast most other cultures marriages in not having divorces.
I liked most of the presentations that I observed. They were all unique and informative in their own way. All of the groups put much effort and time in producing quality skits and presentations. My favorite ones were the Italian Mafia and the Second-Generation Vietnamese. I have always been intrigued and fascinated by the actions and way of the Mafia. Growing up I remember watching John Gotti on television and going through trial after trial only to be acquitted. I couldn’t help but cheer him on even though he was a ruthless villain. Some of my favorite mob movies are Donny Brasco, Mobsters, and Godfather. They represented a different side of entreprenauership and business other than the Rockefellers and Vanderbilt’s of their time. They had a different way of doing business and loyalty was valued above all else. The main difference between the mob and other successful “straight” businessmen was the mob acted like a family or group.
They oftentimes helped out poor Italian immigrants in need and provided and found jobs for poor families. Most Italian immigrants saw the mob as a hero figure kind of like a Robin Hood. They rooted for the mob leaders when they were arrested by the law and backed them up when they could. The Second Generation Vietnamese group interested me not only because I am Vietnamese but also because I see first hand what the past two generations of Vietnamese people have gone through. When my parents came here in 1979 with no money and little knowledge of American culture and language, they knew that it was going to be a struggle to get our family back on our feet. My father worked two jobs to support my family and my mother worked 9-5 and raised us. My parents and other Vietnamese parent’s generations had a strong work ethic and pushed their children to go to school. Most of the earlier second-generation kids did well in school and excelled in their professional fields because they had a strong family background with support and help.
Today’s Vietnamese generation is a little different however because while our parents were working 2 jobs and running businesses 18 hours a day they didn’t have much time to spend with the younger kids and consequently a lot of young Vietnamese youths today are involved in gangs and teenage girls are getting pregnant. I think in general, they will be fine but they have to go through a different struggle than what I had to go through. When I speak to most Vietnamese kids today, the majority of them cannot or barely speak the language much less read or write in Vietnamese. In general I think that this group did a good job in presenting the differences between our parents and our generation.
Cultural anthropology allows students to look at other cultures differently and understand a little better what that group has gone through to get to where they are today. This course has been a great help to me as well as the people that I have spoken to. The instructor did a great job in laying out the course and although there were a lot of assignments to be completed I think that they were necessary in order to gain a full learning experience of the entire field. At first I thought the fact that most groups were composed of same ethnic groups would be boring and that they would only talk about how good their group was. After watching and attending all of the presentations I found that to be completely opposite.
By having members of those groups of the same race, they were able to join and share different views and experiences and provide a better overall and complete presentation for the viewers. After reviewing and summarizing everything that I have learned during this semester, I can confidently say that I am more educated in other cultures than I would have ever dreamed. I believe that the understanding of the culture around you and the cultures that inhabit the same planet as you enables you to make better and more informed decisions in both business and social interactions.