Learning ones culture

Learning ones culture

Essay Question at Bottom of page
Chapter Five
The Kalingga of the Philippines told  tales as a way to   inculcate the values of their culture.  Proverbs and stories, as   forms  of enculturation,  not only

accentuate the importance  of story telling, but also  call attention  to  the importance of  the context  of daily  domestic  life, rather than within  formal social

institutions,   as a potent  avenue  of  “naturalizing”  the way of life of  a people.
I vividly recall the day I left the  domestic setting of my family  and the informal activities of “playing” as a child,  and entered the school system,   a setting

of structured learning.  I have little memories of the details of my life in school, (although a sense routine and  the drudgery of homework still  linger!).  Instead,

it is  the moments of  early childhood, of observing and participating in the unfolding events of  life  within my  family,  that I recall most  vividly. Upon

reflection, it is these moments, of spontaneous play and serendipitous events,   that have provided the aura of my basic worldview, particularly with regard to the

values that have engineered many of my decisions as an adult. What about you? What is the source of your guiding values and perspective  on life?
This process of “enculturation,” while including  the intentions of  formal institutions  of  socialization,  tends to be viewed by anthropologists as culminating in

the “unconscious”  accruement of  values associated with cultural patterns of childrearing and domestic life.  For example, as an adult a sudden  whiff of   a dish

associated with childhood  may instantly, and with surprising intensity,  evoke memories of  moments in your mom’s kitchen! This  phenomena  illustrates just how

powerful,  and deeply embedded, are   the informal modes of learning cultural values.
The author of your text presents various cases studies—Japanese,  Aztec, and  the Ake  of  Nigeria—to stimulate a discussion  of the wide range of variation in child

rearing practices within  basic pattern of similarity.  This discussion is accentuated by a focus on the importance of ‘becoming a human being,” or being born into the

social world.  Reflect upon, for example, the way in which you were given your name, and the differing social contexts by which you may have garnered additional names

in relation to social and spiritual experiences.   Because of this focus on early childhood, anthropologist have borrowed heavily from the discipline of psychology in

order to explicate processes of enculturation  resulting in shared  cultural knowledge: cognition; theories  of the individual  and personality; and  “abnormality” and

“deviance.”  The subfield of psychological anthropology, unlike psychology, is ultimately concerned with the experience of the individual in relation to the broader

cultural context (holism!).
The documentary ”White Man’s Image,” focuses  on  the “experiment” of  using euro-American institutions of socialization (boarding schools)  to  ”civilize”  Native

American children in an attempt to  assimilate them into “white man’s world.”  This attempt resulted in a (violent) psychological clash of opposed values couched

within the differencing cultural forms of the enculturation process. While my tone here may sound “clinical,” I think we all can’t help but feel an intensity   of

concern and compassion evoked  by the  experiences of these children  and their families.  Some us may even begin to wonder if we have been through a similar

experience of “civilizing”  as a result of our experience in the American school system?  Others may also incorporate the intentions of the  “friends of the Indians”

as a sincere (within their cultural perspective) reflection of concern and compassion for a “vanishing race.” Are you one of these?

Essay Question:
Using the uploaded text and the above commentary as a foundation for your insight, reflect on the ways in which you were raised and how you have encountered formal

institution of socialization (school, organized religion, political systems etc).   What is your response to the documentary “White’s Man’s Image”? Have we become

“civilized” as a result of our educational system?

Chapter 5
Cultural Anthropology,  third edition, Nancy Bonvillain, copyright 2013, 2010, 2006 Pearson Education Inc. Publishing as Pearson Education, One Lake St., Upper Saddle

river, NJ 07458.


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