Sept 6, 2010 (Due: Sept 7)
ANT 1001 XZ24C / Gaunt
2nd year (BBA / Undecided)
Richard Borshay Lee. “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari”
In “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” Richard Borshay Lee introduces us to some ethnographic techniques he used. He decides to take part in the Christmas ox custom, which is participant observation – “direct, firsthand observation of behavior” (Kottak, 49). And then through his key informants, such as Hakekgose, Tomazo, /gaugo, Mr. Lee discovers new aspects of the !Kung’s community life.
Although the anthropologist was engaged in the daily life of the Bushmen’s culture, he still remains an alien to this society. After Mr. Lee decided to participate in the Christmas “custom of slaughtering an ox” (Lee, 10), the Bushmen one by one started to complain, once they saw “the ox chosen by /ontah” (Lee, 10). While the Christmas ox custom “suited” the anthropologist’s purposes, the reaction he gets from the !Kung Bushmen people doesn’t suit his expectations. Mr. Lee was insulted by their reaction, and I can see his outlook was probably founded on his own culture, where people supposed to appreciate other people’s hard work.
Through conversation with cultural consultants, Mr. Lee uses the emic approach and discovers the “native viewpoint” (Kottak, 53). In the !Kung Bushmen society, your hard work is appreciated but behind closed doors and is not easily shown to you. Their control mechanism and belief is that even though a good job is done, it will do a person more harm than good to praise one for it, it will boost his ego and “for someday his pride will make him to kill somebody”(Lee, 12). Their survival was based on their awareness of their environment and evaluations of how individuals think and act in a society, which I agree will be beneficial as long as the people’s intentions are good and they don’t start taking people’s hard work for granted.
Kottak, Conrad Phillip. Mirror for Humanity: A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. 7 ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009, Chapter 3. Print.
Lee, Richard Borshay. “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari.” In Annual Editions: Anthropology 10/11, 33 ed., ed. Angeloni, Elvio. Dubuque, Iowa: Mcgraw-hill/dushkin, 2009, 10-13. Print.