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A Case Study About Culture

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A Case Study About Culture

Thinking About Culture:

Unit 1 Lesson 1 Case Study Assignment: For your first case study, Dr. Sarah Wagner discussed the concept of time among the Nuer. Time is considered a part of reality by Western culture. We see it as fixed and the same for everyone. We believe that time moves at a steady rate from the past to the future and that we can measure its passage. Time’s concrete nature is so embedded into our reality that we have trouble even imagining that a different culture could have a different conception of time. When we think of alternative concepts of time, such as the Nuers’, it strikes us as fanciful or maybe even uneducated. We believe that our conception of time is the “correct one” or the “real one” and that the Nuer would see this if they were exposed to our concept of time.

The Nuer are just one group that have a different conception of time than than the western one we’re so familiar with. There are others, past and present, that also do not hold to “the concept of time” in the manner that we, in our culture, see as real.

This is the first difference in thinking that you must learn to deal with as a cultural anthropologist. You must put aside what your own culture believes and teaches you about reality in order to understand the reality of another person or group. We have to overcome this deeply embedded notion that “our” way is the right way or that “our” way is closest to reality. Of course, letting go of our preconceived ideas is a very difficult thing to do because our culture teaches us from day one to think that our concepts of reality are not only correct, but also superior to the beliefs of others. Nor are we alone in feeling this way. Other cultures believe that their reality is fixed and correct just as strongly as we believe it about ourselves.

Your assignment is to think of a concept of reality (like time) that your culture has, which is very strongly fixed in your own culture, and discuss a possible view of that reality that contradicts your own but may be present in another culture. You can use real cultures as your opposing reality if you know of any at this point or your imagination if you do not. You can even use “time” if you use a different, alternate reality than the Nuer…say the Maya or Hopi. Choose any concept of reality, but approach it as neither correct nor better than the other.

Need some ideas? How about space, colors, temperature, weather, stars, food, ghosts, witchcraft, clothing, bathing, marriage, mental illness, what is a plant, what is an animal, what it means to be human… anything you can think of really. Remember: no right or wrong, just different!

Present your culture’s concept and then present an alternative on your own thread that you start on this forum. Then, read some of your fellow students’ responses and discuss their responses by replying on their thread.


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