Samburu and Mosuo Matriarchies: A Comparison #1

 

 

The Samburu – The Land of No Men: Inside

Kenya’s Women-Only Village (Part of the Broadly Video Series) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrnmBLB-UX4

 

The Women’s Kingdom, regarding the Mosuo, as seen in the PBS Frontline Series (Cut and paste URL)

This assignment and the next ask you to compare and contrast Samburu and Mosuo culture.  To earn 1 point Extra-Credit in this assignment, answer the following five questions in a full single page with standard margins, single-spaced, using 12-font.  For any specific evidence you cite to back up your points, include the video time markers.

  1. 1. Is it fair to say that the matriarchy of the Sumburu region is on the rise and the matriarchy of the Na/Mosuo, as seen in the video, The Women’s Kingdom, may be on the decline?  Explain your answer, briefly.
  2. 2. Name the four matriarchal villages visited in the video.  Which do you think is most like those seen in the Na/Mosuo video?  Mention at least two important similarities. What are two significant differences?
  3. 3. Do you think the Sumburu Mosuo matriarchal villages will still exist in a hundred years and will they still be run by women? Why or why not?  Provide two specific points from the video to back up what you believe.
  4. 4. Based on several sections of the video, name and explain two important things that women who go to the Sumburu matriarchal villages are fleeing.
  5. 5.  Is money being earned by the Samburu and Mosul matriarchal villages being spent for the benefit of individuals or the communities?  Back up your answer with at least one specific instance from each video.

 

Extra-Credit Assignment # 2

Samburu and Mosuo Matriarchies: A Comparison #2

For this assignment, please refer to the two videos on the Mosuo and the Samburu to which the first extra-credit assignment referred.  Similar to the first extra-credit assignment, this one asks you about Samburu and Mosuo culture, but here the emphasis is on their political levels and several other points.  To earn 1 point Extra-Credit, address the following four issues in a full single page with normal margins, single-spaced, and using 12-font.  For any specific evidence you cite to back up your points, include the video time markers.

  1. 1. Provide a description of Samburu society, including a brief history of how and why these communities were founded.
  2. Could women-only communities such as those of the Samburu live exist in the United States? Why or why not?  (Given that many urban neighborhoods are dominated by female-lead, single parent families, isn’t the United States heading in that direction anyway?)  Discuss.
  3. 3. Compare the Samburu matriarchy to that of the matriarchy of the Mosuo, as described in the video you have seen for class, The Women’s Kingdom (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ublvgSLpe7A). How are the two matriarchies similar?  How are they different?
  4. 4. Citing evidence from your reading on political anthropology (Chapter 8 in the Miller textbook), consider whether the Samburu and Mosuo are each a band, tribe, chiefdom or state. Back up your categorization with specific evidence from the videos (indicate the time mark in the video of the evidence you cite) that is in accord with the descriptions of these standard levels of political complexity in your textbook. 
  5. 5. Consider whether either of these cultures appears to be something other than one of these four levels of political complexity? If so, Why? What makes one or the other not fit the standard levels of political complexity? Back up what you say with specific evidence from the videos (include the video time mark in your discussion of the evidence).

Extra-Credit Assignment # 3

How Cultures Are Studied

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72oSUzZT2sU

 

How Cultures Are Studied documents the field research of Napoleon Chagnon among the Yanomama people of Brazil and Venezuela.  This video records the type of ethnography that anthropologists did in remote parts of the world, a type of study that is increasingly rare in our globalizing world.

To earn 1 point Extra-Credit, address the following two issues in a full single page, single-spaced, essay using 12-font.  For any specific evidence you cite to back up your points, include the video time markers.

1)  Write a half-page summary of the events of the video.

2) In the second half of the same page (in a single-spaced paragraph or two), discuss Chagnon’s field research methods.  The essential question I want you to address in the second half of the page is, Did Chagnon carry out participant observation as effectively as he might have?

Among the things should consider in the second half of this assignment are:

—As depicted in the film, did Chagnon make use of Life Histories?  If he didn’t, why do you think he didn’t?  Whatever your answer, is this a negative or a positive in this specific case.

—Do you think Chagnon left himself open to the possibility of distortion of his data as the result of the Hawthorne Effect?  (Explain.)

—Were Chagnon’s informants mostly men or women, young or old, or mostly from one village?  As you consider these questions, discuss whether there is bias of any type in his field study.

—Did either the Yanomama or Chagnon show signs of ethnocentrism, culture shock, or naïve realism?  If so, explain and reference the specific points (with a time marker)

—Chagnon recorded Yanomama myths – why was this important?  What do myths tell us about a culture?

Extra-Credit Assignment # 4

 

Documentary Video: Updating Kula

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LPICjAP0zo

 

The documentary video, Updating Kula is about the traditional system of exchange called Kula among the Trobriand Islanders (or, “Trobrianders”) of the South Pacific, about whom you read in your textbook. The film documents traditional exchange in items that have no intrinsic value.  In other words, these items, which are in some instances very old necklaces and armbands, cannot serve as food, they do not function as tools, they are not medicine, nor do they provide protection or shelter.  They nevertheless have great value as items of beauty and elements of social life, including functioning to provide a cultural connection between distant peoples in the Islands and as a means for gaining prestige through ownership and exchange.

For this extra-credit assignment, in a discussion of one page, single-spaced (12-font), with normal margins, consider ten common items in western culture that have no or limited intrinsic value, but nevertheless have great value in our consumerist culture.  For each item, describe any practical value it might have and estimate how much of its value is non-practical (or non-intrinsic).  Finally, for each item you list, explain why people are willing to spend money on it.  How does it function in our culture?  What does it do for people?

Take as a hypothetical example, a $5000 imported gold watch, which does tell time, but no better than a $50 watch.  In the case of this imported watch, based on cost, my estimate is that 99% of the watch’s value is non-intrinsic.  Even the gold that forms the exterior of the watch has no genuine practicality.  It is a soft metal from which you cannot make tools, nor can you eat it or make a house out of it.  Nevertheless, people will pay for such watches for a variety of non-practical reasons.  This watch and other items made of precious metals confer visibility.  They can indicate one’s level of wealth, which can confer prestige.  They can indicate worldliness and social class.  Additionally, they can be perceived as things of mechanical complexity and beauty.

(Given that an expensive watch was discussed here, you may not use one as one of your ten items.)

Extra-Credit Assignment # 5

The Sum of My Parts

TEDx Talk by Hilda Mwangi (14 mins. 2017)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tv7NaV47no

 

View the video, The Sum of My Parts, a TEDx discussion by Hilda Mwangi.  In the vein of the talk by Ms. Mwangi, who discusses the assumptions we make about others, write about diversity and how we judge (or misjudge) it by answering the three questions below (in at least a paragraph each).  With respect to diversity, you will be considering culture.  You can consider both culture writ large (e.g., national origin, religion and first language) and culture writ small, in other words, in terms of subcultures or micro-cultures (e.g., political affiliation, region of the country someone is from, education, social class, level of wealth, profession or business, life experience – such as being a soldier, travel experience, and overall competence or knowledge, to name just a few factors that play into a person’s diversity).

 

  1. 1. How have you misjudged someone else’s culture, subculture or level of personal diversity? In what context did it occur? How did you find out you were wrong in your assumption(s)?

 

  1. 2. How have you been misjudged in terms of your own diversity? In what context did it occur? Did the individual or individuals find out they were wrong about you and if so, how did they react? How did you react?

 

  1. 3. What benefits does your own diversity, at the level of your own culture or subculture, confer upon you?

 

 

 

 

Extra-Credit Assignment # 6

Cultural Myths in Advertising

Myths are commonly thought of as things that are not true.  We have all heard people say, “Oh, that’s a myth,” meaning that something is not entirely accurate or even completely false.  By contrast, people who study myths, among them many anthropologists, think of myths as “significant stories that embody the basic values of a culture.”  Whether these stories are factually true or not, they embody what people in a culture, including our own, believe is true, often on a subconscious level.

Myths embody beliefs about basic cultural components, such as social class, the “proper” relationship between genders, how race is viewed by a culture, work ethic, sexual orientation, the  value of material goods in our lives, the true sources of happiness in life, the relationships of humans to god (or gods), and the importance of the natural world, to name just a few beliefs.

Based on the above definition, for this extra-credit assignment you should do the following in a single-page, single-spaced essay.

Advertising on television, online, in magazines and elsewhere involve stories that sell things and are an important part of our consumer-driven economy. These narratives of events are usually very brief (although infomercials can be longer), but they do a good job of telling stories quickly.  They create a narrative, often with a backstory (the implied part of the story that comes before events shown but is not specifically depicted) and consequences of an event or events (sometimes also implied, but sometimes depicted).  Often the message is, “if you do this, this is what you will get in your life,”  “if you buy this, this is what you will  become,” or “   (fill in the blank)____ will make you happy”

The effectiveness of these stories is indicated by the fact that they sell things and are important part of our consumer economy.  They fuel the desire in our population for cars, jewelry, groceries, household items, perfume, and more.  Each narrative is a myth.

The Assignment.  For this extra-credit assignment, in a singles-spaced, full-page essay describe at least two stories (or more if you want) told by two specific pieces of advertising, including any backstory and any unshown, but implied, consequences.  In your discussion, be sure to do the following (although you can do more than this):

  1. Describe the events and images depicted in the advertising, including subtleties of music accompanying the images and things such as the type of clothing or objects depicted that you think are intended to influence your feelings or thoughts.
  2. Discuss the values indicated by the narrative. What is the basic message of the narrative?  For example, is the message to the viewer or reader, “might makes right,” “the ‘good guys’ always win in the end,” “the more things you have, the happier you will be,” or “the right type of mate will make you feel fulfilled,” to name just a few possibilities.
  3. What do the stories indicate about what people in the intended audience think or do regarding gender, social class, and other cultural factors? Define these clearly, even if you do not believe them yourself.
  4. Is the advertising aimed at any particular segment of our society, for example, men as opposed to women, an age group, those of a particular sexual orientation, members of one race or ethnicity as opposed to another, or members of a particular social class?
  5. Finally, are you in the intended audience or not? Do you agree or disagree with the basic message? Whatever your answer to this last point, how does each piece of advertising make you as an individual, feel or think?

 

 

 

 

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