4 Anthropological Concepts Applied

1 January 2017

Anthropologists believe that we learn to interact by picking up cultural codes of conduct starting from infancy; hence human behavior isn’t biologically acquired, but shaped by a guider. For example, in the documentary “Acting like a thief” by Kerim Friedman and Shashwati Talukdar,the “Chharas” were brought up in a nomadic lifestyle,where stealing was the norm. Dakxin’s grandmother admits that “people saw them as artists as well as thieves”. In 1871, they were labeled as a “criminal tribe” and were sent to prison camps by the British.

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Here the government kept strict checks on them, to the extent of following the women to the bathrooms, while men were forced to work or were beaten up. The social stigma that developed as a result of the people being labeled “born criminals” was internalized by their own grandparents, and the children let it define who they were as they grew up. This is evident by the response of one of the children, Vivek after he saw his mother getting beaten up on a street because she was caught in a burglary was that, “I don’t have a problem saying that my mother used to be a thief.

Since I live in a society of born criminals, so of course I am a son of a thief, not a government official. ” The idea that the guider shapes the identity of the community is also exemplified by the fact that even if the children wanted to get rid of the criminal stigma attached to them, it wasn’t an option. They weren’t given the opportunity to get jobs and hence had to resort to the illegal brewing of liquor as their only source of income. As is evident in this documentary, we can see that the behaviors and culture of a person is influenced by the culture of the society or group that he was born in.

The concept of racism developed in the 19th century when colonialism was at its height and anthropologists tried to understand the many diverse people they encountered. They tried to evaluate the differences, classifying the world according to biological aspects like skin colorant important part of the social practices of racism is Ethnocentrism, which is the “belief that the moral standards,manners,attitudes and so forth of ones own culture are superior to those of other cultures” (Bailey,Garrik and James 15).

This helped people justify the systematic violence and oppression on people of one society by another on the basis of factors like ethnicity and caste. At that time, on top of the framework of evolution was the western European civilization. The British believed themselves to be the pinnacle of evolution, the most culturally, physically and socially evolved (Bailey, Garrik and James 68). This thought process was a big part in the colonial apparatus and was also one of the reasons the British were able to label the people of chhranagar as “Born criminals. This label attached the stigma of a criminal community to the Chharas even after they got de-notified after India gained independence. Therfore, it allowed the police to get the power that they had accumulated and abused. According to Kalpana, “the police used to take the women back to the station after bail, tie them to a tree, beat them and give them electric shocks. ”Innocent people were forced to admit to crimes, and if they refused they were beaten to death-as in the case of Buddhan. The injustice of such acts was apparent but so was the fact that “the police could do anything they want to. According to Dakxin, even the proof of a man’s innocence was rendered “useless. ” Based on their ideas of being morally and culturally superior, the police had taken away the Chharas basic rights to freedom of speech and expression. “Rites of passage are a specialized set of rituals associated with the life cycle of individuals; the culturally defined age categories through which a person passes between birth and death. It is a public ceremony or ritual that marks a change in social status, usually brought about or related to increasing age” (Bailey, Garrik and James 201).

People from various religions have different kinds of rituals with varying meanings attached to them. In Hinduism, an important event in the life cycle is marked by invoking the presence of the warrior goddess; Durga. This ritual is called a Jagrata. In Cat Viberts documentary, “a Rajasthani Jagrata, we see how Rathore takes his first born child to the “village of his heritage” for a ceremonial head shaving on his second birthday. Vibert described her experience of the ritual at the temple, “mediums gathered around a drum and began collectively chanting.

A man stood up and began to lurch and yell. After sometime his eyes rolled back into his head, he ran into the temple and rang the bell. He was being possessed by the Goddess and the embodied deity sealed herself in the temple and the villagers went in one by one to ask her questions. ” Besides the ritual, there is a lot of singing and dancing and the hair cutting ceremony to welcome the child in the family as he turns two. Gender Classification is one example of cultural knowledge. Cultural Knowledge involves shared knowledge about how we behave in ways that are meaningful and acceptable. It guides behavior such that the people can survive, reproduce and transmit their culture. ” Every individual has a different social identity and expectations attached to them. Women typically are expected to stay in their homes and fulfill their domestic duties, whereas men take care of the responsibilities outside the house. During the whole trip that Vibert took for the ceremony, we saw the responsibility of the women to overlook the children, make the chapattis and do the domestic chores.

Even during the ritual, the women were seated at the back whereas the men stayed in front. Moreover, the fact that the barber performing the ritual was a man and that the goddess possessed a man, shows how men had a more elevated stand in society. An anthropologist views different societies from an insider’s perspective and tries to understand human nature and behavior. Through their ethnographies and documentaries, they give people a voice to express their point of view and rid themselves of generalizations that put them at a disadvantage.

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