Nice Girls Don’t Talk to Rastas

1 January 2017

The chapter written by George Gmelch (2012), titled Nice Girls Don’t Talk to Rastas, is an excellent example of naive realism, the idea that how the world is viewed remains fairly stable across all cultures. The chapter follows an American anthropology student named Johanna who is engaging in fieldwork for the first time. As someone new to the field, she mistakenly angers many of the people in her Barbadian village by associating herself with the Rastafari, a group of individuals who shun the ideals of Western cultures.

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The villagers regard them as a lower social class of drug addicts and thieves. Johanna’s inexperience and naivety led her to see all of the villagers as equal, when, in contrast, the villagers see well defined social classes. Johanna was unable to extract her own views from her observations of the villagers, which almost compromised the last few weeks of her research. The portion of the text I found most interesting was not necessarily Johanna’s experience, but Gmelch’s interpretation of it.

He hypothesized that it was Johanna’s American culture that led her to her conflicts and that he “doubted that the English university students [he] once taught, steeped in the meaning of class, would have made the same mistakes as Johanna” (Gmelch,c2012. pg 35). Yes, Johanna was exhibiting naive realism, but it seems as though it was her naive personality that made her susceptible to this, not her country of origin. For example, I see similarities in how prostitutes in America are treated in relation to the Rastas in Barbados.

Prostitutes are treated as lower class citizens because of the way they choose to live their lives, and the people in their societies treat individuals who associate with the lower class in similar ways. If you were to see a person leaving an area with a prostitute you would think negatively of them, just as when the villagers watched Johanna leaving with the Rasta they assumed the worst. My question is: “Do you believe that English students would have been immune to this kind of social error because of they are ‘steeped in the meaning of class’? “

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