PLEASE WRITE A RESPONSE TO THE FOLLOWING with at least 100 words:
I had little idea what cultural anthropology was before starting this week’s reading, but a helpful definition is the “description, interpretation, and analysis of similarities and differences in human culture.”1 This requires observation from within a culture. Ethnographic fieldwork, which entails experiencing culture from within, is the main research method of cultural anthropology. Participation and observation typically involve interviews or surveys plus note-taking.
True cultural understanding is only possible through sharing in the lives of people; it cannot be understood from outside where aspects and customs will be viewed through the lens of the more familiar culture. Cultural anthropology’s approach prevents misinterpretations and misunderstandings, explaining a “cultural context from the inside, understanding the motives, actions, and beliefs of others in their own terms.”2 The Apostle Paul demonstrates an understanding of this concept when witnessing to people from other cultures. In I Cor. 9: 20-21 (ESV) he writes, “20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.”
People who see their way as normal, tend to interpret cultural practices through their own culture’s viewpoint. Not knowing the culture in which the Kofyar Christians live leads to misinterpretation of their isolation from their community. Beer symbolizes hospitality in that culture. Since Kofyar Christians do not drink alcohol, they do not provide beer. Therefore, they are considered inhospitable and cannot get help with their harvest, a great financial disadvantage.3
There are many opportunities for cross-cultural interactions in TESL, especially for those who are teaching in foreign countries, since part of teaching is sharing the culture with learners. This is most effectively accomplished through understanding the local culture, to recognize those cultural aspects which may be misunderstood. I teach in the United States, so students are becoming to some extent acclimated to American culture. Several years ago, a hot topic was students arriving at any time during the first 30 minutes of class. Many were from Brazil, where the cultural perspective towards time seems to be different from ours. Historically, we can point back to our Protestant work ethic. We live according to clocks and calendars; we hear phrases like ‘It’s a waste of time’ or ‘Time is money.’ This perspective lends itself to a fast-paced society and the possible interpretation of lateness as inconsiderate or disrespectful. Students who seemed unconcerned with punctuality were forced to adapt when a minimum attendance percentage was adopted. This behavior is easy to describe and open to misinterpretation, but how should it be analyzed; what aspects of their culture led to this different perspective on time?
1 Howell, Brian M. Introducing Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective. (Retrieved from https://app.wordsearchbible.com, 2017): 4.
2 Ibid., 13.
3 Ibid., 31.