"Poor Man, Rich Man, Big-Man, Chief: Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia"
A "Big Man" refers to a highly influential individual in a tribe, especially in Melanesia or Polynesia. Such a person may not have formal tribal or other authority, but can maintain recognition through skilled persuasion and wisdom. The big man has a large group of followers, both from his clan and other clans. He provides his followers with protection and economic assistance, in return receiving support, which he uses to increase his status. The "Big Man" status is never secured in an inherited position at the top of a hierarchy, but is always challenged by the other big men who compete with one another in an ongoing process of reciprocity and redistribution of material and political resources.
Polynesia only serves as a contrast to Melanesian Big Man politics in its use of hereditary leaders who descend from a common spiritual being (mana). In Polynesia there is some legitimacy ingrained within your birth, while in Melanesia it has to be consciously obtained]
"Blood on the Steppes: Ethnicity, Power, and Conflict"
For the first time in 600 years, the Mongolians are free to roam the steppes of their independent country and establish their own identity without fear of foreign intervention. For the Mongols, choosing to resurrect the past as a model for their identity was an economic adaptation (learn to support themselves). Ethnic identity is a culturally constructed concept that is constantly changing. The Mongols faced a new ethnic challenge-the need (and opportunity) to formulate their own identities when Soviet rule ended. Just as ethnicity serves as a potent tool for some people in their quest for political goals, it can also be used to create whole new identities for a group of people, such as "The Reebok Mafia." They were once known as "Karakalpak," but the Russians stole their identity (their language, religion, clothes). The almost identical pronunciation of the Russian word "rebak" means fisherman so "The Reebok Mafia" who illegally fish from a lake have developed their new identity.
Ethnic identity,like most other cultural constructs, can be put to varied purposes, from subsistence and politics to crime and religion. It is a tool that can be used by individuals in pursuit of their personal goals such as power and wealth, or even sexual gratification. At the same time, ethnicity can be used by large groups of people as a way to pursue nationalist or religious goals.
"Race and Social Darwinism"
This article essentially is a discussion of how race and race based legislation developed, particularly in the United States and how anthropology influenced that.
Race as we know it has its earliest roots in the 1500s in England, where individuals who identified as Irish were considered lesser. Much of early race is intertwined with religion, as much of missionary work was based in the idea of saving these "savage" populations through Christianity.
American slavery (1700s): Mostly came out of a need for a justification for slave labor.
American School of Anthropology: This was essentially a new way of explaining race through science, not folk taxonomy. It was rooted in polygenesis (humans of different races come from many different origins) as well as social evolution.
Notable figures of this movement: Morton (the skull/phrenology guy), Nott, Agassiz (Swiss, one of the most influential voices)
Some notable events in 19th/20th centuries: Post Civil War racial tensions were still high, as seen in the Pullman Palace Car Strike, which ended up requiring federal troops. 20th century race issues really began with Plessy v. Ferguson (1896, separate but equal) which legally justified Jim Crow laws. Much of the argument made in this case was related to the American school ideology. American school ideology was also huge in popular culture.
ideas of creationism and polygenesis
black slavery, JIm Crow laws, racism against blacks
link between legal, economic
"Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village" is a fascinating memoir written by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea of the two years she spent in an Iraq village in the 1950s with her husband Bob, who was conducting research for his doctorate. During this time, she and her husband lived in a mud house in a conservative Shiite sect where women were heavily veiled and lived "behind walls" in seclusion, not meeting or mixing with men. In beginning this adventure, the newly married Fernea had limited knowledge of Iraq, its religion or culture, but over her two year journey, she came to learn both about this foreign country and about herself.
Living in Iraq, Fernea was able to learn about the complex rituals and customs that dominate rural life and which are so different from the U.S. At first, she refuses to hide herself in the "all-enveloping" abayah, but almost immediately realizes her mistake when she is treated like an alien from another planet. Not only does she wear the abayah, but she also agrees to live like an Iraqi woman, living behind walls and not mixing with men other than her husband. In one scene, highlighting the difference between cultures, Fernea is very excited when two American friends of Bob's are stopping by their house, so she can speak English, play cards, drink beer, and have a good time. However, on an "errand of mercy," her female friends stop by, thinking she will be lonely all by herself, as it never even occurs to them that their American friend would mix with strange men who are not relatives. Fernea is about to shoo the women away but then realizes she can't disillusion them and ruin her carefully maintained image in the community. Throughout her stay, Fernea shows "restrained conduct," knowing, if she does not wear the abaya, or if she sits with the "strange" men and plays cards, or if she mixes with other men in the village - basically if she lives as an American woman - she will be seen as promiscuous and an embarrassment to the sheik, because the Iraqi village does not understand Western culture. On the other hand, Fernea realizes that her Western friends also would never understand the women in the village - that they are not forced against their will to live lives of submission, but are happy and content in their own lives and actually feel sorry for Fernea because she does not have the advantages they do - "[n:]o mother, no children, no long hair, thin as a rail, can't cook rice, and not even any gold." Fernea thinks of herself as well-off compared to the village women, but they see her as a poor, pathetic figure, the two cultures both valuing different things. While Fernea wonders how long it would take "before the two worlds began to understand each other's attitudes toward women," through her own experiences, her attitudes toward Iraq are changed and she does come to learn about and appreciate their culture.
But more importantly, through her two-year stay in the Iraqi village, Fernea learns not just about Iraqi culture but also about herself. At first, Fernea is very unhappy to be in the Iraqi village, resentful toward her husband and counting down the days until their two years in the village are over. She wonders why she should be forced to wear the abayah, "a servile garment," since it is not her custom and she doesn't care what the "illiterate tribal women" think of her. The village women initially shun her, thinking she is "deaf and dumb" because she doesn't know the language well enough to participate in their conversations she just smiles vacantly at whatever they say. Fernea is deeply hurt when the women mock her cooking and think she is lazy, and she struggles to find "some common humanity between us" despite their differences. Although it is a mysterious process, eventually the women do take her in, particularly Laila who adopts her as a "friend"" a relationship in rural Iraq which is much more intense and important than even the relationship between wives and husbands. Fernea goes to religious ceremonies, such as krayas, with the women, joins in their conversations, and even makes a pilgrimage to Karbala. When the two years is up, she sits in her kitchen and wonders "about the changes in me," dreading the thought of leaving the village, as her life has "slowly but surely been intertwined with the lives of my women friends." When her taxi comes to take her away, one of the women breaks down in tears, and so does Fernia, "passing from one abaya-clad figure to another in a welter of embraces and tears" as her husband looks on with a shocked expression. Clearly, her two years have changed Fernea, as she learns more about herself and her own abilities through the relationships she builds with her female friends.
In beginning her adventure, the newly married Fernea did not know much about Iraq, but in the end she not only gained knowledge of its culture but became an intertwined part of it. If a Hollywood movie were made of Fernea's time in Iraq, the plot would probably show her changing the Iraqi women and them learning from her, but the truth is that Fernea wa the one who learned from her Iraqi friends and in the end she was the one who changed for the experience. In her memoir, written over 40 years ago, she wondered if the two cultures would ever come to understand each other, and sadly we seem to be even further apart now than when her book was written. A particularly striking example of this happened during last year's presidential election, when, at a rally, one of John McCain's supporters said she didn't trust Barack Obama because he was a "Muslim," and Senator McCain replied, "No, he's a good person," implying somehow that Muslims aren't good people. The best part of "Guests of the Sheik" is that Fernea never makes any judgments; she just reports what happens to her, and through her experiences, we can see no culture is better than the other. Yes, they are different, but there is a common humanity we all share.