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Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

2020-06-02 来源: 51Due教员组 类别: 更多范文


下面为大家整理一篇优秀的essay代写范文 -- Introduction to Cultural Anthropology自从一位伟大的人类学家布鲁斯·科诺夫特(Bruce Knauft)出版《壁虎》:雨林世界中的生活转变以来,壁虎已经越来越受到人们的关注。本书通过使用生动有趣的故事和示例,将Gebusi的发展与人类学课程中广泛讨论的主题联系起来,并为我们提供了从传统文化向现代文化过渡的生动有趣的真实描述。因此,本文尝试根据盖布斯著的真实故事和实例,对文化人类学进行介绍。


Introduction to Cultural Anthropology



Since the publication of The Gebusi: Lives Transformed in a Rainforest World, written by a great anthropologist Bruce Knauft, Gebusi come into more and more people’s eyes. With the use of vibrant and poignant stories and examples, this book connects developments among Gebusi to topics widely discussed in anthropology courses and gives us an engaging, real-life account of transition from a traditional to a modern culture. Therefore, this paper tries to give an introduction of cultural anthropology based on the real stories and examples of Gebusi’s after reading the book.

The place that Gebusi people live is located at the northern edge of New Guinea’s large south central lowland rain forest, where they identify themselves as distinctive Gebusi-speaking cultural group within the Nomad River area of the East Strickland River Plain, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Bordered on the north by the Hamam River, on the northwest by the Nomad River and the Nomad government station, and on the south by the Rentoul River, the place Gebusi live has a median high temperature with a range from 32.5° C to 38° C, and has a high rainfall and humidity as well, with an average of 416.5 centimeters and a changeable dry season over a year (Knauft, 1998).

Gebusi are one of some dozen cultural and linguistic groups living in the Strickland-Bosavi area, where each ethnic group asserts distinct customs and a named language. Historically, Gebusi often suffered from the raids by their neighbor Bedamini for a long time, as raids were very common between adjacent ethnic groups. Gebusi, however, went better in the late 1960s and early 1970s, thanks to the pacification of government patrols to Bedamini. Meanwhile, Gebusi were first effectively contacted in 1962 and have had little subsequent contact with outsiders except for yearly government patrols, a recently established mission station (begun in the mid-1980s), and highly sporadic work with Western geological survey crews northeast of Nomad (Dwyer, 1998).

As for the demography, Gebusi numbered approximately 450 in 1980-1982, with a population density of 2.6 persons per square kilometer. Gebusi have suffered depopulation, partly from introduced epidemic influenza as well as from tuberculosis and other pulmonary and gastrointestinal diseases, resulting in an estimated 24 percent natural population decline from November 1967 to January 1982 (Knauft, 1998). This decline was counterbalanced by population inmigration, mostly from Bedamini to the east, leading to a net territorial population increase of 1.3 persons per year over this period.

Throughout the introduction of Gebusi above, the paper provides a better understanding about Gebusi from the angles of geography, historical setting and demography. The author tries to illustrate cultural anthropology based on the Gebusi from the perspectives of ecological setting, social organization, religion and ritual, the government, and the changes of Gebusi’s. The conclusion tries to describe the differences between the ethnography The Gebusi and Kafr El Elow, and further reveals the author’s own insight into the importance and meaning of the ethnographic fieldwork.


Ecological Setting                                                         


Just as other traditional cultures, Gebusi people have the same economic activities, such as fishing, hunting and gardening. This part attempts to introduce Gebusi people’s main economic activities from the perspective as follows: land system, commercial activities, industrial arts, and trade activities.

Land system. To talk about what Gebusi people’s economic activities are, the Gebusi land system has to be introduced first. Gebusi people’s land rights belong to patriline, the male line. Most of Gebusi people do not depend on their father’s land, though they may use the land to do some planting, such as exploiting sago palms, planting nut trees. Land is not a big problem and important matter for Gebusi people, because there is a large area of land but a small population of people there. Therefore, those who have no clan land in the Gebusi country, can be very obvious in their communities.

Commercial activities. As a traditional clan in the rain forest, Gebusi people mainly do hunting, fishing, gardening, foraging and sago-palm processing as their daily commercial activities. They process bananas, sago and root crops with a percentage of 65, 25 and 10 respectively, and they often go out and yield grubs, bird eggs, nuts and riverine fauna for foraging to take in their protein, while there are still many children are malnourished.

Industrial arts. Gebusi people’s industrial arts have some kind of nature and beauty. They make traditional products, such as bows, arrows, drums, tobacco pipe, and ritual decorations. Meanwhile, net bags, sago pouches, ritual chest bands and bark tapa can also be produced mainly by women. Those products are most consumed by themselves, as there are few stores within the community.

Trade activities. The trade activities are absolutely different from the modern trade activities between countries and countries. They are just carried out within the surrounding groups. Gebusi people’s main trade items are tobacco and dog’s-teeth necklaces (Knauft, 1998). With no standard rates of exchange, they are traded with surrounding groups for red ocher, cuscus-bone arrow tips, pearl-shell slivers and as heads. Such trade activities happen frequently, though they have no fixed standard of exchange.

To sum up, Gebusi people have no big conflicts of land rights, though their land rights belong to paternity. Not depending on the father’s land, Gebusi people often go out for hunting, foraging, and fishing as their daily commercial activities, which is just like the traditional clans in the rain forest area. Meanwhile, Gebusi women mainly produce net bags, sago pouches, ritual chest bands and bark tapa, while men make bows, arrows, drums and tobacco pipe, which are their major distinctive arts. If necessary, they make trades with their adjacent groups with tobacco or dogs’-teeth necklaces, though no standard rates of exchange can be fixed.


Social Organization


Living in the area of the rain forest, Gebusi people seem to be secluded and isolated from the outside world. They live in some kind of lifestyle of gardening and foraging, so they have to move to other places all the time. Sometimes almost half of the Gebusi people leave the village for a garden house, a foraging place, or another longhouse residency just at one night. Therefore, Gebusi people are impossible to have a centralized social order. Instead, their social order and system are extremely dispersive, thus have no long-time leadership positions, such as no acknowledged big-men, headmen or even no war leaders.

Adult men always dislike competition, and, to our surprise, they are extremely noncompetitive and pursue equality instead. They are very humble instead of being boastful, and they make collective decisions, that is, their decisions are made by all the people rather than only one person. Gebusi settlements actually tend to be unified politically whether in feast giving or fighting (Herdt, 1984). At the same time, there is one interesting thing: little social inequality between the sides of wife and husband, which means that food that is used to make affines is exchanged equally no matter what the balance of women in marriage is. As for Gebusi settlements, food exchanges confirm some kind of social ties in these noncompetitive clans. When in marriage, Gebusi people do not use the so-called bride-wealth or bride-service. They just prefer person-for-person reciprocity and sorcery retribution if possible.

One of the most important aspects of Gebusi social organization is gender relations. There are distinctive differences between men and women on social roles. Men have the privileges to control rituals legitimately, give feast, fight bow-and-arrow, and do some large-scale activities (Festinger, 1956). Women, on the other hand, just play roles as singers and dancers who dance only at initiations. Those who participate as singers and dancers very often, are always cancelled to take part in the spirit seances, the most important and meaningful meeting. They may even be beaten by their husbands. Women are not allowed to go out during their time of menstruation. Though women are not always suffered from the violence, Gebusi men have different and contradictory views of women. Men sometimes feel that women are good partners and helpers, while they consider women to be unproductive and mechanical.


Religion and Ritual


In the aspect of Gebusi religion, Gebusi people believe that the cosmos is populated by a large number of spirits, including fish, birds, and other animals. Most importantly, Gebusi people consider the true spirit people that help them find the causes of sickness, the identity of sorcerers, the location of lost pigs, and the success of anticipated hunting expeditions. Sorcery is looked at as a good manner to predict the cause of accidental death and suicide. Gebusi people think that all deaths are all caused by other livings through sorcery or homicide, though spirits may cause some illness. It is believed that sorcery performs as a kind of order from the God to establish their innocence.

With an introduction of Gebusi religious beliefs, people cannot help but thinking curiously how the religious practice is carried out. Actually, spirit people are believed to be contacted by male spirit mediums in the spirit seances, which is held every eleven days on average. The spirit medium is located in a darkened longhouse very quietly. His own spirit is said to be separated from his own body and is replaced by beautiful women chanting in high and beautiful voices. Their songs are repeated again and again by a group of men sitting around the spirit medium. In the period of seances, spirits do the spirit-world cures for the sick Gebusi people and authorize strongly the sorcery pronouncements. It should be stressed that spirit mediums should be chosen strictly. They should have not jointed into any parties and have no special authority.

At the same time, Gebusi people hold a very large ceremony to celebrate the séance, the spirit world. When holding ceremonies, all-night dance is performed at feasts or other significant occasions. The elaborate and standardized costume of the male dancer(s) brings together in iconographic form the diverse spirits of the upper and lower worlds, symbolizing their unity and harmony in dance. Sociologically parallel is the overcoming of real and/or ritual antagonism between visitors and hosts through feasting, drinking kava, dancing, and ribald male camaraderie during the night (Knauft, 1998). On occasion, male homosexual liaisons take place in the privacy of the bush outside the longhouse. Gebusi believe boys must be orally inseminated to obtain male life force and attain adulthood. Insemination continues during adolescence and culminates in the male initiation ( wa kawala, or "child becomes big") between ages 17 and 23 (Evans, 1937). Initiation is largely benign. Initiates receive costume parts and other gifts from diverse initiation sponsors and reciprocate with major food gifts (Evans, 1937). Novices are ultimately dressed in beautiful red bird-of-paradise (spirit-woman) costumes and are the focus of several days of feasting and ceremony attended by most Gebusi.



Just as mentioned above, Gebusi people live a gardening and foraging life, which requires to immigrate very often. Gebusi people have no centralized government. They got the first effective contact with government patrols in 1962. They had little contact with outsiders but the government patrol, which was established as a mission station in the middle of 1980s. The government mainly did with the sporadic work with Western geological survey crews northeast of Nomad.

Before the contact with the government patrols, Gebusi people were always raided by Bedamini, while the conflicts between Gebusi communities happened infrequently. Though there are some conflicts, there are few casualties. As for the Gebusi people before the contacts with outsiders, the heaviest damage among Gebusi comes from the sorcery attribution. Unlike other clans in that area, Gebusi sorcery suspects are often publicly accused, forced to undergo difficult divinatory trials, and executed. Between about 1940 and 1982, 29 percent of female deaths and 35 percent of male deaths were homicides, the vast majority resulting from sorcery attributions. The 33 percent of adult deaths due to physical violence extrapolates to a yearly homicide rate of at least 568 per 100,000 over the 42-year period (Knauft 1998: 271).




Before the contact with the outsiders in 1962, Gebusi people were isolated completely from the outside world. However, with the increasing contact with the outside world, Gebusi people’s life changed a lot for many reasons. The reasons of the change can be concluded into three aspects: the economy, the politics, and the religion. This part will mainly focus on the aspect of religion.

Christian plays an important role in changing Gebusi people toward modernization. In the 1990s, Gebusi people could see airstrip, government station, school, market, and other modern facilities, which were impossible to be seen before (Delaney, 2004). All those could not leave the contributions made by Christian. However, to change the Gebusi is not quite an easy job. In the 1980s, Gebusi people were still moribund and could not accept Christian, holding the view that Christian would do harm to them as it was just from the outside world. With the stronger incoming tide of Christian influence, Gebusi people began to accept Christian gradually. They began to accept and open the books supplied by Christian and began to read the books. Then more and more Gebusi people joined in the Christian churches and changed their traditional rituals gradually, including ritual rights, male-male sexual practices, traditional dancing, sorcery divination, and initiation (Knauft, 1998). The direct change could be seen was the decline of Gebusi killings or executions of sorcery suspects. Meanwhile, the spirit medium went into the end as well, and Gebusi began to argue that they were lack of ways to communicate with spirits or to maintain effective contact with the spirit world.

    Christian changed the Gebusi and built a bridge to the modernization for Gebusi people. During the strong and powerful move to go into the future, Gebusi had a strong sense of political and spiritual as well as economic dependency on the authority, knowledge, and beneficence of outsiders. Their life came into a new image of the future: school, market, government, or even the local church.


Summary and Conclusion


Throughout the overview introduction of the Gebusi, we know that that ethnography is very important and meaningful, as it gives us a new aspect of knowing the world and provides a different perspective to know about human beings. After reading The Gebusi, I have chosen other books pertaining to the same filed to read to know more about the ethnography. There are differences between them on the cultures. The author in this will make a comparative difference on the different cultures among those of Sambia, Oromo and Gebusi. At the end of this part, the author will introduce his own insights to the significance of the ethnographic fieldwork.

Introduction of Oromo. Oromo is located in the Horn of Africa, making up an important portion of the population in that area. Oromo has the same culture and a common language, history and descent. People in Oromo have ever shared the same political, religious and legal institutions. Differently, Oromo is the richest nation in the Horn of Africa and thus seldom suffers from the surrounding raids. Colonized between 1870 and1900, Oromo suffered from the decline of population. Through the continual fighting with the colonist, Oromo got dependency in the end. Forced to fight against Eritreans, the Somalis and others, many Oromo have fallen in battles. Many others died on the streets of cities and towns during the so-called "Red Terror" period, and in a similar program that expanded in the countryside thereafter. Massacres in towns and villages coupled with bombing and search-and-destroy programs have caused the destruction of human lives, crops, animals and property, have driven Oromo from their land, and have forced them to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Not surprisingly, this ruthless oppression and persecution of peoples has resulted in the largest flight of refugees in Africa. A very large proportion of the refugees in the Horn of Africa are Oromo.

Introduction of Sambia. The Sambia live in the mountain, located in the fringes of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, just as the same area as the Gebusi. Sambia people go out and do hunting for living. Different from the Gebusi, they have experienced six stages of initiation. The main focus of the initiation ritual is to turn “boys” who are considered feminine persons into fierce, strong and male warriors. This process of initiation from boy to man is also known as masculinization. In actuality men are “reborn” from men and are taught many important things such as that woman are dangerous and emasculating. Strangely enough the women are placed in a situation where they are isolated by their husbands, who are much older than them. The youths are now the targeted ones who the women want to use to fulfill their sexual desires. The men however, are not concerned about falling for these women. They have been taught well about how women can be dangerous to men, especially the younger adolescent men who can even die from heterosexual intercourse.

   The insights into the significance of ethnographic fieldwork. It is very important to do the ethnographic fieldwork. Through the ethnographic fieldwork, people can know more and better about human beings. As is known to us, the question “What is human being” has been quite a hot debate for people, and it is the problem that anthropologists try to solve. At the same time, to solve the problem, is the most important topic of anthropology. Therefore, ethnographic fieldwork provides a very good manner to explore the ways to solve the problem. It gives the scholars a direct and effective way to access the door of the problem.








Dwyer, P.D. (1998). Waiting for Company: Ethos and Environment among Kubo of Papua New Guinea. Chicago: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Delaney, J.M. (2004). How the World Turns Upside Down: Changing Geographies of Power and Spiritual Influence among the Gebusi. London: Bergin and Garvey.

Evans, E.E. (1937). Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon.

Festinger, L.H.W. (1956). When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World. NewYork: Harper & Row.

Herdt, G.H. (1984). Ritualized Homosexuality in Melanesia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Knauft, B.M. (1998). Cargo Cults and Relational Separation. New York: Bachelor Science Research.




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