Anthropology is a social science that looks at the origin, cultural development, believes, physical development, norms, biological features, and tradition beliefs of humankind (Havilland, et al, 2009).
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Across the world, people have different cultures and for instance, the Africans have different cultural beliefs from that of the Americans. This paper will discuss cultural believes and analyze traditions that are held by people in the rural Mali.
Summary of the story
The article is talking about the cultural believes and traditions of the Mali people. As the story begins, the narrator who is a foreigner describes how freedom varies. According to the narrator, there are two forms of freedom namely: freedom to and freedom from.
Throughout, the author describes all her experiences during her stay in rural Mali. As she narrates the story, the cultural practices, traditions, and myths held by Mali people become clear.
The author is shocked with the level of hygiene of the Mali people. In rural Mali, people do not brush their teeth using the normal toothbrush. Instead, they use certain trees as “toothbrush”. In fact, this is now part of Malian’s culture and virtual everyone uses such toothbrushes. The effects of using such toothbrushes are overwhelming; they damage teeth gums and cavities.
In addition to this, the narrator explains how health is an issue in this society. In rural Mali, people have not embraced modern treatment techniques and they rarely go to hospital. When a young boy is injured on the ankle, he is not taken to hospital and his wound is dressed with a dirty cloth with no proper medical care.
Furthermore, children are feed poor diet and this is a major cause of high mortality rates in rural Mali. According to cultural beliefs of Mali people, nutritious food is for the elderly people and not for children.
They believe that old people have few days to live and therefore they must enjoy their last moments on earth. Children do not work and therefore they should not eat nutritious food.
Lastly, people in rural Mali have stereotype about children with Down syndrome. According to them, such children are “angles” since they are blessing from God. Such children do not get special care in the society.
In fact, people in rural Mali do not understand that Down syndrome is a disability and not a blessing. According to the narrator, Americans have the “freedom to” choose being hygienic and providing special care to the handicapped. However, in rural Mali people have “freedom from” worrying about their problems.
How this topic relates to anthropology
Anthropology is concerned about traditions, cultural believes and practices, norms, and origin of humankind (Havilland, et al, 2009). Similarly, this article portrays numerous cultural believes and practices of people in rural Mali.
In general, the narrator encounters a number of traditional practices held by people in the rural Mali including brushing teeth using tree among other practices. On the other hand, this article also clearly outlines a number of cultural beliefs held by people in rural Mali.
For instance, the Malians are ignorant on issues of nutrition and health. According to them, children do not work and therefore they should not eat nutritious food. Instead, elderly people are the only one allowed to eat nutritious food since they know the value of such food and they have few days to live.
Anthropology as a discipline studies how different people behave and from this article, we observe how people in rural Mali behave and react to different issues. For instance, if a child is sick rather than taking him/her to the hospital, the child is injected with traditional drugs.
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In conclusion, the article Bad Breath, Gangrene, and God’s Angles provides the reader with an overview of the culture, behaviors, beliefs, and practices of the people from the rural Mali. As narrated by the author, just like any other community, people in this region of Mali do posses their own unique culture and tradition, which are different from that of the Americans.
Havilland, et al. (2009). The Essence of Anthropology. (2nd edn.). New York: Cengage Learning.