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David W. McCurdy’s piece suggests some of the many ways that anthropology can be used in all sorts of fields and occupations. What ties these uses together is that anthropology teaches people to find out what is actually happening rather than what they say is happening. People in other fields, for example, in business, sometimes lack perspective on events and situations around them. This is demonstrated by the examples from various business settings that McCurdy offers.
The managers see the operation in terms of the results they want and don’t get, and how this reflects badly on their authority. The anthropologically oriented new manager is not afraid to ask questions, and find out what really happens. The anthropology-trained manager or market researcher watches what people actually do rather than merely listening to what they say (McCurdy 422-435).
In the instances that this reading describes, there is a difference between the way that people describe their own situation, and the way it appears to an outside observer. This makes sense from a functional perspective, since even apparently irrational behavior usually has a function, once the observer understands it, according to Phillip Salzman (Salzman 30).
McCurdy points out that ethnographic experience helps business leaders. Maybe the ethnographic fieldwork assigned for this class will help the students become better in business. This article brings the practice of anthropological ideas right into the world that most students are going to experience. This is more applicable to the work and careers that most of the class will encounter than examples from the Basseri tribe, just to take one instance, as interesting as those have been (Salzman 8).
The chapter in Language, Society and Power: An Introduction ties language and identity together. The author describes the various ways that people name themselves, and address one another. These are part of how people form their personal identities or have them formed by other people. The examples of the ways that people can insult or honor one another are very interesting for a visiting student from another country. The author goes on to describe the ways the language marks people as part of one group or another.
The words and grammatical patterns that people use, and even the mistakes they make, can signal to others that a person is in part of a group or not part of a groupl Pronunciation can identify people as part of a group as well (Thornborrow 158-172). This is very interesting because in New York, other students talk about people having Brooklyn accents and Queens accents, and Long Island accents, for example. The way that language sets people apart reminds the reader of Brodkin’s discussion of ethnicity (Brodkin 26-52).
The message that comes through over and over again is that the separations between people are created by people, not by biology, whether they are barriers of language or barriers of ethnicity (Wareing, Singh and Peccei 237-267). The chapter by Guest on religion covers what is clearly a huge subject. For someone who was not raised with a religion in their life, it can be baffling to see how important a role religion plays in the lives for others. This chapter is very helpful in understanding just how central religion is to most societies, and how complex a topic it is.
The author’s definition of religion helps to distinguish it from other activities and institutions that look almost the same to an outsider (Guest 237-267).
For example, the people who participate in virtual gaming spend a great deal of energy on this activity, and there are rules, rituals, traditions, and specialists – just as in a ‘real’ religion. Here again, as has been so often the case, it is the functional approach that helps to make behavior understandable (Salzman 30). Religion may do many things for people other than communicating with supernatural beings
Brodkin, K. How Jews Became White Folks and What that Says about Race in America. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998. Print.
Guest, K. Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013. Print.
McCurdy, D. “Using Anthropology.” Spradley, J. and D. McCurdy. Conformity and Conflict. 12th. San Francisco: Pearson., 2006. 422-435. Print.
Salzman, P. C. Understanding Culture: An Introduction To Anthropological Theory. Prospect Heights: Waveland, 2001. Print.
Thornborrow, J. “Language and Identity.” Thomas, Linda and Shan Wareing. Language, Society and Power. London: Routledge, 1999. 158-172. Print.
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Wareing, S., Ishtla S. and Jean S. P. Language, society and power: an introduction. Ed. Ishtla Singh and Jean Stilwell Peccei. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 2004. Print.