A personal note on Anthropology
About a week ago, I decided to hit edx.org and enroll in one of their courses. Initially I was looking for a course on ideology and politics, but I stumbled upon “Anthropology of Current World Issues” by The University of Queensland Australia taught by Gerhard Hoffstaedter with Amelia Radke and Fern Thompsett as moderator.
Why am I taking this course?
In my teenage years, I first discover the word “Anthropology” and also the prominent Anthropologist, Margaret Mead. I read her biography and learned that Mead along with her partner, Bateson, did field work in Bali after their marriage in Singapore. Her work was pioneering in visual anthropology, they used a variety of methods to explore the role of culture in personality formation. In my college years, I read not so much about Anthropology as Visual Arts. My last encounter was when I read and eventually posted a screenshot of this article in brainpickings.
Besides Margaret Mead, the legendary anthropologist, Clifford Geertz, through fragmented studies of his essays, challenges my perspective on the dominant culture of Balinese. As a Balinese, for me, it is important to understand the culture I am given, with its context from an alternative point of view and how it shapes my personal identity.
To summarize, why am I taking this course? To learn and therefore understand more of the world around me. To learn about ways in which anthropology as a discipline can shed new perspectives on current world issues and/or issues in my own country, ranging from marginalized groups, material culture, indigeneity.
-Develop critical thinking ability
-Able to see the world from a wide range of perspectives
-Understand key anthropological concepts and methods
After the first meeting, we were asked to define our own interpretation of Anthropology. From my understanding, social or cultural anthropology is all about people: their environment, traditions, beliefs. It is a restless field, constantly exploring the paradox of human plurality. How we are all the same species, with millions of years of evolution, yet the period of our cultural evolution is relatively small by contrast. The period in which we have become different culturally, ethnically in appearance is only a small part of our evolutionary history. We are both, as it were, the same, as with all other human beings, and every individual is absolutely different genetically and in character. ‘I think anthropology is possibly the most alluring and edifying way of exploring plurality’,stated Professor Michael Jackson (Harvard Divinity School).
I also personally think that the obligation of Anthropologist in 21st century is not to produce academic knowledge and treat communities as laboratories, but to engage and do activist work, help people in the margins of society, often poor, vulnerable, right-less, indigenous, or in various ways oppressed or subordinated within larger social structures. It should be, in some way, positively impact the conditions that it is studying.
“Open your being to experience—as challenging and frightful as that may be—and let that experience guide you in a direction that makes you feel comfortable in your skin. In that state you are much more likely to communicate stories that will remain open to the world, stories, lessons and themes that your successors will dote upon and use in a way that fits their time. As my teacher Adamu Jenitngo liked to remind me: remember the past, live well in the present and think about the future…” –Paul Stroller (West Chester University)