Thursday, May 29, 2014

#ArmchairBEA - Day 4 "Beyond the Borders"

Oh diversity!
You're an excellent topic. Very close to my heart since I'm an anthropologist and all...
So, I will take the opportunity to change course from my usual reading blogging genres (YA, Fiction, fantasy, etc.), and open up the little anthropologizing window over here. I've read TONS of anthro literature on this topic, which basically encompasses lots of ethnographers’ research.

These are two of my favourite ethnographic books that have transported me to a different culture (apologies in advance if I bring out geeky academic jargon and inspiration to this topic)




This is a very insightful story of a Hmong girl, Lia, who was born in 1981 to a family of recent American immigrants at that time, and developed symptoms of epilepsy. It focuses on how her disease is dealt by her parents and her American doctors. This narrative is very detailed describing how cultural misunderstandings clashed towards tragedy when dealing with such disease. 

Particularly what impacted me the most: how different views of the world affect a culture's perception of health. Specially since Lia's illness was viewed with mixed blessings by her family, because her seizures could be a sign of possible shamanic powers. It is a very thoroughly investigative story and I learned a LOT about cross-cultural illnesses. 








I was privileged to have Gastón as a professor when I was reading his book during my graduate degree. I was able to ask direct questions to him and he was kind enough to explain a lot about his research, teaching me a great deal of how this was done: so rich and insightful. 
This research portrays indigenous perceptions of a particular region, El Chaco, in Argentina, in regards of colonization of British Anglicans in the early twentieth century. 

What impacted me the most: as familiar as I am with South American aboriginal studies, the way each community constructs its geography through memory and space so very different from one another. What I love about this book is how it makes you realize a lot of subtle experiences about yourself. 
Basically they way I (Lina) experience a place is completely constructed by my social context, background and historic perspective. So very different from someone else, like you, my reader, who may be experiencing the same place.

Also, something we tend to forget: geographic places are not objective entities but a result of historical forces.


The main theme, or lesson from these books is the term us, anthropologists love, Cultural Relativism: one should judge a person’s actions or beliefs from the perspective of that person’s culture.

16 comments:

Julie Goucher said... Reply To This Comment

Fascinating post; thanks for sharing your comments and thoughts.

Kristen @ Pretty Little Pages said... Reply To This Comment

Eep! I'm so excited for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures by Anne Fadiman! I saw you mention it on Twitter earlier, and I knew I had to check it out. It makes me sound completely uncultured but I didn't know much about the Hmong people until I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain's show where he featured them. I've been fascinated since. Thank you for this recommendation. I'll definitely be reading this soon.

Whenever you first mentioned anthropologist, I was totally thinking a forensic anthropologist and was waiting for you to mention the Kay Scarpetta books by Patricia Cornwell. :)

How inspiring that you had the author of such a profound book for a professor. I've always regretted that I wasn't born years earlier so I could be a student in Tolkien's classroom.

Elizabeth Bevins said... Reply To This Comment

Wow...there are so many great books out there that I haven't read yet...thanks for sharing these.

DoingDewey said... Reply To This Comment

I'm not an anthropologist, but I do still love the way books can give you insight into other cultures. These both seem like very interesting books!

Katrina @ Bookish Things said... Reply To This Comment

I'll have to check these books out. I learned a lot about other cultures in my Sociology program. These books sound interesting, and I hope to check them out soon.

Alisha (MyNeedToRead) said... Reply To This Comment

"...geographic places are not objective entities but a result of historical forces."

I love that! So much truth in it. What is a nation if not something socially constructed? Unspoken agreement between peoples based on historical and contemporary influences? It'd be just plain old land.

Laura @ The Shabby Rabbit said... Reply To This Comment

Sharing cultures through literature is such a blessing and a gift to readers. Especially readers, like me, who may not get to experience and thus have and understanding of the place and the people. Your description of this is wonderful. Thank you for a great post!

Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) said... Reply To This Comment

I've had the Fadiman book on my TBR list for a while. I really want to get to that. The other book is new to me -- so cool that you were able to talk with the author. It sounds like a good book to follow up Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart.

Lina G said... Reply To This Comment

@Julie Goucher Thank you for stopping by Julie :)

Lina G said... Reply To This Comment

@Kristen @ Pretty Little Pages
Hahahaaa Kristen, you made me laugh with the forensic part!. Thank you for your thorough comment ;) I only learned about the Hmongs thanks to this book! (not a very good anthropologist then lol). Oh, I really like Anthony Bourdain's show :) he is such a great host.

Thank you for stopping by!

Lina G said... Reply To This Comment

@Elizabeth Bevins
Oh, Thank you Elizabeth for stopping over here :)

Lina G said... Reply To This Comment

@DoingDewey Hi Katie, I <3 my anthropology, but bioinformatics sounds really fascinating, particularly your Dewey Challenge ;)

You're right about the insights about books and other cultures. They can be very enlightening!

Thank you for stopping by on my blog :D

Lina G said... Reply To This Comment

@Katrina @ Bookish Things

Hi Katrina, thank you for stopping by!

Sociology and anthropology have a lot of things in common! It's good to read books that give you different views of cultures :) also, in a classroom setting, discuss about it!

Lina G said... Reply To This Comment

@Alisha (MyNeedToRead)

Oh, Alisha, this is one of my favourite concepts of geography!! It is true that a nation is o so so full of social-historical context else it will be just land.

Viva los libros <<--- yes all the way :)

Lina G said... Reply To This Comment

@Laura @ The Shabby Rabbit

Oh Laura, that is exactly why I <3 books. They have the chance to teach you so many things, take you places and you're also able to experience at your own pace an entire different written world.

Thank you for stopping by!!!

Lina G said... Reply To This Comment

@Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll)

Hi Joy!!

Thank you for stopping by. You should definitely move Fadiman's book to your "Will read immediately after I finish whatever I am reading" pile :) It's very engaging and eye opening.

I haven't heard about Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart, but I will surely check it out. Thank youuuuu for your recommendation :)