E.E Evans-Pritchard Once Said, “I Have Often Been Asked
1076 WordsMar 6, 20175 Pages
E.E Evans-Pritchard once said, “I have often been asked whether, when I was among the Azande, I got to accept their ideas about witchcraft. I suppose you can say I accepted them. I had no choice. In my own culture, I rejected Azande notions of witchcraft. In their culture, I accepted them. In a kind of way, I believed them.” In the documentary Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard: Strange Beliefs, the research of British social anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard on the Zande tribe of central Africa and the Nuer tribe of Sudan is highlighted. As a good anthropologist should, Evans-Pritchard immersed himself in his fieldwork and attempted to look at foreign cultural values from the perspective of the culture he was observing.
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He is deeply democratic and is easily roused to violence. His turbulent spirit finds any restraint irksome and no man recognizes a superior”. This cultural attitude towards independence has led the Nuer to function without a real system of governance. While there are “chiefs” in Nuer society, the role of chief tends to be limited to that of a mediator.
The findings of E.E. Evans-Pritchard serve as an example of the importance of ethnographic fieldwork and cultural relativism. People have an inherent tendency to drift towards ethnocentrism if they do not keep an open mind about the legitimacy of foreign cultural ideas. Enculturalization occurs from the very beginning of one’s life. When one grows up in a culture that praises traits that are deemed as beneficial and discourages behaviors that are seen as harmful, one tends to develop similar beliefs on these traits and behaviors. Different cultures encourage different outlooks on society. This is the result of the environment a culture exists in. In many tribal societies, one of the primary influences on culture is the physical environment. However, in technologically-advanced societies that worry less about satisfying needs and more about fulfilling desires, social aspects are perhaps more significant. For example, note the difference between American and Japanese culture. American culture promotes individualism and free speech. Many Americans tote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights