Myerhoff: An Anthropologist? Essay

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In studying the Jewish elderly members of the Center, Myerhoff attempted to understand the people there as an isolated society with a distinct culture. Through participant observation, as well as carefully recorded interviews and conversations, Myerhoff aimed to document this culture and understand it as a basis for unity among the Center members. Her immersion in this culture along with her anthropological perspective made her successful in representing the people of the Center. In her book, Number the Days, Myerhoff provides readers with an ethnographic analysis of the existence of a culture. After reading the book, I feel that I have a comprehensive understanding of the Center people. Through her descriptions, based on…show more content…
Despite initial assumptions and unanticipated intricacies of the group, I feel that Myerhoff successfully illustrated the distinctness and many facets of this culture that formed in response to the subsystems of Judaism and old age, as well as gender and the surrounding environment. In order to understand any culture, it is essential to acknowledge the importance of taking a holistic view. This approach, which gained recognition and validation in the twentieth century, stresses the importance of accounting for all of the components of a culture. The concept requires an understanding of each subsystem, which dictates certain aspects of the culture being studied. With this theory as basis for her approach, Myerhoff is faced with the difficult task of piecing together the many parts contributing to the formation of the culture at the Center, while simultaneously recognizing the distinctions between the acting subsystems. Sometimes it seems that realizing what leads to specific cultural constructs would be extremely difficult; this is especially the case with traits that have become so naturalized that only an outsider would recognize them as distinct and significant. That said, it is obvious that there are advantages to studying a completely exotic culture, as the majority of anthropologists do; however, Myerhoff chose to do her fieldwork in a culture that is centered

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