The Inside Perspective Of An Outsider

1886 WordsJul 10, 20188 Pages
The Inside Perspective Of An Outsider I read everything I could find. I spoke with natives who were visiting the United States. I studied the language diligently. I scrutinized pictures, noting each detail. Nothing prepared me for that first long walk along a Beijing street. I smelled for the first time, the smells that were to become a familiar component of my three-month stay in The People's Republic of China. I made eye contact with people who had formerly just been captured still-lifes on a reference book's glossy page. I attempted to speak my broken Chinese with people who did not care that my book at home had taught me the words for "ambassador" and "diplomat." I took my first tentative step towards cultural understanding. The…show more content…
The popular modern idea of culture was an abstract system - an evolving thing in and of itself. With the advent of postmodernity, anthropologists are forced to admit no absolute cultural reality. Culture, consequently, is composed of constructed narratives and symbolic dialogue (Bodley, 1997, p.10). The excitement of this postmodern twist lies in the resulting malleability and dynamic fluid energy of culture. Both Spradley (1979) and Bodley (1997) note three explicit components of this ever-changing culture: the words or thoughts of people, the actions of people, and the artifacts used or material products produced by the people (p.8, p.10). Doing ethnography, again, means describing a culture. The ethnographer seeks to understand another way of life from the native point of view. Spradley (1979) rightfully places emphasis on learning from people rather than studying about people (p.3). A successful ethnographer not only collects data about a certain people, but seeks first and foremost to be taught by the people. Spradley and McCurdy (1972) note that "ethnography seeks to describe a culture using those criteria that his informants employ as they observe, interpret, and describe their own experiences during the course of life" (p.18). The core of ethnography then, is to understand the meaning of actions and events the way the natives understand their meaning. Spradley (1979) eloquently outlines the
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