Cultural Anthropology Week 13: Not According to Plan

May 13th, 2015

Week 13 brings the last lecture with new material and more time to work on the poster. Well, that was the plan. Several complications got in the way. Unlucky 13!

First, as the semester winded down, I was worried about the surprise Dean class inspection I was told about. While I was visited by a professor a few weeks ago, I was told to expect two visits. With so few class sessions left, and one a field trip, I was did not want to cause a scheduling snafu with my bosses. Earlier in the semester, I submitted a form that stated when my lectures were going to be for the inspection, but the class schedule had changed by then.

Increasingly paranoid about an impending Dean visit, I rearranged the day’s schedule. It made more sense to do the lecture first, then have poster work time, but what if the Dean shows up in the second half of the day? Instead, I declared poster work time to be first in the morning, and then end with the lecture.

Complication two was that poster work time was lackluster. Only one of the three teams even brought the poster to work on, so that left two teams with nothing to do. The team with the poster left for the library to work on it, with instructions to return in an hour. Since the class then turned into hang-out time, I started browsing streaming videos that I could show instead. As I searched, one of the students actually went up to the board to have an impromptu game of hangman, which entertained the class for a little bit.

I ended up showing a video I saw a while ago, but had no time for. It was also a little weird. Someone during the religion and rite of passage lecture mentioned the Satere-Mawe practice of wearing mittens filled with bullet ants. A little bit later, one of the Youtubers I follow had a video of going to Brazil to experience the ritual (skippy62able, 2015).

The video showed how connected we are with today’s technology, so I thought it had a little connection to what we have been learning. It was also pretty interesting and funny.

After that, I went on a hunt for another video. On the Films Media Group site, I saw a film called The Himbas Are Shooting (Bardet, 2012). The Himba, one of the Namibian pastoralists, were actually on my mind because someone in the last lecture asked about their hair style in one of the slides. (This article [Styles, 2014] has great pictures of Himba hair. On a side note, I have noticed that the Daily Mail of all places have great articles of a cultural anthropological nature, with wonderful photos by Eric Lafforgue and Stephanie Ledoux).

The film turned out to be really charming and entertaining. It also tied into the lecture that day on applied anthropology since it was about giving traditionally underprivileged people a voice (the director, Solenn Bardet, appears to be an anthropologist in everything but professional training).

The plot of this film, which plays with documentary and fiction, is that the members of a Himba village want to make their own documentary to show what they think is important about their life. The result is a series of vignettes that could be real life, an acted-out scene, or both. The students watching in class noted the sense of humor that the Himba filmmakers exhibited. Across all of the lectures and films before, something about people that did not get across was that people are funny all over. Several times, there were parodies of western culture which hit home pretty solidly.

The film ended right when the lecture was scheduled to start. For some reason, the lecture did not garner as much interest as the previous lectures. Maybe moving the lecture to the last half of the class time sucked the energy out of the class. Or the reality of the upcoming poster deadline hit. In any case, watching a Bolivian rap video only got a bit of attention and an attempt to discuss the military application of anthropology did not really go anywhere.

After the class ended, I checked my school email. The Dean’s assistant emailed me back about the Dean visit I was so concerned about. The message: I misunderstood the procedure! The visit by the Dean was actually for my online class, and that was done. So basically I was worried about nothing the whole time.

While it was a drag to end the lectures on a low note, things are looking up for the remaining two classes. Next time we will be presenting the posters, which are probably being made as I write this. Then it is off to the museum! The last class will be a final review as I tie everything together. See you after the museum!

References

Bardet, S. (Director). (2012). The Himbas are shooting [Film]. Paris: Gédéon Programmes.

skippy62able (Username). (2015, April 6). L.A. BEAST vs the worst pain known to man (ft. LA FENIX) (warning: multiple man tears) [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NMNbr4z7eE

Styles, R. (2014, April 18). That’s an unusual look! Namibia’s Himba tribeswomen sport incredible hairdos created using goat hair, butter and mud (but the married men have to cover up in turbans). Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2607647/Incredible-photos-reveal-elaborate-hairdos-Himba-tribe-created-using-goat-hair-MUD.html


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