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Gebusi Essays

Kottak defines ethnography as a research method that is an account of particular community, society or culture, beliefs and customs according to (Kottak, 9). Building on this definition, Knauft describes condensed ethnography as having a teaching purpose, which allows us to learn not only of other community but about ourselves as well (Knauft. 9). Knauft sought a science orientated explanation and ethic view of the Gebusi culture. Because of this method, his 1998 ethnographic findings on the notion of belief and style of living Kogwayay, Gebusi, has detected a change since his first visit in 1980 due to Western influence. In his initial research, Gebusi had had little contact with the Western world. However, on his second visit much of Gebusi had “subordinated themselves to the outsiders who control local activities and institutions” (6). Specifically, regarding gender roles, the male dominant society had changed to one in which women gained more economical standing.

On Knauft’s initial visit, Kogwayay was controlled by males. Gebusi women lived willingly under the cultural shadow of Gebusi men and mainly embraced their second class position (Knauft, 20). The semi nomadic, foraging and horticultural Gebusi society separated the roles between two genders, that while male hunted for living animals, women had domesticated jobs, producing food through hard labor and tending the home. Male dominance is seen, for example, at the spirit séance, an event in which male fantasies were indulges while women remained on the sidelines (20). However, the idea of balanced reciprocity pervaded in the culture, and this might have helped to maintain the somewhat egalitarian aspect of gender divisions.

Knauft’s second visit found men and women striving for a modern way of attaining success (Knauft, 131). Transnationalism had promoted gender changes, by providing new forms of male dominance that took place in school, economic and physical activities. However, women worked as market sellers (in hope of marketing western commodities), and also attended church and school. Some even pictured them as being a nurse, wives or “in heaven” (131).

Before Knauft’s second fieldwork, however, a Gebusi’s day might have consisted of relaxation—playing, sleeping and conversing, as their sense of time was rather vague (Knauft, 30). In addition, their poor nutrition caused them to conserve energy by relaxing rather than working hard. However, the introduction of transnationalism has changed the lives of Gebusi, replace traditional with a more contemporary lifestyle. Their life evolved around Christianization, education and economic development that muted the past Kogwayay. They have become modern in their own distinct way and have even adopted the new idea of time in which minutes are measured for punctuality’s sake (Knauft, 164).

In relation to humanity as a whole, Gebusi’s can be seen as falling between the traditional and modern, nomad and sedentary. Knauft highlights the importance of considering these patterns in understanding global changes (Knauft, 32). Over the years, more Gebusi women took economical standings, and the similarity of this to previous stages of other cultures this indicates that the changes in gender roles that Gebusi now make were previously made by more modern cultures as well. According to Marshall, a simple human culture was of “original affluent societies” and the simplest society had the most time to spare (Knauft, 30). However, as society gets more complex and technology advances, leisure time decreases.

The globalization has led to the infusion of the Gebusi culture with Western ideas. Knauft’s participant observation in Gebusi community demonstrates that the idea of affluence in Gebusi community is continually changing. He also emphasizes the issue of the declining respect for the values of ethnocentrism alongside the adoption ideas such as cultural relativism and tolerance.

Works Cited


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