L. Hemenway- Week 7- Final Reflections


During the first week of class, the lecture “The Culture Concept” covered all the basics of culture. As we all now know, culture is a huge part of a person’s identity, and it plays a huge role in how that person acts, talks, thinks, etc. In the previous lecture, “What Is Anthropology?” we became acquainted with the idea of ethnocentrism, which is trying to form an opinion on a culture by applying the traditions, beliefs, etc. of your culture to it. One of the readings associated with that week, “Body ritual among the Nacimera” by Horace Miner also touched on this, by showcasing how weird American culture is from an outside perspective. Of course, for those of us who’ve grown up in American culture, this doesn’t seem weird at all because it’s what we’ve been socialized into our whole lives.

The following week, we learned about race and human diversity. One of the most important things we learned that week was that race is not biological, rather it’s simply used to place people into different groups. Along the same lines, race is considered to be a “function of culture,” according to Claude Levi-Strauss. The reading, “Recognizing Cultural Diversity: What We Can Learn from Japanese Civilization” by Claude Levi-Strauss further touched on this point by explaining how race used to be seen as biological. Additionally, people also used to believe race influenced culture.

Fast forward to a couple weeks later, when we learned about “Culture/People on the Move.” Globalization was a central theme that week. We learned about how different cultures are able to travel, in a sense, to different countries with ease nowadays, and how that allows cultures to influence other cultures. The reading “How Sushi Went Global” by Theodore C. Bestor further illustrated this point by detailing the globalization of sushi, and how it became immensely popular in other cultures. Another important point to keep in mind with this, though, is cultural hybridization, or when cultures adopt from other cultures, but sort of change said adoptions so they better fit into the adopting culture. We also learned about the different categories of “people on the move”: immigrants, guest workers, refugees and tourists.

Okay, so what’s the connection between these three different lessons? Besides the constant presence of culture in general, I’ve noticed a recurring categorization of people. The first lecture touched on how we sometimes categorize and judge people/cultures from an ethnocentric perspective. The following lecture discussed how race is used to categorize people. With the last lecture I mentioned, we learned about the different categories of “people on the move.” Based on all this, I think it’s safe to assume we love categorizing people. Personally, I think this is because categorizing people helps us understand them better, or so we think anyways. Categorizing people forces us to look at people on a group-level, rather than looking at them individually, which is additionally a faster way of “understanding” someone.


Miner, Horace. “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.” Societal Culture and Management (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. “Chapter 3: Recognizing Cultural Diversity.” Anthropology Confronts the Problems of the Modern World. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2013. N. pag. Print.

Bestor, Theodore C. “How Sushi Went Global.” Foreign Policy 121 (2000): n. pag. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.




2 thoughts on “L. Hemenway- Week 7- Final Reflections

  1. First off, I love how you included your references and formatted your post! You’ve noted the trend that the class noticed initially but that continued to be a theme in this course: categorizing people by establishing structures of difference. Another theme I derived from your post was making categorizing people seem natural in order to cement those categories and spur phenomena such as ethnocentrism and racism. Additionally, I agree with your point that perhaps this categorization of people might make it easy to “understand” people, but I also think it has to do with a larger discussion of the concentration of socioeconomic and political power. It makes it much easier to subjugate a class of people when you construct a lower class for them based on physical traits such as skin color or height or the “subordinate” culture to which they belong. This is where I think meaning making and structures of difference combine to bolster the social order. Sure, sometimes the categories and the stereotypes we construct are benign, but they simplify groups of people and issues so that elites can push a narrative onto the masses all while concealing their ulterior motives. This is a systematic problem, not an individual one. A great example of this is in Bestor’s “How Sushi Went Global.” Sushi wasn’t making waves in the United States before the 1970s because of the residual prejudice against Japanese people from World War II. However, as Japan began to rebuild and become an economic powerhouse(like the US), it was suddenly okay to adopt one of their delicacies. This example shows us that it’s often not just about the cultural differences that leads a group to categorize but an interplay of power and circumstance.

  2. Hello L.

    A great post! Good formatting and it was very useful for you to put your references. I enjoyed how you broke down the important concepts we have learned in this class. Which one was your favorite? I liked that you talked about the three you thought were most prevalent. Starting from the basics and talking about more complex subjects with each paragraph. I also like your idea of why we categorize people. Though I would disagree. When race is talked about in the U.S. we often do not try to understand those of different races. Smith talks about this in his essay on blackness. We stereotype, but do not understand. I think the reason we categorize has more to do with the need to place things in boxes so we do not have to try to understand them. We understand the basic concept of that label without needing to know more. It is a simplification process. That is why for every culture there are stereotypes. Overall excellent and well though out post!

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