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Being There: Learning to Live Cross-Culturally

by Sarah H Davis and Melvin Konner Harvard University Press
Pub Date:
09/2011
ISBN:
9780674049277
Format:
Pbk 272 pages
Price:
AU$48.99 NZ$50.43
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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How can an academic who does not believe evil spirits cause illness harbor the hope that her cancer may be cured by a healer who enters a trance to battle her demons? Whose actions are more (or less) honorable: those of a prostitute who sells her daughteras virginity to a rich man, or those of a professor who sanctions her daughteras hook-ups with casual acquaintances? As they immerse themselves in foreign cultures and navigate the relationships that take shape, the authors of these essays, most of them trained anthropologists, find that accepting cultural difference is one thing, experiencing it is quite another. In tales that entertain as much as they illuminate, these writers show how the moral and intellectual challenges of living cross-culturally revealed to them the limits of their perception and understanding. Their insights were gained only after discomforts resulting mainly from the authorsa own blunders in the field. From Brazil to Botswana, Egypt to Indonesia, Mongolia to Pakistan, mistakes were made. Offering a gift to a Navajo man at the beginning of an interview, rather than the end, caused one author to lose his entire research project. In CA┬┤te daIvoire, a Western family was targeted by the village madman, leading the parents to fear for the safety of their child even as they suspected that their very presence had triggered his madness. At a time when misunderstanding of cultural difference is an undeniable source of conflict, we need stories like these more than ever before.
All preparing for extended stays in a culture foreign to them, whether for research or other purposes, can read the collection with profit. R. Berleant-Schiller Choice
Sarah H. Davis earned her PhD in cultural anthropology at Emory University. Melvin Konner is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University.