Eating Christmas in the Kalahari

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Name: Thanh Pham Due Date: 02/14/2014 Eating Christmas in the Kalahari “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” is a story about an anthropologist doing a participant observation among the !Kung, a small group of people living in the Kalahari Desert. Richard Lee, the anthropologist, wanted to give the !Kung a large ox as a Christmas gift. However, the !Kung, instead of appreciating the gift, complained that the ox, which was the largest and meatiest ox to Lee, was old and thin to the point of death. This is a perfect example related to the terms cross-cultural misunderstanding (between the culture of Lee and the culture of the !Kung), ethnocentrism and cultural shock. “Cultural differences lead to misunderstandings, as people move from one culture to another, particularly when the same behavior has different meanings in the new setting.”[1] The !Kung never appreciate the animal shared by the hunter. Their custom is they always make joke on the hunter and criticize his catch: “to them, the kill is always too small or too old or too thin”, “they say things like, ‘Oh, this is awful! What a worthless animal! Whatever made me think that this Tswana rascal could hunt!’.”[2] The !Kung do such thing because they do not want any arrogance to appear in their society: "Yes, when a young man kills much meat he comes to think of himself of the chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. We can't accept this. We refuse one who boasts, for someday his pride will make him kill somebody. So we always speak of his meat as worthless. This way we cool his heart and make him gentle."[3] However, Lee did not understand the culture of the !Kung. In this case, if he knew about the custom, he should be humble and very careful about giving the !Kung such a enormous gift like that. “Ethnocentrism is the opinion that one’s own way of life is natural or

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