Introduction to cultural anthropology Essay
Introduction to cultural anthropology
Philippe Bourgois conducted fieldwork in urban United States and Central America in relation to political issues related to ethnicity, dislocation of street children, political violence, labor relations and popular resistance. In United States, Bourgois fieldwork mainly focuses on social suffering, cultural issues and political economy. His most recent work relates to substance abuse, homelessness, violence and HIV prevention.
He argues that although inner city street culture of drug dealers emerges as a search for dignity and rejection of racism, it is one aspect that has led to personal degradation and community ruin. His assertion points out two interrelated concepts that are structure and agency used by anthropologists to understand how society is produced and reproduced. A major concern in this paper is an illustration on how structure and agency shape the lives of Primo Ceasar. A close look of the two terms has an outstanding feature that relates to live at inner-city streets.
Structure is the recurrent patterned arrangements which limit choices and opportunities posed by individuals. On the other hand, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and make their own free choices. It is the intention, dream, hope, determination and effort to do something for change in support of continuity. The relationship between structure and agency as applied by anthropologists to understand how society is reproduced include the concept of complementary forces.
A society is a collection of individuals from different backgrounds and considers certain values. Structure influences human behavior and individuals are capable of changing social structures they inhabit. In reverse to this position, the capacity of individuals as agents to construct and reconstruct their worlds is a common aspect observed by anthropologists especially Philippe Bourgois. A major difference between structure and agency is that the latter relates to ability of actors to operate independently of social structure constraints.
The usage of social science has shifted towards the problem of autonomy. In this context, agency raises questions about importance of human intentions, nature and social aspect of freewill, political capacity and moral choice. Social structure determine individuals action in the aspect of what they think or feel about engaging in particular issues of life separated by external powers. A good example to reflect the concept of structure and agency is in the case of team members in sportsmanship.
Each team member has the right to exercise freedom out of their own will but extent of action is governed by traditionally accepted rules of behavior in respect to a particular sport. In essence pressure from authorities and peers f prevents individuals from going against anything they would like to do. Another applicable example in relation to structure and agency is the inner-city life on the streets that results from social segregation of children leading to rise of homelessness.
Street children in most urban centers are as a result of social marginalization that sees many of the children leave their homes to start life of drugs in urban centers. Structure and agency are common elements in life that shapes life of many individuals including Primo, Ceasar and Candy. The educational concept of ethnographies is emphasis on racism, immigration and sexism. Considering the concept of structure and agency in the aspect of freedom to carry on with personal activities out of free will is against political and social resistance.
Primo a manager of crack house was one of the best friends to Philippe Bourgois and his life was shaped by following concepts of structure and agency. He never liked school and doing homework was one of the worst mistakes in his school life. The culture in New York City of rural working class affected many intimate relationships at young age and Primo fell in this category. In addition being way from parents meant inappropriate mechanism of escaping from ethnicity considerations. Primo inherited his mother’s identities and employee traits at inner-city street shop.
He was very problematic to teachers and played certain tricks to protect himself from insults by his teachers. The conflict between Primo and teachers resulted to a bad relationship between son and mother. As a responsible mother, she instead Primo should respect teachers for better grades but this worsened the situation. Finding it hard to achieve in class, Primo opted for street culture where he started committing violent crimes. Out of free will a concept of agency, Primo adapted street culture in the context of accent, body language, clothing and play style.
He was free to engage in any kind of activity as the environment allowed him to exercise the right of freedom. The bad relationship between Primo and his mother made him change his lifestyle to embrace street culture. This is a concept of structure and matters that arose such as failing to show his mother the grades he attained is an issue of agency. Having lived a life of freewill in the inner city Primo married and raised his family. He was bound to raise up his family a responsibility that saw him advice his own son to respect teachers for better results.
The concept of structure and agency contributed to a certain level in the lives of Primo and many other people such as Ceaser and Candy. The common element among the three individuals was the concept of family, institutional and personal violent interfaces. Caesar was very violent and used to fight back at school that originated from the desire to exercise right of freedom. Meritocracy in the US The myth of meritocracy in America is real and people believe that those who are poor deserve to be poor because of their laziness and stupidity.
The poor believe that wealth in America is based on merit a concept that to my opinion is material. The wealthy in United States of America have their position because of hard work and academic performance. Laziness is one major factor that makes people in U. S to be poor as there are many opportunities that can make an individual exploit his or her potential. Hardworking people in America never fail to get job and it is the reason that probes people to travel oversees as a way of exploiting available opportunities.
My opinion or take about meritocracy in U. S is that those Americans who consider wealth in America is as a result of hard work and intelligence are wrong. The small percentage of poor Americans is a as a result of laziness and ignorance. This is because U. S is one of the most powerful nations in the world with an economic structure that can support all its citizens. This means that there are a number of opportunities that can provide Americans and other immigrants with job opportunities for better life.
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