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MANE-003: Comparative Ethnography

MANE-003: Comparative Ethnography

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2021-22

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Assignment Code: MANE 003/AST/TMA/2021-22

Course Code: MANE-003

Assignment Name: Comparative Ethnography

Year: 2021-2022

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

Note: There are two sections ‘A’ and ‘B’. Attempt five questions and at least two questions from each section. All questions carry equal marks. The word limit for 20 marks question is 500 words and for 10 marks question it is 250 words.

Section- A

Q1) Define Ethnography. Discuss the history and growth of ethnography with emphasis on the British and Chicago Schools. (20)

Ans) Ethnography is the systematic study of individual cultures and is a branch of anthropology. Ethnography investigates cultural phenomena from the perspective of the study's subject. Ethnography is a type of social research that examines participants' behaviour in a given social situation and attempts to understand the group members' interpretation of that behaviour. The original form of the anthropological ethnography placed a strong emphasis on the researcher's participation in and observation of the culture under study. Members of the Chicago School's sociological research centred on this theme as well. In contrast, in the internet ethnography, all data is typically collected online without meeting the people involved in person.

The question that arises here is whether ethnography is dependent on the ethnographer's physical presence among the people being studied. Is it possible that the assumption that an ethnographer must be physically present is based on an outdated understanding of what the ethnographic work entails? In a postmodern world, could it even imply a false sense of personhood? Postmodernity, according to Mark Poster and others, de-centers and disperses identities and blurs the lines between humans and machines. Is there an online culture that internet ethnographers can study? This isn't just a methodological question; it's also a theoretical one. Or do we need to understand what happens online in the context of the people who write blogs, post messages on message boards, participate in chat rooms, create their own websites, and so on? Electronic virtuality is now embedded in actuality in a more dispersed and active way than ever before, thanks to the availability of mobile phones and portable computers. Furthermore, the cultures studied by traditional ethnography are ‘virtual' in the sense that they are not tangible objects.

On the one hand, internet data has severe limitations from a traditional ethnographic standpoint: we have no way of knowing who the authors of online contributions are, what their goals were, what their circumstances were, and so on, beyond what they tell us. And we should probably be wary of taking their words at face value. 8 However, it can be argued that, because online interaction is generally orderly, participants clearly reveal enough about themselves through their contributions for them to understand one another. And it could be argued that in studying online practises, an ethnographer doesn't need much more than this. What conclusions we draw about these issues will undoubtedly have significant implications for how we account for the growing role of electronically mediated communication in the lives of the people we study.

Furthermore, this debate brings to light one of ethnography's most significant schisms today. In broad terms, this is a distinction between more traditional ethnography, both anthropological and sociological, and ethnography that employs discourse and narrative analysis. And this division can be seen in other areas as well, such as debates over the use of interviews. We can probably all agree that being an ethnographer in today's world is neither easy nor pleasant. The very nature of ethnography has been called into question.

Q2) Examine David M. Schneider portrayal of kinship in American Kinship: A Cultural Account (20)

Ans) David M. Schneider’s portrayal of kinship in American Kinship are as follows:

Cultural System

It is a symbolic system that consists of a set of units or parts that are defined in specific ways and related to one another in specific ways. These units are cultural constructs with their own reality, and their interactions with one another are governed by certain rules that determine individual social behaviour.


A relative in the United States is someone who is related to you by blood or marriage. The terms for kinship can be divided into two categories: basic terms and derivative terms. A basic term and a modifier make up the derivative terms. For example, the term "father" is a basic term that is modified by the term "in-law," resulting in the term "father-in-law." Other modifiers include "step," "in-law," "great," "grand," "ex-," and so on. A blood relative's conception is based on biogenetics. One half of a child's biogenetic substance comes from one parent and the other half comes from the other. As a result, nothing can truly terminate or change the biological relationship that exists between parents and children, siblings, or blood relatives.

Differentiation of Members Kinship

Male and female sexual organs distinguish male and female, and one's sexual identity is determined by physical characteristics such as facial hair for men. Along with the sexual organs, there are also temperamental differences. While men are aggressive and have great physical strength and stamina, women are passive and have nurturing qualities that men do not. The spiritual unity of husband and wife, as well as the unity of love among family members, are symbols of American kinship. Love is a relationship between people, not between things, and sexual intercourse is a relationship between people.

Person as a Relative

In American kinship, the person, like the family, is a major cultural unit capable of acting. Someone could be a father, a police officer, a judge, or a priest. The father is a member of the family, just as the judge is a member of the court. In the conceptualisation of a person, various elements such as sex, age, occupation, reading ability, marriage, and so on are blended together. A person can be thought of in two ways: concrete and abstract. The concrete one is a real person who must follow certain guidelines.

Relative in-law and by Marriage

By marriage, there are two types of relatives. The first is ego's own spouse or husband. The mother, father, brother, and sister of ego's own spouse, as well as spouses of ego's brother, sister, son, or daughter, make up the second class. The derivative terms and the in-law modifier are used in all of these. The term "in-law" is sometimes used to refer to anyone who is related to a marriage in any way. Due to a code of conduct, the relatives by marriage are in a kinship relationship, but there is no substantive basis. These relatives have chosen to follow that code of conduct over others. In this context, it's important to remember that a relationship is also a matter of consent, meaning that it's voluntarily entered into and maintained.

Kinship Terms Kinship

It's also worth noting that there are far more kinship terms and terms for kinsmen in American kinship than there are kinds of kinsmen or categories of kinsmen. Mother may be referred to as "mother," "mom," "ma," "mummy," "mama," and so on. Father may also be referred to as "father," "pop," "pa," "dad," "daddy," and so on. In some cases, the father-in-law and mother-in-law are referred to as "pop" and "mom." When it comes to who is spoken to and who is being spoken about, kinship terms are used in a variety of ways. In some cases, daughters are less likely than sons to use the words "ma" and "mom," and "mother" is more acceptable to daughters than to sons. The term "father" carries with it a sense of formality, authority, and respect that "mother" does not.

Q3) Write short notes referring to the ethnographies discussed in the course:

a) Death in Banaras (10)

Ans) The north Indian city of Banaras attracts pilgrims and mourners from all over the Hindu world as a place to die, dispose of the physical remains of the deceased, and perform the rites that ensure that the departed attains a "good state" after death. This book is primarily about the priests and other "sacred specialists" who serve them, their business practises, and their representations of death and understandings of the rituals over which they preside. This chapter discusses Banaras' relationship with death and its transcendence. Lord Vishnu created the cosmos tie by performing aesthetic austerities at what is now the city's main cremation ground, according to Hindu mythology.

Because the five great elements that make up the world arrive as corpses at Kashi, it is known as the 'Great Cremation Ground.' Because cremation is a sacrifice that regenerates the cosmos, and because funeral pyres at Manikarnika ghat burn continuously throughout the day and night, creation is constantly replayed here. As a result, the satyayug, the beginning of time when the world was new, is always present in Kashi. It is self-evident that people come to die and be cremated in the city because of its sacredness. Jonathan P. Parry's book Death in Banaras focuses on the priests and other "sacred specialists" who serve the dead, pilgrims, and mourners in Banaras. This book examines how priests run their businesses, as well as their understanding of the rituals and death representations over which they preside. The author has contributed to the literature on death symbolism as well as priest and sacred specialist sociology. This book is about death rituals, death, and pilgrimage, and it makes several different arguments throughout the book.

b) Institution of marriage as described in Notes on love in a Tamil Family (10)

Ans) Love is still given little attention or credence by social scientists as a force in human affairs. Margaret Trawick's Notes on Love in a Tamil Family prominently features the concept of love in social scientific discourse. Her study is a significant contribution to anthropology and South Asian studies because it is memorable and well-illustrated. Trawick lived in the midst of a large South Indian family for a time, trying to understand the many and mutually shared expressions of anpu—what we call love in English. This family often engulfed the author, changing her as she inevitably changed her hosts, performing the meaning of anpu in front of the young anthropologist's eyes: through poetry and conversation, the not always gentle raising of children, the weaving of kinship tapestries, and erotic exchanges among women, men, and across the great sexual boundary. She conveys what she learned from this Tamil family with grace and insight, and we learn that love is as universal as selfishness and individualism. The Dravidian kinship system, with its preference for cross-cousin marriage, has sparked much anthropological speculation. In southern India, cross-cousin marriage is a romantic ideal. As Thomas Trautman and others have demonstrated, Tamils' entire conceptual structure is as much in their language as it is in their actual behaviour. Margaret Trawick proposes that the pattern is similar to an art form that is perpetuated as any form of expressive culture; additionally, it creates unfulfilled longings, and thus it becomes a web of unrelieved tensions and architecture of conflicting desires that are fundamental in Tamil interpersonal relationships.


Q4) Analyse ‘Being a Macho’ in in the ethnography The Meaning of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City. (20)

Ans) Gutmann bases his theoretical conceptions in The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City on two works: Antonio Gramsci's "hegemony" and "contradictory consciousness," and Raymond Williams' "emergent cultural practise," which he calls "cultural creativity."

Intellectual Context

In Latin American writings during the mid-twentieth century, the term "machismo" became popular. Macho is thought to be synonymous with male chauvinism and a patriarchal structure of gender relations prevalent in Latin American communities. The most common description of a Mexican man is that he is "macho," which encompasses all Mexican men without focusing on individual behaviour and actions. This work is a deconstruction of a cultural norm's general understanding. Gutmann's work adds to the theoretical and empirical construction of gender categories in their ever-changing and transgressing manifestations.


In one of the chapters, Gutmann describes how he became involved in an afternoon binge drinking session and was reprimanded by one of the ladies for leading the men on and being responsible for all the bravado displayed by the Mexican men during the drinking session. Gutmann joined the session because he wanted to feel like one of them and learn about the popular drinking patterns and habits of Mexican men. However, when he was taunted by other days after the Gendered Bodies incident, he realised that the session had been exaggerated and that the Mexican men were putting on a show for him getting drunk.

Analysis of Data

Gender conventions are discussed in detail in the ethnography's first chapter. An argument between two Mexican men about Christmas gifts for children is depicted in this chapter. The underlying truth of the argument is that it is not so much about the gifts as it is about the meaning that the gifts convey. The traditional Mexican image of a good father is one who spends money on expensive Christmas gifts for his children to demonstrate his love. The author, on the other hand, recognises that the stereotype of Mexican working-class men as "hard-drinking" and "philandering macho" is a fallacy based on anthropologists' work, and that it is both inaccurate and harmful. The first chapter of the ethnography, titled ‘Real Mexican machos are born to die,' defines the key terms used in the study and reflects on the theoretical issues surrounding the study and methodological framework used. The common misconception is that Mexican men do not participate in childcare because it is not considered macho. Reflecting on his own personal experience, the author recalls how, while at a cocktail party in Mexico, he was mildly rebuked by a bank official, who said, "We Mexican men do not carry babies."


This ethnography of Mexican men as machos demonstrates that there is much ado about nothing. Mexican men act and behave like any other man; they get drunk or become enraged when provoked, but this does not mean that every Mexican is a drunk or a wife beater. Though such incidents have been reported in the Colonia, this does not mean that everyone is tarred with the same brush of machismo. Even in the Colonia, the term macho has a variety of meanings other than those reported by academics.

Q5) Write short notes referring to the ethnographies discussed in the course:

a) Construction of gender in Neither Man nor Woman: The Hijras of India (10)

Ans) Neither Man nor Woman: The Hijras of India, by Nanda, is a seminal work in gender studies. As stated in the introduction, the concept of ‘gender' is socially and culturally constructed, and many anthropological and historical studies have recently brought this to light, slowly making it an accepted fact.

Intellectual Context

This work examines gender identities, which have long been viewed as either masculine or feminine in most cultures. The focus of this project is on gender systems with institutionalised alternatives. This study looks at the role of the hijras in India from a religious standpoint. Nanda delves into the hijras' role and status as neither man nor woman, falling outside of the realm of accepted gendered bodies, and society's acceptance of them as a result of socialisation.


Nanda conducted multifaceted fieldwork in various parts of India to capture the hijra community's lifestyle and essence. Over a six-year period, the fieldwork was divided into three phases, each with a different time interval. Unlike most anthropological fieldwork, Nanda's fieldwork did not include living with the hijras. As a result, the fieldwork reflects on the new age ethnographies that were emerging, in which the study no longer focused on the concept of "living among the natives" in a specific location. Nanda delves into the reasons why a hijra is not a man in the first section of this chapter. They mostly stated that they never felt like a man and that they were uninterested in women. Hijras, even those who dress as males at times, enjoy dressing up as females and wearing feminine accessories and maintaining long hair. They, on the other hand, do not consider themselves to be women because they lack the female reproductive ability. As a result, even if they dress and act like women, they do not consider themselves to be real women. Furthermore, the mannerisms of hijras, which are full of sexual connotations, abusive language, and gestures, are unladylike, ungracious, inappropriate, and outrageous for ordinary women.

b) Margaret Mead (10)

Ans) On December 16, 1901, Mead, who turned the study of primitive cultures into a vehicle for criticising her own, was born in Philadelphia. Her father, Edward Mead, a Wharton School economist, and mother, Emily Mead, a feminist and sociologist of immigrant family life, were both committed to intellectual achievement and democratic ideals. In classes with Franz Boas, the patriarch of American anthropology, and discussions with his assistant, Ruth Benedict, Mead discovered her calling as an undergraduate at Barnard College in the early 1920s. She discovered that studying primitive cultures provided a unique laboratory for exploring a central question in American life: clear answers to this question could have important social consequences among a people who are widely convinced of women's inferiority and the immutability of gender roles.

Mead spent the rest of her life studying the plasticity of human nature and the variability of social customs, focusing her research on the peoples of the South Pacific. Coming of Age in Samoa, her first study, found that Samoan children transitioned smoothly into the adult worlds of sexuality and work, in contrast to children in the United States, where lingering Victorian restraints on sexual behaviour and increasing separation of children from the productive world made youth an unnecessarily difficult period. Mead continued in Sex and Temperament that Westerners' deep-seated belief in innate femininity and masculinity only served to exacerbate these problems. A decade later, in Male and Female, Mead clarified her nature vs. nurture stance by examining the ways in which motherhood reinforces male and female roles in all societies. The National Women's Hall of Fame inducted Margaret Mead in 1976. In 1998, she was honoured with a commemorative postage stamp. His ground-breaking anthropological work on sexuality, culture, and childrearing has had a lasting impact.

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