Strange Beliefs - Essay Example

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Conducting fieldworks on extended periods of time is an essential role of anthropologists in order to fully understand the cultural variation of groups of people or ethnicities…
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Strange Beliefs Essay
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"Strange Beliefs"

In “Strange Beliefs”, a documentary film produced and directed by Andre Singer and written and presented by Bruace Dakowski, ethnic communities have been discovered and observed by the reputable anthropologist, Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard, and their bizarre philosophies and views were shown to the world. It featured the contributions of Evans-Pritchard to the revolution of the field of anthropology by reestablishing the task of anthropologists to act as interpreters of other cultures. The first part of the film showed Evans-Pritchard’s explorations on the Azande people of Sudan. Unlike his contemporary colleagues who merely focused on facts and figures, the anthropologist was interested in uncovering the tribe’s ideas and the force that drives their belief systems. Cleary, he was intrigued on the Azande’s strong belief on witchcraft, magic and oracles, and how the community came up with those principles. The Azande regards witchcraft as the primary source of misfortunes and sudden deaths, as Evans-Pritchard quoted, “it is death that answers the riddles to mystical beliefs” (“Strange Beliefs”). Victims of witchcraft are then carried to a witchdoctor who is believed to combat the effects of sorcery using spells and rituals. The devotion that the tribe gives to witchcraft is so intense that they accept whatever happens to the subject is regarded as a commonality and as a fact. Because of the witchdoctor’s power to release a person from illness and demise, he is considered as one of the vital personalities in the society. The second part of the film presented Evans-Pritchard’s study on the ethnography of Sudan’s Nuer society. The Nuer people were raised in a democratic setting, considering themselves as an equal to other nations. Compared to the Azande’s faith in witchcraft, the Nuers are revealed to treat their cattle as the central part of their being. The affection to bulls is evident in their folklores and songs, kids would adopt the name of their beloved pets, and cattle are utilized in public gatherings and as a form of payment for resolving disagreements. Nuers loved the beast so much that their political structure is devoid of any officer; rather the life of the community revolves around the cattle and they are ruled under ordered anarchy. Evans-Pritchard summarized their faith in bulls as “the idiom for the way the Nuer thinks” (Strange Beliefs). Among the unfamiliar and taboo dogmas of the Azande and Nuer tribes presented in the film, it is noted how Evans-Pritchard accepted them as a practical way of life for the locals. He didn’t treat their beliefs as oddities or irrationalities; instead he viewed them as logical processes evident in diverse cultures. For instance, Azande’s faith in witchcraft was previously identified only as a form of primitive behavior, a bizarre belief involving mysticism. After the film was shown, anthropologists further embraced the said philosophy as a formal African religion. Moreover, Evans-Pritchard exemplified that the belief systems of the Azande and the Nuers stems to a deeper motivation which is to have a particular object bind its people and promote harmony. Witchcraft and cattle became instrumental in the functioning of the Azande and the Nuer societies and in maintaining social order. As an observer, I was initially amazed on how different cultures view life and accept fate and phenomenon. Having a peek on ethnic unadulterated norms and values is quite interesting and has indeed captured my full attention. Normally, the strange beliefs presented in the Read More
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