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Essay about Observation and Analysis of a Cultural Scene

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Clifford Geertz once said: “Cultural analysis is intrinsically incomplete. And, worse than that, the more deeply it goes the less complete it is.” I recently spent a short amount of time at a busy 5-way traffic circle near my residence. While sitting in one spot for about 25 minutes, I observed many people doing many different things (mainly driving). Observing the various people made me think of what their particular cultures may have been, and from there, I began thinking of culture in and of itself. What is culture? Culture is defined as: Ideas and behaviors that are learned and transmitted. Nongenetic means of adaptation (Park, 2008). Culture plays a vital role in anthropology. After all, anthropology is the holistic, scientific study of humankind (Park, 2008). One cannot study humans as a whole without studying and understanding their cultures as well.
During my 25 minute observation period, I witnessed numerous types of people. My setting was simple, but provided me the opportunity to view scores of English and American citizens interacting with one another, often while performing the most dangerous of daily tasks. Driving. My spot at the traffic circle was at a corner adjacent to a gas station. I was positioned in such a way that I could see both drivers entering and exiting the round-about while other patrons were refueling their vehicles with gas. It was a searing Friday afternoon somewhere around 1300 hours. I’ll never forget the smell of hot rubber and gasoline that encircled me. I have driven through this round-about several times before, and I will drive through it many more times before I leave this country. However, I had never realized just how loud it could get sitting that close to traffic. The...


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...ure of what I may encounter. I understood the task at hand, but just wasn’t sure what to expect. At first, I felt a little silly just sitting in a chair (that I brought with me) next to the road with a note pad and pen. However, once I started taking notes, I stopped thinking about myself and started focusing on the people I was supposed to be watching. Although it was hot, it smelled horrible, was terribly loud, and possibly somewhat dangerous, it was a good experience overall. I was able to notice patterns of behavior much quicker than I thought I would have, and I feel like my analyses are “spot on”. If I could change one thing about this experience, I would definitely have chosen a safer place to sit.


Works Cited

Park, M.A. (2008). Introducing anthropology: An integrated approach, with PowerWeb, 4th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978–0-07-340525-4


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