Ethnography: Cultural Practices of the Rainforest People

In the Ethnography: Wisdom from a Rainforest, by Stuart A. Schlegel, he described a large number of cultural practices. He went from describing the time when the whole Figel community got together to plant rice seeds to giving a short speech to the spirits when hunting for Animals. But there are some practices that Schlegel had a hard time with and found it hard to understand. One part that he had trouble understanding was the young bride and groom ceremonies they held. For example he stated “I have no idea. For example, why they treated young brides and grooms in such an apparently abusive and inhumane way…”. In chapter 7, pages 115-123, the Teduray held a ceremony for a young bride named Layda and a groom named Kufeg. She did not know that she was getting married, so therefore she had an arranged marriage. The bride and the groom’s kindred would come to an agreement and they were the ones that chose who married their young daughters/sons. But of course, Kufeg and Layda did not know this was happening and when their relatives told them. Layda began to cry and tried to run away, but was held down by her relatives. He did not understand this part because the arranged marriage did not go with their other interactions and what they believed in. Another thing he had a hard time understanding was “family and social arrangements, gender role conditioning, and the Teduray attitude toward sexual pleasure and sexual responsibility”. He had a hard time understanding this and also believed that other societies will have a hard time understanding it too. But the more he thought about it, the more he started to realize the logic behind it. Another part that he had a hard time understanding is the part about Uka and how she became a woman. For example, he stated he was asking questions such as “so she is really a man?” and “but if she were really a woman, what did it mean that she became a woman?”. He seemed very confused because he did not understand what the man next to him was saying. He kept asking questions regarding what he meant, but he simply did not understand what he meant.

Schlegel learned from his study of the Teduray is that they were a “partnership society” meaning that they support caring relations and because men and women were equal in their community. He stated “there was no hierarchical ranking of any kind in their entire view of reality”. He did not know that they had no ranking and that men and women were treated equally. Some things he learned from the Figel people is that instead of looking at the wrong in people, to start looking at the good things they have done. Finally, he learned that the Teduray people did not like any sort of violence. On page 172, he stated “I will never forget the way their world valued interpersonal genitility and ahorred violence of any sort”. They did not agree with violence against their people and the people around them and so they never did anything to hurt each other.

What I learned from this ethnography, is that the Figel people are very different from Americans. First of all, both male and female are seen equal in the Figel community and in the U.S. they are not seen as equal by some people. I also learned that they all get along because they celebrate things together, such as the time they were planting rice seeds and when they held weddings. They also do not like any sort of violence and they share the food that they gathered with the whole community. Although they like for everyone to be equal, they still managed to have their children to get them an arranged marriage.

29 April 2022
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