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Short Description of Social and Cultural Anthropology

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I examined the article by Shanshan Du titled “‘Husband and Wife Do It Together’: Sex/Gender Allocation of Labor among the Qhawqhat Lahu of Lancang, Southwest China” which “explores both the diversity and commonality of human labor organization in response to sex difference through an ethnographic study of the sex/gender allocation of labor”. The author’s research allows the reader see the unexpected meanings that are best picked up from differing viewpoints and how it can show the way the information was gathered. The research contributes to anthropology as a whole because it investigates the details of human culture and sex/gender with the unpredictability that comes with it. Du’s experiment can also be related to the public health fields because overall the article explains families lifestyles in their culture and the norms and values of labor in Qhawqhat.

The research began among the Qhawaqhat Lahu of Lancang, Southwest China in the late 1900s. Du used ethnographic fieldwork in order to conduct the study and had both men and women from families that live in Qhawaqhat participate. The author started the experiment by analyzing “attempt to identify both some major conceptual continuities as well as some transformations in this intellectual development”. The ethnographic method is an “in-depth qualitative study of one culture” which utilizes the gathering of data including “participant-observation in everyday life and special events, interviews with key informants, social and spatial mapping and detailed note taking”. Anthropologists state objective facts and looks for points of view in different ways from a variety of diverse outlooks. The author took this into consideration while collecting the data and used it while she did observations, interviews, and surveys to receive the information needed in order to get the results.

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Du’s argument about the results of the study in general is demonstrating “that the gendered allocation of labor in Qhawqhat is predominantly governed by the principle of “unity,” as vividly expressed by the Lahu common saying ‘Husband and wife do it together’ and the oft-cited metaphor, ‘Chopsticks work only in pairs’. She supports her argument by distinguishing some parts of life where joint sex/gender roles are important for finishing the experiment, like for example reproduction, raising children, and family errands. Du starts by depicting how families offer the jobs planning for and during labor, which incorporates how the spouse goes about as a birthing specialist during and after the pregnancy. Second, Du explains the families tasks for taking care of the child, including carrying them, feeding them and cleaning them. Third, the author talks about how the husband and wife support one another like comprising on how they do the same family related work.

Gender is “the expectations of thought and behavior that each culture assigns to people of different sexes”. It observes how cultures associate certain traits, behaviors, and statuses to the husbands, wives, and others who identify in another gender categories. Gender concepts and sex differences varies cross-culturally. “In brief, while biological constituent approach to the ‘sexual division of labor’ has greatly enhanced our cross-cultural understanding of task allocation to men and women, the analytical limits of the concept and its inconsistent sage have also generated confusion at different levels. Not surprisingly, many scholars have turned to alternative concepts to represent their broadening interests”. The author then concentrates on conceptual connections between the constituent methods of gender division between labor and the development of unusual terms.

Gender ideology is “a set of cultural ideas, usually stereotypical, about the essential character of different genders that functions to promote and justify gender stratification”. This gives meaning and importance to sex differences and influences social life and personal experience in 3 ways. First, gender stereotypes which is “connected to cultural constructions of masculine and feminine”. Second, gender roles which is about “the tasks and activities that a culture assigns to each sex”. However in this study, both male and females share similar tasks according to the experiment. Lastly, gender stratification is “an unequal distribution of power in which gender shapes who has access to a group’s resources, opportunities, rights, and privileges”.

Sexuality is “social identity with respect to sexual expression, preferences, and/or behaviors… Meanings, values, and expectations associated with sexual expression and activity”. This varies cross-culturally and like mentioned earlier, sexual division of labor helped our understanding of this between the work of men and women. Anthropologists have studied both genders relating their sexual activities to the understanding of reproduction, contraception, and sexual health. In Du’s study, she had daily interactions with the Lahu families talking about these topics or some similar. Lahu kinship patterns form an important part of the lives of the married couples apart of this fieldwork. “Among the various social changes introduced by the CCP policies, collectivization disrupted the Lahu gendered allocation of labor most severely by replacing the Lahu house-hold as primary labor unit with the state administrative unit called the ‘productive team’. Nevertheless, since the dissolution of communes in Lancang in 1982, Lahu married couples have regained their authority in managing the production and laborers of their households, reviving their ideal of ‘husband and wife do it together’.

Overall, this research for teaching cultural anthropology because Du wants to pass on the ongoing need to grow anthropologists’ methodologies in understanding human labor/diversity. The limits of the study is it claimed that through analyzing the distribution of work between husbands and wives, the results indicate that male and female’s particular errands do not always demonstrate a division between their sex/gender. Rather, the Lahu have utilized allocation of labor to give a feeling of solidarity and to show marriage is characterized as a team.

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