Friday, July 17, 2015

Distant Cousins and Opposite Friends


I've come to realize Sociology and Anthropology are more of distant but close cousins. In talking to some sociology majors in my department, they were the first ones to explain this relationship, as distant cousins, between the two disciplines to me. Of course I wasn't pleased with their answer. I thought they were putting anthropology down for whatever reason and didn't want to be associated with it. But the more sociology classes I took, the more I saw the vast difference. In shadowing Yani and Josh, I think I've truly been able to come to terms with that difference. Even in fields that some might consider very similar, each still bring a different and unique perspective to the table.

I spent some of this and last week following our sociologist while they did their surveying. In most cases, farmers would either be unavailable or were unwilling to talk and take surveys.  I applaud the persevering spirit of our sociologists and their ability to not be discouraged by their many rejections. If there's anything I've learned from this group, it's that you have to have thick skin. That said, I've also come to appreciate the method of ethnography and the discipline of anthropology even more. Indeed, sociologists collect both qualitative and quantitative data while Anthropology relies on just qualitative data. But in joining my "distant but close cousins" to do their research, I found that just passing out surveys to farmers is a method that's passive. That said, my favorite moment in following Yani around was seeing her converse and relate to the farmers we did talk to outside of the survey. That, to me, was when she shun the most. Just like our distant cousin, I do my best as anthropologist to put myself out there and make myself relateable to the farmers, residents, and policy makers. Our sociologists themselves also put themselves out there (driving around all day only to most times be turned away) in their own way and I truly applaud them for that.

On the other hand, in spending time with geologist, I found they were indeed doing the opposite of what I was doing. I mean think about it; geology is the study of earth while anthropology is the study of the people who inhibit that same earth. In experiencing geology, I found that this group is relating to nature while I am relating to culture. Pleasent and supportive, I learned from our geologists that truly, it is important to look at all parts of a certain equation. There is more than one way to understand a problem but the best way to solve it is to do it together. What I'm most grateful for is that this group dared to trust me with their precious data even though I'm terrible at all the things they were doing.

In shadowing our geologists and sociologists, I've learned that every perspective is valuable. Actually, I think I already knew that. It's just that this experience has made such an ideology practical.


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