Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What is Normal: Shakespeare in the Bush

Normal is a funny sort of concept. Often, it simply means "the way I do things." Doing things differently - at least, in ways that are perceived to be significantly different - is "crazy."

This is not the definition of "crazy" that covers legitimate mental illnesses. This is the more colloquial, social use of the term. For that matter, this isn't the only (or even the best) use of the term "normal" either. But it is a significant part of the way people look at the world. We judge things by our own experiences, our own behaviors, our own reactions. It's sometimes hard to see why other people would do things differently, or how they could see things differently - especially when our beliefs and conclusions are so glaringly obvious to us. And it's especially hard to imagine that some of those beliefs and conclusions might simply be wrong.

Explaining one's perspective is a surprisingly tricky thing to do.

All of this is a lead-in to exploring how getting a Minor in Anthropology has affected my view of religion. But before we start talking about world religions, I want to emphasize that a lot of what we think of as universal, obvious, and natural is (instead) very frequently provincial, contextual, and relative. And one of the best examples I can think of is Shakespeare in the Bush - an account of an Anthropologist trying to explain Hamlet to the Tiv people of Africa.

Seriously, go read this thing. I promise you'll be enlightened and amused, though possibly not in that order.

1 comment:

  1. At first I thought you were referring to the past president.


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