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Essay on Kula, Malinowski, and Bendict

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The field of cultural anthropology studies civilization and humans as members of society. Therefore, anthropology is not an exact science. Research is constantly being conducted and analyzed to expand our knowledge and ideas. Anthropologists have different perspectives on culture and have various ideas about how research should be conducted as well. More importantly, anthropologists have different theoretical ideas based on their approach to research and their findings. Some anthropologists who formed their theories a century ago are still an important part of anthropological thought today. Two of these anthropologists, Bronislaw Malinowski and Ruth Benedict, are well-known and inspire modern anthropology. However, they have vastly different notions about how to conduct research and their theories are worlds apart.
In 1915, Bronislaw Malinowski traveled to the Trobriand Islands and completed two years of ethnographic fieldwork (McGee & Warms, 2008). There he discovered the Kula, an exchange system of ornamental jewelry amongst men in various villages and islands, known as the Kula ring. Each man receives a bracelet or a necklace, keeps it for short time, and then passes it on to one of his partners, who gives him the opposite item in exchange. This extensive, well-ordered system relies on many rules and regulations, such as the direction of exchange, who can exchange with whom, and the duration of the ownership, all of which keep the exchange running smoothly and continuously (Malinowski, 1922). However, this jewelry has no practical use or value, “they are merely possessed for the sake of possession itself, and the ownership of them with the ensuing renown is the main source of their value,” Malinowski (1922) explains. One of ...


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...studies from other sources. While comparing the cultures of Southwestern Indian tribes, she concluded that each culture has a unique pattern, or cultural configuration, that determines the prominent personality traits of its members. However, she offers no explanation or evidence for her theory. Nevertheless, Benedict’s ideas, along with Malinowski’s, remain popular concepts and still influence modern anthropologists today.



Works Cited

Hoey, B.A. (2011). What is ethnography? Retrieved from http://www.brianhoey.com/General%20Site/general_defn-ethnography.htm
Malinowski, B. (1922). The essentials of the Kula.
In McGee, R.J. & Warms, R. L. (4th Ed.), Anthropological theory: An introductory history (pp. 163-179) New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
McGee, R.J., & Warms, R.L. (2008). Anthropological theory: An introductory history (4th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.


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