Essay The Blind Men And The Elephant

Essay The Blind Men And The Elephant

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Perspective is a crucial aspect of anthropology, the study of humankind and the different aspects that affect human nature. There are four main subfields of anthropology that allow anthropologists to analyze different areas of human behavior. These subfields are as follows: biological or physical anthropology, archaeology, cultural or social anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. Each area of study is equally important and is able to be integrated into one idea that looks at the whole picture rather than the individual parts (“What is Anthropology?”). This idea of looking at the complete picture rather than just the smaller “constituents” is a holistic approach to anthropology (Peters-Golden 17). A variety of elements can affect a person’s perspective when it comes to anthropological studies. Viewing literary works such as Around the World in 30 Years by Barbara Gallatin Anderson in comparison with the short story “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” exemplify the importance of perspective and perceptions in Anthropology.
In the short story, “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” each of the six old blind men had a different interpretation of what they believed a subject of their curiosity, an Elephant, to be like. Each man had a different idea of what an elephant is like based off of what they had heard and gathered from discussions between other villagers and travelers. Having heard varying discussions, all of the men had their own perception of the characteristics of an elephant. When the six men were finally taken to experience a real elephant, these preconceived notions of their own imaginations affected their encounter with the elephant. The men could only feel what they believed to be true regarding the animal. Their indivi...


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... standpoint of the individual and the relationship he or she has with the subject or area of study is of vital importance. Any pre-conceived notions one has entering into a study can affect the process and validity of gathering information in the form of facts. In the tale, the men were unable to gather reliable information because they had already made up their minds about what the elephant looked and acted like. Anderson, however, was able to observe from both a participant standpoint and an onlookers point of view when collecting information regarding her various cultures of study. Ones culture provides a frame of reference that places limitations on the way people of varying cultures look at one another (Tversky and Kahneman). If one has only knowledge and experience of their native culture, they will have difficulty comprehending the world around them (Murray).

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