One Does Not Simply…Write About Anthropology

My Time as a Graduate Student


on February 1, 2013

As we begin a new month and finally getting organized with my studies and work, I have made some new goals that I would like to accomplish this month. One of them being to really start focusing on my thesis research now that I have finally figured out what I want my focus to be. With that I am going to start posting more about my research with the hope that others will find my research as interesting as I do.

One topic that I have been focusing in a couple of my classes is the subject of ethics…what is ethical? What is appropriate?

Ethics comes down to individual morality, what one believes to be morally correct in behavior and attitude. This is shaped by our own cultural constructs of society. But what does being ethical include and how can we be ethical individual especially in anthropology? The truth is that the answer is not universal it is individual. What one person believes is moral or ethical, another may not and it up to the individual to do what they believe is to be right. Anthropology is constructed by interpretations of various individuals who have various opinions on the ways in which human culture has been constructed. There are those who I personally don’t agree and those who don’t agree with me, but it must be respected. Such as the respect towards the research that are being conducted upon various cultures. One of the things that is a universal truth about ethics is that there is someone out in the world that does not agree with what you or another individual has done or said. There is always that person. But we also have to be aware of our own personal bias that my affect interpretation of research and must take actions in preventing that from happening. It is inevitable to have some sort of opinion on what another culture says, does, etc. But in respect of the culture we must refrain at all costs to allow personal bias to affect research. It is important to remain objective as much as possible.

In my research I have come across a few ethical issues, but I am sure that there are more that I just haven’t thought of or come across yet.

Issues that I have encountered in past research with literature are the concerns of copyright infringement with the use of character names and places, as well as any images that may be used from illustrations or from the films. It is inevitable that I will be using the names of characters as well as the names of places throughout my research to present evidence to theories as well as in presentation of the research. Giving credit where credit is due by citing will help defuse any issues with copyright.

Tolkien defines the ethnic groups within the Lord of the Rings canon as ‘races’ of people and on many occasions brings up the aspect of racism between different groups. In context of the stories it allows for the reader to understand the diversity of ethnicities of the individuals as well as being able to relate to the subject of racism. In a reality, the issue of race and racism is highly controversial and literature has been attacked for the lack of race or are racist itself. By defining race in the context of how Tolkien meant for it to be, there are many races: Men, Dwarves, Orcs, Hobbits, Elves, etc. and the storyline is wrought with racism especially between the Elves and the Dwarves. But in a reality context, many have debated that lack of present ethnicities such as American Americans, Hispanics, etc.,  and have brought the issue that Tolkien was racist himself by only portraying his characters as Caucasian. It must be noted that ‘race’ does not entirely depend upon skin color, but is used to classify individuals into distinct groups by various affiliations of language, histories, cultural, social, ethnicities, etc. It is hard to avoid the issue but to defuse much of the debate is to define what my meaning of race juxtaposed with Tolkien’s meaning within the context of the stories.

 There will always be at least one individual who gets offended by something even if we think personality that no one would. But it is something that we must take into effect when conducting or interpreting research. It is up to the research to define concepts like race, sex, gender, etc in the context in which it is being used. Although there is no guarantee that it eliminates the problem, it can at least be minimized.

Then there is always the approach of “who cares.” And that is often the approach that must be taken. Tolkien wrote his stories for a purpose and didn’t care who would be potentially offended, he did it for the pleasure of writing and for the pleasure of those who would read it. I realize that my interpretations of the work may not be in line of what others think, but that is the beauty of interpretation…it is mine. And we come full circle, anthropology is structured upon the interpretations of the researcher. There are always going to be oppositions, but isn’t that in any academia field? (I mean look at politics) There is always an opposing view and one just has to have a tough skin to say that “it is how I see it and it is my interpretation.” If someone disagrees, they should go do the research themselves and see what their interpretations may be. It is the human condition, I believe, to live in a world of opposition. It is what makes us human, to have our own opinions and be able to express them (at least in our society).


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