Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Anthropological Perspectives

I've been taking anthropology courses at college this year, which covered all of human history from the earliest days of the species to the present day. In cultural anthropology we learned about cross-cultural traits. The classic study Family and Kinship in East London by Michael Young and Peter Willmott I also read was originally published in 1957 and looked at how people lived in the Bethnal Green community, as well as a housing estate in Essex that had been newly built. The authors found that people had many close relationships in the East End, but were disconnected from their family and friends when they moved to the council estate. In the new way of living, they didn't socialize as much with their neighbors. This book confirmed a lot of impressions I got of life in Britain from watching television and movies and reading books set there, as well as two trips in 1993 and 2000.

In comparison with a similar study done of 1970s working class life in Northern California, Worlds of Pain by Lillian Rubin, the communities in California and the council estate in Essex share many traits like trying to get ahead in life and using consumer acquisitions as a marker of status. While Rubin concentrates more on the difficulties of economics and the family, Young and Willmott give a more complete picture of what life was like in East London. The voices of the people interviewed come through and this book may have started the interest by the storytellers on television in chronicling working-class life. These shows have come over to America on PBS with shows like EastEnders and Doctor Who, where the new series in 2005 started out on a housing estate and the show followed the life of Rose Tyler and her family in London as much as the Doctor's time traveling adventures with Rose. These shows increase interest in other cultures, and may lead more people to look into the real stories of people around the world.

No comments: