Essay on Ethnography

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Ethnography Essay
Ethnography is termed as the science and art where the people and their cultures are described on the basis of their customs, traditions, habitual differences and other such factors. In the book “In An Antique Land”, the author, Amitav Ghosh, who tends to be a young anthropologist from the Oxford University has described the exposure of cross-cultural experiences where firstly, he has been carrying an ethnographic research and fieldwork in an Egyptian village and secondly, he has been describing the culture prevailing in the 12th century with respect to the concept of slavery and human trade in Egypt and in India. He has described the customs and traditions which were prevalent in the society across the two different countries, India and Russia during the 12th century.
While describing the customs and traditions, he has also described the relations between India and Egypt during those times. He has very well established the synopsis of this relationship and through it, he has established a post-colonial study of the two cultures and practices in these two countries. He has emphasized that there were many similarities in the trade and goods exchange policies and methods adopted by Egypt and India. On the contrary, he has also observed that the customs and traditions are totally different in these countries. They had customized culture which was based on the hiring of people for their work in the form of slaves. This was observed in both the cultures.
The author has maintained a historiographic approach throughout the book and he has developed an image of the slaves and their treatment during the 12th century. His work clearly specifies the fragmented sections of the society in India as well as in Egypt. He has obtained the details of the slave and his life in the writings derived from the Egyptian synagogue. It has been helping him in developing the structure and framework existing in the society during that time. The concepts of slavery and humanity from the church’s point of view and the practices followed in the form of traditions during the 12th century has been described in his book.

Main body
The author Amitav Ghosh, has described that the rights and the perks were enjoyed mostly by the literates during the 12th century. Their stories developed the base for historiography and at the same time, it helped in understanding the various concepts based on their experiences. They were the ones who were considered for all the customs and traditions in their culture. However, the author strikes a chord on the topic of discussing and understanding the stories and lives of the other sections of the society like the slaves and other such classes in the society. The historiography has been considering the stories of the literates which serves to be the tip of the iceberg of the human beings. On the contrary, he stresses to focus and emphasize on the other parts of the icebergs in terms of historiography while considering the lives and stories of other class in the society.
These sections of the society have been deprived of their rights and they have not been provided with any pf the privileges which are enjoyed only by the literates. However, a fair contribution can be obtained from their lives, in terms of the historiographic stories. These stories would be describing the lives of the people in the society which would be prevailing during the 12th century. The historiographic stories which have been developed by the author helps in obtaining the relationship between the existing slavery practices in India as well as Egypt and the experiences of these slaves which have left a remarkable image on their lives.
The author has described the theories of historiography for explaining the functioning of the culture that has been prevailing in the society since those days in the earlier 12th century. The limits of the historiographic work has been under the shadows of the literates where it has been restricted to their lives and their traditions. This has to be understood with the various practices and customs which were prevalent in the society during that time. It has been highly linked with the partiality of the historiographic stories where there is an excessive emphasis on the literate people in the society. This has been observed through the different works and historiographies developed during the 12th century or on the practices, customs and traditions in the 12th century.

The author has described the life of a slave, whose name was Bomma. He had been hired to work for the Jewish trader and merchant, Abraham Ben Yiju. The trader had different set of customs and practices for carrying the daily works with the help of the save. The lives of the literates were the ones which were highly considered and described in the work of the historiographics and this can be seen in the society too, where, Ben Yiju, being a learned trader and merchant was provided with exclusive privileges by the people in the society. However, the author has described the lives of the slaves existing during those times and the struggles and atrocities which were faced by them. He has described the network that has been developed between the Egypt and India along with the other east countries. There has been considerable similarities as mentioned by him in their styles of trade and their trading policies. However, Ghosh has also described the major differences between the societies in these two countries, where the difference lies in the culture, ethnography, historiographical works and other such cultural works of the people and civilization.
The author Ghosh, has described the importance of considering the lives, stories and experiences of the people belonging to other classes in the society and those who are not so literate. The over emphasis on the customs and traditions of the literates has deeply rooted in the society and this has to be removed and evicted from its roots through a proper understanding of the customs and traditions of other tribes and sections of the society. This involves developing an ethnographic and proper understanding of their rituals and life styles. These sections of the society has been experiencing courageous and challenging experiences throughout their lives, in their work as well as in their living. They have seen many tough times and experienced the cultures across the globe throughout their life.
The story has a touch of fiction which has been developed by Amitav Ghosh, in his minds and this has helped him in portraying such an image of the slaves. However, he has witnessed the cross-cultural practices across the globe and this has helped him in having a better understanding of the customs, traditions, practices, religious rituals and other such activities to be performed by the literates only and that the other sections of the society which were very less literate or illiterate were considered to be insignificant in developing the historiography. The customs and traditions have been focusing on the literate and high profile sections of the society.

On the other side, the author also argues that the experiences as well as the stories of the people from the backward class of the society or those who are not literates have to be considered as they, indeed, have a great story which has been developed over a period of rigorous Hardwork and amazing experiences which would never had been faced by the literates in their lives. The stories from the lives of these people would add an additional touch of excellence and clarity to the history that has been developed over a period of years. People of these sections has been described with the help of the main events which occur in their lives like the customs and traditions that are to be followed at the time of birth, deaths and marriages among the people of these class in the society. There has been a considerable contribution of the historiographic demographics which has helped Ghosh to develop the relation between the culture and the lives of the people prevailing in the 12th century among the people.
The ethnographic description of the culture has been through the description of historical events which the slave in the story, named Bomma, had witnessed while his work in the Middle- East and other countries. These people have been enslaved by different cultures and civilizations of the world and the have been travelling through times. Bomma has an exposure to different cultures of the world as he had been working as a slave and serving different masters belonging to different cultures in the world. The description and understanding of cultures from his point of view has helped in developing a fair ethnographic study to the author.
In this way, it can be seen that the author has very well linked the practices in the society to the culture prevailing among the people in the society. It has also helped in obtaining an ethnographic approach and study of the various customs and traditions which were existing during the 12th century in the contemporary society of India and Egypt. The people which have been studied are a Jewish trader named, Abraham Ben Yiju and a slave, named Bomma which was hired by him to help and assist him during his stay in India. The interactions between the two sections of the society has been described through the historiographics and this has been obtained by the author by obtaining a proper understanding of the customs and traditions which hare prevalent in these historiographics.
The character that has been described by Ghosh has a touch of fiction and it is observed to be developed from his imagination which has been led to the development of such an image portrayed for the slaves and illiterate sections of the society. Hence, there are many chances of the actual conditions getting manipulated or ignored by the author, where he has developed an ethnographic study of the prevailing conditions in the society. The description of the culture has been very specific where the significance of the daily customs and traditions has been obtained through the lives of the slave and the Jewish merchant. This has helped in having a proper understanding of the cross cultural exposures. The culture has been witnessed through the eyes of the literates in the society and they were given the highest preference and were considered as the only eligible section of the society on the basis of which historiography would be developed. The author has very well described the various activities which are happening in the lives of the other sections and class of the society. These activities are in the form of different events which occur in the lives of these people and are in the form of births, deaths and marriage as well as having children.
The author has been successful in achieving the feat of describing and evaluating the importance of the stories and experiences through the ethnographic approach regarding the people who were slaves or belonged to the backward sections of the society. He has shown that irrespective of their illiteracy, they have been witnessing large number of incidences and experiences and this would have helped them in achieving great heights in their personal life and also improve their knowledge and skills.
Thus, the ethnographic approach of the author Amitav Ghosh has helped in contextualizing the people, that is, the slaves and the merchant, who have been studied in his works. The author has used the theory of humanity and utilitarianism which has helped him in observing the fulfillment of the virtues and values of these people. The description of culture has been very vivid, where the author has connected the working of the culture to the conditions prevailing in the society. The culture and the customs as well as traditions existing in the 12th century in India and Egypt has been linked with the cross cultural experiences and practices of the people belonging to different class in the society.


Posted on

March 10, 2018

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