This major division of anthropology deals with the study of culture. It is an aspect that uses methods, concepts, and data to describe and analyze the diversity of different people in the world. In other words, this discipline is used by the anthropologists to study the human culture in terms of its distinctiveness and similarities. Furthermore, this dynamic process focuses on not only different cultures but also the social conflicts that arise in the global perspective. Thus, it means that cultural anthropology enhances the research on the ways of people in the ancient times and those living in modern world.
This research uses qualitative methods to provide a detailed description of everyday life and practice. In other words, this approach to social science aims to interpret culture. In this case, an ethnographer gives more details to explain how the present cultures are constructed. More to say, an ethnographer gives an insider’s point of view based on critical analysis and meanings instead of using reports from the existing models. Thus, ethnography is developed through a close exploration of several sources of data to develop an analysis of present culture.
Ethnology is one of the branches of anthropology that conducts research of a particular group based on the data derived from ethnography. Therefore, unlike ethnography, this branch deals with a single group to derive an interpretation and explanations about the cultural aspects of a particular social group. Ethnology is also a dynamic process because there are continuous changes of cultural activities and linguistics in different groups.
The concept of cultural relativism proposes that the beliefs and activities of an individual are based on his or her own culture. Therefore, there is no culture that is superior to the other, and every culture is valid according to what an individual believes in and practices. For these reasons, the moral and ethical systems vary across cultures, and social sciences cannot absolutely dictate what is right or wrong.
There are different ethnographic techniques. These are participant-observation, using genealogical method, workshop module, gathering of cases, and interviewing key informants.
Interviews/ Oral History Project: Interviewing my Grandmother.
What was life like growing up?
When I was growing up as a little boy, I was expected to be perfect in performing duties such as looking after my father’s camels and goats. Secondly, there were no formal schools, and information was passed to young people in oral form. Moreover, when I matured into adulthood, I had to follow the societal norms and cultural to get married and start a family. Interestingly, the parents had a say in choosing the bride for their sons. After getting married, I was expected to take responsibility for my family.
Explain something about social relations: Family life, including nuclear and extended family, marriage etc.
The family formed a primarily component in society. In every family, parents provided guidance to ensure that their children conformed to societal norms. Secondly, love and respect were key principles in our family, despite the fact that my father had three wives. As a result, although the nuclear families included parents and their children, usually, these families looked extended. Unlike in modern times, when men marry one wife and have fewer children, in our times, a man could marry up to six wives and have many children. In addition, our communities treated each other as a family; therefore, we lived like an extended family. For instance, older women would help the younger ones in child-delivery even if they were not related by blood. On the other hand, men were the head of the family, and they owned property and livestock. The responsibilities of the mother were tied to childrearing and farming.
What were the traditional religious practices?
Among the Muslim communities, the most notable practice is fasting from dawn to dusk in the Holy month of Ramadhan. Muslims follow this practice to honor the fourth pillar of Islam.
Describe some aspects of the lifestyles (food, clothing etc)
There were different lifestyles in our culture. In most cases, regular meals included cereals, milk, and meat from either chicken or goats. However, on special occasions, camels were slaughtered. Additionally, the Arab women wore a very long piece of cloth called abaya, and hijabs as the headscarf. Some women also cover their face, except for the eyes, with a niqab that is worn on top of the hijab. In the modern times, the dressings among the Arabian women have not changed significantly.
What type of entertainment did they engage in?
There are different forms of entertainment enjoyed by the Arabian people. These include Arab dances and sports. Interestingly, these forms of entertainment are developed to fit the conditions of the UAE location in the desert. For instance, because camels are commonly found in the desert, they are used for races. Arabs also enjoyed boat riding. In their traditional making, the boats were very long compared to the modern ones. It was quite exciting despite the struggle to ride the boats that did not have engines like the current motorboats.
What type of education if any was available?
Although formal education was introduced in the UAE long time ago, most girls were not enrolled in schools. One of the reasons for keeping girls out of schools is the tradition that females are supposed to take care of their families. These responsibilities did not require any form of formal literacy. Moreover, the only knowledge that girls required was passed on by their grandmothers. On the other hand, males have always been treated as powerful and authoritative, and therefore, it was logical that boys were allowed to access formal education. However, as modernity continued to influence the Arab traditions, gradually, the girls started to go to school. For instance, the efforts of human rights activists were crucial to changing the mentality of keeping the girls from accessing education opportunities. Notably, religious leaders also provided teachings to the young people to nourish their spiritual wellbeing.
What type of work, business, or trade did they engage in?
The traditions of Arab culture dictated that women should never access the opportunities in the formal sector. Rather, their duties involved childrearing and other domestic chores. Most girls were married at tender ages, and they had to depend on their husbands to provide the basic needs. Secondly, their commercial activities were facilitated through barter trade with commodities such as camels and milk. However, as the UAE started to explore businesses in the oil industries, the economy has grown significantly. Thus, Arabs have opened commercial channels to international markets.
What was the role of men and women?
Similar to many other communities, there existed a division of labor between men and women. Thus, males had the duty to protect their families. They were more powerful and authoritative than women, and therefore, they owned land and other property. On the contrary, women were treated with inferiority, a view that subjected them to familial responsibilities and chores. Thus, women performed domestic jobs such as cooking, laundry, and looking after children. Unfortunately, cases of violence and abuse towards women were common as men expected them to be submissive and obedient. They also denied women the opportunity to access formal education and economic activities.
What was the system of leadership?
Unlike many countries, there were no structures for politics in the UAE, and the leadership was hereditary. Therefore, the rulers came from the same family and ruled for many generations.
What is his/her opinion about the present development of the UAE? Expats, Economic Development, Culture, Is the rapid development posing a threat to Emirati culture?
Many changes transform the Arabic people and pose a threat to Emirati culture. For instance, a significant number of women access formal education, and some of them are even successful entrepreneurships. Secondly, cases of intermarriages have increased significantly. On the other hand, various developments contribute to economic progress, especially, due to oil exports. As the result of economic growth, there are notable improvements in modern infrastructure and access to social services.
What do you know and remember about Sheikh Zayed?
He was the youngest son of the Highness Sheikh Sultan. He transformed the economy based on oil businesses. As the oil revenues increased, he introduced various social programs to construct public buildings such as hospitals and schools. He also enhanced an equitable distribution of agricultural resources.
Personal Opinion, Summary, and Reflection
Based on the responses of the interview, it is undeniable that the traditions in the UAE have transformed significantly. The increased revenues from sales of oil have helped the government to improve the welfare of its citizens. Nowadays, they can access social services and government programs. In other words, the country experiences economic transformation that enhances the access of women to commercial activities. However, their traditional dressing is still prevalent. Thus, women dress in abaya and hijabs, and Islam is the widespread religion.