Culture and Comparative Perspective Essay

Submitted By pixieface
Words: 1610
Pages: 7

....Adolescence....Can be seen as a problem that society has created
Montgomery, 2007, p. 70 ‘’How does a comparative perspective help us to appreciate that the experience of adolescence is determined by social and cultural forces’’? During this TMA I will show how a comparative perspective is helpful in understanding that adolescence is not a rigid, universal form that applies to each young person and is often understood to be so in the Western world, but instead is related to social and cultural circumstances and how this differs depending on the culture we look at. We will look at various different examples of comparative studies and we will also look at the importance of Anthropological field work in helping us see that youth is dependent on society and circumstance and does not always have to be a problematic time. We will look specifically at the field work of Margaret Mead in Samoa and her findings. We will also see how the comparative perspective helps us deal with a huge diversity amongst young people and their rites of passage as they grow from adolescents into adults. We will see how different cultures produce differences in young people and how understanding this is achieved by using the comparative perspective. We will start with how we can use a comparative perspective to see that the experiences of young people are geographically different and that when we think of Western adolescents having problematic transitions, these times differ greatly to those in other cultures and places. The concept that youth is a time of struggle and stress is generally a Western understanding of youth. We can look further at this by looking at an example of Social Anthropology, which is a study of human behaviour and involves comparing different cultures by actually being within the culture being studied. The importance of field work has improved the once un-experienced comparisons of cultures from an outside perspective, usually just taken from books or outside observations and making judgements that way. Field work means living alongside the chosen culture, usually in a traditional and non-industrial setting outside of Europe, for a long period of time and living life as they do, often attempting to speak the language also. It is an important framework for appreciating the contrasts between cultures and allowing us to make insightful comparisons. It is an account taken from inside rather than outside. We can use these studies to see that society is the cause of young people’s sometimes problematic journey to adulthood rather than it being a fixed state for every young person and that society is to blame for the problems young people may encounter due to the bombardment of personal choices. If we look at the fieldwork of Margaret Mead in Samoa in the 1920’s, we can use her findings to establish that the stormy transition for western adolescents is not always seen in other cultures due to huge differences, there is a more marked transition and the multitude of choices offered to young people in Western culture is overloading them with too much and society offers them a mixed array of choices that can lead to confusion and stressful times. Although Mead’s work can be disputed by the fact that she went with the intention of disproving that stormy adolescence is universal and has been said that she may have overlooked many things due to this, it still shows important conclusions. She claimed that the Samoans rites of passage were more clearly marked and the problems of Western civilisation were due to sexual repression. The Samoans viewed sexual journeys with enjoyment and were not bombarded with complex choices and sexually repressed; she felt this was important in understanding and refuting the concept that times of stress for teenagers were due to biological changes and more to do with society and surroundings. Using her comparative perspective we can see that it is important to look at differences culturally and use