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Book Review - Anthropology.docx

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Chemical Engineering
Joe Kim

1 Book Review – The Wayfinders By:AmritAulak TeachingAssistant: Geeta Balkissoon Student Number: 1150270 Course:Anthropology 1A03 Date: Monday, October 31 , 2011 2 The novel Wayfinders is a fascinating investigation of cultural diversity throughout the world. Written by one of the most famous modern day anthropologists, Wade Davis, the book revolves around the dangers presented by the imminent loss of human culture. The timeline of this novel goes back to 60,000 years ago when archaeologists speculate that humans began to first leave the continent ofAfrica, believed to be home to the first evidence of humanity. Over the course of 40,000 years, we as a species have spread across the other continents. The Neothilic revolution arrived 10,000 years ago, when humans began to harness plants and animals allowing them to generate surplus amounts of food. This was a major stepping stone for civilization as it led to the development of designated specialties.Another jump in the timeline brings us to a mere 400 years ago, where the book investigates the expansion of European colonies and the ramifications it had on pre-existing cultures. Finally, the book looks at today’s world; how our views of culture have changed, and how we must actively preserve the Earth’s fastest disappearing resource, our way of life. The setting of the book, Wayfinders, explores a multitude of remote areas, starting with the Kalahari Desert of EasternAfrica, home to the San people. Next is Polynesia; the collection of Islands throughout the Pacific Ocean, where the Marquesans actively maintain a sustainable lifestyle. Likewise, Spanish settlers also held an important role in the story, as their arrival permanently changed the lives of the natives. The Spanish are present again in the next chapter, where the story moves to theAmazon rainforest.Although many groups of indigenous cultures from the populated area of the rainforest are mentioned, the Waorani are explained in more explicit detail.Additionally, the Barasana of Northern Columbia are discussed and the novel briefly touches upon the people of theAndes, the Inca and their use of the coca plant.Another unique culture that is reviewed is theAboriginals ofAustralia and Canada, and their profound way of life. The Penan, who reside in South EastAsia, are regarded 3 as the last people solely unaffected by modernization. These people mark another critical interval in the theme of ethnic diversity. Furthermore, assimilation of the Buddhist Monks of Tibet and the nomadic Rendille people creates new topics of discussion.As a final point, the book ends with one of the most frightening examples of cultural loss, which are the Inuit people of Canada. In my perspective, the writer’s main objective is bring to light the real danger caused by the death of ethnic diversity. The book talks about the loss of cultures in the past due to the assimilation of many indigenous people.Although it would seem that our current global direction of linguistically uniting seems appealing, it also presents serious drawbacks that are often overlooked. As Wade Davis so elegantly writes, language is not merely a collection of vocabulary and grammar, but a style of living. Within that, stories, beliefs, religions, and ideas, are all synthesized and developed.Aloss of a language is the social equivalent to a species going extinct.Another benefit of these lifestyles is the idea of sustainability; it often is evident that cultures not under the influence of “westernization” have less permanent impact on the world. Thus, as a culture dies, it inevitably takes with it all of its knowledge and concepts, only sometimes leaving behind mere artifacts of a civilization that once existed. Ultimately, the author is trying to convey the message that no one culture is superior, or correct, but that all cultures have aspects of immeasurable value that contribute to the ethno-sphere of this planet. From my perspective, the author does complete his stated objectives. Wade Davis clearly emphasizes the purpose of the book early on and from there presents startling evidence in his favour. The author begins with the fundamental philosophy that all humans are equal; giving us further reason to believe that there is no hierarchy or superiority among races. He reveals that people are so selfishly absorbed in their own culture that they have an irrational fear of other ways of living, which leads them to treating others so poorly that it is a disgrace to humanity 4 itself. In the most extreme cases of “weeding out” the lesser races, genocide is described in horrible detail as the systematic and cruel extermination of a group of people based on their race, culture or descent. In other instances, assimilation occurs not because of irrational or extreme ideologies, rather it is due to ignorance, specifically the inability to understand and truly appreciate a different way of thinking. The novel includes an alarming amount of examples where a rural group of people are pressured into industrialization, which causes dependence on money and education systems that have been dictated by the government of an industrialized society. By denying
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