The critical analysis examines the “Too Many Bananas, Not Enough Pineapples, and No Watermelon at All: Three Object Lessons in Living with Reciprocity” article, by David Counts. The article presents a few real-life stories that happened with the family of anthropologists when they were living in Kalai village and tried to assimilate to the local culture and, most importantly, the lessons they learned out of this experience. Article’s key argument is not clearly stated, instead, it is reconstructed implicitly from the stories and lessons presented in it. The main argument of this article is that one cannot take a different culture for granted and assume that they understand it based on some experience and knowledge they have about this culture as in reality representatives of a different cultures might be guided by motives that are not evident for people with other cultural mindsets.
The most important information in the article comprises of clearly formulated lessons and detailed account of researchers’ experience of interactions with locals. The lessons present the analytical substance of this article while the vivid stories offer context and offer a detailed account of how researchers’ attitudes towards and interpretations of their communication with locals changed over time.
The key concepts we need to understand in the article are the concepts of reciprocity, cultural norms, and cultural communication styles. Reciprocity refers to the practice of sharing of all key resources within the community in the form of exchanging gifts. Cultural norms represent the common way of approaching certain matter within the community that constitutes a common sense way of handling this matter which is easily recognized and understood by fellow members of certain community. Cultural communication styles refer to cultural differences in how people approach communication which includes the motives for interactions, expectations of others, key concepts that guide the direction of communication, and the aim of communication perused by people of different cultures.
The main assumption underlying the author’s thinking is that no matter how much experience one has living in a different culture, there always will things people regard from standpoint of their native culture which may not hold true in the other culture. If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the key implication is that understanding a different culture is genuinely impossible as in getting to know a different culture one merely learns how to interpret the new culture with the help of values, concepts, and norms relevant within their own culture. In other words, one never learns how to properly function in a different culture, but only how to translate it to terms that make sense in the culture he belongs to.
The article makes a valid point and does a good job presenting it in vivid and convincing way. The described experience of living in the village that functions on reciprocity principle in the form of specific stories that took place offers a good demonstration to the article’s key arguments. Further, the articulated thoughts and accounts of situations offer an important insights into how researchers’ perception worked, which demonstrates that even after having lived in the village for a long time their thinking was still structured around predominantly Western narratives, including the desire for fair exchange and individualism. All in all, the article presents a graphic demonstration of the main claim.
The reviewed article does a good job describing the misunderstandings that arise out of cultural differences between researchers and villagers. In doing so, the article highlights a few norms and practices that function within this community, however, it does not offer a comprehensive account of how is social and economic life structured in this community, thus, depriving the reader of a greater context for making guesses and assumptions while reading. Perhaps, readers’ limited knowledge about the context has helped the author to bring his main point across.