Cultural Anthropology



Cultural anthropology is the study of people and their beliefs. This study enables the analysis of a culture by examining their patterns of behavior in a normal social context. One of the strategies used is ethnography. Ethnography is the strategy of observing a certain group of people at a specific time and location. The insight obtained from the observation provides information about the social, economic and political organization of the area. In this paper, the ethnographic scene is a Farmers Market at around midday. It consists of a detailed description of observations. It involves the description of the place and what the people were doing and their actions. It also contains an analysis of the study group in the market. The analysis shows themes such as kinship organization, the economic and social organization of the Farmers Market.

An Ethnography of a Farmers Market

Part 1: Observation

The ethnographic scene is a farmers market at 11:00 am. It is almost midday and the sun is high up in the sky. It is hot and humid. The farmers market is located off the main road in an open field. The area is set with stands and tables with an umbrella hoisted above them, booths containing crates filled with brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables. These stands and booths are lined to the right and left and a long stretch in between for the consumers. There are banners or black boards in each stand advertising the products it had. There is a concoction of smells consisting of fruity smells, onion and garlic smell and perfumes from the buyers and sellers. There is a constant buzz of activity. At one stand, there is a rugged looking man negotiating with a middle aged woman. Along the stretch, there are two women laughing and chatting away. In another stand, a woman seems to be happily conversing with the seller who seems to be educating her about something. The sellers consist of men and women from the age of 20 to 50 years. The consumers consist of more women than the men of ages 20-60 years. In general, the people in the market are a diverse ethnicity and most of them seem to be middle-class individuals. The sellers are easily distinguishable from the consumers by their attire of jeans and t-shirts, baseball hats and boots. The consumers are generally dressed in light summer clothing such as flowery dresses for women and light shirts and shorts for men.

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Part 2: Write-up

Culture anthropology is the study of cultural diversities between humans (Fernandez, 2015). Culture is a complex whole that consists of knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, customs and other habits acquired by man as a member of society (Haviland & Prins, 2014). Culture is socially learned and is passed on to next generations by enculturation. Through culture, actions of individuals are intelligible to other members of the society. Ethnography is the study of people and their beliefs. It involves observation of people at a particular place and time. In this case, the observation was done at a farmers market at 11:00 am.

The farmers market was situated in an open field off the main road. The area was surrounded by scattered buildings and the environment was serene away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Adjacent to the market was a parking lot associated with a new restaurant. The atmosphere was hot and humid. However, the lack of confining walls and roof gives the marketplace an ambiance of relaxation. There were booths and stands to the left and to the right decorated with banners and blackboards with a list of products. There were also a few sellers who used the back of their cars as stands. The highlight of color and texture from the plentiful fruits and vegetables in carts was visually stimulating. Smells of fresh products wafting in the air accompanied with pockets of peoples perfume here and there. Women wore short flowery dresses, a large hat, and sandals. The men wore loose shirts, shorts, and sandals. The consumers were mostly women than men and were of diverse ethnicities.

The market place was buzzing with loads of activities. At one stand, a white lady with blonde hair was holding a bunch of carrots and talking to the farmer at that stand. The farmer seemed to be negotiating with a lady about the price of the carrots. At another stand, a farmer was loudly announcing his produce and customers were approaching his stand. Two young ladies were laughing and using gestures as they conversed. At yet another stand, two farmers seemed to be arguing about some mangoes that had been accidentally crushed. All over the place, the farmers were negotiating prices with the consumers and the consumers were examining the product. Patterns of behavior that can be seen are communication, socialization, expression of emotion, conflict, cooperative labor, and others.

In reference to the concept of market exchange, one theme that stands out is kinship organization. Most of the consumers in the market were female. This is because in most kinship setups, the gender roles are defined and the woman is responsible for household activities such as grocery shopping. Another theme is that of economic organization. The act of exchange occurs across all cultures but nature and expectations differ (Esrich, 2015). In this case, the exchange systems include; exchange of produce for money and exchange of time and effort by the farmers’ assistants for wages. The scale of the market exchange is global since farmers and consumers come from diverse places. This brings in more prospective buyers and a higher income for the farmers which paints a picture of a thriving economy.

Communication is another anthropological concept portrayed in this study group. A major theme identifiable is social organization. One pattern of behavior seen is socialization.  Farmers markets are a fun activity because it is a great time for social interaction (O’Boyle, 2017). This is true because in this case since the farmers are seen conversing with the consumers. Through this socialization, the farmer is able to educate the consumers about his produce, negotiate prices and obtain loyal customers. From the interaction, the farmers seemed happy to interact with the consumers which shows that they placed more value in the relationships created than just making sales.

Upon reflection of the experiment, interviewing of the consumers and sellers would definitely have helped the analysis. The interview would have helped obtain some insights on the consumers’ opinion about the product and farmers’ opinion on the performance of their business and the general feeling of visiting a farmers market. I was definitely nostalgic due to the whole experience as it brought back memories of previous visits with my parents.

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In conclusion, the observation of an ethnographic scene is an interesting strategy to study a cultural group. In this scenario, observation of a farmers market gave some clues about the kinship organization, economic organization and social organization of the study group.

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  1. Esrich, S. (2015). Gone to Market: Farmers Market participation in Burlington, Vermont. UVM College of Arts and Science, 5(5), 10-30.
  2. Haviland, W., & Prins, H. (2014). Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge (14th ed.). Belmont, NY: Cengage Learning.
  3. Hernendez, J., & Hanchette, S. (2015). Anthropology.
  4. O’Boyle, B. (2017). The 44th Farmers Market opens with sunshine, crafts and food. Times Leader, 2(10), 3-4.
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