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Monday, May 23, 2011

Anthropological Interpretations in a Library Setting

Part of studying Anthropology and Archaeology is about being able to observe a person in a surrounding that’s foreign to them. Today, however, this observation took place at the university library. Two Muslim women were conversing, not in their full hijab, with an IPhone in hand and thick book entitled “Business Leadership”.

They barely looked away from each other and never made eye contact with anyone in the room besides each other. In the wake of the happenings in Pakistan, I could feel others peering their way. Gazes were piercing and most people chose to sit a table away from them. I don’t believe they were aware that I was observing their interactions, although I never planned to, as I was researching some journal pieces for the blog.

I don’t have any feelings of disdain or anger towards them, just questions, and I wanted the truth. In America, most of us interpret a lack of eye contact as disrespect, yet these women were not speaking or conversing with me and why would they? I’m a complete stranger trying to strip away there head cover and figure out why they choose to wear a covering when it’s 90 degrees outside. I know most of these women chose to wear a head covering at their own accord. They don’t feel it’s necessary to show what only their husbands should see. I can certainly appreciate this belief, yet I sit with my arms uncovered and blond locks trickling down my back. Am I a common harlot to them? Is this why they don’t show me respect when I smile at them?

This semester I’ll be including more personal accounts of mine, as I’m surrounded by old dusty anthropology and archaeology books in the archives of the library. I’ve also made a concrete connection with an Indian gentleman who will instruct me on some of the customs of his country and what the residents there actually think of Pakistan, their neighbor.


Ratty said...

Very interesting post. I sometimes wonder what some people from other cultures are thinking too. I think in their case it may be hard to change something that has been taught to them from birth. But just the fact that these women were looking at a book about business leadership may be a good start.

health and wealth said...

I am glad to read this as I am interested in ancient history.

lina said...

I know I can't speak on behalf of those two women but as for myself, another Muslim woman from a Muslim country - not Pakistan though - why would I label you a common harlot because you chose to have your arms or hair uncovered? And why is it special about two hijab wearing woman reading about business leadership, pray tell? A Muslim woman is the governor of Central Bank of Malaysia.

It's easy to judge when somebody chooses to be confident about their belief (and BTW, not all Muslims supports Osama bin Laden)

Lauren Axelrod said...


I know there are many Muslim women in government and high power positions, but the business book was just an observation, as all I did was observe the title and state it in the post. I'm also aware that many Muslims, especially in Afghanistan, do not support the Taliban as their husbands ans children were murdered by them and now they're living in caves with no running water or food.

These views are my observations about the women and the people around them. I don't subscribe to a religion therefore it's a bit difficult to place these women in my belief niche because it doesn't exist.

I was observing their nonverbal communication. I was not judging them as you stated, I actually wrote clearly in the post "I don’t have any feelings of disdain or anger towards them." Yes, Americans do make eye contact when they converse, but I also stated why would they talk to me? They had no reason to.

This exercise is just a common anthropological practice. Not every Muslim women feels the same about American women not covering up, as I've spoken to them and they agree that the body should be a temple and it's reserved for their husband.

Thanks for your comments Lina.

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