THE OPERATING ROOM AS A STUDY IN CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY
Imagine yourself dropped off on an island, or perhaps even another planet, with living beings who appear similar to humans that you know. You know little to nothing about who they are, what their lives are like, what things they do, how they do things, how they interact as a group. You may not know their language, and you definitely don’t know anything about their shared traditions. You don’t know their values and stories. All you know is that you are in a place with different sights, smells, sounds than anyplace you have ever been before, surrounded by other beings who seem very different from any you have experienced and who are doing things that appear to be a bit crazy and frightening.
You may have just “discovered” a previously unknown culture. Or you may be in the operating room.
Are you familiar with Margaret Mead? Allow me to briefly introduce her work to you. Dr. Mead was an anthropologist largely credited with advancing the field of cultural anthropology by immersing herself with the groups she studied in Samoa and New Guinea. Cultural anthropology is distinct from other types of anthropology in that it focuses on cultural variation among humans. Because of this, cultural anthropology can provide a meaningful lens for someone new to an existing cultural environment.