Type: Analysis
Pages: 5 | Words: 1262
Reading Time: 6 Minutes

P’ Bitek defines culture as the actual celebration of philosophy in history. Human beings have organized themselves into institutions such as kingdoms, clans, age-set systems and families. The institutions are built around the people’s understanding of the purpose of life as inspired by their point of view. P’Bitek criticizes Western tradition as having a phony dichotomy between culture and philosophy. He says that the phony dichotomy can be traced to the imperialist and capitalist characteristics of the ancient Roman kingdom. The Greeks were highly cultured but unfortunately did not have the word culture in their language. Their culture was displayed through great craftsmanship, statesmanship, great philosophers, writers and poets. Just like traditional Africans, the Greeks did not realize that culture was a precious commodity which could be used to make money through leisure activities such as tourism.

Rosaldo chooses to examine culture from a point of view of anthropology. It is not possible to define the concept of culture outside anthropology. Even the freedom to think is governed and limited by the cultural practices of the places where the person was brought up. Human beings differ in the way they perform rituals, mourn/believe, brings up children, wed or bury. He gives the example of the Ilongot community and states that dogs are not simply dogs to them. They normally use their dogs for hunting. Due to this commendable job; the dogs are fed with cooked dishes such as greens and sweet potatoes.

A man from the community once injured a dog during a hunting expedition. He was very angry and frustrated on reaching home. He however did not worry about the dog since he was wondering how he was going to replace it. Another man broke down into torrents of tears after a baby pig in his stock got ill. He baby-talked, cooed and cuddled the baby pig. The Ilongot can therefore be said to value their pigs more than their dogs. It can authoritatively be said that to them pigs are the equivalent of pets. This paper compares and contrasts the two writers’ outlook on culture.


P’Bitek counters Rosaldo and argues that culture must be distinguished from the way people live since the way of life entails some political and social dimensions. Culture can be taught to students in schools and is capable of being stored in a permanent form e.g. in galleries and museums. The western nations have highly commercialized culture since it is bought in cinema halls and theatres as a leisure activity. The Western artist is highly paid for his special skills. The concept of paying an artiste is completely alien in Africa since Africans don’t view their culture as a commercial commodity.

Western nations embarked on a colonization program whereby they colonized people from Africa and the Caribbean and transported them to Western countries to work as slaves. Colonization involved imposition of European cultural practices on the slaves. P’Bitek describes the practice of having to worship Jesus as being brainwashed into worshipping a Jew hanging on a tree. While the African culture advocates for valuing the family as the core unit of existence, people were made to think that there was no problem with being monogamous, husbandless, or childless. Traditional methods of education which were effective in teaching Africans were replaced by strange teaching values in the name of education. Medical students were compelled to swear in the name of an alien Greek. The Western nations also looted cultural items from Africa. They carried masks, regalia, shields, swords, spears, pots and vases from African countries and stored them in their cathedrals and museums. P’Bitek accusses the renowned France painter Picasso for copying his drawing from a mask that had originated in West Africa.

Rosaldo does not agree with P’Bitek’s opinion on culture. Rosaldo views every culture to be unique and as diverse as a kaleidoscope. The cultural practices of humans vary from place to place. They are unpredictable and cannot match at any one point since all human beings are different. For instance, the Ilingot consider the pig as a pet while some agricultural communities consider it as a profitable domestic animal. Western nations consider the dog as a pet while the Ilingot consider a dog as a hunting partner. Rosaldo says that humans are bound to absorb new cultural practices whenever they move to a new place. He compares the experience to the time when he lost his wife and he discovered a community of people who had lost their loved ones and they had a platform to share the experiences of their ordeal together.

Crossing social boundaries is always terrifying for every individual. Rosaldo does not view the colonized as enslaved people, he considers them as new members of a dynamic and homogeneous culture. Culture is not dormant and must keep evolving from time. Some people abandon their culture creating a new room for new members to embrace the culture. The slaves were merely welcomed into a new world of civilization. The process involved was not degradation of their cultural values but it was elevation from their primitive cultural values into the more advanced Western values.

Rosaldo argues that imperialism and colonization were not completely negative processes since they had positive consequences such as the Civil Rights movement which saw slaves being treated as equals by their colonizers. P’Bitek blames anthropologists such as Rosaldo for conducting biased research based on stereotypes which enhanced cultural oppression of the colonized people. Rosaldo says that it is the research by anthropologists that empowered minority groups such as African-Americans, gay people and women to demand for their rights. It led to a social revolution that shook the foundations of the society. Culture is constructed as a result of political and historical processes within a society. All cultures are different and separate but they are equal in that no single culture is greater than the other.

Cultures are akin to works of art that have an egalitarian and a democratic aspect. Rosaldo takes issues with movies that depict imperialism positively such as “The Gods must be Crazy,” “Out of Africa,” “A Passage to India” and “Heat and Dust.” He argues that the white societies are depicted as having perfect life free from suffering while they were indeed suffering from the culture shock of living in Africa. They portray the white society as duty bound to uplift the savage natives from savagery to civilization yet all cultures are equal and no culture has the right to lord over another.


In his concluding remarks, Okot argues that African culture has been subjugated by being turned into a commercial commodity. African culture was left to cater for the tastes and interests of tourists at the expense of locals. Africa is depicted in popular media as a primitive continent whose people dwells in trees, believe in witchcraft and suffer from poverty and innumerable diseases. Political leaders are often entertained by traditional dancers at airports. The cultural departments of African universities and the cultural curriculum being taught are not based on an identifiable social philosophy rendering it irrelevant.

Rosaldo concludes by stating that in the post-colonial times, there is nothing like an autonomous static culture. People keep moving, interacting with each other, adopting new cultures and getting rid of some of their cultures. No community is homogeneous since the level of interdependence has increased as the world becomes a global village. Global inter-dependence means that cultures are being exchanged across borders and everyone has borrowed a cultural practice from somewhere else as the borders become increasingly porous and accessible. All the cultures contain aspects of domination and inequalities which everyone should unite to fight against.

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