- Describe the process of “reconstruction of identity” and how rearranging symbols can create new realities. Obviously, people do not just manipulate their own symbol systems, but may also try to place others into their own preconceived view of things despite all the evidence to the contrary. Describe the conflicts that you saw in John Marshall’s last film titled Death by a Myth, and explain why the Ju’hoansi were never allowed to control their own destiny.
Identity reconstruction involves evident diversification in social relationships when individuals encounter cultural changes. This diversification of social interactions can come about as a result of many behavioral impetuses provided by the need for both individual differentiation, and collective expression. As groups come across new experiences, values change and, as a consequence, societies end up going through continuous metamorphosis. Inevitably, at certain times every person’s social experiences (both past, and present) do in general tend to generate renewed interest as some aspects of these experiences become more meaningful and others less so. This represents the process of identity reconstruction.
Social groups have the inherent need to perpetuate their norms and practices and this coupled with the dynamic nature of culture leads to the emergence of new individual and group identities. As people transform their social behaviors, society changes to reflect these transformations or reconstructions in identity. Symbols, on the other hand, are the main vehicles, through which culture is represented. Symbolic forms are the means, through which social processes of sharing modes of behavior and outlook within a community take place (Hannerz, 1969). Symbols, such as language, daily rituals, religion, beliefs, art forms and stories are what constitute culture (Swidler, 1986). However, since culture is a manifestation of individual expression, any rearranging of these symbols leads to new realities.
In John Marshall’s film Death by a Myth, a community’s organization is changed by external influences, such that they have to change their culture and accept new ways of living. The conflict here takes the form of individuals forced to modify their way of living and change their cultural perspectives. The fact that they are constantly misrepresentated by different generations of other communities is also a poignant representation of this conflict. The Ju/’Hoansu are unable to control their destiny because of the effects of cultural change that comes about as a result of influences and cultural perceptions of other communities. Death by a Myth lucidlydepicts the change that the Ju’hoansi goes through from a hunter gatherer society to the almost disastrous ways of life in the present time while having to endure injustices, such as racism and other foreign cultural ideas. Their fate is also brought out as a bleak one, since they are seen to have no control over their future. It is important to note that the Bedouin society has had an almost spiritual relationship to the lands they have lived in for many generations, and have been averse to economic progress they view as destructive to their way of life and traditions.
- Use Marx’s concepts of a dialectical relationship between the infrastructure, structure and superstructure to examine the various parts of Bedouin society, and explain what influence these changes have had on the central paradox of Bedouin society and how the Bedouins have managed to retain much of their cultural integrity by the adoption of their traditional concepts into the new realities of their existence
The Bedouin society has gone through a great deal of social change from a completely nomadic way of life to an urbanized society with the subsequent impacts on political economic and family aspects of life. In Marx’s view, the dialectic must see the various opposing forces in the society which could lead to members of the society to attempt to overturn or revolutionize the status quo. Some of the most thorny issues that the Bedouin society have had to deal with over a long period of time relate to economy, housing, land, immigration and many more. The most prevalent outside view of the Bedouins has been that of a marginalized community with quite serious problems.
Most of the available research and studies have pointed out the perceived discrimination against the Bedouin society and the subsequent hardships and crises including crime, violence and pervasive alienation that they have had to undergo (Ben-David, 2004). But the conflict that has been brought about as a result of the severe social issues that have plagued the Bedouin, when examined from Marx’s dialectic perspective, is the very avenue through which the Bedouin society’s both plight, and solution is becoming evident to the Bedouins themselves and the world at large. The conflicts between indigenous Bedouins and other communities mostly arise due to the disparity between traditional Bedouin nomadic lifestyle and modern society. These conflicts revolve around the issues of property land identity culture and equitable distribution of resources.
Nonetheless, the Bedouins have managed to avoid falling under government authority of whatever form, and have not ceased to exist in their traditional tribal forms even with the advent of nation-states. They have either remained the same or evolved into different kind of tribal organization. In some cases, it is the advent of states that have promoted the Bedouin tribes to co-exist with these states while maintaining their autonomy. So the Bedouin have managed to retain much of their cultural integrity because the state as perceived through western ideas in terms of institutions and socialization is not viewed in the same way by these tribes.
“the very process of state formation across the Middle
East and North Africa during the last century has led to the voluntary or forced
breakup of traditional forms of tribal authority and the erosion of old tribal
loyalties; the result has been the emergence of new groupings and movements that
retain certain tribal characteristics but that are also heavily conditioned and
shaped by other factors, including class, ethnicity, and even nationalism.” (Khoury & Kostiner , 1990).
As such the Bedouins have managed to retain much of their cultural integrity by the maintaining much of their traditional concepts into the new realities of the modern world because it has been to their advantage to remain in their traditional tribal loyalties rather than become fully a part of fully fledged states.