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mercoledì 1 novembre 2017

Anthropology of Globalization for Global Governance #08 & #09

30 and 31 October 2017. Time to begin to read with this class, presented in two parts (part one, part two). So far, we have discussed three main dimensions of culture, its being acquired, shared and symbolic, but we didn’t touch yet the methodological question. How do we investigate this strange thing we name culture? We don’t have time to read a real methodological essay, so we subsume method from a theoretical reading, namely one of the most important essays of cultural anthropology of XX century, Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture (1973), by Clifford Geertz.

We insisted a lot on the difference between thin and thick description, with the twitch/wink example (by Gilbert Ryle) and other fictive case studies (the alien ethnographer rematerialized in a Church during a Baptism ceremony). We came up to the point that a true thin description is impossible, and we humans wander among unintended descriptions void of their meaning for we are (culturally, not cognitively) unable to understand it because of a lack of interpretive work.
Another way to put it is that description is the wrong term for this type of game. Description should be replaced with interpretation, which is the real activity for an anthropologist on the field. If culture is a web of signs, we have no other tool than interpretation to understand it. This is what Geertz explains to us in his essay, the interpretive necessity. Pay attention now. He wants to explain us the necessity of using interpretation for understanding cultural reality (since culture is semiotic in its essence) and in order for us to achieve that point, he does practice in the essay and asks us to practice as readers the interpretive approach. If we want to understand what interpretation means according to Geertz, we have to follow him while he practises interpretation in understanding what his informant (an old Jewish merchant named Cohen) tells him. But “to follow him” means that we have to interpret his interpretations of what Cohen tells him, which indeed is a collection of interpretations of what Cohen remembers of the way he has experienced some strange events in his young life, some fifty years before recollecting those facts for the anthropologists. Yet, “if we want to understand” means in its turn that we have to interpret all this stuff for our didactic purposes (after all, we want to learn how to do ethnography, the real goal of this class). To sum it up, to learn what interpretation is, we have to interpret what an anthropologist writing an essay has interpreted of his own fieldnotes, taken while interpreting an old Jewish merchant who was interpreting the recollections of a strange sequence of good and bad interpretations by himself, some Berbers and some French soldiers. Bottom line? If we want to learn interpretation, we have to practise it.
Now, think of the further paradox, which is a university professor who wants to teach all this stuff. I have to add a further layer of interpretation, hoping you can grasp all that it entails (the interpretations of interpretations of interpretations…). Needless to say, “you can grasp” means that you can interpret my interpretation in the correct way…

This is the reason why most of class was devoted to interpret just a couple of pages, where Geertz reports his fieldnotes from the conversation with Cohen. If we read them as a thin description (without a real meaning), those pages are boring and useless, but if we spend the necessary time and study to interpret them in the right way, they are incredibly rich a source of information. Not only about a young Jewish merchant, but also about what it was to be a minority those years in that area, what was French colonialism, what was violence and honour and feud and oppression and irony and cultural sharing and cultural misunderstanding and lots of other Ochobo-like cultural things.
If you have understood why the French put the poor Cohen in prison when he came back with his ’ar I am the happiest professor in the world, because it means you have properly applied the interpretive method. And if you applied it, that means you know how to use it, and that means you know what it means. You have understood the ethnographic interpretive method because you have understood what an old Jewish merchant almost half a century ago told to an American anthropologist. Good point, you are on the verge of becoming a real ethnographer. Now you can apply the same method to other realities. Study carefully what Geertz explains about the interpretive method and its consequences and then come back here to answer this question.

Q1. Bring me a relevant example when you had to apply with care the interpretive method to escape from a thorny situation (as did Cohen with the French Captain, or the Berber rebels with the Marmushans, or the anthropologist with the merchant).

55 commenti:

Grace Mageka ha detto...

In our day to day living we experience many thorny situations. Before I embarked for my studies abroad, I was a human rights advocate and political activist in my country, together with other social movements and civil society organizations we used to be at the forefront to ensure the government stopped the oppressions of oppositions supporters, human rights violations and extra judicial killings of civil servants and lawyers, human rights activists being killed by the government. Therefore, taking the case of Cohen, the Jewish merchant with the French captain, the activists and opposition supporters can be likened to Cohen and the government likened to the French captain. Standing for the transparency, truth and justice in any society is not easy. Social justice activists are jailed tortured and their lives threatened, the opposition supporters have no say since they are not part the crippled government or regime but good news is that after all the injustices and all kinds of prejudices no man is above law. We have a constitution that protects everyone and working institutions of governance where justice prevails and that is how we escape from the thorny situation.

emmanuel Krah Plarhar ha detto...

QUESTION 1

Applying interpretive method was something I didn’t know I had used before until this lesson. During my childhood my Grandfather usually took me to visit his old folks in the village. I was always curious about things done back there and observation was one thing I was good at. I observed everything done including the way certain foods were made, some traditional rituals done, how people made their farms and practices done on it. I knew that observing such practices would not help unless I asked questions. I was a young Ethnographer at that period who was confused of certain practices of people and their culture. What I was experiencing at that moment was just a thin description of the practice because it was just the physical aspect and that was not enough. I had to seek meaning and understanding which would comprise of the thick description. I had no idea what a scarecrows used on maize farms was because I didn’t know the significance of it. It is a symbol which signifies something. I got to know its significance and meaning when I asked my grandfather. Let’s bring the alien ethnographer in this situation, imagine he has no idea of what a scarecrow is. He sees it as a symbol in the middle of the farm that’s what it felt like and in order to get the meaning of it he has to ask questions, do interviews and understand certain meanings. He upon getting information, he would be told that it is used to scare off crows and other animals from destroying the maize. It’s more like Cohen explaining what his “AR” was. It’s a symbol that represents something and in order to understand what it is he has to explain it. I had no ideas at that moment to get an informant to tell me stuff or write myself a journal only a professional ethnographer knows
Upon reading Geertz, I understood that in order to understand culture one must know the detailed microscopic description of that culture or practice which entails both thin and thick descriptions. Although I applied certain interpretive methods that wasn’t enough. Getting hold of a meaning of certain practices done in a culture is sometimes difficult and the interpretation of it takes many channels. In the situation of Geertz, he had to contact Cohen and also contact an interpreter which made his essay perfect. So one thing I did to clear my thin description was to ask questions and that’s how I escaped from a thorny situation of curiosity.

elettra schininà ha detto...

Thanks to these lectures I'am understanding a lot of subconscious behaviors that all of us has. I'm glad to KNOW them and see how they are, with little but fundamental differences, in each of us. The need to escape from a throne station happened to everyone, from the smallest age. you have to defense yourself, or better as we said during the lecture you have to save you face, when you are telling something, or telling something to another person, in particular if it is a situation like the one of Cohen. There are a lot of examples that I can do, but one that could be the most relevant is when you are braking up with your girlfriend/boyfriend. It could seem a stupid example but is the most thorny situation that a human (I think) can meet. You love this man, and do not want to hurt him, but you don't love him anymore as your boyfriend. It's a huge problem, you have to explain to him that the thing is over, you have known each others for years. In that situation you can't give him a thin description of you feelings, you have to explain it in a way that seems you're not the bad woman. So you have to give a huge and dense meaning of the "news" but trying to telling it in a way you save your face. Everyone had met a situation like this and everyone for sure had tried to tell the thing "saving its own face".

Francesco Bono ha detto...

A thorny situation where usually I get involved is the invitation issue. Whenever I throw a party or a dinner at my place, or whenever I decide to do go out at night, it is always a problem to decide the people who will join me. Obviously real friends are not the issue at stake in this discourse. Rather, I want to stress the attention on those people who are neither acquaintances nor friends, but with whom I find myself to spend a lot of time together: when it comes to organize something, they are always a problem to deal with. I include them quite often in my plans, because I interpreter they would not like the opposite and I do not want to be considered unpolite. When it comes to them to organize something and I accept their invitation, the situation is symmetrical. It is a Berbers/Marmusha situation, because we both avoid useless annoyances and we do what is morally right. However, if I invite them for the reason stated above and, although they don’t want to come, they accept my invitation, it would be even more fun. They interpreter the invitation like: “if you will not come you will hurt me and you will lose your face with me”, whereas I do not really mind whether they come or not. Therefore, many times it happens that neither the inviting, nor the invited want to spend some time together, but they do it just because of a general misinterpretation, thinking it is the only way to escape what both considered a thorny situation. It is a Cohen/Dumari situation.

Marco Siniscalco ha detto...

When I was a child I went to India with my father. The country’s abundant and multi-layered cultures are strongly influenced by religious and spiritual themes. Assuming that there is only a single integrated Indian culture is a common misconception because, instead, there surely are integrating themes that connect the variegated cultures. India’s cultural inheritance is shown through its innumerable languages in which much great literature and poetry has been written. It can be perceived in its music - both in its classical forms and in present Bollywood music. The country also has an extensive tradition of classical and folk dances. Art and theatre prosper amongst the busy cities of the nation, against the background of the ever-expanding western influences.
Indians give a lot of importance to their family system. Usually, an Indian’s family includes what would be called the extended family in the west. It is customary for Indians to live as part of the paternal family unit during their lives (sons live together with their parents their entire lives, and daughters live with their parents till they get married). The relationship is respectively self-supporting. Parents may give assistance to their children for longer than is customary in the west, brothers and sisters may support themselves mutually, and sons should take care of their parents when they become old. Therefore, “living with parents” does not carry the same meaning as in the US or in other western countries, for instance.
While I was in India hosted by a local family, I remember very well the kind of relationship that the boys (including adults) had with their mothers, kind of “mummy’s boys” let’s say. Fortunately, asking several questions to my father who consequently explained to me the importance that the Indians gave to their family system, I avoided asking the Indian boys/men why they were so emotionally attached to their mothers, escaping from a thorny situation.

martina forbicini ha detto...

When I first began to attend the high school, I started to go out at night quite often. Anyhow, I had to respect the curfew: I could not go back home after 11 pm since my parents were worried about me walking back alone in the dark road we used to live in. I remember once, I really wanted to join a party for Halloween, but I would have come back after midnight; that same afternoon, I asked for permission to come back later than usual to my mum. She was fine with the idea, but she wanted my dad to agree as well: he was at work and he would have not come back before 10 pm so I called him to let him know but he didn’t answer. I texted him too but still he was not replying my messages. After waiting for a couple of hours, my friends had arrived to pick me up and at that point it was too late to refuse the invitation. So, I spent the night out and I went back at 1 am: my father was waiting for me in the living room, seeming quite upset because of this. I had not studied Geertz and its Interpretative theory of cultures by that time but only now I realize I did applied the same methodology in that moment. I apologized but explaining my point: I interpreted the silence of my dad on the issue as a permission to go, I did not think he was busy and couldn’t check the phone, but I just believed he approved it and didn’t reply because he didn’t have anything in contrary to say. As Cohen pretends to interpret the lack of interest from Captain Dumari as a verbal authorization, so I considered the lack of answer from my dad as a permission to overrun the curfew. In both cases, the misunderstanding was intentional in order not to lose one’s face and handle the thorny situation.

Silvia Marcelli ha detto...

I guess that an example of a thorny situation in which you may use the methodological method to escape from it, it is the interrogation moment. When I was in high school it happened very often that when a professor called someone to be interrogated, he/she might happen not to be properly prepared for it. In such situation, two ways could be followed: the first one you kind of accept your destiny and thus take a bad mark; or else you may try to give some kind of explanation being able to escape from this situation hurtless, even "saving your face". The second possibility has happened to me. Indeed once I was not prepared for a chemistry interrogation and when the professor called me I tried to think in my mind to some kind of excuses in order to pass on the interrogation, and the only thing that came to my mind was that in previous lesson I asked her some clarification on the next interrogations and if she would have called someone next lesson. At the time I knew neither Geertz nor his interpretative theory of cultures, but when the moment of necessity came I applied his methodology without knowing. At the time I was sure I was applying someone else's methodology. Indeed I remembered what my grandma used to say,: "silence equals approval". And that was basically my argumentation that day: I started saying that since she did not reply to my question in the previous lesson, I took that silence as a no to the interrogation and thus I was not properly prepared for that day. Might seem like a silly excuse right now but back then it literally save me from a bad mark and a huge embarrassment in front of my class and the professor. I can say that somehow Geertz's work kind of "save my face that day" in a very thorny situation.

Federica Barbera ha detto...
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Federica Barbera ha detto...

During this week I have thought a lot about a thorny situation in which I had to apply the interpretive method but I couldn’t find one. However many times I imagined my-self as a young anthropologist trying to analyse everything with a critical view. I noticed in particular a very common gesture which is shaking hands. In particular I tried to discover all its hidden meanings. This gesture is mostly used in very formal context. It can be used to seal an informal agreement or also to simply greet. However only by watching carefully at the social actors involved, we can detect what it really means in that situation. Even behind such a common gesture there is a set of traditions survived trough many centuries. For example in the 50s in the Italian countryside villages sealing the sale of a field with an handshake was very common. This practice have caused a lot of administrative issues because the sale was not legally registered even though the transaction was considered valid by both parties. Therefore when someone check the properties, in order to pay taxes for example, the field does not compare in the list. In conclusion I want to say that I found some similarities among my example and the mezrag pact in Geerzt ‘s story because both of them were common practises not considered legal however the social actors in the framework accepted it even because they could understand all its implicit meanings.

clara saglietti ha detto...

In “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, Kundera explores the theme of interpretation and miscommunication using the metaphor of musical compositions with repeated motifs to describe individual's life and the recurring concepts in it. If two people are young, and the composition is still at the beginning, they can write it together and exchange themes, but when they meet later, the composition is almost complete and each word, each concept has a different meaning, with the risk of misunderstanding others’ ones. Therefore, as each person is unique and opinions, values or concepts tend to crystallise, problems of misunderstanding can occur not only among different cultures, but also between two people belonging to the same one.
For this reason, with the conviction that it is fundamental to promote the dialogue and the confrontation between different positions and perspectives, I created with some friends a cultural group called Livingston. Sometimes, we invite guest speakers, but almost all the meetings are held by ourselves and the public that joins and participates to analyse a particular issue. As there is not a central power and everyone plays the same role and has to mediate with all the others, it is always important to ponder carefully the words and try to understand the different opinions, interpreting them even if we disagree, trying to avoid judgements and prejudices, because one of the main aims is to destroy and go beyond them. This does not mean that those who participate are required to change their mind and accept all the opinions, but the final goal is to spread awareness of alternatives to the single story, to promote critical thinking and possibly to obtain a common final enrichment, going back home with more questions in mind than before.
To make a more concrete example, the last meeting was about the freedom of speech after the proposal of Fiano’s law against the apology of fascism. There was a political activist who had many problems with a group of fascists after some events of violence, and could not accept to grant them any kind of freedom or rights simply because she considered them inferior as beasts. I understood her ideological position, not only because of the similar political orientation, but because I managed to grasp the meaning she was giving to her struggle against them. However, it was a great effort for me to convince her that I was not a sympathiser at all, although I was defending their freedom of expression according to Voltaire’s quote “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. I only managed to save my reputation and to change her mind recalling the words of the partisans from our area who recommended not to repeat fascists mistakes behaving like them. Feeling compared to them by her main source of inspiration, she understood also my position and agreed that it was necessary to try to dialogue also with the “enemy”, doing her best to interpret their ideas instead of refusing to have a pacific debate and fighting, increasing hatred.

Riccardo Santini ha detto...

Before going deeper in my comment, I would like to stress the fact that I am trying to answer the questions on this blog in the clearest and most transparent manner. I do not mean to offend anyone of course, but what I am about to say may hurt the sensibility of many. I would therefore highlight my willingness to answer the question very truthfully, as Geertz is when telling the story of the poor Cohen.
When I was a kid in primary school I started hearing more frequently the word ‘’rom’’, referred to gypsies. No need to say, such word has often been associated to bad and unpleasant events on tv or on the news. I did not linger on the real meaning of ‘’rom’’ – I was a small kid after all – and I kept relating the word to people from Romania, who came here to steal from us. I was never so much wrong. I learnt how ‘’rom’’ meant those nomadic communities, and not people from Romania, how I used to think. I learnt that not everybody is here to steal and to commit violence, and I noticed how actually the news put the stress mostly on horrid and terrible actions (as murders or robberies), instead on focusing on the struggle of such communities to keep living a decent life. Of course many of those people have committed crimes and spread violence (as Italians have done, as Americans have done, as Swedish people have done, and so on), but it is inadmissible to blame an entire communities just for the behaviours of some of them. Just as I say that not all Italians are associated with mafia, I learnt to go beyond and take into account the single cases, and not the entire community.
I now realize how my perception was strongly influenced on what I heard from mass media, and my lack of an interpretative work did help to build a negative perception of them. Nevertheless, I grew up, I started being curious about the world and about what surrounds me, so I began interpreting the world. I decided to be more informed on this issue, and I started focusing on reliable sources in order to understand.
Indeed, ignorance is the thorny situation I would like to escape from. I want to understand the cultural realities of our society, and, as Geertz says, if we want to learn interpretation, we have to practise it.

Sara Massimi ha detto...

Applying the interpretive method is a constant in our daily life, indeed everyone maybe can speak of something that has also a double meaning in his/her statements, everyone does it even purposely in order to convey something to a specific individual in a room full of people. In Italian we use the term “frecciatine”, giving a negative connotation to negative statements that are directly related to one specific person in a group of people. This acknowledgement leads us to another common behavior used in society that is the act of teasing someone making a positive statement but in reality, meaning the completely opposite of it. However, one example of a thorny situation that I assisted to was in my last internship at the Committee on World Food Security at FAO. I was an intern for an association that was part of the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) and me and another girl from GG3 were particularly dealing with the workstream on Women’s Empowerment. Indeed, before the committee was held on the 25th of September a Forum on Women’s Empowerment on the context of world food security was held at FAO headquarters, from that meeting a draft document entered in the debate that was promoting 5 main points specifically dealing with women’s empowerment. Nonetheless, this draft document was open to comments from the part of the whole committee, but it only received a negative one from the part of one country that was saying that they were not accepting the language of the draft document because the committee has to deal particularly with food security and not with women’s rights (that of course was a statement containing a double meaning because you can have a thin reading of it and understand just the superficial part or have a thick description, that underlies even some knowledge of the cultural, historical and political situation of the country and understand all what they wanted to convey). The CSM, indeed, got the perfectly the hidden point of the discussion, thus taking the decision of talking to some governments in close doors to understand if those other countries would have followed the path of the first one or that one of the CSM. Furthermore, those brave women also decided to go to talk with the chair of the whole committee, that assured it would take care of the situation because “women’s rights” (the world in itself, if you want just to read the thin description) should remain in the draft (this implied another thin and thick description because by saying this statement she wanted to convey that not only she would have favored the Drafted text but also the CSM perspective and also she would have taken such measures that would have prevented negative comments from that country part). Finally, at the plenary session everything went well.

Selene G. ha detto...

Thinking of a thorny situation where I used the interpretive method was almost impossible for me. Not that I have situations like this a lot just like everyone else but more because they were personal situations that I didn´t want to share publicly. Therefore I decided to tell a story of myself but with a few differences to not give everything price. In 2015 I spent six months in a host family in Costa Rica, my Spanish was very limited and my host mom spoke no English. One morning I asked her if I could use the kitchen to cook something for the birthday of a friend. She was a bit skeptical and in the end said she will think about it. But my Spanish was so limited that I didn´t understand this and honestly I just wanted to use her kitchen. When there was no message by the afternoon I took that as a yes and used her kitchen, cleaned everything and when she came home she didn´t even notice anything. But then she saw pictures of the food on my phone, so I had to explain myself. In the bad Spanish I had at the time I tried to explain that I thought she said yes and didn´t understand that she still wanted to think about it. I explained to her that I interpreted her not texting me that it would be fine. I didn´t quite get out of this thorny situation as I would have wished to, I was never allowed to use the kitchen again and had quite angry host mom for a night.

Francesca Scanavini ha detto...

It happened to me to be confronted with a very thorny situation that was very hard to manage. For the first time in my life, some years ago, I lived with a person suffering from depression. Moreover, added to the mental illness, there was an existing cultural difference between us dictated by our different nationalities, but, most of all, by our background and education. For me, it was really complicated to understand and interpret this person’s attitudes because I did not know what depression was before and how it involves so many aspects of an individual’s life. Initially, I really misinterpreted this person’s behavior because I could see the actual situation and especially, I did not try to see the world with his/her eyes and illness. It was a real challenge for me to put myself in his/her shoes and really understand why he/ she was acting in that way. When I comprehended the effects of the illness and accepted his/her way of thinking, then I realized how to interpret what he/she was doing.

Initially, my experience mirrored the misunderstanding between the young Cohen and the French captain because of their impossibility to comprehend one another. Later on, when I started looking behind the things and the words which were said by really getting the meaning of what was the reality, the situation was more similar to the anthropologist when listening to Cohen’s story : every word he would say was filtered by Geertz because he was aware that what the merchant was narrating what his own vision of the story.

“Good interpretation is the meaning of the social action for the social actor “ when I heard these words in class I thought about the importance of applying this concept in our everyday life and how is always fundamental to look for the thick meanings that surround us.

Riccardo Poggioli ha detto...


The anthropology course is helping to understand the different behaviors that each of us have according to the different situation that we have to face. In our everyday life we deal with a lot of thorny situation, from the easiest one to the most complicated . An example of thorny situation which disturbs me a lot is when I have to greet with someone and I do not an appropriate level of knowledge to have a conversation. My parents always teach me to greet people, because they told me that if you deny an “ hello” you are considered as rude. For this reason I am always the first who greet but because of that sometimes I found myself stucked in an embarrassing question with no exit because I didn’t have enough arguments to share with the person that I just greeted and I didn’t know what to say in order to end the conversation. Sometimes it happened that the person didn’t reply to my greetings or just ignored it without no particular reason, mainly these people were from old school , if I had to be honest I feel disappointed since I spent a lot of years with them and after the end of school it is like as if you were strangers for them. You start wondering why they changed their attitude so radically, and it makes you reflect if when they used to greet you was just a convention or habit more than a real “feeling” . Following the lecture of the professor about the interpretive method I apply this method to the behaviors of the people in this kind of thorny situation, that is to say when you don’t know if you have to greet someone. The people who do not say hello I interpret as they don’t want to talk with me, as if they don’t want to have a contact with someone who don’t belong to their usual group of people.

Nicolas Dietrich ha detto...

During the last class, we've analyzed the story of Cohen, from C. Geertz's book "thick description: toward an interpretive theory of culture" (1973), a Jewish merchant in the period of the French colonization in Morocco. In fact, Geertz reports in this book his notes of the conversation he had with Cohen. The conversation was about the misadventure the Jewish merchant had 50 years ago with a French captain when he was put in jail due to a cultural misunderstanding. The aim of the book is to underline the importance of cultural interpretation. In fact, the story of Cohen is based on several levels of interpretation (how Cohen interprets his memory, how the translator intercepts Cohen's speech and how the author interprets his interpret). Having a good interpreting method is thus an imperative thing to deal with this cultural complexity and to have a thick interpretation of the real situation.

To illustrate a thorny situation in which it is necessary to use the interpretive method in order to escape of it and to avoid cultural misunderstandings, I will take a personal example of my trip in Taiwan. In fact, when I was traveling in Taiwan, I had booked some hotels in advance to not lose time on the spot and enjoy the most as possible the country. However, when I arrived at the hotel in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city, something was wrong. Indeed, I couldn’t access to my room. I didn’t understand the receptionist’s statement, not because she had a bad English –she had a proper one – but her explanation was really confused. I don’t remember exactly what she said but she was telling me she could find me easily another room in another hotel. She showed me the location of this other hotel and it was quite far away from where we were. I didn’t want to go to this hotel at all and continued asking for my reserved room. It was just after 20 minutes that I remarked she hadn’t told me yet the reason of the absence of room. I thus demanded the cause of that and she answered, extremely embarrassed, that they had made an error in my reservation and gave the room to someone else. I understood at this moment the meaning of not losing face in Taiwan. People would prefer not to say the truth in order not to offend the other person.

This situation illustrates really well the importance of cultural interpretation. In fact, if I had known before the significance of losing face in this society, I could have understood much more quickly that I hadn’t my room and I wouldn’t have lost so much energy to overcome it.

gloria paronitti ha detto...

I think that more or less most of all have passed exactly the same situation that Cohen had with Captain Dumari when we have asked to our parents the permission for something that we wanted to do and they didn't approve. At a certain point they get tired to argue and they say " do as you want" or " you are old enough to bear the consequences". Actually the situation is different since our parents care about us, while Captain Dumari doesn't care about Cohen. However we know that the one of our parents is not a permission, but we tend to interpret it like that.
I will report as example a situation happened to a friend of mine: she is actually not passing a good period since she is ill and the physician gave her the permission to spend only one hour "outside her house" per day, until she wouldn't undergo a surgery (but this takes a very long time). In the first period, very short, she was used to spend that hour (or a little more) in university, following the lessons that she needed the most, or sometimes we met in a bar or however in other closed places that were not her home but were however crowded with people. When she went back to the doctor, he was furious with her since she interpreted his words according to her utility: she knew that the doctor with the words "out of your house" was actually meaning "in open air", but she took advantage from this vagueness in order to carry on a little bit more with her normal life, keeping the word with friends for some appointments or going to university and attending her duties (obviously to a lesser extent than before). I know this is not a wise behaviour and I did not approve what she did, because she risked to compromise even more her disease. However I know her very well, she is really tough and strong, and she always think she has the situation under control, so no surprise about what she decided to do. If you do not pass through that situation it is extremely hard to imagine how does it feel to stop your daily life all in a sudden. For this reason I don't blame her, I only hope she will get fine really soon.

Cristina Bottoni ha detto...

What I can tell from my experience and from the thousands of people I have met and books that i have read in my life, is that every person has his own way of processing things. Everyone comes from a different background, a different education, everyone has a different personality, his own way of looking at the world that surround us. What I know for sure is that there is no an absolute truth, an absolute reality: everyone sees the world from a personal and subjective perspective and everyone gives its own interpretation of it. If we think about it, the whole world is based on interpretations: we interpret the meaning of a book while reading it, we interpret the metaphors used in TV while watching a program, we interpret the meaning of the things that happen in our everyday life. Interpreting, though, it is just a process of connecting the manifestation of a phenomenon with its own meaning.
Anyway, the way in which you interpret something can vary according to the culture you are considering. People from different cultures may identify different meanings when interpreting the things that happen in the everyday life. Their different background and the different education they had received may bring to a variety of interpretation that may result in a problem of communication) and in this way also a lot of the real meaning could be modified or misunderstood).
Thinking about examples when this could happen, it comes into my mind when I started to have contacts with people from all around the world: using English as the common language (a language that was not the mother tongue of any of us) and using it differently, led us to thorny situations in which each one of us had to interpret the ideas of the other, that was speaking in his/her way in a language that was not so obvious and natural. In this situations, it is very easy to interpret in the wrong way what the other person is saying, and the misunderstandings are very likely to happen.

Lavinia Apicella ha detto...

I have faced many thorny situations in my life, most of which I managed to escape from to save my face. The one that I recall better took place when I was an exchange student in Sweden. It was January 2015, and since I had arrived to this little town in northern Sweden almost 6 months earlier, so in August 2014, I could by that time speak quite well the local language, Swedish, since I had been studying it at high school and practicing at home with my host family as well. I remember that I was walking back home from school, it was snowing a lot and there were around -25°/-30° degrees, I was tired and really wanted to be in my cozy home as soon as possible. However, while I was walking through the town centre, I noticed some a few stands of the Greenpeace Movement with a few volunteers, and tried to stay as far away as possible from them, so that they wouldn’t approach me. The fact is that I was interested in Greenpeace, but in that precise moment I just didn’t care and didn’t want to be bothered. Unfortunately, a Greenpeace volunteer approached me and started speaking to me about the movement, the organization and how it works, so I had to stop and listen just to be polite. Just as he started talking to me in Swedish, I came up with a brilliant way to escape the situation without being rude: I pretended not to be able to speak the language, and explained in English that I was a foreigner who had moved to Sweden to study but couldn’t speak a word of Swedish yet. The volunteer stopped immediately and said: “Oh sorry! But it’s no problem, we can speak English instead!”. So he managed to beat me at my own trick, since he spoke really good English, unfortunately for me. Once again, I listened and pretended not to speak nor understand English very well, to have a basic knowledge of the language, since it wasn’t my mother tongue either. Despite this apparent language barrier, he was trying to have me become a volunteer for Greenpeace. “How old are you?”, he asked. And when I answered, “I’m only 17”, this was the only sincere answer I gave him in all the conversation. Apparently one had to be 18 to join the organization, so I pretended to be disappointed and in the end he let me go. I used the interpretive method to try to escape from this thorny situation as Cohen did many times during the story. However, I believe he had better luck than I had in the various thorny situations he encountered.

ilaBi ha detto...
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elisa felici ha detto...

To interpret is to assign a meaning, make sense of something unclear, something of which the understanding is not immediate nor easy. It’s a subjective process that happen in the single individual on a particular thing. On a social scale, we interpret signs, mouvements, slight expressions everyday. From them we are able to draw our own conclusions and modify ourselves in attitudes and ways. Interpretation can be very easy at times: someone cries, I see it, I understand something must have happened, I may go and comfort him/her or just leave it alone. But to interpret someone’s behaviour can be way more difficult, very less instinctive. How can we know if someone is not good if he/she does not express it, as in crying? To what extent can we be able to call off our own subjectivity to understand someone’s other? To interpret involves a great deal of empathy, real listening capacity and especially a deep will of understanding the other.
This is what happens on a cultural scale. The ways of “the others” are the ways of others, not ours. They remain obscure, hidden, unread to our sight and comprehension. To undo all we have always known through the lenses of culture, to then open our hearts and ears to the ways of “the other”, may not be obvious. First because it is the only thing we have always been looking trough, and secondly because by not being that our “lense” it can be very hard to make it our own, seeing through them.
I believe I have never experienced such a situation. I was never forced by the circumstances to wear the glasses of non-italian/non-european person. Of course it happened in social relations, quite often, with people, to meet and force myself to interpret views or behaviours so far from me. But culturally speaking I have always lived in my own “surroundings”, and I have never intimately confronted someone way different from me.

elisa felici ha detto...

I am about to start a whole new experience though, where I believe this meeting/confrontation among divergent “worlds” will eventually happen, if it did not already occur. It won’t be easy I believe, surely it won’t be immediate, but I am not afraid nor uncertain. For a number of reasons I won’t explain now, last wednesday I found myself at the Muslim Center of Torpignattara where the Bangladeshi community, very big in this area of the city, comes together. Quite a strange place to be on a late rainy afternoon indeed. Now, if within culture interpreting means to try and assign a meaning to an obscure event/scene, empathising with the uncommon surroundings, this first contact with the cultural space of the Muslim Center was a great deal of experience. I was out for a while of my own usual space.
I did not confront anyone in particular, nor I found myself in a conflicting situations. There were things that struck me though, things I know I have to understand and accept, but things I know will never be close to my sensibility. Entering the Muslim Center I was different, changed, a different Elisa. For example I was wearing a veil to cover my hair and head since I was entering a sacred place. The veil does not belong to anything near my culture, it does not belong to where I grew up, it does not belong to me. And yet I had to modify myself a bit to enter, to respect that peculiar space and the people in it. I was puzzled then to enter the Mosque (a man leaving wanted to make sure I had understood that that place was a sacred one, “It’s a mosque here”, still trying to understand why he told me so) and seeing so many young girls, elementary girls, wearing the veil. I do not know so much about Islam, surely not so much to judge. But the image of those girls surprised me. It is hard not to be influenced by media and news at the moment. It can’t be discussed that extremism in an existing phenomena, bearing in mind that it does not apply to every single believer. I know for example that the fact/rule of wearing a veil differs from community to community, and I tended to link the veil to the conservatives segments of Islam. But there I was, a little spot in Rome where the “conservatism” was able to arrive, and I was witnessing it. I was surprised, they were really children whose head was covered and I can’t really understand why. Also I thought the veil was something women start wearing when they enter adolescence. It did not feel so right to me but I tried to understand. Plus this sight came in contrast with the human warmth and slight tenderness the people around me were transmitting. From this very thought a second deeper one followed. I was shaken for a moment that the three man standing in front of us could see me, a women, less than what I am just because I am a women. I never ever think of this in my culture, but in there I feared so, and the idea upsetted me so much. Luckily I have never, and I whish I will never, experience a situation in which I am considered less just because I am a girl. It just can’t happen, it would totally freak me out as behaviour. There is no interpretative method I could ever intend to hear or understand for such a matter, It just can’t be.
To interpret can be difficult, and the will of understanding what is different from you does not necessarily, nor surely, imply that you will/want to accept what you see. The little experience was indeed controversial. There was no direct confrontation, but my sensibility, my way of living were confronted with that new strange environment; there were all possible thorny situations that could have been but simply did not.

Tamoi Fujii ha detto...

One of the most upsetting situations in my life has been going to dinner to one of my father's employee place with my parents. The man is a young Bangladeshi, who recently moved to a modest flat in the Quadraro area with his wife.
The dinner is typical South-Asian food, but there is one problem: the table is prepared for three. "Don't you eat with us?" "No, we already ate, we'd like to serve you". They were smiley and seemingly happy to have "Italian guests", but still it was pretty unsettling the fact, that they kept filling our plates and our glasses, as we tried to empty them. They even bought wine, although it should have been uncomfortable for them as Muslims to have alcohol at home.
It was a very unusual situation, but I soon thought that the value of hospitality for them is of utmost importance, and that the best thing we could do was to try to behave as they would have done and enjoy it. I asked them "is it better for you if I eat with hands instead using cuttlery?".
We started eating with the right hand, and everybody was more at ease.

Ganna Korniychenko ha detto...


Culture is the only good the more you divide it the more it acquires value. Sharing knowledge allows to give something but also to learn something new. Good cultural exchange implies communication skills, common language, shared interests, openness to others. Looking back to the history, what I find surprising is that the major figures considered as leaders used strong methods in order to share their own points of view. Sometimes the concept of leadership is misunderstood in its essence when it tries to be compulsive and vertical structure.
It is common to feel under pressure when ‘big personalities’, that can be a chief or a boss in many fields, gives instructions to his employees(in terms of business strategy) or followers(for example in politics).
Look to the big picture avoiding fixed schemes and stereotypes allows to create new perspectives. In this case the role of the ‘strong boss’ that gives directives could be seen in a more soft way. Orders many times are not appreciated by many people; in this perspective people should go beyond and ‘transform’ in their mind what they perceive as orders in a common goal from which everyone will benefit if the whole teamwork/group follows the instructions.
Leaders have the difficult task of take decisions for the whole group. People might have different needs and ideas and agree with everyone is not so easy. So in this sense leaders have to do things according to which is just and fair: this may be good for some member of the team but go against some other members. Leaders have to be target-oriented and for this reason they have to pursue one line of thought (the one they think is the best for the group or organization). This needs a high level of dialectic and good communication skills. in order to do this, leaders have to develop well-functioning interpretative method in order to understand the basic needs of the people in the group he/she is leading. Bilaterally team’s collaboration is fundamental in order to avoid any kind of thorny situation.

Zikang Zhang ha detto...

Escaping from a thorny situation with thick interpretation reminds me of my own shopping experience. Since I walked down the street and found a shop, this store decoration was looking so good and pretty, made me very interested. I just wanted to have a look in the store, instead, there is something I liked or needed. However, a thorny situation appeared, Purchasing Guide saw me, coming to me, with a big smile. Shopping guide was too "passionate", she has been introducing me to the store's products. If I say directly to her, "I do not need your introduction, I just want to see them myself." which will make her feel like losing her face, and then the attitude will be very poor, also let me felt not very comfortable (because I have experienced before TT). So this turn I choose to change a thick way to tell her: "This product is very good, but I'm sorry, it is not useful for me now, if I need any product, I will come and ask you". Hearing these words after, she smiled and walked away. This leaves both sides free from the thorny situation.
In class, we analyzed Cohen, the Jewish businessman. Based on Cohen's story of being jailed for misconceptions and what I described above, we can see how important and necessary of thick interpretation in the real world.

matteo sarcinella ha detto...

During a trip I did in Croatia a couple of months ago, I found my self in a thorny situation: was late night,almost morning, and I went out of a club of balchanic Music (quite drunk) that some locals suggested me to visit; while I was asking a Group of persons some diretctions in order to find my way home two locals asked me gently to fuck off grabbing my arm (one of my tattos was pretty similar to the soccer rival team symbol of their hometown). In order to cool down the situation I started to sing like an idiot Celentano or to be honest an horrible mashup of what i remembered of celentano's besties, the clear message that I was sending was that I was an italian outsider completely extraneous to soccer croatian world and Celentano is probably one of the most idolatrate singer in Croatia and I was trying to create a small connection with this Gorilla that was holding my arm. To make it short they gave me a ride to my house singing Celentano's classics all the way and I still am in contact with them.

Sonia Matera ha detto...

In this comment I would like to develop a small introduction on the interpretive method before giving the example in which I would use it. I believe it is one of the most crucial concepts of the course and I want to dedicate to it the right space.

In The Interpretation of Cultures, Geertz states: “If you want to understand what a science is, you should look at what the practitioners of it do. In anthropology what the practitioners do is ethnography. […] Doing ethnography is like to read a manuscript - foreign, faded, full of ellipses, incoherencies, suspicious emendations, and tendentious commentaries, but written not in conventionalised graphs of sound but in transient examples of shaped behaviour. […] To get somewhere with the matter at hand is to intensify the suspicion that you are not quite getting it right. But that, along with plaguing subtle people with obtuse questions, is what being an ethnographer is like.”

Now, I think the interpretive method is best expressed in this sentence: “The thing to ask is not what their ontological status is. The thing to ask is what their import is: what it is that, in their occurrence and through their agency, is getting said.” This reminds me about an episode that took place during my trip to Canada. I spent there three months and I used to get along very well with people coming from different cultures. In our group there where people from South America, Europe and Asia. The first time we decided to have dinner together, I was sitting next to a Korean guy of my same age. We had a really nice talk and the atmosphere was great. However, when his noodle soup arrived, he started to eat it in a very noisy way and I got embarrassed. I did not know what to do, I have to admit that at the beginning I thought he was an impolite guy. Then, the interpretive method came in since I started to reason on what happened and I discovered that eating in a noisy way is a synonym of appreciation in Asian culture. I tried to put myself in his feet, thinking through his cultural belonging and I understood!
This is the proof that one should always analyse the situation and the actor and not merely look at the facts per se.

JINGYUAN LI ha detto...

One of the thorny situation example that comes to my mind is the interpretation of “double check” sign for messages communication in WhatsApp. As we all know the messages in WhatsApp can be marked automatically with the “√” sign with different meaning, usually two gray checks mean the receiver has received the message but still not read it, while two blue checks mean the receiver has read that message. I know sometimes it will be over interpreted by us. For example, once one of my friend asked me a favor on WhatsApp and I have read that message thus surely the “checks” turned in blue colors. Indeed I accepted that favor already in my mind and all I had to do was replying. However I was happening to wash some dishes with my hands wet for at least 5 minutes, so obviously I couldn’t respond that massage as soon as possible. What happened next was funny. My friend texted me a new message saying: ”Tess, don’t worry if you are not convenient to do it this time, it is totally fine. I don’t want to bother you.” So I suddenly knew what my friend had thought during that 5 minutes, thinking maybe that was my hesitation time. But the reality was I totally had the willing to help and just happened to not replying immediately with my occupied hands. Then of course at the end I explained to him and everything was fine in the end. But for me, that interpretation of “Read with no replying” somehow equals to “my hesitation of helping”, was a thorny situation for me cause I really would like to help without hesitation. As Cohen said, we need to practice more to interpret well.

Badriyya Soltanli ha detto...

Even if I am coming from a conservative mentalist country due to the religion, history, I am stopped feeling myself as an Azerbaijani very long ago. As having the nationality cannot define who you are, how you are, it cannot define the way of your life either. At least it should be the case. My close friends are 99% internationals coming from all the world, and when it comes to create friendships or acquitances with Azerbaijanis, I am having some troubles, even if it is supposed to be easier due to the common language or culture. As we have defined the culture already, it is more about the individual and surrondings, what we learn and see around us and how we pracice it in our owns. I believe the notion of mental borders rather than the language barriers. Why I am saying it, because I have been experiencing it over last 4 years that I have living abroad. I have been wrapped up with the culture that seems quite artificial and vague for most of Azerbaijanis our there, however the one should follow her or his own path. So, 2 years ago when I was in Georgia, while walking around the city I ended up at a mosque with a friend of mine. As normal, the people inside they were all men. We covered our hair and entered. There was one responsible, minbar who took an interest in us. Then I learnt that he is also originally Azerbaijani, speaking his strange Georgian accent. He started telling how I should dress up, I should start practising Islam and mainly to stay away Christians as they spoil me (according to him). The situation was quite awkward even if I have been born to the society full with this kind of people. I have not comprehended yet what I did wrong or right (I think I just talked to him which is not alright for a muslim woman to do as long as they are not willing to go on with a relationship), but he proposed me at the mosque saying with the God's order and prophet's tinder' with our 'cultural way', I want to teach you how to become a religious woman. It was a very thorny situation, in terms of the interpretation of the way a Muslim woman should act or should not act, to be aware of the consequences of the moves and talks.

Rebecca Biraschi ha detto...

Human beings have an interpretative necessity, an unconscious instinct to understand the cultural reality that surrounds us. Clifford Geertz in his essay “Thick description: toward an interpretative theory”, provides and formalizes the tool necessary for understanding the reality being conscious and aware of it: the interpretation. After reading this essay, I realized that in so many situations I behaved as Cohen with the French Captain, or the Berber rebels with the Marmushans, or the anthropologist with the merchant, I applied the interpretative method without being aware of doing so.


Before telling a simple experience I lived, I should say that I don’t like math and I have never been really good at it.
It was the day of my final oral the exam at the high school. My turn came and I entered the class. I sat in front of the professors and I answered to all the questions that the professors of philosophy, Latin, Greek, Italian, science, English and history asked me. The last professor in front of whom I had to sit was the math one. She had been my teacher for 5 years, and she knew me and my "passion" for her subject. So, I sat in front of her, and she asked me to tell her the definition of limit. I looked at her and I started replying with what I thought was the definition of limit. I stopped, and she looked at me with a look that was easy to interpret: I was giving a wrong answer. Doing so, just looking at me, she gave me the chance to avoid any repercussion on the final mark of my exam and she helped me saving my face in front of the other professors, who luckily didn’t know anything about limits, as me. The professor wanted to make me aware of the fact that what I was saying wasn’t right, but she knew that I would have interpret her silence and her look in the right way.
Anyway, I answered her question with the definition of logarithm.

Lucia von Borries ha detto...

When reading Cohen’s story and the interpretation the Professor gave to us, I thought about a phenomenon that requires a lot of interpretation: Sarcasm.

I sometimes love being sarcastic and saying ridiculous things, but when I was younger I often heard that people couldn’t distinguish when I was being honest and when I was being sarcastic, which got me into some awkward situations. For example, the scar on my face I got from a skin condition, but last year here in Rome I told someone that I got the scar from a fight. Anyone who knows me, would know that I would be the last person to get into a fight, but the person believed me an I’m sure there are still people that believe this story today, because I had too much fun with the story to clear it up. So being able to immediately and spontaneously detect if someone is being sarcastic requires a form of interpretive skill, that is tied to cultural understanding and more specific to the understanding of the individual you are speaking to and his/her character. There are a few people I know I can have full conversations with, just speaking in a sarcastic tone. I always find it very enjoyable, because it challenges me to stay on my toes to interpret the meaning of what is said in the correct way and it kind of gives me the feeling of a deeper connection or understanding of that other person that not everyone is able to detect.

Sara Marcucci ha detto...


As we all learn pretty soon in our life, our point of view is not objective. Our interpretation of what surrounds us is not universal, since a universal and objective interpretation does not exist. Our interpretations are the result of a mix of our experience, our values, our education, our character, our nature... Culture does have a relevant and major importance in shaping our way of interpreting things, but we shouldn't let these elements to prevent us from understanding anything but our own interpretation. The incapability of understanding other people's points of view can easily lead to misunderstandings.
An example I can recall easily goes back to when I was living in California. Of course, that was a different culture from my own, and that made it easier to fall into thorny situations.
One day I woke up and my host dad was super excited: “we’re gonna take you to a great place, very old and historical. You come from Rome, so you’re gonna love it.”
When we got there, he kept saying how great that building was, since it was something like a hundred years old. I was kinda at a loss at first, and that’s when I realized I was into a thorny situation.
I looked at him and kindly told him that, according to me, it was a nice building, but surely not for its historical value. I reminded him that my concept of “old” was different because I lived 10 minutes walking from the Colosseum and actually even my own building, where my apartment is, is a hundred years old… Of course I had a smile on my face and he immediately got the positive attitude I had: we started laughing together, and we actually had a great time visiting the building.

Ilaria Miligi ha detto...

Every situation, event, word either movement or gesture could be sterile and neutral if it were not for interpretation. This extremely powerful tool allows us to be aware, conscious and completely into the situation. Interpretation is a tool which can be used for analysis purposes, reading carefully a document for instance, reading truly, reading and interpreting, but at the same time interpretation is a powerful tool which could be used instantaneously. The action of interpreting is not something which can be done only in a second moment, when we have our document, when the situation is already finished, but is that process which takes place in our heads and minds and is instantaneous and immediate and correctly done, helps us even in thorny situations.
Before telling my experience, this is my reflective observation on interpretation. This week, as all the others, has been full and very long, and the main thing happened this week is that we attended a class on ‘negotiation’. I was fascinated by this conversation because I really like the job of negotiators, because is a difficult action based mainly on psychological features. Talking about negotiation we made the distinction between our wants and our interests, and we came up with the fact that our want is only the expression of something else, our needs and interests. The good negotiator is the one who works on the side of the interests instead of the side of the wants. The theme which is connected with that is the theme of conflict. Our life is full of conflicts, with friends, in the working field, in the family and the good negotiator in order to find a solution to this conflict or dispute, has to work on the interests of the two counterparts. This is exactly the same as interpretation. Only through this effort to understand the other and to interpret his actions there will be good possibilities for us to solve a conflict in the right way.
The thorny situation I want to re experience writing it, happened to me when I was in Latvia. In the first days of my stay in Latvia I lived in a wood-house, completely far from small cities or villages, between a lake and a wood. Coming from a city widely known for his dynamic soul, It was quite strange for me to be there. In these days I wanted to know better the people which will have host me in their house. The only way for me was trying to have a conversation with my host sister or proposing outdoor activities. The answers to my proposal were scarcely satisfactory, and my host sister seemed hostile to me, but then I realized that this wasn’t true. I had to confront and to adapt to a person very different from me, maybe more shy than me, maybe less active than me, I interpreted his ‘refusals’, but not in the wrong way, only focusing on the fact that she was continuously refusing my proposals simply because she didn’t want. So I decided to remain next to her and I stopped my proposals. I was upset but I managed to hide it. Then some time passed and I realized that my sisters was outside, preparing two mountain bikes to have a trip in the wood, with me. Interpreting this, I realized that she wanted me to spend time with her, and then before there was’nt any kind of prejudice or lack of interest towards me.

Mohammad Almulla ha detto...

Usually, I am the unluckiest person while traveling as I always end up having thorny situations while traveling, and I am going to mention one story that would show how cultures can affect the way we judge people. Five years ago I was travelling with my football team to Sweden to play a tournament the first thorny situation we face was that the guy who bought us the tickets actually ripped us off and really did not buy the tickets eventually the parents decided to pay so that we can go at the moment and then they would get the money back through the police but that meant that we had to be seperated into one really small group of six people (which I was a member of) and another big group of 23 people, so the thorny situation was dealt with by many people. To my surprise, they couldn't print my transit ticket and they told me that they would allow me to go through in Germany but unfortunately, the guy at the gate (who was originally Arab) did not allow me to pass the plane as it was his right because I did not have a boarding pass, but what he should have done was to call the HQ and check but due to the time period he thought that for some reason I was an illegal immigrant although I was travelling with my teammates. At the end of the situation, I decided to solve the thorny situation by threatening the guy to sue his company for not allowing me to go through because it was their fault and he ended up letting me through and actually apologizing to me. In that situation, I had to interpret the situation and look at it in a way maybe a 14-year-old would not think of which is to take legal action to solve my problem.

Melani Perera ha detto...

When I listening to this lesson, I found out there are so many thorny situations in my day to day life. I am a foreigner to the Italy. So, in my day to day life I faced many thorny situations and I would like to share with you a one of them that I escaped from thorny situation in polite way. As a foreigner and also as a student to this country sometimes, I faced to many difficulties when I tried to communicate with the Italian people. Because still I am not good to speak Italian language. I know as a student in here it is good to have an Italian language knowledge. Because of my lack of knowledge in Italian language I faced this thorny situation.
One day I was waiting for the train at the train station, and that time very old Italian lady came to me and asked the direction of the train that I am waiting for, luckily, I was willing to understand some words of her question and immediately I answered her very happily. Then we both were waiting for same train, while we waiting she started to make a conversation with me and I felt uncomfortable and upset because I am not good at the Italian language. So, I could not understand anything what she was speak about. But I tried to understand and listen to her in politely when she was speaking. After few minutes she does not want to stop and also, I could not understand anything.  So, I wanted to leave her immediately but, I cannot do it, because it is not good reaction for her from me. I did not make her feel upset or bad too. So, I used my google translation at that time and I told her to I want to go to the front of the station. At the same time, I had a call from one of my friend. So, I great her and leave from that place. So, I escaped that thorny situation very simply without any worries to her and also to me. So, I was very happy.
In class we analyzed Cohen, the Jewish businessman. So it is very important and necessary f thick interpretation in the real world.

Giorgia Morucci ha detto...

interpetation is fundamental in our daily life, as it makes it possible for us to understand others, to put ourselves in their shoes. without interpretation we, as human beings, would be robots, functioning mechanically. indeed, I truly believe that interpetation is what differentiates human beings from animals, other than intelligence. Interpretation allows us to get out of our sphere of individualism and self-centrism, which is full of personal interests, and to enter someone else's sphere. interpreations tears down the walls between the I and the Other, thus enabling a higher and deeper level of communication.

In my life, I have been through several thorny situations, but I would like to share here a very sad, but exemplary one.
when I was 17, I was suffering from anorexia, a really bad disease, a disease which takes over your whole body and mind, and from which it is quite hard - if not impossible - to get out with one's one hands. therefore, I had to follow different cures in different hospitals. Nonetheless, after one year of infinite different dietary plans and therapy sessions , I woke up. I realized what was happening and I was determined to take my body back, no mattter how hard and painful. The most painful decision I took at that time, was to cut all relationships with "sick" people around me, who would only be of more harm than help to me. Indeed, my bestfriend, - whom I know since I was born - was suffering from anorexia as well during that period. Not easily, I decided to "relax" our friendship and to see each other less because she would only influence me - even if in an indirect way - negatively, meaning that my "rehabilitation" process could be in a certain way compromised. this decision is not easy to understand if one sees it with either normal eyes or "sick" eyes - as my friend's eyes. Indeed she started thinking that I was abandoning her, even though I had been through her same disease. But that was definitely not the point. What is more, after two months from my "year 0" (the moment in which I became conscious of my situation), I got a boyfriend, which only worsened the situation between me and my friend. Indeed, I found out that she believed that since I got out of the disease and now had a boyfriend, I could not care less about her and that I had never truly been her friend. and neither this was true at all!
therefore, I decided to talk to her, because in this situation it was a matter of double interpretation: mine (I had to understand why she was thinking such bad things) and hers (she had to figure out why I had acted in that way, and why I had decided to cut all the sick relationships). Finally, I managed to understand her point of view, by trying to think with my old mind, the mind driven by anorexia, and which was the mindset that my friend was using to look at the world. Indeed, I realized that, when you are struggling with certain diseases, you rely heavily on other people's judgement, care and attention. therefore, as I had left her alone, she felt abandoned as if I had never cared at all about her. I was not mad anymore with her for thinking such things, because it was not her fault, something bad was going on in her mind and body, which would lead her to think in that way.

even though this is a sad story because in the end I was the only one to understand the other - she still holds a grudge on me - I learned many things. I became aware of the fact that interpretation is the only way we have to understand things in their real essence. what we see does not always represent reality as it is in its intrinsic nature. Moreover, what we see is often filtered by our individualism and our subjectivity, which do not allow us to see through a cristal clear window.

Chiara Muzi ha detto...

I spent a lot of time thinking about a relevant example from my personal experience regarding a thorny situation I had to escape using the interpretative method: what I am going to write in the next few lines is not probably a very “thorny” situation, but it is a very recent experience in which applying the interpretative method totally changed my point of view on the matter. It is really after this event that I understood that the dichotomy between thin and thick description is very relevant even in a little case of ordinary life. Everything started with me and a group of three friends from my French course going to the French cinema in Rome to watch a movie. We knew little about the film, we had just watched the trailer and it looked like a funny movie after all, and since our main goal is to practice our understanding of the language, we decided to attend the projection without second thoughts. The movie turned out to be very disappointing: it was about an actor facing the fact he was aging and becoming less appealing to the young girls and going absolutely crazy about it, starting to undertake plastic surgeries and drugs to look younger and cooler. Everything seemed too overexaggerated and ridiculous and at the end I left very disappointed. However, talking to a French friend the day after, I realized I missed the background to understand that film: I was like the alien coming from another galaxy and witnessing a baptism without being able to understand its thick meaning. I was basically reading a history like Cohen’s without putting on the right glasses, from an ethnographer point of view. After I came to know that the two main actors were really interpreting their lives (they are truly a married couple of well-known French actors) and the film itself was an idea of the two of them to answer to not very nice comments of gossip journalists on their age, (together with other many details on French gossip), I understood why all those French people in the room were laughing so loudly and why some scenes was exaggerated and impossible for a “serious” film: it wasn’t one! It was a self- mocking film, with some room for thought and serious reflexion of course, but it was mainly satiric. I decided to give the movie a second change, so I watched it again with a new consciousness: this time, in some scenes, I laughed loud as well!

Carlotta Frasca ha detto...

As I was thinking about a thorny situation that happened to me nothing really popped into my head. I guess, I can be really happy that I never had the chance to be, myself into those situations. The only example that I could think of though it is always related to what I do every day, which is playing volleyball. Being a volleyball player is stressfull, I have been playing for the past 8 years, and it gets harder everyday. When I was 15 years old I remember practicing with 3 different cathegories from 5 pm to 11 pm everday and I rememeber being particularlty tired that day. I texted my coach asking If i were to stay till 11 pm that day, because before prectice I had a game. He didn't answer my text so, me being a very lazy person took that as a permission to leave after the game.
Of course things didn't end well, after the game he told me that I had to change and practice with the 8.30 pm team, as I started to talk back to him explaining that I took that silence as a permission to leave, he started shouting and getting mad. He told me that since i'm part of the team I had responsabilities and things that I needed to do, and there were no excuses for what I was doing. Moral of the story, I stayed anyways. I practiced and I had to do extra exercises for my “bad” organization.

Oliver Tomassi ha detto...

To find such a situation one must think of an encounter with culturally distant places or people. An experience that thus came to my mind was when two students and I were teaching Italian to a group of Bangladeshis in an enclosed space which was made into Mosque. This is a place where Muslims from the neighbourhood gather to pray and it is also used as afterschool for Muslim children to keep in touch with their cultural and religious roots. One day, three women joined the Italian class in the mosque (before this day only men used to come to the class), one of which was holding a newborn baby. The situation got tense for me as the Imam of the Mosque rearranged the chairs of the students: the women were seated in the back, at some distance from the male students who were sitting in the front rows.

In that moment I felt very insecure, since that behaviour would be considered as discriminatory in our western culture. However, I knew I was looking at this social behaviour with the eyes of my own culture and tried to detach from it and submerge in the Muslim culture. I quickly realised that all the students, both male and female were comfortable with the arrangement, therefore they must had been accustomed to this practice. However I could have not avoided to intervene: there was a clear issue and it was that the women could not follow the class as intensely as the men, therefore I realised that a compromise between the two cultures had to be found.

I knew I had to apply the interpretative method Professor Vereni had thought me, therefore I started sorting out the structures of signification and the socially established structures and tried to determine the social ground to unknot the irregular information and social action I encountered as I learned from Geertz. Since culture is made up by individuals who guide their behaviours through psychological structures, then the women's behaviour in the Mosque could have lead me to a bigger understanding of Muslim culture. I needed to understand the ethnographic algorithm through the elements and knowledge I had, which however where very limited.

There was the necessity to merge the two cultures which were clashing: on one side the Muslims who needed to keep some distance between men and women and on the other us Westerners trying to make an effective Italian lesson. Our idea was to maintain the distance between the sexes and therefore respect their wish to keep a distance, but at the same time involve all the students at the same time. We thus rearranged the chairs in a hemicycle, with the women sitting in the back but at the same time in the centre and with one of the female teachers sitting next to them. In this way all the students would have had equal opportunities.

I understood that there must have been a general rule restricting the interactions between men and women inside a mosque, as in the context of the prayer where separate spaces are set up, and believe that this situation was recreated by the new arrangements of chairs by the Imam.

Later when the class was over, I went to say goodbye and shake hands with all the students as I always do. What I wasn't expecting was that the women refused the handshake. Here again I realised that I was facing the barrier of culture and not impoliteness. And again I supposed that this behaviour had to do with the principle of keeping the interactions between men and women into a mosque to the minimum. Thus any form of contact which involves physical contact, like shaking hands is inappropriate inside a mosque.

Through this experience I realised that I was not swimming in the waters of their culture yet, I did not belong to their society's culture according to Goodenough " consists of whatever it is one has to know or believe in order to operate in a manner acceptable to its members".

Iva Budakova ha detto...
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Iva Budakova ha detto...

Thanks to the Geertz essay, we see how interpretation is really needed in order to understand cultural reality. Reading the essay I understood that the only possible method is thought practice.

In my opinion, the interpretative method is something that probably every human being had experienced at least ones in their life. My situation that I want to share is quite funny because it has to do with my skills of speaking Italian. Three years ago, when I was in Bulgaria, I went to an Italian open day regarding the study in Italy. I was with my parents and they wanted me to speak Italian because I have studied for 4 years in high school so they expected me to know it at a professional level. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that much so I got myself into a situation in which one of the organizers who was Italian start asking to me in Italian, questioning me about my ambitions in studying in Italy. To be honest I was so nervous and scared because that was my first time face to face with a native Italian speaker and I was so scared that I will humiliate myself because I really didn’t feel comfortable speaking Italian at that moment. I remember I was just standing there and thinking of a way out so I answered in English and my reason was “I want to study in English“, hopping that he will switch the language. Instead, he continued in Italian and I was just looking pretending and saying “Yes” to every word of him. Going back think I just panicked and that really didn’t help me but only made me feel bad.

I think when you use the interpretive method there are 2 possible outcomes – either you can manage to escape without noticing anybody or you just can’t do it in same specific situations and you feel nervous and disappointed like I was.

ALICE97 ha detto...

A few years ago I went to Mexico to visit a dear friend of mine who used to be my flatmate in Spain. We had been invited to a barbecue of some friends of her, and on our way to the place, my friend stopped by the grocery store to “buy something to drink”. She bought some beer and when she came back to the car she told me “you are not having anything to drink?”. I was a bit confused by this question, but then I just told her no, thinking that the beer she bought would have been more than enough. Once arrived at her friend’s place and I saw all the guests coming in with their own cooler, full of their own beers, I finally realized why she posed me that question earlier. In Mexico, apparently, is custom to everyone, when invited to someone else’s place, to bring something to drink, but just for yourself. I have always been used to bring for example a bottle of wine to someone’s house when invited for dinner in order to share it, as a sign of gratitude, in a way.

Arianna Patrizi ha detto...

“But don't you see that the whole trouble lies here? In words, words. Each one of us has within him a whole world of things, each man of us his own special world. And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do.” (Luigi Pirandello-Six Characters In Search of an Author )
To interpret means, by definition, “to give or provide the meaning of”, but as the quote says each one of us gives a different meaning to anything, each one of us has its own view of the world, because each one of us see things through the lens of interpretation, shaped by our values, ideas, culture.
The strong intelligence of humans, in my opinion, stays exactly in the capacity of identify in the same thing, word, sentence, more than just one meaning, the possibility of different interpretations.
Above all, the crucial point is in understanding that sometimes interpretation is necessary, in order to reach the true value of something.
Basically, sometimes things need to be seen from a different hidden angle and who understands this, is provided by an added tool in life, since interpreting can help us for example in escaping from thorny situations as in the case of Cohen with the French Captain.
From my personal experience, i can say that i faced a lot of thorny situations in which the capability of interpreting in some way saved me, a funny one could be one happened in school.
Once, for a written exam we had to answer to all the questions with a maximum of five lines, but it was practically impossible to be clear and exhaustive in such a small space, thus, after several attempts to respect the assignment, i realized that if i wanted to pass the exam i had to find an escamotage.
At that point, i started writing my answer in a very small calligraphy, so small that it was almost impossible to distinguish the single words, but at least it fitted the space given.
Few days later, when the teacher came back with the graded papers, she asked me for some explanations since she totally understood my intentions and so, i decided to use all my interpretative capacity and i said to her “ Sorry, i thought that the limit was for the lines, but i didn’t read anything about limit of calligraphy’s size”.
Of course, it was obvious that mine was a cunning trick but anyway she could not deny my assumption, so she accepted my paper and i took a very good grade.

Lavinia D'achille ha detto...

Many times in my life I experienced thorny situations where I had to apply the interpretative method to escape from them.The one that I remember better happened four years ago when I spent my summer in China. Before leaving I explained to the organization that I suffered from a celiac disease in order to select a family ready to understand my problem,and actually they told me that it took time for them but they could find a family for me. Once arrived in Haicheng(small city) after almost 24h of flights I was literally starving and when my host family took me home I was dreaming some Chinese delicious food. Even if I studied Chinese during my high school I had some problems of communication with the host family since the very beginning of my arrival so we spoke using some words in english and some in Chinese helping using hands. When we came back home from the bus station we seated all thogheter around a very nice and cozy table and my host mom started bringing dishes that had a delicious smell. But everything that I saw were dumplings almost everywhere or things that I couldn’t eat because they were made by wheat. I started feeling very uncomfortable and upset because I knew that in Chinese culture is not a good sign of politeness refusing something during a meal and I didn’t want to offend my host family the first day of my arrival, so I started explaining that I could not eat wheat but they did not understand what I was saying and they all looked at me in a curios way wondering why I was not picking some dumplings from the big dish and they all were waiting for me to take one. Since they did not seem to understand my problem with wheat I quickly started thinking what to do or what to say both in english or Chinese in a very polite way in order not to offend or break hospitality rules. Unfortunalty nothing came to my mind because of the language barrier which was very very high. So what I did was standing up looking confused and I pretended to lose my senses in a very theatrical way and after that they all looked worried about me because I was laying down on the floor telling to all of them that i really needed to sleep because I was very tired. Of course they all were worried in that moment and they completely forgot the dinner that we were about to have.

Claudia Schiavelli ha detto...

If there's a simpler way to define what thick description is and how it differs from a thin description, it simply is "to look beyond what you are used to seeing and to find a compromise".
Yes, it is nor obvious or easy most of the times, that is why we all need to strengthen our interpretive method in order to apply it in as many situations as possible.

Some two years ago I spent "Pasquetta" in a place not far from Rome but which undoubtedly needed a car to be reached. As far as I know, Easter is dedicated to eating and the day after to drinking, and my friends and I felt in no position to dishonor such a tradition. We had a great time and made a great job in finishing everything we had bought but the time to leave arrived and we had to decide who was less drunk and more eligible for the driving seat.
The decision was based on the very scientific criteria of "the tallest one is the one who absorbs alcohol more slowly", therefore I was gladly excluded.
While heading towards the highway, our clumsy driver showed its evident incapability of driving but no one else was up for the job either. So we stopped in this small town and waited for a while, even though it was almost night and we had no place to stay. We were wandering around this old borgo and finally met some guys wearing AS Roma shirts and my friends could not help by share some comradery comments about it. We eventually learned that one of the guys was supposed to go to the football match in Rome the day after but had no way to reach it. That's when the crossing point was found: understanding how important that was for a true fan we offered him something he could not refuse. One of us would have hosted him and go to the match together the day after if he would have driven us back home.

Alessandro Germani ha detto...

I recently experienced a cultural misunderstanding at the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi, Russia. I was attending a seminar and the panelist was delivering his speech when suddenly the delegate sitting next to me burped. The boy in front of me turned himself looking to me in a very bad way; it was clearly a thorny situation. We met after the meeting, I explained him that it was not me and then together we reflected and reached a thick description of the event: that delegate was Indian and was expressing his appreciation for the lunch we had just before the conference.

Md Ashique Ali ha detto...

I have been struggling to find the remembrances from my past where I got thorny situation. I would love to share an incidence the time I was in Mumbai. I was working in a TV serial as chief assistant director. Once we were working in a studio and I was narrating the scenes to the lead lady actor, between she asked me “if possible let me leave a couple of hours before as schedule pack up time”, she had to do something, I juts replied “let me see”. It was neither yes or no from my side. I talked to the director, even he was between yes or no. After, we were continuing with taking the scenes and shots. I was quite sure, her scenes will be finished within the time, but it didn’t happen and she stared arguing, I maintained cool way to calm down the situation, suddenly she blasted out as “ I told you” “ it was important to leave” and so on, even director came between, he first tried to intervene and suddenly turn out, now the both were accusing, that it was “you”, you are the assistant, you were the responsible to say, it was not possible to get her free earlier as scheduled time, or at least you must say yes or no. I was bitterly in a thorny situation, yes I did mistake, but it was not only me, we all there knew the issue as there was no surety to leave her, but I couldn’t argue them as one hand there was my director and other hand was lady lead actor. By the way, we were on the work after minutes, but we all were quite upset. Somehow, we finished the scheduled scenes of day and director growled “pack up” and the people of the unit stated change to go home, at the time a felt someone hand on my shoulder, it was the actor, she told me “I am not here to confirm who did the mistake or who was wrong, you either director or even me, what happened that was bad, we will try to refuse these kind of arguments, so I say sorry”. I felt quite light and said sorry too and we were discussing on next day schedule and herd director’s voice, he entered with smile. It was also a kind of scene on the set within the shooting, with real drama.

Elsa Maria Festa ha detto...

Cultural differences can often make people feel uncomfortable, can even scare or create hostility. It is not uncommon to find ourselves facing circumstances characterized by the feeling of being distant from another cultural habit, the process of facing an unfamiliar situation can easily turn into controversies and misunderstandings. This is due to a lack of tools of interpretation of this new apparently alien reality: we feel distant or hostile because we do not know how to deal with the differences we find in front of us. To feel less alien when facing unfamiliar circumstances there is the need of tools that allow interpretation and therefore understanding. The voyage towards the interpretation of the web of meaning and significance of a cultural habit can be complex; interpretation requires effort, time and the will to learn and to study in order to understand. There is another aspect to be stressed: the fact that the work of interpretation is a never-ending process. The work of interpretation continues eternally because changes happen and things have to be reinterpreted with a different perspective from the one already used. Remaining open to reinterpret something we think we already know is essential in order to truly understand what or who we are facing. The openness to make flexible our interpretation I think that lacks for example when we take knowledge of people that are close to us for granted. In life it often happens that people that have been married for half of their life one day realize, become conscious and admit themselves they don’t know each other anymore. Knowledge of people as any other knowledge is a fluid matter that changes perpetually. Therefore, if the lack of interpretation, that brings with it misunderstandings, is common even in human relations that we see as consolidated, let’s imagine how often this happens in relations with people that we have always felt distant to. The barriers among people exist strongly and limit the interpretation and therefore the understanding. Language barriers are one of those things that easily lead to misunderstandings. I personally always thought that I do not have a strong contamination of dialect in the way I speak Italian, I have always thought to speak a pretty neutral/pure Italian but as in everything else we are influenced and this phantomatic pureness and neutrality does not exist. Even if not strongly my Italian accent is linked to the one of central Italy, my vocabulary is in some ways influenced by the place where I have always lived, Orvieto. The other day, with some friends from Rome, I distorted the Italian use of a verb and they looked at me laughing because they thought I didn’t know how to use that verb properly. It was not a matter of ignorance, I do know how to use that verb but in the dialect, with which I have always lived in direct contact, the shared use of that verb is done in that way and there is no need to explain it. By contrast, my Roman friends thought I was doing a really bad grammar error because they do not know the use of that verb in the dialect I know, therefore not to be seen as ignorant I had to justify and explain my words to them from my cultural point of view. I think that this funny situation, even if in a really limited scale, represents how languages and communication need to be looked at with multiple points of views, in order not to remain in a perpetual and stagnant situation of misunderstandings and closeness.

alice occhilupo ha detto...

just to be sure you see it, I sent to you this comment by email because the most fitting example I had in mind, is really personal. Thank you.

Iza D ha detto...

It is very important to understand the interpretative method to have a better understanding of the world around us. We pass through situations where interpretative method can be applied even on a daily basis not only in dealing with other cultures (even though it is the most noticeable and clearest example that could come to one’s mind).
We can observe different situations and behaviours in different ways, since they depend on culture and we said that culture is acquired and symbolic. We can understand a thin description that is the behaviour / fact per se; but we can also understand the thick description which is what lies behind that certain behaviour / fact, the reason why that happens.
Here I am asked to find an example where interpretative method can be applied. more than one example related to me came to my mind but they are personal and maybe not of your interest. I choose instead, to bring as example a story from the Romanian folclore. Indeed I am not that linked to my native culture, since I've lived in Italy for most of my life, but I remember this story very well because when I was a child someone gave me an audiotape where that story was recorded.
It tells about a young guy who is known for being very smart and for his jokes; this guy is named Păcală right for his jokes (it reminds me of the Italian Gian Burrasca).
Păcală, during a jurney, stops in the square of a little city where he hears many people complaining about the rich man of the community. When he asks why they are doing so, they tel him that they worked for him and they had meals and a place to stay for all the duration of their work contract. The only Close they had not to break, the only condition they had to respect was not to get angry. They didn’t have to get angry with him and he didn’t have to get angry with them. Who got angry the first, unless the contract didn’t expire, would have had a part of his body cut off by the other. All those who worked for the rich man, in fact, had lost a part of their body because, they said, it was impossible not to get angry with him due to the injustices he carried out against their workers.
Hearing this, Păcală decided to go to work for the rich man. He told the young guy that he would have had to stay there for all the duration of the contract and that he would have had meals every day and that the contract would have ended when they heard a cuckoo sing on a tree in the garden. The condition was only one: they didn’t have to get angry one with each other. Who got angry would have had a peace of his nose cut off by the other. It was a quiet risky situation where the only thing that saved the young worker was D interpretative method. For example, one day, Păcală was given a bread to eat during his working day but the chief told him to eat the bread and also to bring it back in the evening.
When the gay came back, he gave to the rich man only the external part of the bread, explaining to the mean chief that was the only way to eat and bring it back at the same time. So it happened some days after with a cheese and many other times during the contract. The chief requested Păcală something impossible to do, he always used interpretative method to solve it and every time the chief got angrier untill the point to pretend to be a cuckoo to end the contract and to get rid of the worker. The young guy discovered him and started to beat him, until he told he got angry.
Păcală told him he wouldn’t get off his nose but asked to the Richmond to promise that he would never carry out injustices against other poor workers again.
I know that it is quite creepy story but the story of the Jewish businessman reminded me of this one that tells us that the way we interpret things can save us in risky situations

Uroš Ilić ha detto...

My first year in high school was my first year living abroad. I was faced with a culture I had the least interaction with traveling. Well I should say culture but I’ll refer to them as one tribe of culture so to speak, the Arab culture. Probably the most important thing I did to “interpret or understand” was deduct the standard of normal, better or worse from my judgement. Small things in their expressions and mannerisms started making sense once I learned their historic and religious causalities. Sometimes, in order to help me try and understand from a completely unbiased point of view, I imagine the most far right nationalist that can come from my culture and then I try to transfer him onto the culture I’m observing. In my case the values being praised and hated on have just switched roles, but the two entities are essentially the same. Through this approach, I have avoided many awkward situations especially during dinners with family friends. In certain cases, shaking the hand of female members of the family hosting us for dinner would have created an awkward situation. Mind that I have said certain cases because the religious scrutiny of a certain family does not apply to all others even though they follow the same religion. To construct a general pattern (which does certainly not stand for all), families of the gulf origin would usually be more religiously strict then Lebanese families for example. Of course, many factors create a separation from the standard such as nationalities of the mother and father (mixed nationality marriages are common in the UAE) and time spent living abroad (in the west mainly).

Giorgio Severi ha detto...

There is a situation wich occurred and repeted itself many many times and which I never totally and completely understood until the moment I applied an interpretative method.
Indeed at first sight could seem an ordinary moment of daily life without a specific meaning, just a story of an old lady buying fish for the meal. On the countrary in the same way in which the story of an old Jewish merchant through interpretation became a dettailed report about the cultural reality under colonialism, about hounor and oppression, I understood much more thanks to this interpretative approach of what my grandmother often did.
During summer I always spent a month in a very little village in the countryside in Sicily because my family is from that place and my grandmother still lives there.
Every friday morning since I was a child me and my grandmother woke up early in the morning because we had to buy the fish for the dinner, but even if we were awake from 8 AM my grandmother always needed around an hour and a half to be ready to go out. When we were finally out, before reaching the fish market, we always had to walk through the main road, even though it was not the quickest way, and greeting always most of the people we met. Moreover it was impossible to avoid all the invite of having a coffe in the house of someone who lived on the main road and that apparently was waiting just for us to arrive. I did not know anyone of those people but definitly they knew me as the roman granchild.
In the end in about three hours we managed to buy four or five slices of salmon.
This which appeared to me always like a normal and meaningless routine, instead is full of dettails which describe the life in a small village of Sicily and the costums and habits of the people living there. The geographic, social and cultural context is foundamental to understand what is behind this story and it was furthermore the "wall" I always encountered in trying to understand it, since I am not acquainted of it, coming from a totally different situation.
My grandmother needed always so much time because the clothing is very important, much more if you are a widow, so she wore all blacks clothes in a very precise way, without leaving anything but hands and face not covered, not only for a simple matter of cultural habit, but much more for personal honour.
Moreover it was a pleasure for her to go to the fishmarket with me but also was necessary a "man", which had to be a relative, to go with there.
The choice of the road was not by chance, indeed it was necessary to greeting and meet all the people she knew, for a matter of respect. Moreover to refuse an act of hospitality as that of hosting us for a coffe would have been a terrible lack of respect, very rude, even because moeover the coffe is an important social occasion to talk and stay together.
Everyone we met, knew me basically because gandchildren coming from different part of Italy are a common issue since most of the people from the generation of my parents left that place sicking more opportunities, therefore all the elderly are very interested and informed about it.
And of course we were looking for the fish for religious reasons, since my grandmother would n't ever eat meat on friday.
Through the interpretative method, analyzing the context and the background, the cultural habits and the metality in an ethnographic approach, I understood much more about the meaning of the social actions of the actor, my grandmother.

Marianna Sabatini ha detto...

I was thinking about an example of when I had to apply the interpretive method and what came to my mind was a story my dad told me about his journey to India. He has been there for a few days and he still had to understand the local culture which is very different from the Italian one. He was told that he had to take his shoes off before entering Hindu temples but he did not understand that not all the temples are opened to not Hindu people. He wanted to visit a temple but it was one of those who did not accepted not Hindu people. So he entered and while he was taking his shoes off the people inside recognized that he was not Hindu and started telling him to go out. My dad of course did not understand anything and he thought that the problem was about the shoes so he tried to explain that he was taking them off but he still saw that they did not leave him alone. Eventually using gestures and a bit of English they managed to solve the misunderstanding and my dad went out of the temple.

Shahmar Hasanov ha detto...

The life moves on. We live, we do good things, but we also make lots of mistakes. The main point is to learn from them and never repeat.
I’m pretty sure that I had many thorny situations in my life, but the question now sounds to me like a “which is your favorite movie” question. It’s as I’ve forgotten all the movies, oops, all the thorny situations I’ve experienced so far.
Now, I’m starting to recall some of these situations, but they are actually quite personal, so I wouldn’t describe them all in details here and will just try to choose the appropriate one.
So, I actually reminded very funny one, as you will see through the comment. Last summer I travelled to Kiev, Ukraine. My visit was quite usual, touristy, seeing landmarks and tasting the local cuisine. During my trip, I went to the main street and was taking a picture around some big building (don’t recall exactly the which one). Then the man with the sparrows and the girl approached to me, by offering taking my photo and the sparrows as a decoration for the picture. I was politely rejecting their offer, but they insisted and eventually, I smelted. After taking the picture (when in the beginning he was saying it is totally free), he said me the price: “200 Hrivnas (a little more than 6 euro)”. I was quite shocked, but didn’t lose control, and said firmly that I’m not going to pay that amount. Then he started kindly to beg and I decided that 40 Hrivnas would be fine to pay, as the pictures were quite good.
The reason that I’ve mentioned this story is to understand my nature of actions and interpret them. As I self-analyze, I cannot fully comprehend my decisions, as they were based on the programmed culture of mine which forces me to say “yes” in many situations, or the vulnerability against the cuteness of the girl. And most importantly, it’s to show how I instinctively tried to successfully end the unpleasant occurrence, by compromising the money-giving to the level that I’ve felt was fair.

RIAS UDDIN ha detto...

I could mention the quite complex situation that is going on around the world only because of misunderstanding that I could frame as lack of "Interpretive method". Globalization might have taken strong place I could say that with the huge range of migration. But the problem is a must to rise when one doesn't know another way of living, interaction, should they confront at the same place. I am simply mentioning the phenomena is :
Acts of terror is also an important thing to tackle about the difference between the Arabs and Americans. For the Arab society, terrorism means the intervention of America in the affairs of the Arab countries especially on the issue of Arab land territories which is motivated by the American government’s desire to institute and pursue socio-economic existence in the Arab domain. In contrast to that, Americans view terrorism as insurgencies and bomb attacks of the Islam to cause fear to the American citizens motivated by the Arabs’ inclination to dominion in the social, political and spiritual sense that is often ascribed as Islamic extremism