If I were an Anthropologist

I found another one of my “speculatory” essays from back in the day. There’s no need to thank me.

If I Were an Anthropologist
A Speculatory* Essay

If I were an anthropologist, I’d be a great anthropologist; a generalist to a T. I’d probably be colorblind. But this would not be a handicap, no no. It would be an aid. Because of that, I would not see the color of a different peoples’ skin. No, I would see them for the great and independent culture and society they truly are. Isn’t that beautiful? Of course, I wouldn’t be able to tell a green light from a red light. That would suck. Because of that, I would have a lackluster driving record. I’d be a little sensitive about that so I’d appreciate if you didn’t bring that up again, thank you very much.

I would be a cultural anthropologist, which means that I would look at and study peoples’ different ways of life, cultures, systems of meaning, blah blah blah. It’d be boring to a lot of people (including me) but there it is.

I would lead a failed coup within the Society for Visual Anthropology (which it’s self is a subset of AAA (American Anthropological Association, not the American Automobile Association)). My one-eyed co-rebel Mustafa. I would suggest changing the society’s bylaws to include only black-and-white images, and only those that do not require depth perception. Because he can’t judge distances very well, Mustafa also has a spotty driving record. We would both be kicked out the SVA and would have to live out the remainder of our lives as members of the AAA only. Mustafa would die two days later in a tragic auto accident. He was trying to change a tire on the side of the road when a drunk driver ran over him. It’s too bad he didn’t call AAA (this time the car club people).

This tragic yet amusingly ironic event would cause me to found my own subset of the AAA (the anthropology one again), the “Society for the Study of Intra-Cultural Irony” or SftSoI-CI for short. Among my anthropological findings would be that the Dwaangaawaataas of southern Sri Lanka have the most advanced and complex understanding of irony of any culture in the world. The British come in a close second. The dirty French come in dead last but, true to my anthropological nature, I’m not judging them. Just reporting the facts.

I would secretly have a anthropological crush on a fellow anthropologist. (and here I mean fellow as in “comrade or associate,” not “man”). I would ask to proofread her thesis before she presented it in the hopes that I could spend a little more time with her. She would say yes. She would be very pretty. Her name would be Jo, just like that chick who cut her hair in Alcot’s Little Women. I’m not sure what color her hair is but it would be quite shiny and would smell like roasted almonds (shout out to Judy Blume!). Before letting me start proofreading her thesis she would invite me over for Thai food. I really dislike Thai food (it makes me gassy) but we anthropologists are supposed to embrace all cultures so I would grin and bear it. I would hate for her to think my tastebuds were ethnocentric.

Her thesis would be flawless (except for a split infinitive on page 121), but it would also destroy any hopes I had about a co-anthropological relationship. Here is a brief excerpt:
Although phonetic naming of colors is random and the number of categories varies from culture to culture and even among members of the same culture (I may use one word, red, where my neighbor the painter recognizes crimson, vermilion, garnet and others), there is remarkable universal agreement about the best examples of colors. As it happens, we have one of the clearest culture-neutral systems to describe color: the objective physical measure of wavelength. There is a strong cross-cultural agreement regarding which color samples are the “best” blue, the “most” red, etc.

[Sigh.] I don’t really blame her. How could she know? I would leave her apartment crying. Crying my gray tears, smearing my view of the gray sky, the gray clouds, the gray trees, the gray grass and the gray stoplight. I would begin to cross the gray street, not noticing the red (gray) light. The last thing I remember hearing would the gray screech of brakes and the gray honk of horns.

As I would float gently up to Anthropology Heaven, I would relish the irony as I remembered the word emblazoned on the bus’ grill before I was run over: “Greyhound.” As I pass through the pearly gates, St. Peter, smirking, would inform me that the bus driver’s name was Sri-Lankan immigre named Grayson. If only the SftSoI-CI could see me now.

* Like before, I’m very much aware that “speculatory” isn’t a word.


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