The Benefits of Cultural Immersion in Anthropology

Immersion programs can be a great tool for discovering more about other cultures since they broaden one’s perspectives on the diverse values and lifestyles of other cultures. Immersion allows people to step out of their comfort zone and truly experience a different lifestyle by authentically experiencing the language, food, music, and more. Immersion can reveal the values and underlying depths of cultures that can only be portrayed through experience. Additionally, immersion in another culture creates more cultural empathy and appreciation, and ultimately creates a more united world. Seeing different cultural norms and behavioral expectations allows people to realize the diversity of the world and have a greater understanding of community. Furthermore, it enables people to discover the connections different cultures have and learn about commonalities and differences. Experiencing different ways of life through immersion can break stereotypes and cultural barriers. Immersion can also help maintain cultural traditions or indigenous lifestyle, because it leads to greater appreciation, respect, and cultural sensitivity for these lifestyles. The reason why immersion is so valuable is because it lends a different perspective than from simply traveling somewhere as a tourist. Immersion allows people to create relationships and meaningful interactions with the people of another culture and experience life as a local. The connections and observations made through immersion shows the rewards of shared human experiences and can be useful in educating others.

Additionally, cultural immersion programs can be useful in professional fields, especially anthropology, because it expands intercultural competencies and advances awareness and sensitivity of global contexts. Anthropologists can use their experiences to educate others on the importance of cross-cultural awareness, and they can use their perspective to reevaluate how their cultural identity can lead to assumptions and biases. When studying humanity, participation in cultural immersion can greatly benefit research by increasing cultural awareness and competency of pluralistic societies. When conducting field studies and anthropological research, immersion allows for deeper assimilation into the lifestyles leading to greater insight and meaningful observation. Although some anthropologists have expressed concerns that immersion could lead to lack of objectivity, most have concluded that immersion actually aids in objectivity since it allows anthropologists to experience and observe first-hand how people respond and interact in their society, lending more authentic research.

Bronislaw Malinowski contributed to ethnographic methodology through his use of fieldwork in his research

British anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski was the first anthropologists to utilize long term immersion and observation of another culture in anthropological research. He immersed himself in the life of the people of the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea to better understand their lifestyle and culture. Many anthropologists have followed in his footsteps and used immersion to analyze cultural patterns. Aside from simply living the life of another culture, anthropologists use information and interviews from informants within the society being studied to supplement their observations. Immersion provides a foundation for changing ethnocentric perspectives and refining understanding of human societies and is beneficial for holistic anthropological research.

Sources:

http://individual.utoronto.ca/boyd/anthro4.htm

https://www.jstor.org/stable/30188538?seq=1

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