A holistic perspective is the idea that components of a given system cannot be explained as single entities or as component parts. In anthropology, it is the belief that culture is integrated as a whole, and no part can be examined in isolation. Within the cultural and social field of anthropology, holism is used to refer to an analysis of a society, which refuses to be broken into single components.
Among the Gende people of Yandera village, everyone belongs to a clan. These clans relate through marriage, exchange, and kinship. However, much poverty and inequality fracture their societies, the Gende strive hard to maintain togetherness as a people through traditional and non-traditional means. In this society, to be otherwise is to be an outsider. One is a son, daughter, aunt, uncle, son-in-law, among other forms of other relations that bind them together. It is their common humanity that brings them together and not any outside techniques to building rapport.
One way through which the Gende people of Yandera village redistributing wealth to those in need is gambling. This is considered a fair and open-to-all chance where the poor can gamble little to win much. To assimilate different ways of distributing wealth borrowed from external cultures can be argued for or against. If assimilation is desired, Carr argues that it has to be achieved in full through the support of a cultural majority (3). Functional social, economic and political forces beyond those available must also be in place. Though education may serve a necessary and useful function in helping the Gende people, it cannot accomplish the task of better wealth distribution mechanisms alone.
Among the Gende people, for example, one does not promote himself as a principal landowner and they consider chieftainship a foreign culture. Embracing a system where clan wealth is governed from one central place or where everyone individually owns resources would go against the same culture that holds them as a big family today. In addition, safe relationships are built based on trust and belief that every member of the clan has other people’s best interest at heart. The people are stun supporters of hospitality, helping the weak and poor as family. Men hunt and gather as women tend to the land to feed the children.
In such a setting, introducing any practice that brings thoughts of grandeur or superiority over one another can be detrimental. It will breed parity and break the very practice or belief that binds the Gende people together. Critics of western-designed interventions in other parts of the world also argue that to influence people against their own culture and beliefs is immodest and immoral.
On the other hand, gambling as a way of distributing wealth is old-fashioned and does not serve the weak fully. It is a game for those who have mastered the art, who take away even more from those who have little. Introducing saving schemes, loans, and grants, will be a more sustainable way to help the poor earn a living. In a community where people practice hunting and gathering to substitute their agricultural income, better economic systems and practices would help integrate the society.
However, it is important to note that, the ethnocentrism line – which is judging the culture of the Gende people solely by the values and standards of the foreigner’s anthropological perspective of culture – would be crossed if the cultural majority do not understand, embrace and support the intervention. Believing that one’s cultural practice is centrally important stands in the way of open-minded intervention and help. To help the people of Gende adapt better economic principles, any intervention group would have to put down separatist nationalism, which is bred when ethnocentrism occurs.
Carr, Patricia. Implementing Culture Change: Organization Development. Alexandria, Va: ASTD Press, 2006. Print.