Tag Archives: Where is the Anthropology?

Where is the Anthropology? April 2008: Tal’Afar, Iraq

Tal’Afar, Iraq is April’s picture!  Good guessing.




This image was taken by a soldier who spent a tour in Iraq and has seen a very different world than many people. This soldier was kind enough to let me use one of the pictures taken of everyday life currently in Iraq to help show some middle eastern anthropology and to get a soldiers view of the Iraq culture, customs, and history.




“Tal’Afar is located in the Middle East in Iraq. It is approximately “30 miles west of Mosul and 120 miles north west of Kirkuk”, which are major cities in Iraq. While no official census has been taken, the city’s population was estimated to be approximately 420,000 people prior to the war. With current U.S. occupations, the assessment is closer to 200,000, nearly all of whom are Iraqi Turkmen. The population is “mostly Sunni Muslims with a Shiite presence. While most residents do speak Arabic, a dialect of Turkish is used nearly universally throughout the city.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_Afar)


During the Ottoman Empire reign of power, the Ottoman Turkish Army founded the city on a hill as a military outpost. “Remains of the fortress can still be seen today. Also garrisoned at the fortress were Turkmen members of the Daloodi tribe who following the withdrawal of the Ottoman Army became the first civilian occupants of the town build around the fortress. … Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Tal Afar became part of Iraq.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_Afar)


Over the years, much of the original fortress has been destroyed and rebuilt as needs of the people, military and governments have dictated. “Local history states that British administrators augmented the structure of the original fortress. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fortress was further augmented and made to house the city’s mayoral, municipal and police headquarters.” The castle continues to be used by military forces occupying the city. The local Iraqi military headquarters is also located there. The British occupied this area for years, further evidence of this can be seen in a large defensive structure just east of town and in the genetic features of the younger generation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_Afar)


Though Iraq is consider by some to be the “cradle of civilization”, it has not advanced much since then. There are modern convinces found among the city. Many of the citizens have cell phone, as they are relatively inexpensive to get and use. Cars are used, but not everyone can afford them, hence why they continue to use donkey carts for everyday needs. Indoor pluming is virtually nonexistent in this city and raw sewage runs down the street freely. Few residences have computers and internet access. In a region that can reach temperatures of 130 degrees, central air is few and fair between.


The culture here is very different from the American way of life. The men there are allowed to have more than one wife and the women there are not treated the same as in America. It is common to see a man walking from the market with a few women trailing behind him carrying everything and the guy just strolling along smoking a cigarette.


The unemployment rate is really high. When asked what he did all day, one resident responded he plays volleyball or soccer. When asked why he does not work, he said why bother. He gets everything he needs for living from the government. The thought process is just completely different, the items Americans use everyday and think are necessary for life are considered major luxuries.


The young boys are pretty bold in asking for things from the soldiers, a little to often. The girls on the other hand stay back. They are very timid and when the boys are around they will not come near. If a girl did get anything from a solider with boys around, the boys would often take it away as fast as they could and the girls would not be able to do anything about it. Because of this, for at least this soldier, he would try to give things to the girls because they were less annoying and it was more rewarding.”



Written by a Soldier



These are some of the stories and experiences this soldier had personally during the soldier’s tour in Iraq.  This added understanding, showed cultural differences and allowed the soldier to see into a different world that is normal closed off to the masses.




Editor-Adrienne Elder


Where is the Anthroplology-March 2008: Strasbourg and American Tourists

Strasbourg, France


Strasbourg was a city rich in history, like many in Europe.  This now French city has maintained an exciting past being located on the borders of the French and Germany line.   After the rule of Romans and the Holy Rome Empire, a revolution in 1332 resulted in a broad-based city government Strasbourg declared itself a free republic from the Holy Rome Empire. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

The city’s famous cathedral was construction in the 12th century, was completed in 1439, and became the World’s Tallest Building.  The reason for its uniqueness to the town is that it was built with only one steeple leaving it nonsymmetrical.  The first modern newspaper was published in Strasbourg in 1605.  Johann Carolus received permission by the city to print and distribute a weekly journal written in German.  During a dinner in Strasbourg in 1792, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle composed “La Marseillaise“. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

During the French revolution, Strasbourg’s status as a free city was revoked.  In 1794, there was talk of tearing its spire down, because it violated the principle of equality.  During the Franco-Prussian War and the Siege of Strasbourg, the Prussian army heavily bombarded the city.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg) 

In 1871 after the wars ended, the city was annexed to the newly established German Empire at the treaty of Frankfurt (Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen).  As part of Germany, Strasbourg was rebuilt.  Massive fortifications were established around the city, which most of it is still stand today.  “Those forts subsequently served the French army, and were used as POW-camps in 1918 and 1945.”  Following the defeat of Germany in World War I, the city was again restored to French. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)


Having been influenced by Germanic culture, Strasbourg remained largely Alsatian speaking into the 20th century.  The fall of France in1940 during World War II, caused the city once again to be annexed by Germany.  After the war, Strasbourg was again returned to France.  The First World War did little damage to the city, but American bombers caused extensive destruction in1944.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

“In 1920, Strasbourg became the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, previously located in Mannheim, one of the very first European institutions. In 1949, the city was chosen to be the seat of the Council of Europe with its European Court of Human Rights and European Pharmacopoeia. Since 1952, Strasbourg has been the official seat of the European Parliament”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)


The cities lay out geographically was ideal for defenses with a river that was created to protect the center of the town.  Currently the city is larger then the town’s center, but it provided necessary defenses at the time of its construction.

In addition to this cities great history and European archaeology, any amateur anthropologist being observant to the different types of people visiting the city can currently examine cultural anthropology.  As I lived in Germany and traveled, my husband and I noticed cultural behaviors and clothing differences among American tourists, non-American tourists, European natives, and locals.  Often the people you could hear the best were Americans.  In truth, my ears picked up anyone speaking English since it was a rarity to hear.

In tourist groups with guides, American tourist seem just like any other tourists visiting the city’s sites, but there are still things that help in pointing them out.  What they choice to wear in public can often identify American tourists.  Some of the most common attire seems on these tourists are a form of athletic shoes, fanny packs, baseball hats, cowboy hats, and tourist souvenir shirts.  These clothing trademarks stand out against the European outing fashion.  When I would go out shopping for grocery’s to clothes the local people were dressed to impress.  I recall seeing many women ranging from 50-75 plus wearing fur costs, many of the other people looked like they had walked out of fashion magazines from New York City or Los Angeles.  People strutted their personalized looked when they walked out of the house.  I asked my Germany neighbor how some of the women could wear such high and pointy stilettos on the cabal stone walk ways, her reply was why would they not.  She then pointed out how easy it was to tell tourists from the locals because they would wear shoes that were athletic shoes, not matching their attire, or a more sensible shoe to allow for the walking around.   

On a deeper cultural level, American are stereotypically considered a nation where English is the most common language proving to most Americans a false security about not needing to learn as many other languages as people in other countries.  Often an American person will have taken one foreign language later in their teenage or college life and typically forgot most of that language.  Other people from different countries learn several different languages.  Germany people learn English and Germany when they are in elementary school and then learn another or two language in their teen years of schooling.  These languages are typically their weaker languages in later years, which is similar to Americans language development in secondary education. 

The significances to American typically only knowing English fluently, causes several observation notes of interest.  I have seen tourists that speak loudly to others in their party, in English.  Often these types of people might compare people, food, architecture, and culture differences to “not be as good as the things back home”.  They typically have large need for personally space around themselves in a crowd of people they do not know.  Often English comments are discussed at a volume level load enough to hear from 10-20 feet away.  These commend are herd by many of the people walking by and often those comments are in the local tongue with a disgusted “American” inserted among the words.

I asked my Germany neighbor about how they felt about American tourists in their country.  For the most part, American tourists were just like any other tourists to her.  She did note frustration to careless comments Americans often made about different cultures loudly expressed in public.  Often locals would make comments about what they said, since most people understand English if they do not speak it very well in European countries due to their required education programs.  American act as if they are the only ones that understand what they say, but the truth is that many other people pick up on those “believed to be private English comments among the foreigners”.  Add the clothing typical to ideal American family vacationing in Europe and Americans stand out.

After living in Germany for over a year, I realized these silly differences in behavior, cultural, and interpretation of American tourists throughout Europe.  My husband and I found American tourists to annoying as the locals found them at times.  I realized know how a few loud and careless remarks made by Americans in other countries added to the perpetual believe of the rude, uncultured, or stupid American cliché that give Americans a bad name.  I learned that just because you do not understand your environment or culture around you, sometime others understand you.

I hope this personal insight to my experiences in Europe, focusing on the City of Strasbourg, as an example of tourism at an annoying level to the locals, has shown you that cultural anthropology is always around you. 

The only tip I would offer to future American tourists is to be more aware of your surroundings and the things you say.  It is ok to make comments that others will not like, just say them in your friend’s ear kept it among your comrades and maybe level some of the silly tourist cloths at home, if you are looking to blend in with the natives.  

Adrienne Elder

 note: the first half of this articles information came from Wikapidia and the second and third images. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StrasbourgAll other pictures on this article came from Adrienne Elder.

Where is the Anthropology?- March 2008

Something that I thought might help in showing the interesting ways that anthropology is all around is to have a picture of the month. This will be of anthropology importance; a place, activity or a person that has to do with anthropology. I will give a clue a week to give everyone an opportunity to figure out what the picture is and the anthropological importance and how it applies.


This image is wanting you to figure out the cultural anthropological importance’s of the people and the location significances. This image is about cultural observation of your surroundings and other people in a typical place where people congregate. Good luck on this image and I hope you enjoyed last months.


clue one: This is located in a country where English is not the dominate language used by the locals? Take note of the people in the image; this may become important in other clues.

clue two: This place has many visitors from around the world, but the most noticeable are English speaking ones.  They standout in more than one way.  This town became very important in 1952 and has a river surrounding the town.  What is the city?

clue three:  This city has been tossed between two countries for centuries.  The people that standout the most are the ones that talk loudly and have particularly weird way of dressing which is different to the way other visitors dress.  Who are the visitors and what is the name of the city?

Hint: Something red in the picture is not native to this area.

clue four: The name of the this city is a German name, but it is not in Germany.  This city has great importances to the European Union.  The people are often found in small groups scattered around the town in important buildings, restaurants, and stores.

Good luck with the final clue.