Dancing Skeletons Mini-Essay
Culture is an individual’s way of life in any given society. Cultures can also vary tremendously from one society to another. Therefore, leaving a culture that is natural someone, in this case Katherine Dettwyler, can be very difficult to adjust to. In the book Dancing Skeletons, Dettwyler returns to Mali in West Africa to conduct research on the development of the children she had previously measured. She also wanted to help the Malian’s have more sufficient adaptive customs relating to nutrition in order to increase their survival rate.
When Dettwyler first traveled to Mali, she observed child growth and infant feeding practices in malnourished populations. She retuned to Mali for six months in 1989 in order to develop culturally appropriate nutritional education programs. Dettwler obtains measurements of height, weight, etc. through participant-observation in order to measure each child’s growth. Participant-observation is when you live among the individuals being studied and observe, and question them about their customs. In this case, Dettwyler questioned parents about their child’s nutrional intake. For example, in Chapter 3, she tries to explain to Daouda’s mother that her child was not getting enough food and needed to eat more, but the mother wouldn’t listen. Also, in chapter 6 she explains to a mother that her child is suffering from Kwashiorkor, which is a disease caused by lack of protein but rich in high-caloric foods. She suggests that the families try to implement more meat and milk into the child’s diet.
Dettwyler didn’t simply just show up at these families’ homes and request to measure their children, and command them to change their dietary habits. Instead, she used the proper form of the Malian people’s language in order to first become acquainted with them. In the very first chapter, Dettwyler mentions how each time you see someone you know you go through a rather large list of greetings involving questions...