“Dances with Wolves” is the movie which can be characterized as the effective visual effort which addresses the aspects of the different culture of the Lakota Indians. Kevin Costner directed this particular movie in 1990. It is the story of a soldier who successfully builds an association with the tribe of Lakota Indians. “Dances with Wolves” successfully highlights the different cultural features of Lakota tribe which were observed by a Civil War soldier.
Here the focus is to discuss the cultural paradigm highlight in the film “Dances with Wolves” by considering different crucial elements of cultural anthropology. The approach of participant-observation will be used to discuss the characters of the movie as an anthropologist. Further the major aspects of anthropology such as acculturation, enculturation, ethnocentrism and cultural relativism concerning the particular movie “Dances with Wolves.”
The main character of the “Dances with Wolves” is John J. Dunbar who approaches the new culture of Lakota Indians. He interacts with the strange tribe due to the element of Civil War. Dunbar was the Civil War First Lieutenant who becomes deeply influence by the culture of Sioux people. He immensely attracted to the simplicity of the lifestyle of that particular tribe. Ultimately he merges himself with them by leaving his former life. It is viable to discuss the particular approach of the Dunbar in the film concerning the crucial aspect of participant-observation. It is known as the effective paradigm to discuss the feature of cultural anthropology. It is characterized as the specific research method which is used to observe the cultural perspective of any society or the particular group of people (Nanda & Warms, 2013). It is observed that the character of Dunbar never uses the systematic and scientific method of observing the culture of the Sioux people. The approach of observing culture in different in film from the particular approach of anthropologist because there was not the adaptability of the specific research methods of observations used by the character. The approach adopted by the character was the observation of the particular tribe which happened due to the Dunbar’s journey towards the tribe of Sioux.
Acculturation, Enculturation, Assimilation
Acculturation, Enculturation, and Assimilation are known as the three major forms when it comes to understand the feature of different culture and formulate the aspect of connectivity with the culture of the other group of people or the society. These particular concepts of anthropology can also be a witness in case of the particular movie of “Dances with Wolves.” The feature of interacting with a different culture can be observed in both the cases of the Dunbar and the Sioux people who seem unfamiliar with the particular practice of culture. Dunbar verily accepts the exception form of culture in case of Indians as he accepts and applies their culture in his life. The feature of enculturation can be identified in case of Indians who remain connected to their traditional cultural values by considering it as a natural way of life. They come with the assumption that there approach towards cultural paradigm is natural and they keenly accept it.
There is the existence of the feature of the enculturation in case of “Dances with Wolves.” This particular feature describes the factor of diversity referring to the paradigm of culture. There was the clear evidence of the acceptance and adoption of the cultural values in the movie. The character of the Dunbar depicts the element of diversity in the form of enculturation. The diversity of culture in case of Indians immensely impacts him as he readily blends himself with the cultural paradigm of that particular tribe. The decisions of the Dunbar regarding the element of socialization are immensely related to the concept of assimilation. He introduces his approach of compassion to the tribe of Indians and adopts the specific cultural practices of the tribes in his life. He changes his cultural pattern with the bend of the simple and natural cultural presented by an Indian tribe. The feature of the assimilation provides the necessary insights that surroundings and the observation play a major role in the adoption of the features of the different culture. It happens in case of Dunbar who closely observes the cultural practices of the Indian tribe and influenced by their way of life.
Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism
Ethnocentrism is one of the effective concepts to understand the aspect of cultural anthropology. It is the explanation of the judgment or perception of someone regarding the cultural solely based on the values and standards set by the individual. It explains the different cultural concerns mostly based on the aspects of language, behavior, norms, and religion. Ethnocentrism is the paradigm which allows people to make inferences about the other cultures by their own practicing culture (Gudykunst, 2003). This particular concept can be characterized as the comparison of the one’s own culture with the other form of culture observe in case of different groups or communities.
Although there is the evidence of the warm acceptance of the different culture in case of Dunbar and the Sioux tribe, there was the element of ethnocentrism in the “Dancing with Wolves.” Dunbar happily aligns himself with the cultural approach of Sioux tribe and tribe also welcome him and give him honor. The people of the tribe inspired by him when they saw him play with the wolf and give Dunbar the name of Dances with Wolves. This particular cultural bond was not understandable for the army as the existence of the Dunbar in the tribe become the threat to them. It is the example of the ethnocentrism as they judge the cultural practices of the Indian tribe differently without the consideration of the diversity or cultural acceptance.
Cultural Relativism is the counter concept of the ethnocentrism. It is the idea of open-heartedly accept the features of the culture which might not related to individual’s own culture. Cultural relativism encourages the idea that the concepts of beliefs, values, and particular norms should be understood and respect without judging and accept the different cultures just the way they exist in the different people’s life. It is the approach of the accepting and respecting different cultures without the relevance of the own culture (Tilley, 2000). The particular paradigm of the cultural relativism ultimately enhances the approach of the diversity in the societies. It makes it possible for the individuals to live with the diversity without any clash of cultural norms, values, and practices. There is the significant evidence of the cultural relativism in case of “Dances with Wolves.” The main character of the movie, Dunbar is the prime example of the concept of cultural relativism. He rationally observes the cultural paradigm and the lifestyle of the Sioux people. He considers the lifestyle of Sioux people natural and amazing, and he verily accepts their cultural practices without making judgments concerning his own American culture.
Undoubtedly, the movie “Dancing with Wolves” is the effective example of the understanding the feature of diversity. Main characters of the movie rationally observe the feature of different cultures and accept the facet of diverse culture. Dunbar and the Sioux people live peacefully with each other although they originally belong to different cultures. The movie successfully apprehends the idea that acceptance of the other culture can help people to live peacefully and develop diversity in the society.
Gudykunst, W. B. (2003). Cross-Cultural and Intercultural Communication. SAGE Publications. Retrieved from https://books.google.com.pk/books?id=-5sjpr1ypmcC
Nanda, S., & Warms, R. L. (2013). Cultural Anthropology. Cengage Learning. Retrieved from https://books.google.com.pk/books?id=8csWAAAAQBAJ
Tilley, J. J. (2000). Cultural relativism. Human Rights Quarterly, 22(2), 501–547.