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Ethnography

Introduction:
Taylorsville, Utah has a population 58,652 making it the tenth largest city in the
state of Utah and fifth largest in the in the Salt Lake Valley (Taylorsville). With an
estimated median household income of 58,713 dollars in 2013, it was just under 1,000
dollars less than the rest of the states median household income (Informatics, 2015).
While the majority of the population is white, 22 percent is Hispanic (Informatics, 2015),
which was the majority of the people that I worked with during my service-learning
experience.
The YMCA in Taylorsville caters to many of the communitys needs. They provide
before and after school programs and summer day camps for youth from ages 4 to 15
years old. They also have health and wellness programs, like yoga, and community
programs such as citizenship classes and CPR certification classes (YMCA).
I selected this cultural group because I thought that the work they do with
children is a real need in the area and they are well organized and open to people of all
backgrounds. Another reason I chose to work with this group is because I am not
usually very comfortable with children who are not related to me. I thought that I would
be able to learn a lot about how children act, think, and learn which could benefit me in
the future.
My expectations for this experience and culture group were limited; I wasnt sure
what it would be like and I didnt know very much about the people I would be serving,
until I researched the YMCA more and learned about what they do for their community.

When I was able to learn more about what I would be doing during my time at the
YMCA, I was able to create my own expectations of what it would be like to volunteer
with this cultural group. I thought that I would have a difficult time getting used to what
was required of me, but also that I would be thoroughly instructed for every little job I
was to complete.
Although I hadnt spent much time in Taylorsville before this experience I had
very little culture shock. I found the people to be like what I expected from the
beginning, or at least their background would be similar to that of my research, so I had
prepared myself for working with this group of people. As stated above, the majority of
the people I worked with were Hispanic, and many had a strong background in Hispanic
culture. Where I live the majority of people are white, so I was not used to such a high
population of Hispanic people, but it did not make me feel uncomfortable.
Methods:
There are many methods that one can use while doing anthropology work. One
that I feel like is one of the most important methods is fieldwork. Fieldwork is a first-hand
experience in a cultural group in the peoples daily lives what they do and how they
live. Participant observation is a part of fieldwork. Participant observation is when a
anthropologist experiences that cultures way of living by participating in the activities of
the group being studied. (Nada, 2014)
During anthropological research one can have a few different perspectives on the
people they are studying. The first is an emic perspective. An emic perspective is
examining a group using concepts that are meaningful to the members of that

culture (Nada, 2014). Another perspective is called etic. An etic perspective is


examining a group using concepts and rules from science (Nada, 2014). In other
words, the anthropologist uses an outsiders perspective (Nada, 2014). I had an emic
perspective for most of the time I spent at the YMCA, as I served among the people I
was studying. Though in some situations it was hard to keep an open mind, some of the
rules and ways that teachers were very different from what I am used to.
Collaborative anthropology is when the most important and main concern is the
information and written results from the study. Engaged anthropology comprises of a
major goal of political action. Ethnography is a major part of an anthropologists
research; the fieldwork and written results of a persons research (Nada, 2014). I was
far more concerned with the information and written results from my studies, so this was
mainly an study in collaborative anthropology.
Language:
The lingo and jargon at the YMCA has little difference than what one might hear
at elementary, middle or high school in Utah. There is a difference between people and
how they talk to each other depending on their age and position. Teachers speak to one
another as friends might speak to each other. When a teacher speaks to the children,
they speak in both a formal and informal manner. The teachers have a serious tone
when trying to get the children to listen, but when play time comes around the teachers
voice is less serious. When a child talks to a teacher, they sometimes try to be
somewhat formal but most of the time they are informal and just call their teacher
teacher. The children often spoke to each other in Spanish, but always spoke to their

teachers in English. I expect that this is because most of the teachers were white and
probably didnt speak Spanish.
Nonverbal communications at the YMCA can be noticed by body language and
facial expressions. The children were very comfortable talking to their peers and one
can tell just by watching how they stand or sit while talking to each other. Another
example of nonverbal communication is when the teacher and students are sitting
together discussing what group goes to what station. They have hand signals that stand
for every group and every station, like sign language.
Subsistence and Economics:
At the YMCA snacks and lunches are provided for the children. They are healthy
and well-proportioned for the size of the children. Teachers and volunteers are welcome
to eat the food provided as well, but are also able to bring their own food, as are the
children. Water and milk are provided as well so that the children are able to stay
hydrated during the day. The younger kids are able to have a nap during the day as to
not get too exhausted from the play and work that they do.
The YMCA is receives money from donations made by individuals, companies,
and the government. They have a few fundraisers during the year to be able to get the
supplies needed to help teach and work with children, adults, and families (YMCA). The
economic activity at the YMCA and the area it is in is similar to the rest of Salt Lakes
economic activity. They use all forms of reciprocity and redistribution.
An example of balanced reciprocity happens between workers of the YMCA.
Some of the employees will bring in some sort of food to share with everyone that is

working that day. It is understood that other employees will also bring in food on another
day. It isnt planned, but the workers have an understanding that one should share with
everyone. Another example is how parents carpool to and from the YMCA. Some
families in a certain area may switch off days or weeks to pick up each others kids.
Kinship, Family and Marriage:
Kinship, family and marriage are all extremely important in most cultures. The
practices and beliefs that come from them and how they affect a persons life while they
grow up. The same is no different for the families in Taylorsville; the above-mentioned
topics are important in the everyday lives of the communitys families. Many of the
children have a traditional family with a father, mother and siblings, while others have
nontraditional families: single parents, same-sex parents, or other guardians that are
not the childs birth parents.
Kinship mapping is a way to look at ones own family in a way that is clear to see
who and how a person is related to one another. There are two types of kinship
diagrams. The first is a paternal which is descent through male lines. The second is a
maternal which is descent through female lines. An example of a kinship diagram may
look similar to this:

Gender:
Gender defines a person as male or female and is defined by the persons
reproductive organs. While serving at the Taylorsville YMCA I worked with both gender
groups. In some age groups there were more boys and in others there were more girls,
but it was usually split down the middle pretty evenly. The gender differences were
stereotypical of American children. Girls would wear dresses, skirts or pants while boys
would only wear pants. Boys would like to play sports and fight and girls would like to
play pretend, for the most part. I was able to tell that gender stereotypes play a large
part for those that live in Taylorville, as it does for most of Utah and in a larger extent
America.
Political Organization:
The leadership within the YMCA includes: executive officers, directors,
managers, and teachers. Decisions are made by the teachers first if a problem comes
to their attention that is not too serious. Managers and directors make decisions about
how the YMCA will run and what activities or classes will be available to the public.
Executive officers make the final decision of all areas that are relevant to them.
Decisions are made by the people who are involved in the decisions making process
when they come together in a meeting or meetings and discuss what the best plan of
action is for the certain problem at hand. Social stratification is a social hierarchy
resulting from the relatively permanent unequal distribution of goods and services in a
society (Nada, 2014).
Religion:

There are many religions that are practiced by the people of Taylorsville. The
majority are of Christian faiths LDS, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. Others are
members of the Jewish faith and a small number are members of the Muslim faith. Very
few of the people in Taylorsville are members identify as Hindu, Buddhist, or members
of other faiths.
Art:
Art is an important aspect of the YMCA organization. At the YMCA the children
are able to work on a number of art projects; they are usually simple but very fun for the
kids. One example of an art project that I helped with is that of mask-making. The
children were supposed to make a superhero or princess mask. Some of the things that
needed to be done were difficult for the kids so the teachers and I had to help, like cut
out the eye holes so that kids could see when wearing the mask, but it was a good
learning experience.
Art comes in many types of forms, but there are three main categories: auditory,
visual, and kinesthetic movement (dance). Auditory art includes all type of music
chants, instrumental, rock, etc. The children at the YMCA like to listen to popular music
of the cultural traditions that surround them as well as modern music. Visual art
includes: painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. This is the type of art that is most popular
with the teachers and the projects they choose to do with the kids, like the example
above.
Some of the functions of art for all people of all ages and backgrounds are to
express ones self, create beauty, or show ones talent. The most popular reason to

create art is to express a persons feeling or ideas. An art form that all people do every
day, whether they realize it or not, is personal adornment; the children at the YMCA
usually wear what their parents tell them to wear, but they also have a choice in their
clothing. Most of the girls and some of the boys like to wear some type of jewelry,
whether it be necklaces, bracelets or earrings.
Social Values:
Social values depend on the culture being talked about. One of the main social values
in Taylorsville is family and care for kids. Many people in Taylorsville are Hispanic and
the Hispanic culture generally values family more than anything. Another is equality
between races and ethnicities. Again there being many Hispanic people in Taylorsville
there must be many people who have been or know someone who has been deprived
of some sort of right or judged based on their ethnicity. Many white Americans dont
usually think about equality between races because they are the majority and dont
experience racist remarks or behavior towards them, but there are still people who are
deprived of things that people usually dont think twice about.
Social Norms:
Some social norms in Taylorsville are similar to those that are all around Utah. One
social norm is getting in a line when wanting to have something, like at lunch time or
getting ready to go outside. Another is that some words are not proper and can be
hateful are not considered as language that is acceptable among the people in
Taylorsville.
Reflection/Critical Thinking:

This experience for me was a good one that I think will help me in the future. I
was able to learn a lot about the culture I was serving: what is popular and unpopular,
what are the beliefs of the people I was serving are, and how to interact with them. I
learned that I am a lot more capable than what I give credit to myself. I also learned that
it is easy to interact with people as long as one has an open mind and is willing to try
new things and ways of life.
If I were able to go back in time and change something I would change how
much I researched before going into serve. Another change I would have made was to
go every week for a day or two and each time for a couple of hours to really learn about
the cultural group that I worked with. I think that I had a successful service-learning
experience and learning how to write an ethnographic journal. The first day I went into
the YMCA I knew that my expectations were completely off. Most everything was
different than what I thought it would be like. I think that I liked it a lot more than
expected.