Anthropology: The Culture of the People of River Front


The aim of the ethnographer was to understand the culture of the people of the River Front. This is because it is a city which is in America but has a lot of people who are not Americans. It is composed of mainly European people who live permanently in that place. In addition, a university in that city admits more than nine thousand students per year who are not Americans but from all over the world. Thus, the ethnographer’s objective was to establish how the people in that place live, what are their cultural values and how do they affect their day-to-day living. It is a good setting to study the culture of the people because, first, the people are not of American origin, and thus, they present a different culture from the rest of the people. Secondly, the people are mixed and there is no one dominant group of people. There are very many people from different countries all over the world. This was likely to bring about a wide range of cultures. The ethnographer expected that he or she will get varying cultures in the population that is there. In addition, the diverse culture might have attracted the ethnographer to study the people there so as he can understand their way of life better (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

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The majority of the people in River Front are from Japan and thus, the predominant culture there is of Japanese origin. The ethnographer wanted to use his own cultural perspective in the interpretation of the culture of the people in that city. Since there is a clear distinction between the American culture and the culture of the Japanese there, there was a higher possibility of establishing clear cultural comparisons. He was interested in the establishment of the differences and similarities of the culture of the people who are living in that place so that he can make a clear comparison between these cultures. The ethnographer also wanted to establish what would be the best equivalent in Japanese culture to the American culture. The differences in the cultures of the Japanese people and the American people were important in the learning of the environment of the Riverfront.

According to the author, there are different interpretations of the same phenomenon among the different people living in this place. This is because of the difference in the cultures of the Japanese people and the Americans. The authors suggest that the two cultures are so different that they will have interpretations that are quite different from one another of the same thing. For this reason, the author wanted to study the culture of these people and make a comparison between it and the culture of the Americans so that he can understand it better. He also wanted to make some dialogue between the people of America and the Japanese. The ethnographer wanted to use the dialogue so that the people living there can talk and exchange their views on how each of the groups thinks about each other. Thus, the ethnographer wanted to make the people living there but come from different cultures discuss their views (Fujita & Sano, 2001). This would make them understand what the other people think about them and they tell the other people what they think about them.

Another task, according to the author was to make strange things appear familiar and the familiar things appear strange. He wanted to ensure that what seemed hard to understand was easily understood and thus make people understand more of their place. He chose this middle size town because of its diverse origin where there are people who are living together but with very different cultural backgrounds. In addition, the ethnographer wanted to make sense of those people’s cultures which would make other people understand their cultures better. The people will be able to view their own cultures in a different dimension. Thus, the ethnographer had a major objective, understanding their culture with his culture. This would bring meaning to many things in the culture of the Americans which have not had meaning because there was no comparison. However, with comparison, it will be easy to make the Americans understand their culture better than they understood it (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

The ethnographer first wanted to understand the history of the town. He thus investigated the archives to come up with a conclusion about these two. Secondly, the ethnographer wanted to investigate the town as an insider. This made him interact with the people as if he was a member of the community. He became friends with them so that he would be able to pick a lot of information. Third, he wanted to establish the transitions which he would undergo in his life because of living with these people. He thus observed himself carefully so that he can note any transitions which are taking place in him. This would help him understand better how the transition would take place in a person who has been subjected to a different culture. Thus, paying attention to the transitions taking place to him made the author understand that the cultural boundaries which are always thought to be static they are not and they can be changed depending on the context the person is in (Fujita & Sano,2001).


The ethnographer used various methods to gather his information. First, he used direct observations. The direct observations enabled him to understand how the people in that area were behaving. He got to understand how they interact with one another. In addition, the direct observations were important in the establishment of the cultural values of these people, and establish the differences between the American culture and the culture of the people who come from here. For example, the ethnographer noticed that there were many Asian hotels but few Japanese went there to take their meals. The author also used secondary information in his research of the culture of the people. He visited archives so that he can read and understand better the cultural activities and values of the people who are living in this place. Thus, the reading from archives helped the ethnographer to understand the cultural background of the people here better as opposed to being told without any evidence. The ethnographer can thus be said to have used secondary materials in the collection of information (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

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The use of dialogue and focused group discussions was also employed in the collection of information. As mentioned earlier, the people were supposed to meet and talk about their cultures. For example, the Americans would talk about their culture and what they think of the Japanese culture. This would also happen with the Japanese who would also say what they thought about the culture of the Americans. The focused group discussions brought about the views of each group of people towards each other. As a result, the ethnographer was able to make a clear conclusion about the different cultures and how they value the other cultures of the people living in that place (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

The ethnographer also used participant observation in which he stayed in the town so that he can undergo a transformation and thus understand whether culture is static with definitive boundaries or it can change depending on the context of the culture. This was a form of participant observation in which the researcher actively participated in the activities of the people in that region while paying close attention to what is happening to him in regards to the change in culture. This is as opposed to where the researcher just comes to observe and leaves. The participant observation gives better information which is more accurate as people are likely to pretend when they see a visitor and behave in a different manner. However, in participant observation, the people and the researcher behave the same and thus the researcher will be taken as a member of their community which will encourage them to behave in their normal way without fearing that someone is observing them. This will lead to a collection of more accurate information. Interviews are other ways the ethnographer used to collect his information. He would ask the people questions about particular things in the society which were of interest to him. This enabled him to gather some information about the community and thus help him in understanding the community better (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

Mobility, Stability, and Ethnicity

According to the author, people will tend to migrate throughout their lives, which can either be geographical or socially. This mobility, the author states that it is highest among the American people. They will tend to move from one place to another or to change their social groupings from one to another. This, they found out using several methods. The first was the historical documents which would help them evaluate whether in Riverfront the Americans were migrating both geographically and socially. Another way was by asking the people whether they like migrating. The Polish people were the latest to arrive in the town in the 1880s and 18890s. Approximately forty percent of the people in the town were polished people. However, these people were not born there but immigrated into the town. This shows that these people were more likely to migrate than any other group of people living there (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

Young polish people left the farms of their parents and went to town with the objective of seeking education and employment. These were people who were in their early or late twenties and the major motivation was seeking a job. Thus, the search for employment can be said to be a motivating factor for people to migrate from their geographical location to another. Thus, most of the young people were migrating because of the search for greener pastures. In addition, they were seeking to get an education. A university in the town admits about nine thousand foreign students per year for its courses.

Another factor that led to the migration of the people in this place was marriages. However, according to the author, most people married from the same culture and religion. The author used secondary information such as newspaper announcements to determine whether they are of the same culture or not. These marriages provided the young people with an opportunity to leave their farms and go and settle in the towns. A person who was married was not expected to stay with the parents and thus he or she had the freedom to move from the father’s farm to a different home. As a result, there were several people moving away from the farm (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

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There were some patterns which were adopted in the migration of the people into the River frontan town. The people from a certain cultural background were usually situated in one place after arrival into the town. For example, the people from the northern side were considered to be of polish origin. This shows that the town was fragmented on the basis of the cultural background of the people present there. It was thus considered a polish territory. The people who lived there, whether they had a polish origin or not behaved like polish people. They used the culture of the polish people and thus they were culturally the same. This means that if there was an American who settled among the polish people, he or she was supposed to socially migrate to the culture of the polish people.

According to the ethnographer, the people who were Polish in origin living in America proffered living close to their families. They did not want to be separated from the rest of the family members. Since these people were marrying their fellow Polish people, there was very little movement from the area and thus making the Polish-Americans become more concentrated on the northern side then the rest of the parts of the town. As a result, the northern part of the town was composed of more polish people than any other place. This illustrates that one of the factors which affect the migration of the people is their families. Most of the people would not wish to leave their families alone and thus they would try their best to remain in the area where their family is. According to the author, majority of the people living in the northern side encountered some problems in 1980s. This led to some migration. However, those who remained there shared a common cultural background and thus they would live together comfortably. This resulted in the collection of the people with polish background in the northern part. When the conditions improved, they were less willing to migrate (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

Ethnic Manifestation and Identity

In this town, most people would expect that most of the things would be done according to the polish culture. Someone will expect that most of the hotels in this place will be owned by the polish people and would cook foods which are representing the culture of the polish people. However, this is not the case in this town since most people would like things which represent a cultural diversity. People would prefer to eat polish foods or traditional foods in their homes and not in hotels. A newspaper that was being printed in polish stopped being printed more than seventy years ago (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

In this town, there are no visible signs which tell that the town is polish. There are no shops or restaurants selling goods which have Polish origin. When one of the people was asked why there are no polish foods in the restaurants, the person replied that the cultural foods were supposed to be eaten at home. This shows that the people in this place do not regard ethnicity and that they have socially migrated from their culture. However, in some occasions, the ethnographer noted some elements of polish culture. This was evident in the music which was played, performances, costumes being used and the food being eaten in some occasions. Thus, the Polish culture is not yet fully gone but still present here.

Changing relationships

The author indicates that there was some change in their relationships with the people in the town when they had their first child. They become less strangers and they were welcomed more by the natives during the interviews. They noticed that the staff at the places they were very cooperative with them and willing to assist them always. Most people they met after their child was born were very willing to support them and interact with them. They were more willing to provide them with the support they needed. Thus, they were received better after the birth of their first child in that community (Fujita & Sano, 2001). When the wife of the ethnographer was pregnant, most people in this town were very happy about them. They were talking to them in friendly tones and were willing to assist them in anything. This might be the culture of the people here as they feel when someone give birth here, he or she is assimilated to their culture and thus welcome to that place.

Cultural Variability

According to the ethnographer, cultural variability occurs between and within cultures. The ethnographer gives an example of the cultural beliefs of the accepted mode of delivery of a child. He appreciates that there are different believes about how a woman should give birth, according to what he gathered through his interviews. The different people had different opinions on where to give birth depending on their ethnic background, cultural background, social economic status and their age. Most of the medical professions in the area preferred the natural method of giving birth as long as there were no complications of contraindications to that. According to women who were in their twenty’s and thirty’s, giving birth was supposed to be by natural while in women who were older like forty years proffered the operative delivery. Breastfeeding also varied among women with women who about seventy years were suggesting that breastfeeding was better than the use of the bottle. Whoever, women who were middle aged proffered to feed their babies using bottles (Fujita & Sano, 2001). This shows a significant variation in the application of the cultural values and principles among people of the same culture.


The ethnographer states that he took his child to a day care facility which was located in the east end of the town. It was supposed to be open from Monday to Friday and all the people brought their children to that place for care. The teachers here made children understand that sharing was an important part of their lives. The teachers would even name the children share so as to understand sharing is an important component of life. The culture of sharing was very prevalent here and people were encouraged to share what they have with their friends. This was to make them grow with the notion that they should share with their needy friends (Fujita & Sano, 2001).

Hard Work

When the ethnographer started investigating on whether the people in this place are hard working, he found out that the Japanese people were as hard working as the Americans. He thus concluded that these people work hard and that they are not a lazy group of people. This is especially in men of Japanese origin who believe that they must work hard for their children and wives. This is as opposed to the American men whose hard work originated from independence. Someone working hard so that he or she can be independent from the other people is the motivation of hard work in American men (Fujita & Sano, 2001).


The theoretical perspective of the ethnographer is that in this town, there are many cultures which are different from the culture of the Americans. According to the ethnographer, the people here are not like the pure Americans. He believes that their cultures are very different and that he needs to compare them for the purpose of understanding them. He also expects to find different examples of different cultures in this town. For example, the ethnographer was expecting to find a lot of restaurants which sell Polish food because the place is inhabited by mostly polish people. To the centrally, he found out that there were no such restaurants. The ethnographer is not adequately convincing the reader that the cultures here are different. However, the method he has used to gather his findings are good. They are scientific and they were the best for the collection of information in this setting. For example, the ethnographer decided to live with the people so that he can observe them and collect enough data regarding them. This helped in ensuring that he gets the most accurate information (Fujita & Sano, 2001). He also organized for interviews which would shed light on areas which were not clear to the ethnographer. Thus, the methods were good for the collection of the information.

The author is however trying to generalize issues. The author has not grouped the various findings together for the purpose of better understanding of the information by the reader. The author is thus making it difficult for the reader to understand what is happening. However, the author has made it possible to understand my own culture by comparing this culture with the American culture. This comparison; leads to a better understanding of ones culture as he or she picks the differences between these cultures. He also reinforced my understanding of human behavior that they need to be sharing. The ethnographer notes that the people in this place like sharing and that sharing is taught to all young children. This will make them grow knowing that sharing is very important and that they should always share with their friends.


Fujita, M., & Sano, T. (2001). Life in Riverfront: A middle-western town seen through Japanese eyes. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

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