Friday, September 02, 2005

Indigenous nudity

I'm not sure what to think about the Discovery Channel's show Going Tribal. On the face of it, it looks like flat-out cultural imperialism: a white guy (British of course) travels around to different "tribal" cultures and joins in the fun. I have to admit though, that I haven't seen much of the program.

From the half a show I did catch, it seemed less offensive. The host, Bruce Parry, seems genuinely interested in the cultures he visits. And he seemed to respect their requests not to film certain sacred rituals. On the other hand there was an element of "gee whiz" to it. In one section I saw, Bruce heads off on a hunting party into the forest. When they get to the hunting camp in the afternoon, he's surprised that the hunters don't want to go out immediately and start looking for prey. Instead they take naps. I can think of any number of reasons for this: the prey is nocturnal, the afternoon heat is bad, etc. But Bruce opines that they have "a different sense of time" than us westerners. This makes me think that Bruce has never been hunting in the west. In my experience, hunting and fishing are as much about men going off together to goof off as they are about actually killing animals.

But I digress. The thing that most caught my eye about the program was the strong content warning. After commercial breaks there was a warning that the show contained strong content--mostly I guess violence. But one phrase was particularly weird. We were also warned that the show contained "indigenous nudity". Don't worry, the white guy isn't getting naked, but some of the black folk might.

7 comments:

cawshis said...

The one time I've been hunting with my dad and his friends, they spent a significant amount of time drinking and napping. It's part of the hunting ritual, I guess.

I think the network was reaching for a term to describe the nudity as nonsexual…like indigenous nudity is kind of an interesting way to put it. Most networks when they warn of nudity are trying to warn you that usually the context of the nudity is of a sexual nature (like NYPD Blue), but I guess they wanted to make it clear that this wasn't like that.

More of an educational nudity. Or a notuptightaboutboobies nudity. I can't even think of a term! I'd got with "natural" nudity…to steal from the nudists folks, but then that sounds just as awful.

Eric said...

How about "non-sexual nudity" (or "nonsexual", if you prefer). It's pretty direct, so I suppose that's a problem. "Don't think of an elephant!", as George Lakoff would say.

I also have to agree with the bit about hunting. Maybe that guy's only been on a third-party-organized, pay-per-person, weekend-warrior kind of hunt, where you may well expect to get more bang for your buck, so to speak, by not stopping to rest.

I've never been hunting, but I have gone fishing (with Ed!) and hiking, and there's no doubt that although you do plenty of fishing and hiking, you can also expect a lot of napping, drinking, relaxing, etc. Just judging from having done this in both North and South America, I'd say that's pretty universal -- "different sense of time" my ass.

boredoom said...

Kajabor and I were just talking about this - there's a warning with the same wording on the Tribal Odyssey series. I forget the channel.

It's kind of puzzling. Are they saying New Guinea natives aren't sexy when they're naked?

Regarding the slacker aspect, I seem to remember someone computing that our stone-age ancestors spent about four hours a day working.

liberal elite said...

I've heard the four hour work day thing too. Seems odd, since I often hear that it was agriculture that freed up people for leisure classes. You'd think with only four hours a day of work the stone age guys would have invented the interwebs.

Anonymous said...

As was mentioned, the guy hosting the show is british, not american. so his experience with hunting is different than your obviously. hunting in england is more of an upper class sport, where as in america it is a time for drunk hicks to play with guns.

Casey said...

Thank you for your interesting comments. Only recently, this September 2008, I saw this Discovery Channel show, "Going Tribal". (That's three years after the original post, here.)
Having grown up in the tropics, I can mention something that seems to have been overlooked. Did any of the "Going Tribal" episodes mention the connection between high humidity and skin disease? (OK... perhaps someone else already brought this up, in some thread that I have not yet found.)
In those sweltering rain forests, there is a good reason to go naked. It is not a matter of cultural values, nor primitive technology, but a matter of health and survival. High humidity promotes skin infections, which are usually fatal, in that primitive life style.
Further, in the tropics, rest breaks and naps are necessary, not because people are lazy, or don't have enough to do, or need to attend to rituals of male bonding. In the sweltering humidity, humans need cool down periods. In high humidity, human sweat does not evaporate. Humans lose the advantage in temperature control that they have over animals.
Worse, profuse sweat promotes skin infection. Those peoples who are native to the areas usually have inactive sweat glands. Those of us whose ancestors adapted to drier climates are miserable in the tropics, perpetually sopping wet, with an additional burden of smelly cloth draped all over our skin. (We can talk about evolution here... right?)
If I were marooned in a tropical rain forest, I'd get naked along with 'em, as a matter of survival.
In the episode that I saw, the tribe took every opportunity to bathe in running streams, another strategy to cool down. Even if the water is not cold, the rush of water will carry off body heat, as long as the water temperature is below body temperature.
As a young boy, I constantly developed fungal skin infections, particularly where clothing prevented the evaporation of perspiration. We had no air conditioning, in temperatures that fluctuated between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, at 80 to 95% relative humidity. There was no permanent cure for the skin irritation, just treatment. Strategy was to apply anti-fungal powders, and sleep naked, to try to have some time to let skin dry out, particularly in the seat of ones pants. Cultural values required long pants, neatly pressed. So, we sat in puddles of our own sweat. When permanent press fabric became mandatory, for neatness, the problem got worse. I frequently had a blue or red streak running down my leg, itching like fire. It seems that back then, the permanent press fabric was rather impermeable to water vapor, keeping skin even more moist. And there could have been some chemical irritation, as well, from the permanent press fabric.
And we were told that the nudists, naturists and FKK people were kooks and crackpots.
Casey

Damion327 said...

He was nude when they did the manhood rite of jumping over the backs of bulls. I loved the show and every culture wanted to adopt him and have him stay.

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