Anthropologist David Mandelbaum makes a distinction between life-passage studies and life-history studies which emerged primarily out of research concerning Native Americans. Life-passage studies, he says, “emphasize the requirements of society, showing how groups socialize and enculturate their young in order to make them into viable members of society.” Life histories, however, “emphasize the experiences and requirements of the individual, how the person copes with society rather than how society copes with the stream of individuals.” Life-passage studies bring out the general cultural characteristics and commonalities that broadly define a culture, but are unconcerned with an individual’s choices or how the individual perceives and responds to the demands and expectations imposed by the constraints of his or her culture. This distinction can clearly be seen in the autobiographies of Native American women.
For example, some early recorded autobiographies, such as The Autobiography of a Fox Indian Woman, a life passage recorded by anthropologist Truman Michelson, emphasizes prescribed roles. The narrator presents her story in a way that conforms with tribal expectations. Michelson’s work is valuable as ethnography, as a reflection of the day-to-day responsibilities of Mesquakie women, yet as is often the case with life-passage studies, it presents little of the central character’s psychological motivation. The Fox woman’s life story focuses on her tribal education and integration into the ways of her people, and relates only what Michelson ultimately decided was worth preserving. The difference between the two types of studies is often the result of the amount of control the narrator maintains over the material; autobiographies in which there are no recorder-editors are far more reflective of the life-history category, for there are no outsiders shaping the story to reflect their preconceived notions of what the general cultural patterns are.
For example, in Maria Campbell’s account of growing up as a Canadian Metis who was influenced strongly, and often negatively, by the non-Native American world around her, one learns a great deal about the life of Native American women, but Campbell’s individual story, which is told to us directly, is always the center of her narrative. Clearly it is important to her to communicate to the audience what her experiences as a Native American have been. Through Campbell’s story of her family the reader learns of the effect of poverty and prejudice on a people. The reader becomes an intimate of Campbell the writer, sharing her pain and celebrating her small victories. Although Campbell’s book is written as a life history (the dramatic moments, the frustrations, and the fears are clearly hers), it reveals much about ethnic relations in Canada while reflecting the period in which it was written.1. Which one of the following is the most accurate expression of the main point of the passage?
(A) The contributions of life-history studies to anthropology have made life-passage studies obsolete.
(B) Despite their dissimilar approaches to the study of culture, life-history and life-passage studies have similar goals.
(C) The autobiographies of Native American women illustrate the differences between life-history and life-passage studies.
(D) The roots of Maria Campbell’s autobiography can be traced to earlier narratives such as The Autobiography of a Fox Indian Woman.
(E) Despite its shortcomings, the life-passage study is a more effective tool than the life-history study for identifying important cultural patterns.2. The term “prescribed roles” in line 24 of the passage refers to the
(A) Function of life-passage studies in helping ethnologists to understand cultural tradition.
(B) Function of life-history studies in helping ethnologists to gather information.
(C) Way in which a subject of a life passage views himself or herself.
(D) Roles clearly distinguishing the narrator of an autobiography from the recorder of an autobiography.
(E) Roles generally adopted by individuals in order to comply with cultural demands.3. The reference to the “psychological motivation” (line 30) of the subject of The Autobiography of a Fox Indian Woman serves primarily to
(A) Dismiss as irrelevant the personal perspective in the life-history study.
(B) Identify an aspect of experience that is not commonly a major focus of life-passage studies.
(C) Clarify the narrator’s self-acknowledged purpose in relating a life passage.
(D) Suggest a common conflict between the goals of the narrator and those of the recorder in most life-passage studies.
(E) Assert that developing an understanding of an individual’s psychological motivation usually undermines objective ethnography.4. Which one of following statements about Maria Campbell can be inferred from material in the passage?
(A) She was familiar with the very early history of her tribe but lacked insight into the motivations of non-Native Americans.
(B) She was unfamiliar with Michelson’s work but had probably read a number of life-passage studies about Native Americans.
(C) She had training as a historian but was not qualified as an anthropologist.
(D) Her family influenced her beliefs and opinions more than the events of her time did.
(E) Her life history provides more than a record of her personal experience.5. According to the passage, one way in which life history studies differ from life-passage studies is that life-history studies are
(A) Usually told in the subject’s native language.
(B) Less reliable because they rely solely on the subject’s recall.
(C) More likely to be told without the influence of an intermediary.
(D) More creative in the way they interpret the subject’s cultural legacy.
(E) More representative of the historian’s point of view than of the ethnographer’s.6. Which one of the following pairings best illustrates the contrast between life passages and life histories?
(A) A study of the attitudes of a society toward a mainstream religion and an analysis of techniques used to instruct members of that religious group.
(B) A study of how a preindustrial society maintains peace with neighboring societies and a study of how a postindustrial society does the same.
(C) A study of the way a military organization establishes and maintains discipline and a newly enlisted soldier’s narrative describing his initial responses to the military environment.
(D) An analysis of a society’s means of subsistence and a study of how its members celebrate religious holidays.
(E) A political history of a society focusing on leaders and parties and a study of how the electorate shaped the political landscape of the society.