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75. HUMOR – Specific

Are there humorous radio or TV programs? What topics are covered? Are these family or adult oriented? Watch or listen to one of these programs and isolate the humorous elements. Who did or said what to whom? Was one person or object the target? Why? Did the episode have teaching or merely entertainment value?

Are there people who make their living by entertainment? Is this gender specific?

What is their role in society? Are they respected? Are they all members of one tribe, clan, or family? Do they ply their trade only on the media, or are there local venues or spontaneous opportunities available? If so, who are the targeted audience—children? adults? men? women? anyone?

Is there a newspaper with cartoons or a comic section? What or who is their subject?

74. HUMOR – General

What makes people laugh? When they are embarrassed? When someone says something perceived as funny? Children at play? Other reasons?

Who do they poke fun at and when? children? adults? people they know well? people from another group? How does the target person or group react to this? What are acceptable methods of teasing someone?

What inflections or voice modulations are used to indicate a humorous statement in contrast to a serious one? What about accompanying body language?

Are there stories or legends about a comic person (as Don Quixoti)? Do these teach a lesson as well as provide an opportunity for a laugh? On what occasions are such stories retold? Look at or listen to one with a friend and retell it to another friend along with your understanding of its meaning.

Are there ethnic jokes about another tribe or nationality? Are these said with hatred? with sarcasm? in good fun?

As you investigate this topic, see if there are areas where humor would differ in your own country. Are there incidents in your new culture which are considered humorous or witty but would be regarded as insult or damaging in your native culture—and vice versa?


Ideas for whom you can talk with to inquire about this topic: talk with a lawyer to find out what types of cases he is handling, or talk with someone who has had a case pending in the courts.

If you can, observe how a case is handled in court. What judicial procedure is followed? How do the parties concerned present their cases? Is there a jury? How are they selected? What is their role?

Explore the legal system to find out what types of courts exist to handle grievances. Are these readily available to the local populace? How long does it take for a case to be heard?

What kind of training do the judges, lawyers, and others have? Are they dependable and impartial or are they easily influenced by those with money and position? How often is the law taken into “their own hands” and how is this recourse viewed?

What broken standard of behavior would constitute grounds for bringing a case to authorities?

Which would also need the services of a lawyer? a ritual expert?

What types of cases constitute the majority of those brought for judgment?

Possibilities: land disputes, water rights, pigs in one’s fields, adultery, incest, chronic bullying or other anti-social behavior, cheating on a deal, murder, theft, etc. How and on what basis is the verdict reached? Are bribes ever used to influence a case?

What types of punishment are meted out to those found guilty?

Possibilities: restitution, fines, jail, community service, banishment, death, etc. Are these punishments different from those meted out in the old days for murder, chronic theft or robbery, adultery, etc.?

Do people argue their case directly or through a spokesman? Do the parties to a case meet face to face or do they appear before the council separately? Which decisions can be appealed? How?

How is justice today different from that administered in former times


Who are the people who are looked up to, have prestige?

  • in your neighborhood?
  • in your village, town or city?
  • in the country as a whole?

On what is this prestige based—political power, wealth, ritual expertise, knowledge of a craft, ability to sing, tell stories, recount legends, lay leadership in the temple or center of worship, ability to counsel, attainments in formal education, knowledge of legal procedures, or some combination of these and other reasons?

How have the criteria for status and prestige changed in the last 30 years?

  • What were they for the older generation?
  • What are the current status symbols for the present generation?
  • Are these counted in property (land and animals)?
  • In educational attainment (degree, post-graduate degree, or even a “BA-fail”)?
  • In residential location, etc.?


How do people identify themselves?

  • By citizenship? By ethnic origin? By clan membership?
  • By language or dialect? By caste or occupation?

In view of this,

  • What do they call themselves?
  • What do they call outsiders?
  • What do outsiders call them?

Do groups have a tendency to stick together in the larger society or do they integrate?

What certain traits that identify their “membership”—dress, body markings, piercings, etc.?

What stories and anecdotes that bind the “members” together in a common history?

At what age are children initiated into full rights as a member of their society? How is this done?

What, beside sex and age, are the main divisions in society? These could be based on kinship, occupation or skill, religious orientation, educational standard, financial holdings, etc.



Review material you already have gained about products obtained through agriculture, gathering, hunting, fishing, crafts, etc.

How do goods from another area arrive in your village or town–by truck, by plane, by bicycle, etc.? How are goods and produce from your area transported to market? Is this done by the producer or by a middleman?

Which of these are sold or traded to other villagers or neighborhood residents? Which and what amounts are sold or traded outside the area? To those of the same ethnic group or to those of a different group? Are the products sold directly to consumers or sold to middlemen?

Which items come from other villagers and which from outsiders? Do traders bring wares to the neighborhood, or do people make their purchases in town?

Chart out the economic relationships existing between your village or town and:

(1)    traders – who are they and what do they buy or sell?

(2)    other villages and towns in the area – does another town have goods that are not available in yours? How far does one have to travel to the next town or city?

(3)    a major city – is transport readily available? Is the trip a hassle or a fun occasion? Is it for the purpose of selling or buying? Is the trip usually successful?

(4)    international export – are products manufactured or grown in your area sold internationally? Are products from another country readily available where you live? Are such products desired by the local people?

What range of prices would various types of items be sold for? What has been the rate of inflation over the past two years? Have wages kept up with the cost of living?

How are business transactions conducted? Is there a sex differentiation in terms of commerce or services rendered?

Are items sold or bought for cash or credit? Who are the moneylenders? What are the terms of such a loan (time, interest rate, guarantee, etc.)? Are there pawn shops? What is the rate of indebtedness in the village? What happens when debts are not or cannot be repaid?

From whom can one borrow tools or articles? Is an item returned to the owner or must he go for it when he needs it?

Do people hire themselves out for wages? In the village? Outside the village? Is there a steady migration of people from rural areas into town seeking work? From what areas or ethnic groups do they come? What kind of work, if any, can they obtain?

Are outsiders hired by villagers? To which ethnic groups do they belong, what work do they do, and what are they paid?


This assignment explores proper etiquette for the giving and acceptance of gifts.

To whom would a person give a gift: relative, friend, neighbor, trading partner, headman, government official, etc.? On what occasion would a gift be given? Are these occasions determined by the calendar [as birthdays] or by the course of events [as encouragement for good work done]? What is the motive for giving: love, concluding a business deal, influencing a decision, building up goodwill, etc.?

What types of gifts are appropriate for various occasions? What kinds of gifts are given in exchange? How long a delay between the receiving and the giving of a return gift is within the limits of appropriate behavior? Is the gift related to the status of giver or recipient? In what ways? Be careful to distinguish between a true gift and payment for services rendered, especially when the latter had been delayed.

How does one acknowledge the receipt of a gift? When is it proper to open a gift? On receiving it? Later, when the giver has departed?

How much sharing of excess farm or garden produce is done in the village? What is said when giving and receiving something? Is an equivalent exchange expected?


What types of marriage are recognized by the society? Must there always be a ceremony? Are mass marriages performed, and when? Attend a wedding and describe the ceremony and other activities associated with it. Notice who the participants are. As you have the opprtunity, attend various weddings and note the difference between traditional weddings of various tribes or clans, the difference between a Christian wedding and that of adherents of another faith, the difference between a civil wedding and a religious one, etc.

Who officiates at the wedding? Is there a reception or dinner afterwards, and who arranges it? When are the bride and groom presented to the invited guests? When do the bride and groom see each other for the first time after the ceremony? How do they leave the site of the wedding, and where do they go? Are there other dinners and receptions at another time? What is the traditional schedule kept by the wedding party for the first month (or later if applicable) after the wedding?

Who are invited as guests and how are they informed? What gifts are given? When and how are they given, and to whom? What would be expected of you as a guest?

Where does the new couple live? What is the relationship between the man and the woman and their in-laws? Is the relationship dependent on whether the couple lives with the man’s family, the woman’s family, or in their own house? What adjustment problems do newly-weds have? When is a marriage considered consummated?

How many wives/husbands may a person have? Are there wedding ceremonies when succeeding spouses are taken? Is polygamy permitted? What are relations like in a polygamous household?

Is divorce socially acceptable? What are the reasons for divorce? What is the frequency? Describe a divorce procedure. What happens to the original bride price or dowry? Is there any provision made in the marriage certificate for compensation in case of divorce? Can divorced people remarry? How would such a ceremony differ from a regular one? Who gets custody of the children in a divorce? May women divorce men?


At what age do boys and girls become ready for marriage? Describe the method by which marriage arrangements are made. Are the arrangements made by the parents? If so, how much say do the boy and girl have in determining who their marriage partner will be?

What characteristics are looked for in a potential husband? in a potential wife? Ask about physical, educational, financial, religious, political aspects that need to be considered.

Is courting allowed? Do the boy and girl get to know each other at all before the wedding? What standards must they follow if this is allowed. How is courting initiated, and by whom? Are there different expectations if the prospective pair are from the same neighborhood or from another town? Is a chaperon needed?

Are there kinship restrictions as to whom a person can marry? Clan or tribal restrictions? Can two persons marry if they have nursed from the same woman even though they may not be related by blood line?

When marriage is considered, which side takes the initiative in making a formal proposal? Is there an engagement ritual? Who takes part in this? How long is the period between engagement and the wedding? What activities take part in each home (the groom and the bride) during this time? What preparations need to be made by the girl? by the boy? How binding is the engagement? What happens if the engagement is broken? Who takes the initiative in breaking the engagement?

Is a dowry expected? or a bride price paid? If so, what are the expectations? Who does the negotiations? Is the immediate family responsible for the payment (or preparation), or does the extended family also contribute?


Note:  While investigating this subject, plus the Life Cycle topics which follow, be sensitive. In some cultures, some of these topics would not be appropriate for men to discuss with women and vice versa. When possible and appropriate, ask a wide variety of people for their opinions. Different age groups, different ethnic groups, and different religions may hold very different perspectives on these issues.

What is the adult attitude to children’s curiosity about their own bodies? regarding procreation and birth? Is such knowledge given, withheld, or fictionalized (e.g., the stork brought you)?

What system of modesty does the society follow regarding which body parts may be seen, excretory functions, bathing, privacy of marital relations. etc.?

Is virginity expected before marriage? From both sexes? If not, when do young people begin having sexual relations? With whom? What relationships would be considered incestuous? Is premarital sex expected. condoned, punished? How? What is the attitude of the parents toward such relations?

Is pregnancy before marriage shameful, accepted, or welcomed? Is the couple punished (e.g., by being fined or expelled from the village)? What effect does such a pregnancy have on a future marriage and bride price?

Are extramarital sex relations accepted or tolerated? For both sexes? Are the spirits offended by such affairs? Is the couple fined or punished? What happens to a child born of an adulterous affair?

What are the attitudes toward homosexuality, prostitution, or abortion? Are such actions tolerated or punished? How?

How are venereal diseases treated? Is contracting such a disease a thing of shame? Is there any connection between sex and morality?

What acts are considered immoral: profaning sacred places or objects, immodest behavior, violations of kinship relationships, incest, violation of an ethical code of behavior, or something else? What is the punishment for infraction of these codes? Is there a list of such behaviors (as, the Ten Commandments, the 7 deadly sins, etc.)? How are these taught and learned?

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