Anthropology Personal Statement
My interest in anthropology has its origins in real and personal experience. When I was only 6 years old I was taken by my family to The Gambia in West Africa on a visit to friends who were doing VSO there. Even at that age I was struck by the way that cultural, social, environmental and language differences could change the way people perceive the world and their own role in it. We made repeated visits there over the next decade and I became increasingly familiar with the way of life of the Mandinka people with whom we stayed. We lived in compounds with extended families and set up a nursery school and equipped a health clinic in a rural village, and in this way I learnt about all the anthropological realities which made life there so different from my own. I learnt about their history and the effects of the slave trade, their tribal and inter-ethnic relationships, their notions of kinship, their tribal customs, language and rituals – such as the naming ceremony for the new born – native dancing and drumming, all of which have meaning within the context of the social group. I discovered the impact of political change for them, their religious identity (90% devout Muslim), their economy, education, gender roles and attitudes, so that an anthropological picture built up which convinced me that this would be an absorbing and fulfilling area of life-long study. Since then I have explored human diversity in Egypt, observing a Bedouin tribe, and next summer I plan to visit Thailand to compare the way of life in Bangkok with that of the rural Karen tribe. I have taken every possible step to share my discoveries and my enthusiasm for the subject with my peers at school. I introduced the idea of the Global Student Forum, which seeks to encourage discussion of contemporary development issues and inspire students to be global citizens. I was sent as school ambassador to several conferences of the organisation, where I worked with the Department for International Development, including meeting the minister, to discuss the various political impediments to the implementation of the Millenium Development Goals by 2015. My Gambian experiences also led to involvement in a film documentary made by the Enormous Film production company, which was shown to raise funds. I also had an internship with London Family TV, supporting a journalist who was doing international research on the lives of families, and working to persuade the international community to support a “Family Rights Charter”, and had work experience placements with the BBC in the Bristol newsroom and with the Ariel Trust as a voice over and presenter.
I am a member of the school’s charity committee, and was a member of a very successful Young Enterprise group, which won the best presentation award at the regional finals. I am an international leader with Amnesty International and a campaigner for Christian Aid. At school have taken several leading roles in drama productions, and was elected Form Captain by the school staff.
I have read quite widely in my field, including Nigel Barley’s amusing Innocent Anthropologist, and Eriksen’s Small Places, Large Issues. I read the DFID Journal and Anthroplogy Today. June Hendry’s An Introduction to Social Anthroplogy revealed to me Malinowski’s theory of Functionalist Anthropology, in which all cultural behaviour is seen as conditioned by human need, and the contrasting Radcliffe-Brown view of Structured Functionalism, where social behaviour is seen as part of the maintenance of social cohesion. But one encounters the subject everywhere, including in my English Literature texts such as The Kite Runner.
I am something of a born leader, strongly self-motivated and very open minded. I think logically and have a high level of cultural awareness and understanding. I am academically able and have every confidence that I shall become an extremely successful undergraduate. I hope you will consider my application.