National Character Study

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National Character Study

Some scholars have tried to study the whole character of a nation by expanding the scope of the study of culture and personality. Culture and personality refer to a combination of anthropology and psychological insights which later led to Psychological anthropology.

We can say that National Character is some of the Personality of all elements of a nation. Thus the national character is the identity of a nation. It is specific to a particular nation. In fact, the culture of the whole country depends on it, it is also an indicator of the country’s culture.

During World War II, anthropologists could not follow their traditional fieldwork method and thus invented a new way of research. This was the first time that anthropologists study entire nations rather than simple societies.  

The primary method that anthropologists use for the study of national character is direct observation of interaction after travelling to visit and document various cultures of the world.

Some of the National Character Studies in Anthropology are as follows-

Margaret Mead’s National Character Study

She Studied America’s National Character. She studied the effect of culture on personality. Her three books are-

  • Coming of Age in Samoa
  • Growing up in New Guinea
  • Sex and Temperament in 3 primitive societies
Pic- Wordbred

In the book- “Coming Of Age in Samoa”, she has made a comparative study of the personality of the girls of the Samoa tribe and the girls of America. She found that when American girls started puberty, those girls started getting irritable, and had mental dissatisfaction because there was a less emotional attachment in American society. On the other hand, the girls in the Samoa tribe are not irritable in such a situation because they have more cultural attachment. One of the reasons for this is that in the Samoa tribe, sex before marriage was accepted. In the end, she concluded that the change in the personality of the girls of both places during puberty was more biological and less cultural.

Margaret Mead pointed out that a thorough study of the basic culture of the people living in a particular area is necessary. She also clarified that the purpose of the study of national character is to renew the cultural and historical characteristics of any nation. According to her, there is a role of culture and personality of that country in the formation of national character, but in this, the social structure of that country also has an important role.

Ruth Benedict’s National character study

In her book- “Chrysanthemum and the Sword”, she studied the National Character of Japan.

Ruth Benedict (pic- Britannica)

At the time of the Second World War, America took some Japanese soldiers captive and they imprisoned them. Benedict got a good opportunity and started studying Japanese, as a result of which she understood the national character of the whole of Japan i.e. she studied the cultural pattern of the whole of Japan. This study of her is called National Character Study.

Pic- Wikipedia

Chrysanthemum is the national flower of Japan, which is a symbol of sweetness and beauty. She used to say that when a child is born in Japan, he or she is like a flower, but after a short time, a sword is given in his or her hands. In this process, there is a lot of change in the personality of a child.

During this study, she developed a new technique of study, which was- the Study of Culture at a Distance. The Japanese she studied were prisoners, so she could study them only at a distance. During this study, she only used case studies or content analysis methods.

  • There are some other names that are associated with the National Character Study- Abram Kardiner, Ralph Linton and Cora Du Bois.

Read more-

Culture and Personality

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