Cultural Anthropology Midterm 1

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Chapters 1-7

Anthropology

The integrated study of human nature, human society, and the human past

A discipline that aims to describe in the broadest possible sense what it is to be human

Making the familiar what is unfamiliar and vice versa

General characteristics of anthropology

1. Holism
2. Comparison
3. Field-based
4. Evolution (history)

Holism

The totalizing approach used in anthropology

Culture

"A set of learned behavior and ideas that human beings acquire as a member of society" (Schultz and Lavenda)

Culture is LEARNED; not innate

Everyone has culture

Adaptive/Transformative

Humans cannot live with their instincts alone

Ex.: Domestic pigs/cows (human creation)

Culture/Biology

Not to be looked at separately

Mutual influence (dialectical)

Cultural anthropology

The specialty of anthropology that shows how variation in the beliefs and behaviors of members of different human groups is shaped (...) by culture

Four fields of anthropology

1. Biological (physical)
2. Cultural
3. Linguistic
4. Archaeology

Franz Boas

Forefather of American anthropology (US/Mexico)

Geographer/physicist

Environment doesn't determine culture, but it may put limits on it (Inuits, Baffin Island)

Interested in opposing racial theories

Culture/culture

Culture - the thing that all humans have and have learned

culture - specific culture (French, Mayan, etc.)

Ethnocentrism

The opinion that one's own way of life is natural or correct, and, indeed, the ONLY TRUE WAY OF BEING FULLY HUMAN

Assessing other people's practices and beliefs THROUGH THE LENS OF ONE'S OWN CULTURE and cultural categories

Cultural relativism

Understanding another culture IN ITS OWN TERMS

Cultural relativism makes moral decisions more difficult because it requires us to take many things into account before we make up our minds

Genital cutting

Is it a violation of human rights?

Anthropologist Janice Boddy found that preserving chastity and curbing female sexual desire made the most sense in rural northern Sudan, where women's sexual conduct is the symbol of family honor

Did their culture "make them do it"? No

Boddy's account emphatically REJECTS the view that women or men in Hofriyat are passive beings, helpless to resist cultural indoctrination

You have to consider it in the eyes of the Sudanese who practice

Human agency

People have individual control over their lives (free will)

Perception

How people organize and experience primarily sensory information

Universalism/particularism

The policdy of cultural relativism was aimed at defending communities from colonial intrusion

Human-rights activists assume culture is understood as tradition, as the concept of harmful traditional practices show

Colonial elites use the concept of culture to justify oppressive practices

Human communication

The transfer of information from one person to another; can take place without the use of words, spoken or otherwise

Includes language and other symbols (not spoken)

Broader than language

Pidgin

Language made up of two unrelated languages; no native speakers

Creole

main language in a speech community, usually developing from pidgins; has native speakers

Heteroglossia

Different languages spoken in different contexts

Fieldwork

Personal involvement in a society

Unilineal evolutionism

Single series of stages through which all societies had passed or would pass on their way to "civilization"

Cognition

The intermediary process between perception and knowledge

"Cognitive anthropologists have become more interested in the mental processes people use to make sense of their experiences in the world"

Motivation

Drives and desires which cause behavior

We set goals and pursue the means to achieve them. Even when those foals and means are culturally prescribed, we have to be induced to accept them as valid and important enough to take them on and make efforts to accomplish what our culture values

Language

The system of ARBITRARY vocal symbols we use to encode our experience of the world

Speech

Spoken language

Design features of language

1. OPENNESS
2. Displacement
3. ARBITRARINESS
4. Duality of patterning/ multilevel patterning
5. Semanticity
6. PREVARICATION

Openness

Creation of new words

Language is created; we receive/transform

Arbitrariness

No relationship between the thing and the word

Ex.: Table and mesa

Prevarication

Unfactual meaningless statements; they have to be grammatically correct

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

Linguistic relativity principle: language shapes the way we see the world

Ex.: Tropical people see snow and think of it as just "snow"; Inuits have different words for different kinds of snow

Linguistic determinism - more controversial version

Ex.: Gender (nouns, adjectives, etc.); social position in Java; the way you talk is the way you understand

Totalizing

Comprehensive

Problems of Sapir-Whorf

It is not confirmed in reality (no evidence)

Assumes every language has only one set of grammatical forms

Assumes monolingualism

Translation is impossible according to the strong version of this hypothesis

Essentialism

Ignoring of internal variation

Assumes an unchanging nature (all the same; "cookie cutter")

Most common in colonialism

Qualia

Subjective conscious experiences

Ex.: red, salty, happiness

Consciousness

Very complex concept: relates to many aspects of the mind's interaction with the world

Does it really exist?

Components of language

1. Phonology (sounds)
2. Morphology (word sentence)
3. Syntax (sentence structure)
4. Semantics (meaning)
5. Pragmatics (contexts of use)
6. Ethnopragmatics - pays attention to broader cultural cultural context

Anthropology and colonialism

Anthro was born out of the colonial encounter

British Structural Functionalist Anthropology

Evans Pritchard - emphasized fieldwork and cultural relativism

Rejection of "survival" and unilineal evolutionism

Interested in understanding the SOCIAL STRUCTURE of society

There is an order; family relationships; functions within society; indirect rule

Culture Area Studies

Focus on first nations

Boas is founder

Emphasis on fieldwork, history, and linguistics

New cultural forms are borrowed, not independent invention

Porous boundaries

Culture trait - particular features of a culture; a ritual

Culture area - defined by the limits of the diffusion of a particular trait or set of traits (wider than a society)

Individual, bounded timeless societies

Evans Pritchard

One of the most important anthropologists in the first half of the 20th century

British structural functualist anthropologist

Believed in being an interpreter rather than a scientist

Emphasis on OTHER CULTURES

"Strange Beliefs"

Azande beliefs aren't ridiculous at all

Subjectivity/objectivity

Subjectivity - your position

Objectivity - outside yourself

Ethnographic fieldwork

Extended period of close involvement with the way of life of a people

It is through fieldwork that anthropologists collect data

Certainly linked to colonialism

Participant observation

Living how a culture lives, and being as involved as possible

Notebooks, notes, interviews, field diaries (for research and personal accounts), recorders

Classic anthropology

Abroad

Nowadays - Abroad AND at home

Philip Bourgeois

El Barrio, 1990s - inner city apartheid

Participant-observation

Extended periods of close contact at a single site with members of another society

Positivist approach

The mode of the laboratory

Seperates facts from values

Results were accurate and systematic - sometimes insenstive

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