48 terms

Cultural Anthropology Midterm 1

Chapters 1-7
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)
The totalizing approach used in anthropology
"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
Humans cannot live with their instincts alone

Ex.: Domestic pigs/cows (human creation)
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)


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

Interested in opposing racial theories
Culture - the thing that all humans have and have learned

culture - specific culture (French, Mayan, etc.)
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)
How people organize and experience primarily sensory information
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
Language made up of two unrelated languages; no native speakers
main language in a speech community, usually developing from pidgins; has native speakers
Different languages spoken in different contexts
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"
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"
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
The system of ARBITRARY vocal symbols we use to encode our experience of the world
Spoken language
Design features of language
2. Displacement
4. Duality of patterning/ multilevel patterning
5. Semanticity
Creation of new words

Language is created; we receive/transform
No relationship between the thing and the word

Ex.: Table and mesa
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
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
Ignoring of internal variation

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

Most common in colonialism
Subjective conscious experiences

Ex.: red, salty, happiness
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


"Strange Beliefs"

Azande beliefs aren't ridiculous at all
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

Nowadays - Abroad AND at home
Philip Bourgeois
El Barrio, 1990s - inner city apartheid
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