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Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 1
Dr. Ken Barger
IUPUI, Anthropology
© 2003
A104 Cultural Anthropology
Class Notes on
First class one of the most important of the semester
Core Concepts that we will use throughout the course (see web page in the Syllabus section of ONCOURSE)
The principles of science can help us all be more valid and balanced learners
Science? The study of natural phenomena
Anthropology is a science - biological/behavioral
Has responsibilities for grounded understandings
Purpose: Discovery of natural laws and principles
To develop and validate more balanced and predictive understandings of life events and issues
Something that we can all do
Causal relationships
Predictive laws/relationships
Integration of the breadth of knowledge is a major challenge
(1) Scientific Research
Science involves a method of inquiry - to validate ideas and explanations
Controlled comparison
As we compare similarities and differences across phenomena
We can determine what relationships and influences exist in life events
And also which suspected or perceived ones are not valid
Testing for significant causal relationships
Major designs in establishing cause:
Experimental methods - control of influences
Observational methods - analysis of influences as in nature
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 2
(2) The Research Process
A common misconception is that research = data collection
This is only a part of the overall research process
Formulate issue - valid Q
Research plan - variables, measures, pretesting, logistics
Data collection - field/lab
Data analysis
Reliability and validity of the data
Patterns and relationships
Interpretations - best empirical explanation
Reporting - accessible for others to learn also
(3) Principles in Scientific Research
Recognition in the research design, data collection, and analysis
Not the absence of biases
Maximize chances for valid/reliable data, grounded interpretations
Myth: Scientific research is "objective"
Subjective decisions at all points - selection of issue, measures, probability levels
Types of biases:
! Conceptual (what views we bring to learning)
The structured beliefs and perceptions about life and the universe (what we consider "true")
Influences what we notice, what we seek to learn, and how we interpret things around us
! Methodological (how we go about learning)
The way in which we select and gather the information we use to understand life and issues
Structures the basic materials we use for developing our understandings
! Situational (our learning context)
The structured context and circumstances around us
Influences what information and events are and are not available to us in understanding life and issues
Sometimes beyond our control
! Personal
The individual experiences and personality (interests, likes and dislikes, characteristics)
Influences what and how each of us seeks to learn and understand
! Chance
The random circumstances and events that cannot be controlled beforehand
Provide and deny new perspectives on life and the universe
Some overlaps in biases
Some biases we can control before the fact
Asking valid questions
Identifying and collecting valid and relevant information
Maximizing the situations in which we develop our understandings
Some biases we can control after the fact
Qualifying our interpretations to account for all biases
facts FROM THE interpretations of those facts
Grounded scientific understandings are based on knowing what we do not know
And keeping what we do know in the context of what we do not know
! In gathering relevant, valid, and balanced information
! In making interpretations and drawing supported conclusions
Unfortunately, science is not a value position or democratic
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 3
Anthropology? The study of human beings
All aspects of being human - physical, psychological, social, etc.
Anthropology is a science
Must meet scientific standards
Integrated with other disciplinary perspectives
Psychology, Sociology, Biology, etc. - no discipline exclusive
Many overlaps - varied views provide greater understandings
(1) Set of perspectives that distinguish Anthropology:
Across time
Across cultures
Integration and interaction of biological, behavioral, and environmental factors
Humans are social animals
Similarities and differences among human groups
Most people very limited in understanding human potential
Experiences limited
Anthropology can thus contribute to our greater awareness of the range of ways people can be human
(2) Subfields
The study of biological origins and variations of humans
Paleontology, race, clothing sizes
Covered in parallel A103 course
The study of past human cultures and cultural developments through material artifacts
Development of agriculture/civilization in O.W. and N.W.
Also covered in parallel A103 course
Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology
The study of the behavior of contemporary human groups
The primary influence in human behavior
The main focus of this course
The study of languages and human communication
Important in perceptions of life and interpersonal behavior
Some focusses cross-cut traditional subfields
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 4
(3) Learning Another Culture (Ethnography)
How do anthropologists go about learning other ways of life?
Cross-cultural comparison
The Ethnographic Research Process
! Formulate issue - valid Q
! Research plan
! Data collection: Field research
Role: We are the learners - they know their own cultural experience
Assume nothing - any assumption likely to be biased
Biases? - conceptual, methodological, situational, personal, chance
Participant-observation - observe and experience
Observe - systematic: What? Who? Context?
Experience - systematic ... the basis of what it's like to live life in their ways
Inquire - express need to understand and learn
Everything is information - even their behavior towards us
Record learning - memory, field notes, journal
Description - comprehensive, details ... in sequence of events
Personal/Questions/Notes - separate the facts from interpretations
! Data analysis
Test data - validity, reliability
Patterns - how most people behave
Variations - sex, age, perceptions, etc.
Meanings - their views, feelings
Relationships - how traits are related to each other in the cultural system
Functions - how contributes to the economic, social, psychological, etc. adaptation of the group
The best empirical explanation of their behavioral system
! Reporting - accessible for others to learn also
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 5
Purpose? To understand how we as humans are a part of nature, and how we are unique
Humans' Place in Nature
Western cultures have tended to see humans as independent of nature
Many groups have recognized that we are related to other life forms
Ecology shows that Earth is an interactive system (Lovelock)
All humans are a part of nature
Earth as a holistic ecological system
Want to examine humans as a part of the living system of earth
Key Concepts in Evolution of Life Forms
(1) Biological EVOLUTION?
A change in the frequency of genes in a population over time
Key parts: Change? Genes? Population?
All living organisms on the face of earth today are the end result of 3.5 B years of evolution
(2) The basic MECHANISM of biological evolution? Natural selection
Natural selection?
The carriers of those genes which are more adaptive to environmental conditions survive
and pass on those genes in greater frequency
Thus, these genes increase in frequency over generations
(3) DIVERSITY is: Adaptive
The more different types of traits in a group, the more likely the group will have the necessary resources to
meet environmental challenges (particularly new and unforeseen ones)
The more alternatives to fall back on when faced with unforeseen challenges
The scientific basis for preservation of biological diversity
Why should be concerned with preservation of wetlands, rainforests, etc.?
Our habitat also - how healthy is it?
The greater the diversity the greater the adaptive potentials
An important reason for understanding the broad cultural potentials of humans
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 6
(4) The Phenotype
Genotype? All the genes carried by an individual
Can be passed on to descendants - including recessive genes
But have to be expressed
Phenotype? The expression of an individual's genes
Genetic potentials have to be developed with environment
ASPECTS of the phenotype
Morphology: Biophysical traits and processes
Behavior: Active/reactive functions and actions
We usually don't think about our behavior being in terms of our genetic capacities
Two important concepts which should be kept distinct are:
! Race: The genetic frequencies in a population at a particular point in time
Races can change over time - Mongolians in Europe, Germanics in S. Europe and Britain
! Ethnicity: The behavioral patterns of a group
Different races may share a similar ethnic heritage
America is a nation of immigrants
Groups of the same race may have different ethnic heritages
Navajos and Subarctic Athapaskans
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 7
Humans Are Animals
We share many traits with other life forms
We also share traits with other primates and great apes
Morphology: Bifocal and color vision (all primates)
Opposable thumb and fingernails (all primates)
Brachiation (apes)
2I-1C-2P-3M and 5-Y dentition pattern (apes)
Behavior: Social groups (primates)
Maternal nurturance (primates)
Terrestrial orientation (apes)
Unique hominid traits
Morphology? Bipedalism - skull, S spine, pelvis, legs, foot
Brain - 1400 cc, frontal lobes, templar region
Diversity - great heterogeneity at individual and population levels
Behavior? Language
Biological capacity
Verbal communication - symbolic, ordered, rapid
Formation by particular linguistic environment
Reproductive behavior
* Reduced sexual dimorphism
Lasting social/emotional bonds
* Continuous sexual activity
Sex is a social/emotional behavior (not just for reproduction)
* Few offspring and long maturation rate
Q: When can kittens be given away?
Infant dependency - born prematurely... larger brain/body ratio
Long maturation
Physical coordination, manipulation (tongues)
Language, conceptual world
Social roles, values
Technical knowledge/skills
Social context of development is critical for humans
Infers parental nurturance
Human potentials emphasize?
Social/emotional bonds
Social learning
Principles in Human Evolution:
The capacity for learned behavior is tremendous in humans
Much greater potentials than other life forms on earth
Lifelong learning to meet life challenges
Social learning is an integral part of human adaptation
Behavioral guidelines for meeting life challenges
Indirect learning from the experience of others
Behavior is a rapid and flexible means of adaptation - compared to morphology
Cultural adaptations are available for all humans
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 8
Purpose: To understand "Humans adapt by culture"
The systems process in how a group's
biobehavioral potentials interacts with its environmental challenges
which enhances its survival and continuation
Key parts: Process/changes, group, interaction, continuation
Biological mechanism?
Functions - subsistence, social, psychological
A systems process
Humans primary means of adaptation is by?
Human cultures are largely an adaptive system
Rapid and flexible guidelines for meeting life conditions
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 9
Bio-Cultural Model of Adaptation
A systems process
Interaction between a population and its environmental conditions
Illustrated with a 3-dimensional triangle
Two sets of forces in the adaptive process:
(1) Internal: Group Bio-Cultural Potentials
What a group brings to an environmental setting
Two kinds of potentials:
Needs? Those things necessary for existence
Resources? Those things that can be used to enhance existence
Ultimately, all morphological and behavioral potentials are based in a group's genetic heritage
Potentials can range from fixed/innate to plastic/developed/learned
Morphological traits:
Behavioral traits:
Criteria? How can know whether a trait is more innate/developed?
Interim: Degree of variation can indicate probability
Ultimate: How much can be changed in interaction with environment
Diversity is ?
Why is diversity adaptive?
The more different types of traits in a group
the more likely the group will have the necessary resources
to meet environmental challenges (particularly new and unforeseen ones)
The more alternatives to fall back on when faced with unforeseen challenges
This is one reason for understanding the broad cultural potentials of humans
(2) External: Environmental Challenges
Conditions imposed by the environment on a group's potentials
For humans, both ecological and sociocultural
Two kinds of challenges:
Constraints: Those things required for a population to exist in the setting
Opportunities: Those things which can be used to enhance life if utilized
Environmental challenges select among all potentials
Those traits that contribute to the best balance are more likely to become more dominant
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 10
The Process of Adaptation
Basic PROCESS of adaptation: Reorganization of system
It is the system that changes - not just a trait
Interaction between group's potentials and its environmental challenges
Challenges have selective impact on range of potentials
Shape particular trait from among possibilities
Reorganization can include:
Add new traits
Drop former traits
Rearrange existing traits - emphasize this more, that less
Cultural adaptation can include:
Change traits
Change environment
Also, not changing adaptive traits
Continual process - always going on at many different levels
A system is never in perfect balance - constant readjustments
Changes in one area stimulate changes in other areas
Adaptation is always going on at many points in the system
Same processes occur at other levels of living systems
Ecosystems, individuals ("adjustment"), etc.
Adaptation is an evolutionary process
Populations evolve - not individuals
Measures of Successful Adaptation
In many of the learning exercises I will ask you to identify adaptive functions
How do we know if a trait or change is adaptive?
Built into the definition
Ultimate MEASURE: Continuation of the group (not a trait or tradition)
Intermediate measures - population growth, health
Adaptation is a relative process
Optimal functioning/balance at both levels
Outcomes can range from complete continuance to group extinction
Time (3rd dimension of model)
Adaptation can change over time
Change in potentials - new needs or resources
Hominid evolution - selection for good learners
Change in challenges - new demands or opportunities
Particularly unforeseen future challenges
What is adaptive at one point may not be at another time
And what is not adaptive at one point may be at another time
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 11
Principles in Adaptation
(1) Adaptation is a systems process
Adaptation involves the interaction in two sets of forces?
What a group brings to a setting?
The conditions of that setting?
How do potentials and challenges interact?
Diversity is? WHY?
Morphological variations
Behavioral/cultural variations
The basic process of adaptation is?
Humans primarily adapt by?
Culture is a rapid and flexible means of adaptation - modify our behavioral system easier than our biology
The basic measure of adaptation is?
(2) There are always limits to adaptation
The interactive process of adaptation always has limits
The potentials may not be sufficient
The challenges may be too great
Understanding the process of adaptation can help us better understand issues:
Asking poor questions can lead to misunderstandings
"Nature or Nurturance" is a bad Q
A more valid Q is "Nature and Nurturance; how much of each?"
Real issue is capacity for behaviors
And how selected and shaped by environment
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 12
The whole, learned, and shared behavioral sytsem of a group of people
Key parts: Whole? Learned? Shared? Behavior? Group?
Behavior is used in a general sense - covert and overt actions/reactions and activities
Society? An organized group of people
Not always the same
All nations today are pluralistic societies with different ethnic groups
Cultures include internal variations
The content of culture is at a level of specific behaviors (course outline)
Subsistence and economic systems
Social organization
World view
But culture is the total organization of a group's behavioral patterns
Culture is deeply internalized
Efficiency of behavior/interactions
Provides guidelines for experiencing life
Culture frames what is "normal" and "real" and "preferred" in Life
Defines life views and expectations
"A separate reality"
NOTE: The ideal and real are not always consistent
Cultural context is very important in molding and eliciting behavior
Different settings can emphasize different behaviors within us
Each cultural context emphasizes a distinct package of behaviors
Selection from all possible behaviors in the human range
The range of human behavior is phenomenal
Humans have a large capacity for learned behavior
Each culture offers alternatives for adaptation
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 13
Principles of Culture
(1) CULTURE IS AN: Integrated system
Culture is a holistic system (diagram)
Every trait interacts with every other trait (directly or indirectly)
All parts works together with each other as a behavioral package
Changes in one part affect other parts and the balance of the whole
Culture is functional - provides members with shared guidelines for experiencing life
(2) CULTURES ARE: Relative
Each culture is its own behavioral system
There are many overlaps - but unique combinations and balances
We have to understand other cultures in terms of their own systems
One course goal: Awareness of the tremendous range of human potentials
Cultural systems can also be relative over time
(3) Levels of cultural experience
People experience their culture on two levels:
Meanings ("emic"): How members think and feel about a behavior, what is "reality"
Functions ("etic"): How a behavior contributes to the adaptation of group
Adaptive in meeting life challenges and contributes to the group's continuation
TYPES of functions:
! Biological functions
Promote the physical well-being and reproductive success of the group
! Ecological functions
Facilitate a productive balance with the group's environmental conditions
! Subsistence/economic functions
Contribute to meeting a group's basic material needs which support its way of life
! Social functions
Foster cohesion within a group and that minimize conflicts and disruptions among its members
! Psychological functions
Support a meaningful identity, a constructive sense of purpose, and
constructive orientation toward life among members of the group
Functions can be in very different areas of culture than meanings
Not "insider" vs. "outsider"
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 14
Making false assumptions about others' behavior based on our own limited experience
Key parts: Assumptions? Why?
re Learning another culture (ethnography): Assume nothing
Cannot assume things so "basic" as colors
Nor how they are loaded with meanings
Assuming what we experience is reality
! They have nothing
! What they do have has the same functions/meanings as us
! Negative judgements
! Positive idealism
Problem? Ethnocentrism leads to misunderstanding others
False distortion of their ways through our own glasses
Also distorts our own ways and potentials - lose context
It's natural to be ethnocentric
All we know are what we ourselves have experienced
Our own ways are meaningful and functional to us
How can we not be ethnocentric?
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 15
Controlling for Ethnocentrism
Paradox: Because we are assuming we don't know we are assuming
Is it possible to validly learn another culture?
How can we control for biases in understanding others and ourselves?
The process of controlling for ethnocentrism
(1) Recognize biases when they occur
How can we know when we are being biased?
Emotions and descriptive adjectives
Negative feelings - offended, "weird," etc.
Positive - amazed, "carefree," etc.
Our reactions
Words to never use in my classes:
! Primitive
Every human being a contemporary product of biocultural evolution
! Superstitious
Ignores functions
! Simple
Based on our challenges
! Survival
Adaptation involves a complex system
! White, Black, etc.
Assumes behavior is based in biology
Focus on ethnicity
Our assumptions tell us about ourselves
eg: India's sacred cow?
Their reactions
NOTE: We will be limited here in the class setting
Reactions are based on false assumptions
(2) Ask valid questions
Be able to examine behavior so will lead to better understandings
What are the meanings of the behavior to them?
Meanings ?
How do they see/feel about it? Their reality?
Can be many meanings for every behavior
What are the functions of the behavior in their adaptation?
Functions ?
How does it help them adapt and meet life challenges?
Types of functions? (biological, subsistence, social, psychological, ecological)
Can be many functions for every behavior
Most important functions may be in other areas of cultural experience than meanings
This is the question that is generally not asked
But gives the greatest insights into cultural behavior
There are many ways of experiencing life
Each is meaningful and functional to its participants
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 16
Do we have to agree with others' ways?
We have the right to hold to our values/beliefs
But under normal circumstances should accord them the same right
But there are also cases where behavior may be extreme
Part of the human potentials include brutality
How can we determine when we are justified in making judgements?
Community meanings
Community functions
Includes the world community (UN Declaration of Human Rights)
In cases of strong consensus against practices, how can we resolve differences?
We can be more effective in determining solutions if we can control for our own views:
What is the basis of our views?
What is the basis for their practices?
Where we have more valid understandings we can develop better solutions
Interethnic encounters can be an opportunity
We can learn new ways of seeing/experiencing life
How do they see/experience it?
We can learn the tremendous potentials for being human
These are potentials for us - what we can be
And on negative side we can structure out what we do not want to be
We can better understand ourselves
Can broaden understandings of our own cultural context
How do they see us?
One of Anthropology's greatest contributions is this concept of ethnocentrism and how to control for it
There is a way to gain more valid understandings of other cultural ways
And in the process develop a greater awareness of the tremendous range of human potentials
! One of the main emphases of the course is developing our skills in recognizing and controlling for ethnocentrism
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 17
We now have a basic set of concepts and principles that we can use to examine and understand human behavior:
The basic scientific method ?
Separate facts from ?
Types of biases ?
Grounded scientific research is based not on the absence of biases, but on the ?
Basic ethnographic method ?
All humans are a part of nature
Biological EVOLUTION ?
The basic mechanism of biological evolution?
Diversity is ?
Aspects of the phenotype ?
Why should race and ethnicity be kept distinct ?
Humans are adapted for ?
Humans primarily adapt by ?
Sets of forces ?
Potentials ?
Kinds ?
Criteria for how innate/developed ?
Challenges ?
Kinds ?
Process of adaptation ?
How do potentials and challenges interact ?
It's not just traits that change, but ?
Change is the ?
Measure of adaptiveness ?
A relative process
Limits to adaptation ?
How can understanding the process of adaptation can help us better understand issues ?
Asking a valid Q ?
Society ?
Culture is an ?
Cultures are ?
Levels of cultural experience ?
Meanings ?
Functions ?
Types of functions ?
Problem ?
Process ?
Sign ?
Words to never use in my classes ?
Valid questions ?
Meanings ?
Functions ?
Have to agree with others' ways ? Understand ?
How are interethnic encounters an opportunity to learn ?
Humans have a tremendous potential for learned behavior
The cultural context selects and molds certain behaviors
From among all those possible
Many valid ways of being human
Awareness of others can help us better understand ourselves
Barger, A104: Anthropology, Page 18
How can these concepts and principles help us better understand contemporary issues?
Q: What are some issues we face in our society where these ideas can help us understand and resolve problems?
Examples: Race and intelligence
Ethnic relations (multiculturalism, diversity)
We will take issues in the course to develop our abilities to use these concepts to understanding and resolving problems
! Immigration of Mexicans into the U.S.
! The drug wars involving Colombian cocaine in the U.S.
! Human and cultural rights in Tibet
! Global trade in Kenya
HOW can these concepts and principles help in addressing such issues?
The essay questions on the exams will also include such issues
Understanding and applying these concepts and principles
Can help us develop our abilities to learn
Can lead to more effective lives
As individuals
As members of our society
As members of the world community