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Department of Sociology and
A Re-Introduction to Anthropology
 Anthropology 105 presents the student with a basic
introduction to the various subfields of
anthropology. Archaeology, physical anthropology,
linguistic anthropology, cultural anthropology and
the newest subfield, applied anthropology, were
discussed in some detail.
 Anthropology 106 will now continue with your
introduction to the field of anthropology and
broaden the perspective.
What is anthropology for?
 Anthropology is for the curious. Humans are
innately curious creatures. Many find themselves
curious about human origins, or about the ways of
life of other human groups. Anthropology provides a
means for the curious to understand humanity.
Who are we?
Where do we come from?
Why do they do that?
Why are we here?
 “The anthropologist is a
human instrument
studying other human
beings and their
Hortense Powdermaker
 "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-
mindedness." Samuel Langhorne Clemens, (Mark
 Where has the process of ethnography come from in
anthropology? Why does it exist and why is it such
an important, defining notion in the discipline?
 It was born from the process of discovery and
colonialism that has gripped the world for the last
500 years.
 Many studies in colonialism focus on the
genocide/ethnocide of the last few centuries.
Millions of people around the world perished as a
result of early exploration and discovery.
 Early travelers served to open the Western mind.
Through their narratives people were exposed to
different and exotic cultures. The western mind had
to come to understand these cultures and their
beliefs in a non-religious context.
Ethnography then, is the formalized process of the
discovery of culture. It is coincidental with the
development of the western mind: it is the
anthropologist in action.
 Anthropology grew out of the intersection of
European discovery, colonialism and natural science.
 Early anthropologists such as Lewis Henry Morgan
were interested in reconstructing stages of human
social and cultural development…
 Early 20th century anthropology was typically
concerned with small-scale, technologically simple
societies. These were cultures which were
endangered basically and many students of the
discipline were told to record what they could of
quickly vanishing cultures.
 In biology, scientists talk of biological diversity and
how we are entering into a time of diminished
diversity of species.
 As for human culture the same can be said. The last
500 years has seen a tremendous reduction in the
number of autonomous cultures around the world.
 Globalization has meant a diminished diversity in
the world’s cultural landscape.
Bee Larvae and Onion Soup: Culture
 American anthropology characterized by concept of
 British anthropology …concept of ‘Society.’
What is the difference? In the early days of anthropology the
term culture may have meant something which one possessed
to a ‘greater or lesser degree.’ It came to mean ‘a particular
way of life.’
Edward Burnett Tylor…
 Culture, or civilization…is that complex whole which
includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom,
and any other capabilities and habits acquired by
man as a member of society. (1871)
Tylor’s focus on knowledge and belief as acquired, as well as
his sense that these constitute an integrated system, is still
relevant in anthropology.
On the other hand there existed in his time a sense that
‘culture’ was something a society could have ‘more or less’ of.
Franz Boas…
 Culture embraces all the manifestations of social
behaviour of a community, the reactions of the
individual as affected by the habits of the group in
which he lives, and the product of human activities
as determined by these habits. (1930)
Boas was fascinated by the idea that environment, cultural as
well as physical, had a determining effect on the way one views
the world.
Early work on Inuit perception and categorization of colour of
 An analysis of native categories of classification. Formal methods of
analysis applied to areas such as kinship terms, flora and fauna, colour,
diseases, plants, medicines, etc.
Inuit classification of seawater or snow
What is food and what is not? What is good food and what is junk
food? Why do we have in this culture something we call ‘junk food?”
Why does junk food exist?
Whopper Virgins...
 Boas described a ‘kulturbrille’, a set of ‘cultural
glasses’ that each of us wears, lenses that provide us
with a means for perceiving the world around us, for
interpreting the meaning of our social lives, and
framing them in action.
Example from Monaghan and Just…bee larvae is not food for
us. What is edible and what is not to be eaten? This is
culturally determined.
Claude Levi-Strauss…
 Culture is neither natural or artificial. It stems from
neither genetics nor rational thought., for it is made
up of rules of conduct, which were not invented and
whose function is generally not understood by the
people who obey them.
 …if we look at all the intellectual undertakings of
mankind…the common denominator is always to
introduce some kind of order.
 All classifications are a surface representation of the
underlying deep structure of the human mind.
 In the sense that it is something which classifies,
orders and shapes the way we think about and view
the world, culture is to humans as water is to fish. It
is essential for our survival but we are generally not
aware of how we utilize it.
Alfred Kroeber…
 …compared culture to a coral reef, which is built up
by the secretions of millions of tiny animals, but
which existed before any of its living members, and
will outlast them all, providing a structure within
which future generations will be constrained.
 Cultures can be read as texts, much as one might
read a novel or poem…seek out cultural ‘texts’ that
the people of the society themselves find compelling
and to not only understand them as they see them,
but to see the ways the themes of these texts
illuminate other aspects of the society.