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Transcript
September 8th and 10th
Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Culture and Human Societies (part
1&2)
-Anthropologists have long argued that the human condition is distinguished from other
living species by culture.
Culture—(same definition) sets of learned behaviors
Raymond Williams: -wrote a books about Keywords
-Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English
language.
-Mid 18th century: “civilization” emerges
-culture and civilization complicate each other
-“cultured”appreciation of music etc.
-culture is a process of human development
-often used in plural of cultures: within one nation there could be many cultures;
it’s often used as a label or a means of identification (it ahs multiple meanings)
Key Characteristics of human culture:
-highly dynamic
-it is learned (everything learned from people around you)
-shared (other ppl teaching, celebrating it perhaps, basically it involves a lot
people)
-patterned (through time a culture develops patterns, like USA and individualism
and freedom; or the West in general, when at 18 you have complete freedom) it is the
key metaphor
-adaptive: constructed and adapted generation to generation based on any kind of
factor (like droughts)
-symbolic: verbally (alphabet) or non-verbally (flags, golden arches…)
Key Metaphor:
the Chinese 5 element theory, where everything can be classified into those 5
theories, thus the whole culture revolves around life being classified in fives
-West has Capitalism as the key metaphor
-economy where market and commodity is most important
-consumer is important and key to the whole process
-patterning (?)
-Tension in culture arises often between patterning and it being adaptive; one is stable,
the other often changes and adapts.
-Anthropology developed in the early 19th and late 20th century; early anthropologists
wrote typologies
Typology:
-Classification system based on (in culture) forms of human society
-not accepted today
-new cultures and their differences were referenced as being “lack of..” or the
culture being somehow deficient of something
-Western society became the yardstick for all the other cultures
-hypothesized that other cultures were evolutionary behind and that if given
enough time they would reach the same potential as the West
Typology in Anthropology:
-Evolutionary Typologies (like the three ages-stone, bronze, iron(?)) (relates to
cultures getting to the same place west did)
Christian j. Thomsen
-archeologist
-The three ages (as mentioned above); named after the particular raw material
most used or discovered
-Bracteates (money of the old times) were developed from the earlier Roman
coins
Lewis Henry Morgan
- wrote about the Native Tribal History/Typography
- Specialist (or concentrated on) in the ethnical periods
- 1877 Ancient Society (the table where all cultures were placed into a specific
section):
-
-
-
Civilization: +phonetic alphabet; writing
-Upper: iron ore, tools
-Middle: plants and animals domesticated; brick and stone used
-Lower: pottery being developed
Barbarism:
-Upper: bow and arrow
-Middle: fishing, use of fire
-Lower: origins of human race
Savagery
 civilization development could only go in one way and that is up ^
-Typographies and typologies justified European conquest  people needed to be
civilized
-Typology served an idealistic purpose although it didn’t actually fully describe the
society nor accurately; only placed it on a scale
Social Structural Types:
-British functionals anthropology: 1920s-70s
-challenged unilineal evolutionism
-the focus was on social structure (relations between people and how society
functioned; how they held economies and politics, or kinship matters)
-Radcliff-Brown, Fortes, Evans-Pritchard 9all wrote typographies, although they
were a bit more in depth)
-had broader categories, like “centralized” government which wouldn’t be
put together with a culture who’s government was “uncentralized” etc.
-pg. 67
Franz Boas:
-didn’t like typologies at all
-studied First nations in Canada and the west coast
-particular histories of particular cultures and groups
-Historical Particularism: study of cultures in its own historical context
- used to combat ideas about “race”
-people, practices, ideas, moved across social boundaries (historical knowledge
necessary) ”cultural borrowing”
-societies and cultures were 9are) quite open to outside influences
-Any particular association of linguistic or cultural practices
Map 3.2: division of cultures and how they got diffused
-typologies were no longer evolutionary
-deemphasized differences
-highlighted how other people peoples do have history and social culture
Changes after the World War II:
-End of European colonial empires
-civil right movements in US (women and blacks)
-created for Westerners new experiences of the non-Western “other”
-had to stop using unillineal models and “othering”
-non westerns weren’t savages or barbarians; non-western anthropologists finally
surfaced
Cold War: (’48-’89)
World Countries classification:
1st “developed”
2nd “communist”
3rd “underdeveloped”
-this classification still could be taken negatively and fails to take in history
Sally Moore:
21st Century: Comparative study of processes (example: Human rights, UN
watching, others following processes and watched how they were implemented)
-structural functionalsits might have been quite rigid, unilineal only further
showed that societies are dynamic and do change; they overlooked the issues of change:
“simple” societies could be as dynamic as any other and function
-Unilineal abandoned because:
-ethnocentric
-1) it passed n opinions and stereotypes which often didn’t exactly fit
-2) didn’t permit to understand the mechanism of change
Ethnocentrism:
-The opinion that one’s own way of life is natural or correct, and, indeed, the only
true way of being fully human (no longer a valid approach)
_ex: “I eat normal good”
-How to study societies without being ethnocentric?
Clifford Geertz (1926-2006):
-wrote The Interpretation of Cultures (’73)
-father of symbolic anthropology
-holistic and meaningful interpretation of cultures
-Thick Description: a description of a human behavior that explains not just the
behavior, bit its context as well, such that the behavior becomes meaningful to an
outsider (very interpretative) (aka identical movements could have different meaning)
-Thin description: -description of the obvious behavior going on without context
-Human experience is inherently ambiguous and as such must be interpreted
Cultural Relativism:
-understanding another culture in its own terms sympathetically enough so that
the culture appears to be a coherent and meaningful design for living
-origin from Kant
-crucial to understanding the context
-without context human behavior cannot be understood
-does not require us to abandon every value our society has taught us. It does
discourage the easy solution of refusing to consider alternatives from the outset
- moral decisions more “difficult because a lot of things need to be taken into account.
Nancy Scheper-Hughes:
-Medical Anthropology (Death Without Weeping)
extreme poverty: delayed attachment towards children
-may appear cruel , but it makes sense in the context of their culture
-cultures are not isolated, they can change based on political, economic, or
whatever factors
-Anthropology must be ethically grounded
-certain obligation to speak up
-CR: dialogue between cultures
Morally Wrong Encounters?
-Should they just study or take a stand?
…morals come from culture…
Guatemala:
-1960-96: Civil War (most bloody in history of guatemala)
- 200000 people murdered/disappeared
-90% violence committed by state
-genocide and rape against indigenous Mayan people
-violence still hasn’t diminished
-“Femicide”-increased in recent years
-step away from simple explanations