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Representations & Pragmatisms
• Language & speech – langue and parole –
competence & performance
• Text & reading/writing
• Symbol & symbolic action
• Sign & signification
• Image & imagining (work of the imagination)
• MEANING & USE – “the pragmatist challenge”
• Structure & agency redux
Symbol (Sign, Image, Text)
• symbols are multivocal
• complexity of associations
• many ideas, relations between things, actors, interactions
& transactions represented simultaneously by the symbol
• enables a wide range of groups & individuals to relate to
the same symbol in a variety of ways
– semantically open & manipulable
• Ambiguous
• instrumentalities of various forces
– triggers of social action
– operating in changing fields of social relationships
New kind of capitalist? Or Socialist?
Signs & Significations
analyzing the symbolic content
• what they communicate
– “metacommunication” – commentary
• play of “tropes” as an argument of images
• ways in which information, ideas, attitudes,
pass among individuals, groups, nations, &
generations is socially constituted
– rooted in social relationships
– produced in the conduct of social life
• social means available to members for the
accomplishment of social ends
a brief symbolic study
• Research among indigenous peoples
– Fear & expectation that all societies will soon resemble
one another
– Disappearing worlds
• Genocides and/or ethnocides
• “white man’s burden” – save their souls or zeal to acquire land &
– Researchers – salvage anthropology
• Work with a sense of loss at the prospect of cultural extinction
• Preservation & holism
• “convergence thesis” – process of “modernization”
The “modern”
• Human societies organized around
• Nuclear family
• Forces of bureaucracy
• Technological specialization
• Traditional or tribal societies marginalized or
engulfed by this new social order
• Gellner, the convergences thesis, & the “end
of history”
The primitive
• Categories
– The primitive & the civilized
– Tradition & modern
• Anthropology as research from somewhere
– Long standing association with the primitive
– Anthropology placed in the savage slot
• Enlightenment notion of nature
– Underlying drive of behavior
– As the real, objective universe as distinguished from the
spiritual, intellectual, or imaginary world
• Cartesian reductionism
– Nature denotes pre-cultural, primitive, uncultivated or
uncivilized in humankind
– Nature is independent of social law
– Nature refers to sub-human -- animal, plant, physical
– Nature remains when the peculiar qualities of sapiens the
sentient, cultural, and technological are omitted
– Notions of primitivity, sub-humanity, non-intellectuality,
emotionality linked to nature and non-white
The Enlightenment on Human Diversity: Stages & Progress
• Condorcet (18th century) -- all peoples history fall somewhere
between OUR present degree of civilization & that which we see
among savage tribes
– nature distributes her gifts unequally
• from egalitarian small society to inequality within and among
• The primitive mind -- monstrous aberrations of idolatry of first men
– Animatism & superstition
– The enlightened mind
• Progress & degeneration
– history of world presents to us more than once the spectacle of a civilized
people invaded by barbarians communicating in its manners its language its
knowledge & forcing them to make one people with it
• Primitivism
– Important trope/episteme/argument for rule
Enlightenment theories of human nature
• Hobbes -- competition & progress; we are all savages
• Rousseau -- savage-utopia configuration; also story of
savages in the forest – frightened
peace is first natural law
to seek nourishment & peace & the establishment of societies
with establishment of society -- lose feelings of weakness,
equality ceases, state of war begins
– The “noble savage”
• Locke – tabula rasa – we are all blank slates/empty
Nature and progress: 1915 anthropologists
• “we see that the higher civilized white man has
already in some respects out distanced others, that he
is rapidly diversifying, and that all about us those
who cannot keep the accelerated pace are being
eliminated by nature”
• Overemphasis of the naturalism of non-white
• some groups adapt by virtue of their natural attributes
while others adapt through sentient, cultural, and
distinctly human means
• Meld together
• T. Jefferson – “blacks, whether originally a
distinct race, or made distinct by time and
circumstances, are inferior to whites”
• Race and racial differences as a state of nature
• Sociobiological notion that racism derives
from genes that cause groups to compete
against those who are genetically different
– Nature outside of culture
race and ethnicity
• There are no biological human races
• up until 14th cent. in Europe cultural & social
evolution based on the idea of progress from
kin-based societies to civil society through
governance & law
• after 16th cent. in Europe ideas of blood were
used to characterize difference
After 1500
• European
exploration –
increased contact
with other human
• exploration turned
to conquest and
feeling of
The Enlightenment: 17th & 18th Century
• race used interchangeably with type, variety,
people, nation, generation & species
• race equated with “breeding stock”
• 1700s – Enlightenment science
– social phenomena and the world’s peoples into
natural schemes
Formal Human Classification
Linneaus Systemae Naturae, 1758
• Europeaeus
– White; muscular; hair – long, flowing;
eyes blue
• Americanus
– Reddish; erect; hair – black, straight, thick; wide nostrils
• Asiaticus
– Sallow (yellow); hair black; eyes dark
• Africanus
– Black; hair – black, frizzled; skin silky; nose flat; lips tumid
1795 Johann Friedrich Blumenbach: ”race”
coined the term "Caucasian"
because he believed that the
Caucasus region of Asia
Minor produced "the most
beautiful race of men".
1830s: Philadelphia doctor and polygenist
Samuel Morton
• collected hundreds of human skulls of known races
• measured them by filling the skulls with lead pellets and
then pouring the pellets into a glass measuring cup
• tables assign the highest brain capacity to Europeans (with
the English highest of all)
– Second rank goes to Chinese, third to Southeast Asians and
Polynesians, fourth to American Indians, and last place to Africans
and Australian aborigines.
 work establish the “scientific basis” for physical
anthropology but also the idea that race is inherently
Stephen Jay Gould:
“The Mis-measure of Man” (1981)
• Re-analyzed Morton’s
 Morton’s racist bias -prevented
identification of fully
measurements among
the racial skull samples
he used
race and social difference
• Race as social grouping based on perceived
physical differences and cloaked in the
language of biology
• Charles Wagley’s term social races – groups
assumed to have a biological basis but actually
defined in a culturally arbitrary rather than a
scientific manner
• Racism – systematic social and political bias
based on idea of race
AAA statement on race
• “Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates
that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called
racial groups.
• Conventional geographic ‘racial’ groupings differ from one
another only in about 6% of their genes….
• ‘Race’ thus evolved as a world view, a body of prejudgments
that distorts our ideas about human differences and group
• The ‘racial’ world view was invented to assign some groups to
perpetual low status, while others were permitted access to
privilege, power, and wealth