SOCI 1P90-Sept. 9th, 2010
Anthropology and the Study of Culture
Anthropology is the study of humanity, including our prehistoric origins and
contemporary human diversity.
Four major fields of Anthropology:
-Biological (or physical) anthropology- looks at our evolution, the human biology of the
past and present human societies, includes primatology (study of non-human primates).
-Archeology (or prehistory)- the study of past human structures through past lives. Use
material remains to understand the culture of the past. Discoveries of past empires,
-Linguistic Anthropology- study of human communication including the origins and
history of human language. Social patterning of language.
-Cultural (or social) Anthropology- Famous Cul. Anthro. are Anne Dunam (Obama’s
mother). Study of living people and their cultures. Includes the variation and change of
cultural systems. Within the study of contemporary cultural systems there are many
small parts. Interested in the organization of culture, and cultural inequalities.
-Applied Anthropology- the use of all these fields in the real world to address human
Introducing Cultural Anthropology:
The focus of cultural anthropology is cultural similarities and differences. A cross cultural
view - we should de centre our own cultural practices/understandings. Make “the
strange familiar and the familiar strange” (Spiro 1990). Both of these things are
accomplished within Anthropology.
Throughout human history we have to assume that their have always been ways to
understand and encounter others of our species and their ways of life. It is very difficult
to discover that history. We rely on the more recent written histories, to see how early
others wrote about others cultures.
Like many of scholarly disciplines, anthropology emerged in the late 19th/20th centuries.
Those who had the power to write about others were European/American.
Theories of cultural evolutionism proposed that you had a wider way of culture and
societies could be ranked into cultural difference. Example of this is “Anthropology Days”
at the 1904 Olympics. These were exhibits of people based on cultures showing
different levels of development. In the 20th century there was a rejection of cultural evolutionism. This was led by
Bronislaw Malinowski (1844-1942). Malinowsky focused on how a culture functioned as
a whole. Instead of ranking based on hierarchy, he wanted to understand how
everything fit together. Fran Boas (1858-1942) also disregarded cul. evolutionism. He
wanted to understand each culture by what is was, not based against other cultures.
This was cultural relativism. Seen as the American founder of Cultural Anthropology.
Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA) fits into what is now a global association
called the World Council of Anthropology Associations (WCAA). It remains dominated
by Europeans, however it is moving to a more global level.
Share a concept of culture as a central preoccupation. Culture is defined as