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Lecture 5

ANTH 1001A Lecture 5.docx

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ANTH 1001

ANTH 1001A October 9 th Definition of Culture (Lassiter) - “In an anthropological sense, culture is a shared and negotiated system of meaning informed by knowledge that people learn and put into practice by interpreting experience and generating behaviour” - Culture is a process -> a dynamic process, at times messy, complex and nebulous. Cultural Essentialism - Culture as another way to insist our differences, as separating us (replacing race). o Notion of absolute contrasts: it presumes a notion of culture as separated, uniformly shaped, homogenous, and bounded. o Notion of cultural change as cultural loss: culture as a distinct thing with core values, if changes occur, it leads to loss of authenticity. o A culture = a language = a people = a nation. o Culture as the essence of the self. Ethnography - Two meanings: o As a field method. o As a genre of literature. - Bronislaw Malinowski o He spent 4 years living in the Trobriand Islands, and wrote Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) which deeply influenced the development of modern ethnography.  This was one of his main contributions to anthropology. o Like Franz Boas, he challenged theories of social evolution and advocated the suspension of one’s judgement for cultural understanding.  Malinowski’s view: we must adopt the native’s point of view. o Like Franz Boas, he proposed that to truly understand a particular group of people, one has to spend an extensive period of time living among them.  Malinowski’s view: systematic method to the study of culture (a way of theorizing, practicing, and writing anthropology) o Participant-Observation: a way of practicing anthropology:  Direct observation as a scientific way to document the native’s point of view (includes detailed observations, field notes, and interview). o Culture as Function: a way of theorizing anthropology:  Notion that culture fulfills a function (serves basic, universal human needs): • E.g. Magical beliefs of Trobrianders – a primitive form of religion, but serve to fulfill the human need to deal with the uncertainty of life, like Christian beliefs do. • E.g. The Kula (a system of exchange focused on the trading of shells), primitive system=integrate the islands into a larger political and social system (like money in Western societies) o Ethnography: a way of writing anthropology:  A radical literary genre based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork. Ethnography as a field method - Fieldw
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