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Lecture 11

Lecture 11: Politics and Stratification: Why Race and Class Still Matter

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ANTH 1002
Eric Henry

Lecture 11: Politics and Stratification: Why Race and Class Still Matter  Many cultural cosmologies include the notion that humans have the ability to influence both the visible world of humans and the invisible world of spirits through direct action; what we call magic.  Shamans are magical practitioners that have the power to curse, heal, contact spirits, and predict the future. Shamanic practice often involves altered states of consciousness, including trance and spirit possession.  When anthropologists talk about witchcraft and sorcery, we don’t mean women on broomsticks, Harry Potter, or contemporary Wiccans. Witches are individuals believed to possess the ability to inflict magical harm on other.  “Sorcery exists… as an explanation after the fact. The Maisin don’t require proof of the existence of sorcery any more than most of us do of germs; they know it exists in large part because it provides a satisfactory explanation of why misfortunes like serious illnesses happen.”  When witchcraft is part of a culture’s worldview, it has two important functions: witchcraft explains misfortune, such as illness and disaster, and witchcraft helps reinforce social norms.  Stratification refers to the internal divisions within a social group. Some cultures are highly stratified while others are more egalitarian. Class, caste, race, ethnicity, and nation are just some of the bases for inequality in human cultures.  Class is a social grouping defined primarily by wealth and economic criteria.  But we are also aware that class is as much symbolic as financial. In China, class is as much the product of brand consciousness and patterns of consumption as it’s simply money. Here, urban middle-class Chinese people shop at name-brand foreign retailers.  Caste is social grouping defined primarily by birth (and also usually occupation). Castes are (in theory) cl
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