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1AB3_Identity Textbook.docx

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McMaster University
Antonio Sorge

Identity Culture Personality and Identity Most cultural anthropologists assume that personality is formed through enculturation or socialization the process of transmitting culture to infants and other new members of society through both informal and formal processes They study how various cultures enculturate their members into having different personalities and identities Cultural anthropologists also investigate how personalities vary according to cultural context and some ask why such variations exist Others study how changing cultural contests affect personality identity and wellbeing over the life cycleThe Culture and Personality SchoolPsychological anthropology is rooted in the socalled Culture and Personality School an intellectual movement that began in the United States in the 1930s and persisted through the 1970s Culture and personality studies began with Franz Boass interest in the individual developed through his fieldwork on the Northwest Coast and the central Artic Members of this school adopted some aspects of Freudian theories including the importance of childhood experiences in shaping personality and identity and the symbolic analysis of dreams In 1955 a department devoted to transcultural psychiatric studies was established at McGill University to explore the effects of culture on psychiatric disorders Two directions that the Culture and Personality School took were first understanding how childrearing practises affect personality and second describing nationallevel personality patternsPersonality and ChildRearing In 1930s Margaret Meads publication revealed differences in male and female personalities and behaviour in three different groups o Among the Arapesh both men and women had nurturant and gentle personalities Both valued parental roles and both participated equally in child care All Arapesh males and females behaved according to what is stereotypically defined as feminine in Western cultureso Among the Mundugumor in contrast both males and females corresponded to the Western stereotype of masculine behaviour In general adults were assertive aggressive loud and even fierce Both parents treated their children with indifference o Among the Tchambuli the men fussed about their looks gossiped with each other most of the day and did little in the way of productive work The women were competent and responsible providing most of the food through fishing and gardening and managing the household Women played a dominant role in the culture and their personalities reflect their position Since the three groups shared similar biological traits her findings indicate that gender is culturally defined and constructed rather than being inbornCultural Patterns and National CharacterRuth Benedict argued that cultures promote distinct personality types She proposed that cultures are formed through the unconscious selection of a few cultural traits from the vast arc of potential traits Benedict formulated her theories while doing research on Native American cultures o For example one culture may emphasize financial values while another overlooks them The selected traits interweave to form a cultural configuration a cohesive pattern shared by everyone in that culture National character studies that defined personality types and core values of nations declined in importance Such studies suffer from being o Ethnocentric they classify cultures according to Western psychological values and features o Reductionists They emphasize only one or two features o Totalizing They obscure internal and local variation in their construction of a colossal national characters the French the English the JapaneseNonetheless psychological anthropologists still consider it valid to typify localized cultures in terms of valued personality traits so long as more scientific research approach is employed Five Characteristics of Welsh PersonhoodValue Behaviour Egalitarianism All people are equalpersonal ties are more Social introductions and interactions emphasize personal important than status ties Martyrdom The best acts are done on behalf of the group and Mother labour for the family protestors go to jail may involve selfsacrifice Emotionalism Interactions with people should show emotionAnger is preferable to detachment arguing is from the heartPerformance Differences exist between private and public self An aspiring community leader disclaims interest in the with the public self before performative positionNostalgia Sadness is shown for something lostFeels homesick returns home to visit the graves of parents each year Class and Personality Image of the limited good in this worldview people believe that the resources or wealth available within their group are finite or limited If someone becomes wealthier other people necessarily become poorer
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