Chapter 1: What is Anthropology?
Chapter 2: Culture
GeneralAnthropology has 4 sub fields:
BIOLOGICALANTHROPOLOGY: Focus is human biological diversity through time and across space.
• Five areas unite the sub-discipline:
1. Human evolution through time (paleoanthropology)
2. Human genetics
3. Human growth and development
4. Human biological plasticity- ability of body to copy with change and deal with stresses
5. The biology evolution, behaviour and social life of other non-human primates (apes and
• Humans are members of the Hominidae zoological family. Hominids include past and present human
species, as well as chimps and gorillas.
What We Share with Other Primates
1. gap between primate society and fully developed human culture, but similarities exist
2. learn from experience and change behavior as result
How we Differ from Other Primates
1. cooperation and sharing much more developed among humans
2. humans maximize reproductive success by mating throughout the year
3. human have exogamy and kinship systems
ARCHAEOLOGICALANTHROPOLOGY: reconstructs, describes, and interprets human behavior and
cultural patters through material remains
• Cultural adaption rapidly accelerating during the last 10,000 years
• food production, cultivation of plants and domestication of animals developed 12000-10000 years ago
• first civilizations developed 6000 to 5000 BP (before present)
• Spread of industrial production and take- off of population after 1700s
LINGUISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY: studies past and present languages
• Sociolinguistics: investigates relationships between social and linguistic variation
SOCIAL- CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY: study of contemporary human society and culture
• Ethnography: fieldwork- based account of particular cultures
• Ethnology: examines and compares the results of ethnographies in order to make generalizations about
human similarities and differences
What is Social- CulturalAnthro?
• the main goals of anthropology is to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange -- cross cultural
• developed historically as the study of the "Other" (non- Euro-American) cultures (making the strange
familiar) • has also helped Euro- American question and think more critically about their own societies and cultures
(making the familiar strange)
• judging the beliefs and behaviours of other cultures based on the standards of our own cultural beliefs
• tendency to view one's own culture as natural, correct, and superior to others
• view that behaviour and beliefs of a culture should not be judged by the standards of another
• to understand another culture fully, you must try to see how people in the culture see things
• methodological relativism VS absolute moral relativism
Areas of Interest
• how do human adapt (physically, culturally, linguistically) to different environments?
• how do humans change as a result of adaptation?
• how do human differ and how are they similar as as result of adaptations and changes over time
and across space?
Biocultural: the inclusion and combination of biological and cultural perspectives to understand the human
species . Culture is a key environmental force shaping human evolution and biology.
Lecture #3- What is Culture?
Chapter 3: Doing Anthropology
Chapter 12:Applying Anthropology
Society vs Culture
o Humans share society (organized life in groups) with other animals and organisms, but culture is what
sets us apart from other organisms
"Culture..is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other
capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." - Edwards B. Tylor
o Latin: Cultura- "Cultivation"
o european usage began in 1700-1800s
o implied process of improvement or betterment of the individual, especially through education
o those with culture are deemed civilized, those without culture are uncivilized and "living in a state of
What is Culture?
• all humans have the capacity for culture
• some cultural features (such as incest taboos) are shared by all peoples
• some cultural features such as the nuclear family are shared by many societies
• some cultural features are very specific and unique to particular societies
• what we think, believe know, and interpret • explicit (conscious)
• tacit (unconscious)
• what we do; verbal/ non-verbal communication, greetings, eating etc..
• what we make and use; clothing, houses tools, etc..
• childre learn through process of enculturation\
• direct- formal instruction, Indirect- observation
• unique and universal human capacity to use symbols- signs that have no direct connect to what
they stand for or signify
• language/ representation is an element of culture, but also the means by which culture is
transmitted and reproduced
• attribute of social groups, not individuals
• acquired through interaction with other members of society
• people use culture to fulfill basic needs (food, shelter, reproduction etc.)
• may be adaptive if it helps humans adapt to different environments
• can be maladaptive if it threatens groups continues existence
• culture is power. Different groups struggle over whose values, beliefs, goals will be dominant
• not computer code- culture provides framework, but people do not always follow rules
• Practice Theory: recognizes that humans have agency, diverse, motives, and degrees of power/ influence
• Ideal v.s. Real Culture
• diffusion- indirect borrowing
• independent invention- innovation
• acculturation- exchange due to direct contact (colonization, globalization)- may be forced
What is Ethnography?
• Ethnography is the firsthand, in depth, personal study and representation of a particular culture. Both a
research method, and for, of representation. Lasts a year usually.
Anthropology vs Sociology
• large scale, industrial societies
• quantitative surveys, and questionnaires good for testing of variables and identifying large scale trends
Anthropology • small scale, isolated, vulnerable or marginalized populations
• qualitative data gives detailed descriptive data of behaviour and beliefs
Ethnography no longer focuses on isolate and traditional cultures.
1. defining the project
2. ethical guidelines
3. entering the field
4. building relationships
5. gathering data
Lecture #4 - Intro to Linguistics
Chapter 4: Language and Communication pg 58-68
What is language?
• learned system of communication (spoken or written - writing has existed for 6000 years) based on sign
used in structured and conventional way
• language and culture like two sides of a coin. Language is a part of culture, but also tool through which
culture is communicated.
• while many different animals and organisms can communicate, only humans have the capacity for fully
• Noam Chomsky argues that all humans have the same linguistic ability. Human brain contains a limited
set of rules for organizing language.
• Animals use call systems. Consist of a number of sounds that are produced in the presence of specific
stumuli. Cannot refer to the past or future, cannot be faked, you cannot combine calls, wild primates use
call systems because the vocal tract of apes is not suitable for speech.
• primates can't speak because humans have a mutated form of he FOXP2 gene than chimpanzees and or
gorillas, and this gene appears to play a key role in human speech ability
• the human form of the gene appeared 150000 years ago. Non-mutated gene cause speech impediment in
The Structure of Language
Descriptive Linguistics: the scientific study of a spoken language (descriptive linguistics) involved several
interrelated areas of analysis: phonology, morphology, lexicon, and syntax
• a phoneme is a sound contrast that makes a difference; that differentiates meaning
• phonetics is the study of speech sounds in general across languages while phonemics is the study of
significant sound in a particular language
• morphemes are the units of language that carry meaning. Not equivalent to words, words can be broken
down into different morphemes
• morphology studied the forms in which sounds combine to form morphemes
• example, unhappy..un+happy, disqualified..dis+ quallify+ ed, cats..cat+s • Lexicon: is a dictionary containing all of its morphemes and their meanings
• specialized sets of terms and the distinctions that are important to certain groups (based on a foci of
experience) are known as focal vocabulary. Example, inuit words of snow, nuer terms for cattle
• vocabulary changes the most in language, example to google or to text was not around 50 years ago
• Syntax: the rules by which larger speech units, such as phrases and sentences are formed
• word order conveys meaning, example, man bited dog vs dog bites man
• Semiotics: the science of produced meanings. From greek meaning observant of signs
• signs can be defines as an intermediary between thoughts and things
Signifier (things that give meaning - word/ image)
sign (anything that conveys meaning)= ---------------
Signified ( what is evoked in the mind- mental concept)
The Meaning of Language
• The concept of arbitrariness
• according to Saussure, the relation between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary-- example, no
natural connection between the structure or sounds of a word and its meaning
• meaning comes from convention- agreement (learned) that these letters or sounds evoke a certain image
• The same object (tree) is referred to as abre in French and baum in German
• Charled S.Peirce one of the founders of modern semiotcs
• signs vary in level of arbitrariness icon, index, symbol
• icon: share some of their physical form (shape, sound etc) with the referent ex. no smoking sign
• index: they do not share any of their form with the referent. They "indicate" or point to what they refer
to. May or may not be arbitrary ex. poison sign, skull and cross ones
• symbol: have arbitrary relation to signified "referent". connected only via the system of conventional
understanding ex. stop sign (shape)
• Denotation vs Connotation
• Denotation to mark out, point out, specify, indicate. The literal meaning of a word or sign.
• Connotation refers to the associations that are connected to a certain word or the emotional suggestions
related to that word. Constrained by culture. Example, Hot and Cold
Example #1 Cow
Denotative: the mature female of a bovine animal, especially of the genus Bos.
Connotative: Slow, we could be waiting till the cow comes home
Excitable, donèt have a cow man!
Food, source of meat and milk
Cross Cultural Meaning, Cows are sacred to Hindus
Example #2 Rose
Denotative: any of numerous shrubs or vines of the genus Rosa, having prickly stems, compound leaves, and
variously colored, often fragrant flowers
Connotative: love, romance, passion
• The Meaning of "Nature"
− come from Latin "natura"- literally "birth"
− basic or inherent features of something, example "Its in her nature to work hard"
− hereditary or biological characteristics that determine personality, example nature vs nurture − phenomenon of the physical world collectively- plants, animals, landscape etc, - opposed to
"unnatural" human creations
− the laws of nature- forces regulating the physical world - often personified as "mother nature"
Non- Linguistic Signs: Body Language
• Kinesics is the study of non-verbal communication through body movements, stances, gestures, and
• gestures, facial expressions, and bodily stances, clothing, even if unconscious, convey information and
meaning, and status. Language without body language can cause confusion (e.g. emoticons)
• non verbal communication varies cross- culturally, e.g. head shaking side to side= no in NorthAmerica,
but Yes in India
• research shows that some body language is biological, example facial expressions of emotions
Lecture #5 Language: Culture, Society and Power
Chapter 4: Language and Communication pg. 68-82
Semantics refers to a language's meaning system
Ethnosemantics is therefore the study of how different cultures (ethnos) categorize and attach meaning to the
world through language and symbols
• Focal Vocabulary
• specialized set of terms and distinctions that are particularly important to a certain group (those with
particular foci of experience or activity)
• the ways in which people divide up the world- the lexical contrasts they perceive as meaningful or
significant- reflect their experiences
• example, Inuit have several distinct worlds for different types of snow- allows them to perceive and
think about snows in different ways
• the use of colour terminologies vary across cultures. The most common are white, yellow, black, red,
blue, green, brown, pink, orange and purple)
• in Yucatec yax refers to both Green/ Blue
• Hopi Conceptions of Time
• English divides time into past, presesnt, future, days, weeks, moths etc.
• Hopi language has no conception of time as an object or substance that may be divided and subdivided
as in English Hopi distinguish between events that exist or have existed, and those that don't exist, or
• Benjamin Whorf argued that this linguistic difference prevented Hopi speakers from conceiving of time
in the same way as in English speakers
The Sapir- Whorf hypothesis
• idea that linguistic categories of particular languages lead their speakers to think about the world
• also called principle of linguistic relativity
Critique of Word's research
• language does not prevent people from learning new languages and new idea
• weak version of Whorf hypothesis language does not determine thought, but does predispose/ oblige
people to think in certain ways
• You are What You Speak
• Gendered speech contrasts • men and women tend to differ in the phonology, grammar, and vocabulary they use, as well as in the
body stances and movements that accompany their speech
• Not biological, but learned behaviour
• Language and Space- Egocentric vs Geographic direction terms
− different experiences of identical hotel
Sociolinguistics: investigates relationships between linguistic variation and social differentiation/ stratification
and social differentiation/ stratification (gender, ethnicity, class, age, etc)
• linguistic anthropologists are interested in what people say, rather than what they should say. In language
performance rather than language rules or grammar
• they explore how language use reflects and reinforces social difference, relations of power and
• linguistic diversity within nations
• Social- Cultural diversity in nation- states, including Canada, is mirrored by linguistic diversity
• Speech community: is a group of people who share a set of norms and expectations regarding the use of
language. Multi- ethnic nations have multi- speech communities
• all people engage in style/code shifting- that is, they vary their speech in different contexts. Example,
formal vs informal vocabularies
• Dialects: variety of a language characteristic of a particular group of its speakers-gender, age, ethnicity..
• regular shifting between "high" and "low" variants or dialects of a language is known as diglossia
Dialect vs Language
• power: a language is a dialect with an army
• "languages" and "standard" dialects are language varieties supported by institutions with power
• example, Scandinavian languages of Norway, Sweden, Denmark
• most linguists do not recognize meaningful distinctions between languages and dialects
• Ethnicity/ Race/ Class Speech Contrasts
• Ethnicity, Social Status/ Class, and Race can impact the way people use language
• Black English Vernacular is a dialect of English spoken by the majority, but not all, black youth in the
U.S. BEV is a complex linguistic system with its own phonology and syntax
• There are clear phonological and grammatical differences between BEV and Standard English
Traits that distinguish BEV from Standard English (SE) include:
• specific pronunciation features along definable patterns, many of which are found in creoles and dialects
of other populations of WestAfrican descent and that also emerge in English dialects that may be
uninfluenced by WestAfrican languages, such as Newfoundland English
• distinctive vocabulary (cool, hop, gumbo, banjo)
• distinctive use of verb tenses
• the use of double negatives
Standard English BEV
He usually works on Tuesdays He be working Tuesdays
He is always working He stay working
He keeps on working He steady working
He has been working He been working
He is about to go to work He finna go to work
• Linguists maintain that there is nothing intrinsically "wrong" with BEV as a dialect -- shows consistent
internal logic. • However, non-specialist attitudes towards BEV can be negative, especially amongAfricanAmericans,
as it both deviates from the standard and its use is interpreted, at best, as a sign of ignorance or laziness.
• BEV often critiqued as “incorrect” or deviant form of English
• SE is not superior to BEV as a linguistic system, but it is the prestige dialect with the most “symbolic
capital” – a resource that can be used to gain social, economic or political advantage
• Stratification and symbolic domination
• All languages and dialects are equally effective and “correct” systems of communication.
• However, people use and evaluate speech in the context of social, political, and economic forces.
• Non-standard speech - often of low-status groups - may be evaluated negatively (e.g., labeled as
“uneducated speech”) not because it is ineffective in itself but because it has come to symbolize low
• “Proper language” can be a strategic resource—and a path to wealth, prestige, and power.
• Symbolic domination - when people who do not usually use a prestigious dialect are forced to accept
its authority and correctness.
• Historical linguistics studies long-term linguistic change.
• Languages change over time, dividing into sub-groups (dialects).
• If dialects are isolated long enough, they emerge as distinct daughter languages.
• Historical linguists can reconstruct many features of past languages by studying contemporary daughter
languages— languages that descend from the same parent language (protolanguage) – E.g. English,
German, Dutch all descend from Germanic.
• Historical linguists classify languages according to their degree of relationship.
• Language Change
• Invention - creation of entirely new words or languages
• Diffusion – indirect borrowing (loan words)
• Mix of English and Spanish on U.S. Mexico border
• Acculturation – direct contact
• Pidgins, creoles
• Pidgins are used to communicate between two different groups
• Pidgin becomes a creole when it becomes a group’s first language - learned through enculturation
• E.G. Digital Natives v.s. Digital Immigrants (Marc Prensky 2001)
• Language Loss
• An indigenous language goes extinct when its last speakers die.
• Half of the world’s linguistic diversity has been lost over the past 500 years and of the 7000 languages
that exist today, 20% are endangered and half are expected to disappear within the next century.
Lecture #6 Ways of Knowing, Ways of Living
Chapter 9: Religion
What is religion?
• Religion exists in all societies (universal), but takes different forms
• Anthony Wallace (1965: 5) defines religion as “belief and ritual concerned with supernatural beings,
powers and forces.”
• Supernatural = non-material, beyond the observable.
• Why might Wallace’s definition of religion be problematic?
• Assumes universal category “supernatural” and that all “religious” beliefs relate to the supernatural
realm. Natural, Social, Supernatural?
• “Non-Western, indigenous cosmologies are often called ‘animistic’, if not ‘nature-worship’. It would be
more accurate to call them ‘ecological’, that is, not supernatural.” -Astor-Aguilera (2010)
• This perspective simply replaces one western assumption (supernatural) with another (nature)? Many
peoples do not see “spiritual” beings and “forces” as part of “nature” - E.G. Tzuultaq’a
• Emile Durkheim suggested “religion” deals with distinction between the “profane” and “sacred” (normal
v.s. extraordinary) - in order to avoid imposing western worldview on others
What is religion?
• Difficult to define because it varies from place to place
• In modern western societies, religion tends to be a defined sphere dealing with spiritual matters
• In non-western contexts, “religion” is less institutionalized and formal, and tends to be more integrated
with other aspects of social life.
• In very broad terms we can think of religion as specific belief and practices aimed at understanding the
nature of the world and creating order in it
Functions of Religion
1. Provides meaning - an organizing framework (worldview/ontology) that answers big questions like
the nature of being/reality, the origin of cosmos/earth, and the purpose of life.
• Ontology deals with questions concerning the nature of being, what entities exist or can be said to exist,
and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy/ order, and subdivided according to
similarities and differences. E.G. God-People-animals-plants, Heaven, Earth, Hell
• Myth is primary mechanism that worldview is transferred from one generation to the next
• Stories (written/oral) that work to guide how to deal with critical problems that humans face as
well as an explanation of things that are not understood.
• Often they encode cultural values and instruct people on their place in the world and how they should
relate to it.
• Sometimes used to justify certain relationships (e.g. gender norms, human environment relations).
• Origin Myths describe how the world began, and often where people fit into this schemes
2. Coping Mechanism
• helps people cope with uncertainty, adversity, and tragedy
• often through specific ritual practices
• Ritual: formal (stylized, repetitive, and stereotyped) behaviour performed in specific places at set times-
not necessarily religious.
• a ritual consists of:
− a repetitive social practice
− set off from the routines of a day to day life
− a specific of ritual schema (order of events)
− often encoded in symbols and meaning
1. Ancestor Worship
2. Life- Cycle Rituals
3. Seasonal Rituals
6. Inversion (Halloween,, Carnival)
Magic: a form of ritual in which specific ritualized techniques are used to accomplish specific aims
• Imitative magic: magicians produce desired effect by imitating it- imitate effect of negative effect on
image of victim (eg vodoo doll) • Contagious magic: whatever is done to object believed to affect person who once has contact with that
object (eg. hair, clothing)
• Taboo: prohibition- something to avoid
• Fetishes or charms are material objects believed to embody "Supernatural" power that can aid or protect
• Prayer: ritualized form of communication with spiritual beings
3. Social Control: religions offer code of proper conduct (morals/ norms of behaviour) as well as rewards/
• example, 10 commandments
4. EnvironmentalAdaptation/ Maladaptation
• biblical hierarchy of humans control/ domination over nature- cause of environmental destruction
• example, India's Sacred Cow- Marvin Harris
• prohibition of killing cows provides poor families with dairy products, draft/ plowing animals,
5. Creates community and belonging
• group of people sharing beliefs and experiences
• also works to define social roles/ life stage- baptism, marriage, funeral, etc.
Rites of Passage: customs associated with the transition from one place or stage of life to another
Separation – leaving normal everyday life (profane)
Liminality- temporary suspension and even reversal of ordinary social distinctions, behaviors, and expectations
Communitas: intense community spirit, feeling of great social solidarity, equality, and togetherness during
Incorporation – re-incorporation into everyday life (profane), but in a new status.
6. Creates social divisions, tensions, conflicts
• differences in religious beliefs is powerful force of social division
• can lead to conflict war, example crusades
Forms of Religion
1. Relational Ontologies
• animism, totemism, mana
• informal, non- institutionalized, part time specialists
• generated by engagement with environment
2. World Religions
• polytheism, monotheism
• formal, institutionalized, religious specialists
• generated by faith in supernatural beings/ forces and subjective religious experience
3. Revitalization Movements and Sy