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Lecture 22

ANTHR101 Lecture 22: Chapter 10 (Lecture and Textbook)

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Brent Hammer

Chapter 10- How Do We Make Meaning? What is Play? - If we expand the idea of openness to include all behaviour – that is, the ability not just to talk or think about but also to do the same way – we begin to define play o Play- a framing (or orienting context) that is: ▪ Consciously adopted by the players ▪ Somehow pleasurable, and ▪ Systematically related to what is non-play by alluding to the non-play world and by transforming the objects, roles, actions, and relations of end and means characteristic of the non-play world - Fagen looks at play as a product of natural selection that may have significant fitness value for individuals in different species – play gives young animals the exercise they need to build up the skills necessary for physical survival as adults: fighting, hunting, or running away when pursued - May be important for the development of cognitive and motor skills, and may be connected with the repair of developmental damage caused by either trauma or injury - In species with more complex brains, playful exploration of the environment aids learning and allows for the development of behavioural versatility - Fagen suggests that play reflects natural selection for unpredictability – to be able to produce unpredictable behaviours can be advantageous for an intelligent species faced with unanticipated adaptive challenges What Do We Think About Play? - Moving from everyday reality to the reality of play requires a radical transformation of perspective – sometimes the switch can have serious consequences for other people and their activities o In this case, play and non-play must be signalled clearly so that one is not mistaken for the other - Bateson states that shifting into or out of play requires metacommunication o Metacommunication- communication about the process of communication o 2 kinds of metacommunication in play: ▪ Framing- a cognitive boundary that marks certain behaviours as “play” or as “ordinary life” ▪ Reflexivity- critical thinking about the way one thinks; reflection on one’s own experiences • By suggesting that ordinary life can be understood in more than one way, play can be a way of speculating about what can be rather than about what should be or what is What Are Some of the Effects of Play? - Schwartzmann demonstrated how play, through satire and clowning, may allow children to comment on and criticize the world of adults o Powerful example describe by Chin who studied African-American girls and their dolls in Newhallville (working class and poor neighbourhood in New Haven, Connecticut) – had white dolls, but the changed the dolls’ hairstyles to match their own ▪ By doing this, the girls bring their dolls into their own worlds, and whiteness here is not absolutely defined by skin and hair, but by style and way of life ▪ Their transformative play doesn’t make the realities of poverty, discrimination, and racism disappear, but in making their white dolls live in black worlds, they reconfigure the boundaries of race and in doing so challenge the social construction not only of their own blackness, but of race itself as well What is Art? - In Western societies, art includes sculptures, drawings, paintings, dance, theatre, music, and literature, as well as some similar processes and products as film, photography, mime, mass media productions, oral narrative, festivals, and national celebrations - People everywhere engage in these kinds of playful creativity yet activities defined as “art” differ from free play because they are circumscribed by rules o Artistic rules direct particular attention to, and provide standards for evaluating, the form of the activities or objects that artists produce Is There a Definition of Art? - Art- play with form producing some aesthetically successful transformation-representation o Artists are interacting intentionally to create something new and give it meaning – therefore, are exhibiting agency o Aesthetic- appreciative of, or responsive to, form in art or nature ▪ Aesthetic value judgements guide the artist’s choice of form and material; they also guide the observers’ evaluations – implies that art involves more than just objects ▪ Aesthetic evaluations – artists trying to evoke a response from people; culturally shaped value judgements ▪ Aesthetically successful – will produce a culturally appropriate response if it’s successful; people can appreciate the cultural context it’s producing (audience has agency) o Form of creative play subject to cultural restrictions (in form and content) ▪ Art is rooted in playful creativity – therefore, it’s a birth right of all human beings • We all have the potential to be playful, therefore, all have the ability to be creative, and therefore, we all have to potential to produce art - For Alland, form refers to the rules of the art game – the culturally appropriate restrictions on the way this kind of play may be organized in time and space o Style- is a schema (distinctive patterning of elements) that is recognized within a culture as appropriate to a given medium o The media themselves in which art is created and executed are culturally recognized and characterized o Art is culturally defined and defining o Cultural role can provide a sense of alternative reality - Alland’s definition of art attempts to capture something universal about human beings and cultural creativity - Errington observes that all human cultures have symbolic forms: artifacts, activities, or even aspects of the landscape that humans view as densely meaningful – art must be given some kind of meaning But Is It Art? - Many people have resisted the nation that art is only what a group of Western experts define as art - To highlight the ethnocentrism of Western art experts, they stressed that the division into categories of art and non-art is not universal - At the same time, anthropologists felt justified in speaking of art and of artists in non-Western societies, as they believed that all people were endowed with the same aesthetic capacities – their goal was to recognize a fully human capacity for art in all societies and to redefine art until it became broad enough to include on an equal basis aesthetic products and activities that Western art experts would qualify, at best, as “primitive,” “ethnic,” or “folk art” - Anthropologists turning their attention to the way certain kinds of material objects made by tribal peoples flow into a global market where they are transformed into “primitive” or “ethnic” art o Errington points out that even in the West many of the objects in fine art museums today, no matter where they came from, were not intended by their makers to be “art” ▪ Distinguishes “art by intention” (objects made to be art) from “art by appropriation” (consists of all the other objects that “became art” because at a certain moment certain people decided that they belonged to the category of art) ▪ To transform an object into art, it must have exhibition value – someone must be willing to display it ▪ Points out the irony that international demand for “exotic” objects is growing at the very moment when the makers of these objects are severely threatened by international economic policies and resource-extraction projects that impoverish them and undermine the ways of life that give the objects they make their “exotic” allure - Like play, art presents its creators and participants with alternative realities, a separation of means from ends, and the possibility of commenting on and transforming the everyday world “She’s Fake:” Art and Authenticity - Bigenho discusses 3 forms of authenticity: o Experiential authenticity- something experienced in its entirety; shared sensory experience or it makes emotional response o Cultural-historical authenticity- represents a cultural event/object that’s recognizable o Unique authenticity- the individual’s artist’s new, innovative, and personal production (such as the original compositions of creative musicians); tied their view; unique characteristics about it; authentic because it reflects artist’s emotions - Concerns who owns cultural products and raises the issues of whether it is possible to talk about collective creation and ownership of the music of a community a people, or an ethnic group What Is Myth? - All societies depend on the willingness of their members to not question certain assumptions about the way the world works – because the regularity and predictability of social life might collapse altogether if people were free to imagine and act upon their own understandings of the world, most societies find ways to restrict the available options through the use of myth - Myths- stories that recount how various aspects of the world came to be the way they are and that make life meaningful for those who accept them o Products of high verbal art o Frequently, the official myth-tellers are the ruling groups in society: the elders, the political leaders, the religious specialists o Content usually concerns past or future events o Are socially important because if they are taken literally, they tell people where they’ve come from and where they’re going and, thus, how they should live right now ▪ To understand the myth, you need to also understand the cultural context o Are self-evident – don’t need science to explain it - Myths and related beliefs that are taken to be self-evident truths are sometimes codified in an explicit manner – when this codification is extreme and deviation from the code is treated harshly, we sometimes speak of orthodoxy o Orthodoxy- “correct doctrine;” the prohibition of deviation from approved theories or beliefs o Even societies that place little emphasis on orthodoxy are likely to exert some control over the interpretation of key myths because myths have implications for action How Does Myth Reflect – and Shape – Society? - Early in the 20 century, Malinowski introduced a new approach to myth – he believed that to understand myths we must understand the social context in which they’re embedded o Myths serve as “charters” or “justifications” for present-day social arrangements – the myth contains some self-evident truth that explains why society is as it is and why it can’t be changed o If social arrangements change, the myth changes too, in order to justify the new arrangements Do Myths Help Us Think? - In mid-50s, Levi-Strauss transformed the study of myth – argues that myths have meaningful structures that are worth studying in their own right, quite apart from the uses to which the myths may be put o Myths should be interpreted the way we interpret music o Myths are tools for overcoming logical contradictions that can’t otherwise be overcome ▪ They are put together in an attempt to deal with the opposition of a particular concern to a particular society at a particular moment in time o The complex syntax of myths works to relate those opposed pairs to one another in an attempt to overcome their contradictions ▪ However, these contradictions can never be overcome but, myth can transform an insoluble problem into a more accessible, concrete form - From this point of view, myths don’t just talk about the world as it is, but also describe the world as it might be - Levi-Strauss insists that myths are good to think with; mythic thinking can propose other ways to live our lives – however, the alternatives that myths propose are ordinarily rejected as impossible What Is Ritual? - Ritual- a repetitive social practice composed of a sequence of symbolic activities that is set off from the social routines of everyday life, adheres to a culturally defined ritual schema, and closely connects to a specific set of ideas that are often encoded in myth - Because societies aim to shape action as well as thought to orient all human faculties in the approved direction, art, myth, and ritual are often closely associated with one another - For many people in Western societies, rituals are presumed to be religious; for anthropologists, rituals also include practices such as scientific experiments, college graduation ceremonies, procedures in a court of law, and children’s birthday parties - The purpose for which a ritual is performed guides how these ideas are selected and symbolically enacted - What gives rituals their power is that the people who perform them assert that the authorization for the ritual comes from outside themselves – they haven’t made the ritual up themselves, but rather, it connects them to a source of power that they don’t control but controls them How Is Ritual Expressed in Actions? - Ritual has a text – a particular sequential ordering of acts, utterances, and events - The performance of ritual can’t be separated from its text – text and performance shape each other - Through ritual performance, the ideas of a culture become concrete, take on a form, and give direction to the gaze of participants - Ritual performer’s choices are guided by, but not rigidly directed by, previous ritual texts Combining Play, Myth, and Ritual - Malinowski (1915-1918) o Studied origin myths on the Trobriand Islands o Did participant observation (fieldwork); live with them, take part in everyday activities o Wrote Argonauts of the Western Pacific o Trobriand cricket ▪ ▪ Impacts of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on sports and games (cricket originally from the UK) • End up using the game of cricket as a way to try and encourage new morality – new way to take out aggression, energy, etc. ▪ Missionaries try to change people they come into contact with – change their
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