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Lecture 6

Textbook Notes for Lecture 6 - Politics

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Victor Barac

Notes From Reading for Lecture 6 CHAPTERS :6( PGS.164-197) AND 8( PGS .228-255) Lecture: Politics Chapter 6: The Cultural Construction of Social Hierarchy Introduction The Rationale for Social Inequality - Social Stratification/ Social Hierarchy – The ordering and ranking of individuals within society. Those at the top of the hierarchy are generally afforded more power, wealth, prestige, or privileges in a society. Hierarchies can be based on race, gender, class, caste, ethnicity, national affiliation, or other factors - Social hierarchy is not an inevitable feature of human societies - Race – A culturally constructed form of identity and social hierarchy, race refers to the presumed hereditary, phenotypic characteristics of a group of people. These physical or phenotypic differences are often erroneously correlated with behaivoural attributes 6.1: How do societies rank people in social hierarchies? Class and Caste. - Social hierarchies in different societies vary along several dimensions: o The criteria used to differentiate people into one level of society or another o The number of levels that exist o The kinds of privileges and rights that attach to people at different levels o The strength of the social boundaries that separate the different levels - Class – A form of identity informed by perceptions of an individual’s economic worth or status. It is also a form of social hierarchy Class as a Form of Social Hierarchy - Social class refers to perceptions of an individual’s standing or status in society, normally based on economic criteria, status, or other factors - In North American societies, we tend to place particular value on some occupations that require years of post-secondary schooling over more “hands on” professions - Ascribed Status – An identity that is perceived as fixed and unchanging because a person is believed to be born with it. In Canadian society, race is often assumed to be ascribed at birth - Achieved Status – An identity that is believed to be in flux and that is dependent upon the actions and achievements of an individual Create as a Form of Social Stratification - Castes – A form of social stratification and identity in India where individuals are assigned at birth to the ranked social and occupational groups of their parents o Are also separated by strict rules that forbid intermarriage and other forms of interaction - In any stratified society, people’s access to jobs, wealth, and privilege is determined largely by their position in the hierarchy 6.2: How do people come to accept social hierarchies as natural? Race as a Form of Social Stratification - Franz Boas, a found of anthropology, was among the first social scientist to discredit racist and sexist theories and ideologies that sought to legitimize the marginalization of people based on race, religion, gender and ethnicity Constructing the Ideology of Racism - The term race is used here to refer to the presumed genetic, natural, heritable characteristics of a group of people, normally based on physical attributes like skin color, eye color, or hair type Notes From Reading for Lecture 6 CHAPTERS :6( PGS .164-197) AND 8( PGS .228-255) - Unlike class, race in many industrial societies (ie. Canada) is seen as a fixed, unchanging form of identity - “Race” to scientifically exists, a certain physical feature (ie. skin color) would have to be demonstrated as occurring consistently and uniformly within a population - Nowadays, most academics view race as a culturally constructed form of identity (not biology) - Racism – Refers to the discrimination and mistreatment of particular “racial” groups - Stratification by race has existed for a number of reasons o Economically profitable to people who could buy black slaves or obtain workers - White Privilege – Refers to the fact that in many societies, “white” people have access to greater power, authority, and privileges than non-white people Class, Race and the Social Construction of “Intelligence” - Allan Hanson notes that the concept of intelligence contains a number of questionable assumptions o Intelligence is assumed to be a single entity  If someone is intelligent in one way, they will be intelligent in other ways o It is assumed to be measurable and unequally distributed in the population  We can somehow measure intelligence, as opposed to achievement o The amount people have is assumed to be relatively fixed throughout life  What we measure does not vary throughout a person’s life o The amount people have is assumed to largely explain their degree of success in life  People who have more measurable intelligence, will be more successful o It is assumed to be largely inherited  Shows that the children of people with high measurable intelligence also have high measurable intelligence - Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and Charles Spearman supplied the basic ideas and experimental proofs for the classic concept of intelligence as a fixed, “mental” entity that is differentially distributed in the population, is measurable, largely explains a person’s educational and occupational success and is inherited th - Francis Galton was one of the leading intellectual figures of the late 19 century o Sought to demonstrate that the “genius” of select eminent men was linked to the fact that they had eminent parents, that their “genius” was largely inherited o Used British upper and upper middle class men, ignoring “captain of industry and finance”, and women o In 1900, there was a move away from these kinds of measures, because they weren’t showing any correlations with one another an showed only a low correlation with teachers’ - Karl Pearson concluded that “the mental characteristics in man are inherited in precisely the same manner as the physical” o Our mental and moral nature is quite as much as our physical nature, the outcome of hereditary factors o Asked teachers to evaluate a pair of brothers who had high correlations for physical characteristic o Teachers were evaluating selected behaviour patterns and personal characteristics  and they judged to be evidence of various “mental characteristics” - Charles Spearman and “general intelligence” o Designed to proved that there was different degrees of correspondence between and individual’s performance on different types of test Notes From Reading for Lecture 6 CHAPTERS :6( PGS.164-197) AND 8( PGS .228-255) o Suggested that the g factor underlay all mental operations and that if it could be found, it would approximate true intelligence Race, Class and Social Hierarchies in Brazil - Race is culturally constructed, as is class - Alexander Edmond has explored the ways in which race and class converge in Brazil to form social hierarchies - In Brazil, plastic surgery rates are among the highest in the world, and the government subsidizes plastic surgeries for the working class o “Beauty” is thus a marker of class status, and is increasing viewed as a “right” that should be available for everyone - In Brazilian society, race exists along a continuum, and white skin and stereotypically “white” facial features are associated with power, privilege, and prestige - Conscious manipulation of features like “attractiveness” are viewed as a means of achieving a sense of individual fulfillment, well-being and status Question 6.3: How is Gender a Form of Social Hierarchy? Constructing Male and Female - Sex – Hormonal, chromosomal, or physical differences between men and women - Gender – Culturally constructed ideals of behaviour, dress, occupations, roles and comportment for particular sexes - Third Gender – A gender role given to someone who does not fit within strictly masculine or feminine gender roles in a given society - Once the gender is made, the infant is given a gender-appropriate name, dressed in properly designed and coloured clothing, and spoken to in gender-appropriate language - Males are taught to be aggressive and competitive while females are taught to be caring and helpful - According to Native American societies, they recognize a third gender, two-spirit o An individual who is a biological male and does not fill the role of a standard male role - Taft’s study focused on men who dressed as women in these rituals of reversal, which were filled with ludic behaviour o These men are expressing their views of women to one another o May have something to do with the economic conditions of farming on the Prairies o By making fun of women, men may be reasserting their own importance Constructing Stratification by Gender - Many people believed that women’s bodies defined both their social position and their function o In the same way that men’s bodies dictated that they manage, control and defend - In the 19 century, people would describe menopause as the end of productive usefulness and menstruation was described as a sign of a failure of the implantation of fertilized egg o Many different textbooks describes male and female reproductive functions very differently - Martin’s analysis reveals that in contemporary North American societies, the ideology of gender stratification remains embedded in our language and our ideas of bodily functions Gender Stratification and the Privileging of Hegemonic Masculinities - Hememonic Masculinity – Refers to ideals and norms of masculinity in a society, which are often privileged over other o Often used to construct gendered hierarchies in societies Notes From Reading for Lecture 6 CHAPTERS :6( PGS .164-197) AND 8( PGS.228-255) o Constructed, performed, and maintained within societies through sports, competitions, and rituals - Peggy Reeves Sanday did a study of college fraternity gang rap o Begins with the coercion of a vulnerable young women seeking acceptance o Once she is too weak or intoxicated to protest, a “train” of men have sex with her - Sanday found: o A heavy emphasis in fraternities on male bonding and male-bonding behaviour, to the extent that a college man’s self-esteem and social identity depend on gaining entry to a fraternity and being accepted by the brothers o Sex constitutes a major status and identity marker – masculinity is defined and demonstrated by sexual conquest o The attitudes towards women: implied that women were sex objects to be abused - Gang rape was the credible outcome of a process of identity formation manifested in fraternity life in general and in the fraternity initiation ritual in particular Gender Stratification and the Feminization of Poverty - Gender and age are significantly related to whether a person lives in poverty - Most of the world’s poor are women and children - When gender is combined with other factors that contribute to poverty, such as indigenous status, women face a combination of risks Body Image and Gender Hierarchies - One of the most important identity features for many North Americans is body shape o Children ages 6-9 say “thinner” people are nicer whereas “fatter” people are mean o Children ages 10-12 rate heavier figures lowest - Relationship between self-image and body shape is particularly relevant for female adolescents o In Nichter’s study, females formed their idea of the “perfect” body largely from television, films, and magazine, and Barbie Language, Gender, and Racial Hierarchies - Societies provide a social landscape along with the symbols or codes through which a person’s place on the landscape is conveyed to others - Language is one of the tools that people have to signal how they want to be placed in society - Grammar can signal gender  French has male and female forms of nouns - Language can also be used to construct others, groups from which people want to separate themselves - Churchill draws attention to the way we use language, often unknowingly, that stigmatizes the identity of others 6.4: How do people living in poverty adapt to their condition? - In order to survive in the impoverished conditions that exist in the lower tiers of society, people adopt specific adaptive strategies - Culture of Poverty – A term coined by anthropologist Oscar Lewis to describe the lifestyle and world view of people who inhabit urban and rural slums - Some anthropologists maintain that the behaviour of people in poverty represents their adaptations to their socioeconomic condition – no money and no jobs o Are a result of inequality, usually reinforced by racism, Kinship as an Adaptation to Poverty Notes From Reading for Lecture 6 CHAPTERS :6( PGS .164-197) AND 8( PGS .228-255) - Carol B. Stacks discovered that fostered kinship ties and created fictive kinship links to form close, interlocking, cooperative groups that would ensure economic and social support in times of need - Generalized Reciprocity – A form of exchange in which people share what they have with others but expect them to reciprocate late o Ensures that nobody lacks the basic needs for survival - Balanced Reciprocity – A form of exchange in which items of equal or near-equal value are exchanged on the spot - Negative Reciprocity – A form of exchange in which the object is to get something for nothing or to make a profit - The conditions of poverty drew people into kinship and friendship networks, rather than nuclear family patterns valued by the larger society 6.5: Can a non-stratified community exist within a large society? - For thousands of years there have been attempts by some groups in stratified societies to create classless, egalitarian, utopian social settings - Anthropologist Charles Erasmus examined hundreds of utopian communities in an effort to discover why most failed but some succeed o Concluded that the main problem for these communities is trying to motivate community members to work and contribute to the common good without the promise of individual material rewards, status, or prestige The Hutterites and the Colony of Heaven - The Hutterite colonies are among the most successful products of the Christian communal movement, which also includes Mennonites and Amish - Their goal was to create a “colony of heaven”, drawing inspiration from the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible o Hutterites believe in communal living and the proper observance of religious practice o Reject competition, violence, and war and believe that property is to be used and not possessed o Respect the need for government but do not believe they should involve themselves in it or hold public office - Hutterites re not totally egalitarian o Society is ranked by age and gender; members do not participate in decision making until they are baptized and married - One way Hutterites build commitment to the group is through frequent face-to-face interaction - Social movements have difficulty maintaining long-range goals, especially as wealth accumulates o Hutterites address this problem by diving the communities, or branching, every fifteen years o During a 15-year period, each community saves a portion of its earning to purchase additional land,
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