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Travesti Lecture 1 and 2

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Andrea Muehlebach

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Lecture 1:Travesti Introduction + Chapter 1 Outline of Today’s Lecture: - The concept of cultural relativism - Anthropological methods - The craft of ethnography o Specifically about what he did to get the data that he presents us with - Thick description and the concept of culture o How they present the data (the cultural data) Cultural Relativism Franz Boas on Cultural Relativism - Much of his data came from Canada - “On Alternating Sounds” (Boas; 1889) o This was the initial attempt to discover cultural relativism and how you would practice it o He was listening to Inuit language and transcribing it o He said there was this inconsistency on how the Inuit people pronounced their words - Boaz argued that basically what was seen here was a good example of observers bias o Brinton was trying to squeeze a lot of the different sounds the Inuit people had into the English language o What this idea of inconsistency reveals that linguists go into a new territory and transcribes and evaluates language based on English or German alphabets o Instead you have to look at different sound systems that cannot transcribed with the English alphabet o Argued again and again that linguists kept interrupting sounds in terms of their own alphabet, which was entirely unscientific and in fact was observers bias - Elements of a culture are meaningful in that culture’s terms, even if they may be meaningless (or take on a radically different meaning) in another cultures o A phoneme in the Inuit language can neither be the “o” sound or “u” sound - What are the implications of cultural relativism? - The example of “on alternating sounds shows” that they are scientific, political, moral o Moral because this is not an exercising combination o Certain types of evaluations like HIV positive, and criminal have political consequences Anthropological Methods - What are the materials that Don Kulick gathered? What did he pay attention to? What are his objects of analysis? o He looks at material objects found in their homes o Looks at specific areas where they live o How they are forced to move, in times when they are safe or when they are not safe o How they interact with each other – relations (how they interact with each other, with the police, with their boyfriends, with him) o Participant observation is important to have formal conversations, but more a lot of time listening people talk to each other (their issues) o He even does a linguistic analysis of how the media reports the violence of a travesti o When a travesty is killed – the media doesn’t really report a agent (not part of the headlines) o But when a travesty is the agent, then the media ensures that it is included in their headlines - What Did Kulick do to get to this data? - Methods o “… Not sad delusions of confused individuals, but practices that are eminently reasonable (or at least comprehensible) in the context in which travesty grow up and live their lives” - How is the information about human behavior rendered in socio-cultural anthropology? o How is this data presented? Thick Descri
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