Lec 8.docx

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17 Mar 2012
Lec 8 (Primitives and moderns )
Certain cultures are primitives.
What it means to be primitive and then modern?
Why is the word “primitive” problematic in anthropology?
It is not a proper objective label when we use the word primitive
The idea of primitive is not objective but rather it is subjective. It is a moral judgement and is
more of ethnocentric perspective. Some sort of value judgement.
The word modern and contemporary
Modern—does not mean NOW in ANTROPOLOGY (what’s happening now in laymen’s terms is
incorrect to use in anthro) . But in anthropology moder means certain kind of culture and social
institution and the ways of organizing their society. Modern is opposite to traditional way in
anthropology. Modern culture is classified with rationality. And these are the distinction we
make in anthro. It is thus a dichotomy (modern vs. Traditional) .
Contemporary means Now In anthropology. Thus, these distinction are critical to anthro
The idea of time.
Metaphor. Go back to these slides in
Language and structure of time in different cultures
Some culture do not have tenses. Thus they do not thing of time as linear. But we American
think of time as linear (present, past and future). We measure thing adn quantify the time. Draw
a line of time (past- now future)we think of time as being past that has gone and future
that is about to come and that’s where our life is going. And western time is moving forward is
what American thinking is . Thus the western time is teleological. In layman’s term it means that
we are working towards our future and progressing towards future for better. We think of past
as simple and future is more complex. Past had simpler technology and future is going to have
more complex technologies. Western time we think that past was less rational and future is
more going to be rational. However, this is not the way all cultures look at time everywhere.
In judao-christinas, time started with creations and that’s when time began and since then the
time has continued forward and there will a time when time will end. They divided the time as
ancient time, mediaeval time (dark time) and modern timeand this is how they viewed time
before 19th century. However, since Darwin, starting in 19th century gave emphasis to prehistory
timenon-literate (non written) and it is not writtenit is the time before the history was
written down. These people were pre-literate and thus were called primitive. Because they were
pre-literate they were considered as pre-historic and living their life as if they were living in pre-
historic time. By studying them we can understand what happened in pre-history. These ppl
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