ANTA02H3 Lecture Notes - George Lakoff, Asceticism, Azawagh Arabs

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15 Apr 2012

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Lecture #3 - January 19, 2010
VSI Chapter 7; PDF - Rituals in American Birth
*Assignment #2 - One Page Reading Response = Due: February 5, 2010
Last Class:
Fieldwork and ethnography as the methods of Anthropology
Culture is always changing (not static) - shared patterns of learned behaviour
Boas - “cultural lens” through which members of a culture can see the world
**Symbiotic relation between what we learn and how we see the world - mutually sustaining
Worldview ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We try to make our lives meaningful and comprehend what is happening around us to create
Worldview = result of these interpretive efforts
o Encompassing picture of reality based on a set of shared assumptions about how the
world works
o Understanding what the world and what reality is
o Worldviews are different depending on the culture
Culture encompasses many things (kinships, laws, languages, etc)
o Symbolic frameworks that highlight certain significant domains of social experience
while downplaying others
o Multiple worldviews can exist in ONE culture; or one worldview may dominate
o I.e. Feeding Desire - Islamic Worldview (Religious) = shapes the entire culture and their
o Tied to religion and religious beliefs
o Secular and Religious worldviews (i.e. in Canada) - Money vs. religion (coexist)
Chapter 7 -VSI - Thinking about worldview - Humans and Weather
Bima and Dou Donggo - different cultures
o i.e. how they understand drought/ rain
o react differently and try to understand the drought differently
o Bima - knew they could not affect the will of Allah; pray and fast (ask Allah for rain)
o Dou Donggo - not Muslim; rain is part of the inevitable nature of things - rain should just
happen in the rain (if it doesn’t, then there is something getting in the way of the
natural order of things) [make offers to mischievous spirits]
Were successful in both cases in making the rain come - their worldviews were
correct (in their eyes) and their reality continued
North America Meteorologists
o Blame global warming
o Drought - irrigate (complex technological processes)
o Import water
o Take things into our own hands (do what we can to help/ change it- Compensate) BUT
we do not believe that we have complete control over things (but try to change it)
o Weather is unpredictable and out of our hands nature and culture are two separate
things to us
Worldview shapes our cultural behaviours and what we see as real
(1) Language, Culture, and Reality---------------------------------------------
“we are what we speak” language, speech, communication as symbolic expressions
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Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis - there is a systematic relationship between the categories of
the language a person speaks and how that person understands the world and behaves
in it
language shapes reality as we know it
categories of speech shape out categories of thought/ perception (different
language patterns yield different thought patterns that yield different views of
Sapir - the worlds in which different societies live are distinct societies (not just
the same society with different labels) **People who speak different languages
live in different worlds** (problem - what about bilingual people? What world
do they live in?)
Cross cultural translation?
Is it possible t translate the culture of Azawagh Arabs into English? OR is their
culture so closely related to the dialect of the Koran/ Islam, is it just a waste to
try to understand it in English?
Awareness of the significance of language (more than just labels and
vocabulary) is a start to solving these problems
(1) Whorf - investigated fires for insurance companies; observed that people reacted in different
situations on the basis of linguistic cues
Interpretation of different words
Workers saw that the gasoline tanks were “Empty” so people smoked around them
o Were “empty” of liquid, but not of vapours/ gas
o Categories and structures of language shaped their beliefs of reality
(2) Studied the Hofi (?)
No nouns (represent things) OR tenses (past, present, future)
All sentences need a subject/ nouns
They experienced their world/ reality in a different way
Process oriented and focused on movement - see time as moving and always happening
(not linear)
Europeans - linear time, focus on things/ nouns
(3) We objectify everything: “it’s” raining - think of the world in terms of cause-and-effect
Nature is separate from us
Duo Donggo - “there is rain”; no cause/ no “it” that is making it rain
o Don’t see nature as being separate from themselves
o Everything is a process
Our language affects the way we see reality
**Our ability to see world is shaped by culture, shaped by language
**Argued that every culture develops the linguistic tools needed to solve problems and survive
*Many anthropologists question the hypothesis (language shapes reality) idea that language
structures reality and of the mind shape the world (not believed anymore)
Take the idea that: Language somehow shapes our reality
The metaphors we use in our language to describe the world really shape out thoughts,
behaviours, and worldviews
Lakoff and Johnson - Metaphors we live by
o Different metaphors for thinking of things that shape our world
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