ANTA02H3 Lecture Notes - Big Bang, Ethnocentrism, Stone Age

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15 Apr 2012
Lecture # 8 - March 2, 2010
PDF -Week 8
3rd section of Course - PROGRESS OF POWER
- Notions of “primitive” cultures or peoples or practices vs. modern cultures/ peoples/ practises
- Question these categories
- Race and racism
- Cultural and institutional power and individuality/ agency
In Search of Respect
Looking at a subculture in our own culture
Will have to write an analytical essay (due at the end of march)
FINAL EXAM - will not be cumulative (explicitly)
- Will be based on the stuff from after the midterm
- But will have to remember the things from before the midterm (i.e. what is culture, fieldwork,
ethnocentrism, etc)
“Primitive” - Modern”
o Used consciously and question their ‘cultural baggage’ and what they actually are used
o Are they justified? They are not objective labels
o Question the labelling because it is not objective - it is value laden and a judgement
Judgment from your own perspective (i.e. our dominant culture) Ethnocentric
Modern vs. Contemporary
o Modern = “now”; the present day
Prof. Wants to distinguish between modern and contemporary
Modern = certain type of culture or society; certain group of characteristics and
ways of organizing
seen as the opposite of tradition; although the two often co-exist (VSI
Chapter 3)
Contemporary - the present day; if you want to talk about ‘today’ or the present
Means: at the same time as (i.e. now)
Modern has a cultural baggage so you want to use it in the right context
- Time is a social construct
o Time = money (dominant metaphor)
o Relationship between language and time - we have tenses (past, present, future)
This means that we see our world as being organized in terms of linear time
(Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) time links together
Hopi don’t see time like this because they don’t have tenses
We make sense of the world: the past is behind us; use it to learn from; the
future is ahead of us with the promise of something better
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o Sense of time for us is TELEOLOGICAL - we think we are moving through time towards a
o Time is moving through space towards a goal; then movement of time is also seen as
PROGRESS or DEVELOPMENT (everything is getting better as we move through time)
We see it as inherently good and making us better and allowing us to progress
This implies that things behind us are less progressed and less developed and
worse or backwards
i.e. technology is always getting better and giving us faster, better, efficient
ways of doing things
literacy - being literate is tied to the idea of progress and development through
time (as people progress, they become more literate and smarter)
rationality - as we move through time we become more rational and intelligent
our lives will become even better in the future because of science and
- Pre-19th century, linear time was the product of religion (linear time was religion time)
o Time started with creation, moved forward, and time will end in these religious times
(an apocalypse)
o Then a new time will begin in religious time
o The general understanding was that the world and time as we knew it was 4000 years
old; there was the beginning of time
o Ancient times, Medieval times, modern time (progression of time)
This all made sense according to the religious conception
o Mid-19th century Darwin postulated that the would was 4.5 billion years old; there
wasn’t a beginning of time
Life had evolved and we couldn’t put our finger on the beginning date
Maybe it was the big bang but we were not sure
There was a chunk of linear time that was unsure (the bottom of time fell out)
Now we had all this other pre-history time that we didn’t know much about
Pre-history implies non-literacy; because it was not written down and could not
be read
When Europeans encountered people without written texts (but had oral
history) they dubbed them as being “pre-literate said they were primitive
because they come from a time before reading
Because they were pre-literate, they were seen as being less evolved
they have stayed pre-history (were less evolved at least culturally)
Europeans thought that these people were like our ancestors or “living
They thought these people were not the same as those of us in the
‘modern’ world
They thought we could look at these people and understand the past
because these primitive people are stuck in the past and tell us about
our ancestors that have died
- We see that people talked about these primitive people as though they are not contemporaries
o We think they have been living in the same was as they had in the past; they are stuck in
the past
o There was a division of: we are modern vs. these people who are stuck in the past
o By labelling these people as primitive, we denied them access to the present/ modern
world and see them as different
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