Class notes for lecture 8
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Caveats of primitive or modern
•The word modern is being used in quotation marks; to indicate the use
of the term cautiously, ironically, and critically. To try not to
objectively label individuals as primitive.
•To call individuals primitive is ethnocentric. In anthropology to be
modern, is used as a particular distinction between traditional vs.
modern, in terms of size, scale, and belief system.
•Prefer to use the term, ‘in contemporary times’. The term Modern is
spoken as characteristics, social organization.
Dichotomy of primitive vs. modern, in relation to time
•Time is a social construct; for us we think of time as money.
Relationship between language, structure of thought and time, we
divide time into parts or units.
•Our sense of time is linear, we see the past as being over, it’s done–
spatially: behind us. We think of the future as being ahead of us.
Temporally it is a destination. Time can move in only one direction.
•We think of the movement of time as moving towards a goal, this
movement is called teleological. Goals are something we move towards
and achieve; they are good.
•That means we think the movement through time, is a movement of
progress, development, and advancement to get better.
•This idea results from a few thousand years of religious time.
•Before the mid 19th century, time was in terms of religion-Christian
time. It started with creation and a start point. And time has an end,
in the religious point of view.
•Time was considered 4000 years old and was divided into three
historical eras: ancient times, medieval times and modern times.
•Time was knowable because it was written down.
•However in the mid 19th century the “bottom” dropped out of time.
Darwin came along and said there is evidence that people have been
around longer and so was the world; time was no longer finite.
•After this, instead of three divisions, there was also prehistory.
Although this was un-encountered for because it wasn’t written down.
•Prehistory implies a pre-literate time, before or outside of reading and
•When Europeans encountered people without written history, they
dubbed these people pre-literate and were associated with pre-history–
out side of time and were therefore seen as primitive.
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