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22 Apr 2012

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-1Anthropology Lecture 2: January 19 th
What is socio-cultural anthropology?
Field work: sets anthropologists apart from other social scientists. Live for extended
periods of time with who were are studying.
Ethnography: field report, analysis of our findings
Accomplishes: culture from “the natives point of view” - the reader will be able to see that
culture from the natives point of view. Thick description. & Context for knowledge about
culture. Example: eyebrow raising: during her field work, she read the eyebrow raise
wrong. Where she did her field work it was a way of agreeing to them, whereas to us it is a
sexual connotation. Must describe the context.
à Victorian anthropologists were strongly influenced by Darwin. Tylor defined culture:
(page 37) culture is that complex hole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws,
etc as a member of society. à All cultures could be ranked, from least to most civilized.
Cultures themselves could evolve (Darwin). Frazer: Myth & religion - comparsion. In
terms of rationality, magical thinking - religious thinking - scientific rational thought (all
cultures move through these steps)
à these people would read other peoples accounts by missionaries, explorers, etc. they
read them and created their comparisons from what they read. Were not doing field work.
-- call them today Armchair anthropologists.
- started to get a few more adventure people, they wouldn’t stay where they were
studying. But would stay with missionaries, etc. “On the Verandah” - watched village life
go by. Off the porch and live where they were studying: not til then til we have modern
à Malinowski - “Off the Verandah” - 1910s - much better way to learn about different
cultures. Participant observations: take place in daily life, but you maintain enough of a
distance where you are able to record information. Long term field work & participate
observation: in order to rank them and compare them to British society, he came to see that
people were actually not so simple (where he was staying). They had their own laws,
politics, etc. They are no less cultured than those cultures in Britain and such. Cant rank
them, only compare.
à P. observation is very unique as a method - anthro is a social science - not objective.
Most scientists take positivism for granted. To what extent is anthro an objective science,
and subjective. Instrument is ourselves.
Franz Boas:
à father of the American branch of socio-cultural anthropology
à cultures need not be studied in pieces, or ranked: should be holistically, not
comparative. Studied on their own terms.
à each culture has its own particular unique history that has gotten it to the point where it
is àhistorical particularism” -- bad science to try to fit cultures into a schema, to assume
we already know where cultures are going to go.
Cultural relativism: the idea that as anthropologists we have to interpret these specific
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