ANTA02H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: William Graham Sumner, Refugees Of The Syrian Civil War, Upper Class
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ANTA02 – Lecture 2 – What’s Culture Got to Do with It?
What is Culture?
What defines us: can include …
Defined As …
“Culture as rationality, creativity, higher order thought”
In the Past
Culture was associated with “high culture” (opera)
- Rich type of culture
What does this mean?
o “Only the upper class had ‘culture’”
The upper class believed that lower classes did not have a culture, and if
they did, it was not above their level of hierarchy
Much more than norms, beliefs, customs
- More complicated!
What do Anthropologists say about Culture?
Culture as lived experience (key point)
Behaviours enacted in everyday life
Contemporary Definitions of Anthropology
1. "Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes
knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a
member of society." (Tylor 1958 : 1)
2. "... an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited
conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop
their knowledge about and attitudes toward life" (Geertz 1973: 89)
3. “The system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviours, and artifacts that the members of society use
to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation
through learning” (Bates and Plog 1990: 7)
- States that culture is static (fixed) but this is not true!
Culture is constantly shifting and changing
o Ex: language
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First Two Definitions
Associated culture with meaning, symbols, knowledge
Culture that is something in your “head”
Not just a list of to do’s
1950s: Horsmier published this article
The Nacirema have an obsession with mouths as a meaning for ritual making
- Drilled holes in the mouth
Use potions to cure illnesses
Have shrines in households
- Wealth is associated with the number of shrines an individual has
The Nacirema: American backwards
- Makes fun of rituals that Americans follow
Article is quasi-serious
Written in thick “anthropologese”
While nothing in the article is untrue, it does not capture what experience is like
Purpose of this Article
1. Comparing other cultures to North American culture
- Ex: North American obsession with teeth
2. Dangers of ethnocentrism (belittling other cultures, viewing everything through your culture
or group’s lens and not being empathetic to other cultures)
- “Othering” other cultures!
William Graham Sumner
Illustrated ethnocentrism as the belief that your culture is the center of everything
Entails limited tolerance of other cultures
A lot about critical thinking – asking what values, beliefs, behaviours, understandings of the
world are revealed by a cultural phenomenon
Ethnocentrism in Everyday Life
- Donald Trump
Focuses on America while degrading other religions/culture
o I.e. Muslims, Mexicans
Wants to make America great again, which basically means to make America white
Appeals to the upper classes
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