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Lecture #3 - Ways of Knowing .docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Maggie Cummings

January 21, 2013 Lecture #3 WAYS OF KNOWING: TIME, LANGUAGE, AND RITUAL Recap  Culture: shared patterns of learned behaviour o About systems of meanings that are shared and learned  Boas: “culture as a lens” o Let’s us see clearly, from a certain perspective, the answers to questions about our lives Worldview  Result of our attempts to make the world meaningful  Pg. 79 – “an encompassing picture of reality based on a set of shared assumptions about how the world works”  Culture vs. worldview – worldview is part of culture o Culture includes worldview AND practices, beliefs, kinship, preferences, etc.  Eg. Ghosts in worldview: if you hear a random noise in the attic, you might believe that there is a ghost o Likewise, if you don’t have ghosts in your worldview, you might just think it’s a raccoon  Worldview helps you judge whether things are real or fake  Worldview establishes symbolic frameworks that highlight certain domains of experience while down-playing others  More than one worldview may coexist in a single culture o Eg. Secular worldviews vs. religious worldviews o Eg. Clashing of worldviews – should we teach evolution? Different versions of creation Thinking about Worldview: Cause of Death  In the Trobriand Islands, the only people that can have natural death are people who are very old and die in their sleep o Usually, death is the result of sorcery  Trobriand worldview: they have very specific way of thinking of death o Think of the “why” o Why this person? Why now?  We think of sorcery is illogical but it seems that sorcery is pushing rationality; it asks detailed questions about the death o They ask these questions because their worldview encompasses sorcery  Sorcery: o Omnipresent fear o Some powerful sorcerer will put a spell on food (betel nuts), or cigarettes o They have to share these things, which causes them to worry even more  Children not allowed to take things from strangers – similar to children shouldn’t take candy from strangers o Sorcery seen as attack on someone’s matrilineage  Group of people connected through motherhood  In Trobriand Islands, groups of competing matrilineage for power, food, etc. o By using sorcery, certain matrilineages are weakened o They believe that everyone is a reincarnation of an ancestor; thus, not only are you killing the person in this life, you’re attacking their ancestors  When someone dies, everyone must look sad because if you don’t grieve enough, you will be suspected of being the sorcerer o One doesn’t just display spontaneous grief, one must display a certain degree and length of wailing Language, Culture, and Reality  Worldview is perpetuated through language  “We are what we speak” o Speech and language are what makes us human  Just by the way someone speaks, you can usually tell a lot about that person o Age, ethnicity, gender, nationality, mental state, etc.  Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: language shapes reality as we know it o Structure of language shapes structure of reality o Different language patterns perpetuate different patterns of thought o There is a systematic relationship between the categories of language a person speaks and how that person understands the world and behaves in it  Language allows us to “label” the world o Language reflects the world rather than language creates the world  “Adamic view” – (Adam was responsible for naming things)  Different languages arise to meet the different needs of the world  Is cross-cultural translation ever totally possible?
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