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Lecture 2

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Jude Fokwang

ANB05H3 Culture & Society inAfrica 9/17/2012 Lecture 2: Perspectives on Africa The Elephant and the Six Blind Men Blind men who never seen an elephant, each had a chance of feeling an elephant, because of course, they cannot see First guy, feels the trunk and relates it back to a python Second guy, feels the tusks and relates it back to spears Third guy, feels the legs and relates it back to a pillar Fourth guy, feels the ears and relates it back to a fan Fifth guy, feels the skin and relates it back to bricks Sixth guy, feels the tail and compares it to rope Moral of the story, is that each person had a different perspective due to what they felt Our views tend to be shaped by the structures of observation Our views are limited by only what we see Ex, Observing Africa through the colonial lens ; Missionaries judgment ofAfrican belief systems through the eyes of Christianity ; Comparing African modes of thought from a Western philosophical perspective Observation can be a tool of domination/surveillance, that is, a tool of control which entails the exercise of power. Observation can be an agent of power The observing anthropologist exercises what Michel Foucault referred to as “disciplinary power” because while they remain invisible, ‘what he sees from his site of observation is rendered completely visible” Subjecting someone under a microscope automatically makes them inferior One of the most complex and abstract concepts in anthropology is the idea of “culture” - by mid 1950’s over 164 definitions of culture have been created Culture is the subject matter of anthropology, yet it is an extremely hard definition to define Dominant approaches in the study of culture include ; Historical particularism , Functionalist, Structural-functionalist, Interpretive, Political Economy , Postmodernist Culture is not something you inherit, but something that you learn ; Learned, Shared,Acquired, Dynamic and Symbolic (characteristics) The process of learning culture is called enculturation ; once born into a culture, you begin to learn about the culture Culture can change Culture is symbolic , attach meaning to things that cannot be tangible Historical Particularism 19 century, very strong understanding of culture. Believed it was the product of ones race France Boas, the different levels of the hierarchy was defined by the skin tones, and he was able to prove this wrong He said to prove any culture, you have to look into the historical background Functionalists Malinoski
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