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Lecture

Chapter 4-The Social and Cultural Construction of Reality notes Apr 6 2009

by

Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANT100Y1
Professor
Marcel Danesi

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Ethnographic Examples: Tourism, be able to compare relationships to nature among North American homeowners (Lec 6) with those of
Dene Tha and Adivasis
Non-bolded Ideas: metaphors, myths
**Sections of Focus: 4.1, 4.2, 4.3 & 4.6**
Chapter 4: The Social and Cultural Construction of Reality
x Totemism Æ totem was an element of nature (ie animal, plant, insect) that served as a symbol for a group or clan Æ
worshipped and considered holy by the members of the group
x Ritual
o Freud said that people were worshipping their father in belief of god
x Symbolic actions Æ the rituals, myths, arts, literature, and music that we enjoy or participate in ± all play a role in organizing
and making concrete a particular view of the world
4.1 How does language affect the meanings people assign to experience?
x Edward Sapir suggested that specific languages serve not only as a medium of communication but also to define and guide our
perception of experience
x Specific languages somehow order the experiences of those who speak them
x Vocabulary reflects a the social and physical environment of a people
x Whorf Hypothesis
x The ideas of Sapir Whorf and Edward sapir are suggestive and both men were very careful to avoid claiming that there
is a causal link between language and thought
x There is another sense in which language serves to give meaning to different events, and it has to do with the idea of
metaphors
x Borrowing meanings from metaphors
x The words we use to describe one are of experience can also be used to describe another area metaphors take
language from one domain of experience, such as the domain of the body or the domain of animals, and applies it to
another domain, such as a persons or landscape features.
x When language is extended from one domain to the other, meaning is also extended
x Metaphors involve not only speaking of one experience in terms of another, but also understanding one experience in
terms of another
x We speak of argument in terms of conflict, taking the language from the domain of war and applying it to the domain
of conversation (i.e. she shot down my argument)
x The human body and war are not the only domains which North American Anglophone borrow to assign meaning to
other areas of experience
x They also borrow it from the domain of economic exchange
x Ex. Time is money, you are wasting my time, this gadget will save you hours
x Sports represent another domain
x Metaphors from different domains of experience assign different meaning to the same event
x The fact that north Americans borrow so heavily from war, economic exchange and sports for metaphors suggests
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x The act of eating is a key metaphor for these people
x Eating gives life in 2 ways, it provides nutrition but also frees the soul
x The soul cannot be freed until the physical body is destroyed
x When the soul is free it enters the body of a salmon
x Once the salmon is caught and eaten then the soul is freed yet again and turns into a newborn baby
x The importance of eating in their culture ascribes experience to Myth
x The metaphors of contemporary witchcraft and magic
x Metaphors may also be embedded in myth and history, as well as everyday experience
x Modern magic is based on the assumption that mind and thought can affect matter without the intervention of the
thinkers actions
x Magicians use tarot cards to divine the future, but the cards also provide ways for people to interpret their own lives
x In examining the power of metaphor to define our realities we must remember that there is no necessary connection
between the domains from which people draw metaphors and the domains to which they are apply to them
4.2 How does symbolic action reinforce a particular view of the world?
x Symbolic actions carry bundles of meanings that represent public displays of a culture and render particular views of the world
in a way that makes them seem correct and proper
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x A 4 day spectacle that serves as the highlight of their winter ceremonial
x Focal point of a youths initiation into the Hamatsa society
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