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ANT100Y1 Lecture Notes - Social Constructionism, Franz Boas, Homo Sapiens

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Christopher Watts

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Anthropology January 27th, 2011.
Signifying Reality: Communication and Construction
*Memorize words in GREEN*
Signifying – making sense, making signs
Franz Boas 1858-1942
With Kwakwakawakw (Kwakiutl) family.
Vancouver Island, 1894
Each culture is a complex of language, culture, and physical type, and none is
inferior to any other
A higher culture
Cultural Relativism
An extreme idea – each culture has its own values, which may be diff from other
culture and if you belong to one culture you should not judge another
There are no universal standards of progress (or of mortality)
Universal is really Western” – e.g. democracy begun in Western nations
Can this be used to deny what is taken as human rights in the West, to others?
Why linguistics and semiotics in anthropology?
Anthropology – study of what it means to be human
Why language?
Why semiotics? (What is semiotics?)
Homo sapiens – “human that knows
Knowing – making sense (reflecting, representing)
Language: a way to make sense
Language means to make sense = to signify
Study of language: linguistics
Study of signs (signifying): semiotics
Linguistics is part of semiotics
Classic (“structuralist) communication model:
Speaker (sender), channel, hearer (receiver)
Encoding and decoding
Assumes that there is an uncoded message independent of language
This is probably not true
A Classic (“Saussurean”) View of Signification
Ferdinand de Saussure . 1857-1913
Signifier and “signified
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