ANT100Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Benjamin Lee Whorf, Mirror Stage, Ordinary Language Philosophy

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5 Feb 2016
Today's lecture: constructing reality through signs and (especially) language
Goals of the social-cultural-linguistic anthropology lectures
1. Discuss society, culture, and language as universal human traits with particular
2. Understand social construction: deconstruct society and culture
a. Deconstruct: analyzing by reversing the construction
2. Decolonialize the imagination
a. Decolonialize: deconstruct colonialism by bringing into our consciousness and
our knowledge the great variety of cultures and societies; being able to
imagine the mix of cultures, without focusing on minorities
2. Talk about dogs - using anecdotes to relate it to the class
Reality as a construction
oformed by people in society, nurture not nature
oWhat is verifiable
oThe world as it makes sense to us
Most of reality does not come across to us without the filter of signs and
It is socially constructed
It may not always be the same as what really exists: the Real
Jargon vs. Ordinary language
In ordinary language, reality is what is real
In social science/the jargon: reality is how we understand the real
oIt is "our reality"
For the most part, reality seems pretty real and we are well advised to live in it!
However, a lot of the real is not our reality: we do not understand it.
Language constructs reality
Creates an understanding of distinct concepts and categories as if they were part
of the objective world
Such understandings have a bearing on our reality
Race is real (to us) but it is not part of "the real"
E.g., color
Colour in nature
oThere are no sharp boundaries between colours
Colour as a social construct
o"green" and "blue"
oNo distinction in old Chinese, old Japanese, Vietnamese, Sioux and many
other languages
o (blue or green)青青青 (blue sky) 青青 (green vegetable)
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