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ANT204H1 Lecture Notes - Social Science, Conservation Movement, Cultural Relativism

Course Code
Saul Cohen

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What Does Anthropology Contribute to Discussions of Human Rights and Social Justice?
A. Essay/Human Rights
- Development and conservation
o Practices of these that are inherently problematic
o Revisiting these within the essay questions
o Readings this week: three readings that have been chosen that offer a huge
o We cannot impose on anyone else a particular world view. We have to see
cultures I their context as equally valid as our own.
Imposing a view on someone else, universalistic approach, is
Liberal/neoliberal model of the individual: all very individualistic.
Value individual. Personal worth determined by ones own
Only someone in relation to someone else: as soon as we cut all social
relations, we cease to exist. In particular idea of western individualistic
notion of personhood, this isn’t true
Other cultures do not see this way
Don’t come into existence until you are in a relationship with
someone else
Professor/students. Two entities first. Do not actually become
who we are until we engage in social relations. Numerous
subjects in textbook
I am blank’s son. I am who I am because of an inherent
relationship to mother and large kinship network. Kinship and
naming gave particular location In social world
Second essay question. HOW DOES individualism translate into
human rights?
People who think of themselves as social networks vs.
individual networks
- Debate. Human rights. Use of human rights discourse, taking language and
manipulating it or otherwise, Is used to justify interventions, while at the same time
ignoring things we might consider fundamental.
o Ex. Colonization. Western nations benefitted greatly from cheap resources,
cheap labour, from places former colonies now considered underdeveloped.
o Global system based on inherent injustice, but from this point forward now
being treated equally?
o Human right not to be subjected to pollutants? See complexity in each issue
o Right to development? Seen problematic nature of word and interventions of
development. Not arguing for or against, but something like this has life of its

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own and needs to be understood in nuanced way to see how word does what
we want it to do
o Ideas of human rights.
- First essay question: human rights paradox
o IMPOSING PARTICULAR way of understanding the world one we feel
comfortable with
o Within parameters of this, can you find anything that interests you?
o Won’t necessarily be a solution. HOW are they worked out?
- Second essay question: notion of individual can be problematic?
- Third essay question: response to Riles’ article.
o Even human rights professionals are not so naïve as to think that human rights
are fixed and natural and unchanging. They KNOW this isn’t the case. But for
the purposes of the human rights industry, they have to ignore that
o Inherent contradiction and problem that human rights language cannot be
easily translated into the social actuality of people’s lives
o Once it became institutionalized, it became an absolute to be applied
generally as opposed to case-to-case, similar to development
B. Evolution of a thesis statement
- Starts with an idea
o Ex. Participation in class is important
o Result after having read material, lectures, notes, tutorials
- After general statement, push the idea further
o Ex. Participation in class is important to improve your understanding of the
material because it forces students to think about the material
o Answering WHY this is important, what is worth exploring about this?
o Clarify the terms in your topic
Important = improves students understanding of the material
Participation = speaking in class as opposed to listening, etc
Thinking = rephrase the material in your own words and relate it to
your own experiences
- HAVE to underline thesis what you are arguing in the essay
- Provide context beforehand
- After thesis statement, ass a “road map” – what the essay will explore and argue
throughout the essay
o Ex. Active listening, a more advanced thought process, and better retention
- Final exam: engagement into thinking as well
o Same notions applied to essay are significant throughout the course
C. Conservation and violence
- Violence tends to be endemic to conservation history

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a. US history
o How did the development of Niagara Falls impact the way conservation was
practiced in Africa?
At some point, around late 18thcentury, European dignitaries came
Taken to some of the US sites
Dignitaries: imagine if falls was nested in beautiful natural setting.
Americans were embarrassed
Development and nature don’t go together; detracts from
experience of natural
Idea of wilderness becoming predominant
Americans decided they wouldn’t let it happen again
Yellowstone natural park
o Cannot have development. Withdraw “settlement,
occupancy, or sale…” , anyone settled there
“considered trespassers”
o Was not natural wilderness or virginal land, but
occupied and managed land.
o Violence: cause harm to others by physically locating
them, beating them, jailing them; idea that humans are
destructive to nature
o Nature and humans as separate
o Ideal was seen as a way to conduct conservation
b. British history
o What historical factors helped shaped a vision of Africa as an Eden, a
wilderness and wilde?
“Myth of wild africa”
West and Britain represented the rash, sophisticated,
developed, Africa represented the savage; closer to animals
Exaggerating the explorers
Need to exaggerate stories in order to sell?
Myth of wild Africa starts to resonate in European psyche
The Rinderpest misunderstanding (1890’S)
Disease that affects cattle and wildlife; decimated continent
Wipes out 80-90 percent of cattle and large number of wild
Human populations are low, wildlife populations low
Over next few years, grow at faster rate
o At this point, Europeans begin to come and document
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