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SC Lecture 2

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University of Toronto St. George
James Stinson

March 8, 2013 Brief History of Social-Cultural Anthropology Outline  Overview of anthropological theory  Key figures in discipline  Ethnographic fieldwork (participant observation)  Applied anthropology Origins of Anthropological Theory Social Evolutionism  1870s-1920s: evolutionism and ethnocentrism  British ethnologist: Sir Edward Burnett Tylor o Culture, not race, determined differences o Culture vs. cultures o Psychic Unity of Mankind  American ethnologist: Lewis Henry Morgan o 3 stages of cultural development: 1. Savagery 2. Barbarism 3. Civilization o Stages defined by technology Ethnocentrism  Judging beliefs and practices of other cultures based on our own cultural beliefs and practices  Tendency to believe that our culture is “natural”/”correct”/”superior to others” Modern Social-Cultural Anthropology  1920s-40s: practice of ethnography (fieldwork)  British Functionalism and Structural Functionalism  American Historical Particularism  Cultural Relativism Functionalism and Structural Functionalism  1920s-40s: Anti-Colonial Independence Movements o Respect for cultural differences  Bronislav Malinowski o Advanced fieldwork – “Native’s point of view” through participant observation o Trobriand Islands – Kula Ring o Functionalist: how social institutions function to satisfy individual human needs (i.e. Magic – reduce anxiety)  A.R. Radcliffe Brown o Structural Functionalism: society – organism o How institutions in societies worked to create balance in system to keep it functioning smoothly Historical Particularism  Franz Boas o Modern American 4-field anthropology and historical particularism o Respected unilinear cultural evolution o Cultural development along unique paths and may not go through same stages of evolution  Margaret Mead o Most famous anthropologist? o Gender roles not universal (culture specific to each group) Cultural Relativism  Behaviour and beliefs of culture shouldn’t be judged by standards of other cultures  To understand a culture, see how people in that culture see things  Difference between methodological relativism and moral relativism  Moral relativism: does not prevent anthropologists from making moral judgements/advocating against human rights violations Historical Materialism/Constructivism  1950s-60s: Cold War – cultural change, interaction, World System  Eric Wolf o Europe and the People Without History o “Traditional” cultures not isolated and a-historical – history impacted by colonialism and capitalism  Fredrik Barth o Boundary Model of Ethinicity o Ethnic/cultural groups don’t emerge in isolation, but through interactions with other groups o Primary function of culture: mark and maintain boundaries between social groups Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology  1960s-70s: Counter-Cultural Revolution – focus on cultural and symbolic meaning  Clifford Geertz o “Thick Description” – cultural symbols of rituals, political/economic action interpreted like document in foreign language o i.e. meaning of a wink/Balinese cockfight Postmodernism  1980s-90s: end of Cold War, New World Order – questioning anthropological authority to represent culture scientifically  James Clifford o Impossible to study culture “objectively” as detached observer because everyone has personal biases o Ethnography only pr
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