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University of Toronto St. George
Ivan Kalmar

ANT100Y1Y Outline for Social-Cultural Anthropology Lecture #1 What is Social-Cultural Anthropology? The study of contemporary human society and culture, the subfield that describes, analyzes, interprets, and explains social and cultural similarities and differences. It is particularly concerned with exploring culture as a means of adaptation. The origins of Social-Cultural Anthropology - 19th century "ethnology" - "arm-chair anthropology". Modern Social-Cultural Anthropology - characterized by the practice of ethnography. Why Social and Cultural? - 2 different origins 1) British "social anthropology" society - organized life in groups sociality - the propensity to associate with others and form social groups. 2) American "cultural anthropology" concept of culture to explore ways people expressed their view of themselves and their world, especially in symbolic forms (such as art and myths). - Gradual merging of social and cultural anthropology following WWII (1950s) led to combined social-cultural anthropology. What is Social-Cultural Anthropology? One of the primary goals of anthropology is to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange. - Cultural anthropology developed historically as the study of “Other” (non-European) cultures (making the strange familiar). - It has also served to help anthropologists question and think more critically about their own societies and cultures (making the familiar strange). What is Culture? Latin: Cultura - “cultivation” Process of improvement or betterment of the individual, especially through education. Those with culture (E.G. Europeans) were deemed “civilized” Those lacking culture (non-Europeans) were seen as “uncivilized” and “living in a “state of nature.” “ that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” - Edward B. Tylor in Primitive Culture (1871) Culture is… Universal, General, Particular Knowledge, Behaviour, Artifacts Learned, Symbolic, Shared All Encompassing and Integrated Instrumental, Adaptive, Maladaptive Contested, Dynamic, Changing Multi-Scalar What is Culture? Universal all humans have the capacity for culture some cultural features are shared by all peoples (Universals) General Some cultural features such as the are shared by many societies (Generalities) Particular Some cultural features are very specific and unique to particular societies (Particularities) Knowledge How we think, believe, know, and interpret Explicit (conscious) Tacit (unconscious) Behaviour What we do and how we act. Both verbal/non-verbal communication Artifacts What we make and use. Clothing, houses, tools, etc… Learned Children learn through process of enculturation. Direct - Formal instruction Indirect - Observation Symbolic Unique and universal human capacity to use symbols – signs that have no direct connect to what they stand for or signify Language/representation is an element of culture, but also the means by which culture is transmitted and reproduced. Shared Attribute of social groups, not individuals Acquired through interaction with other members of society All Encompassing All people have and “do” culture, not only elites. Encompasses features that may be seen as trivial or unworthy of serious study, such as popular culture. Integrated Not haphazard, but integrated, patterned systems. If one part changes, others will change in response Instrumental People use culture to fulfill basic needs (food, shelter, reproduction etc.) Adaptive May be adaptive if it helps humans adapt to different environments or changing conditions Maladaptive Can be maladaptive if it threatens groups continued existence Contested Different groups struggle over whose values, beliefs, goals will be dominant in a given social group (Hegemonic) Dynamic Culture provides framework, but people do not always follow rules or do what they should Ideal v.s. Real Culture Changing Diffusion – indirect borrowing Independent Invention – innovation. Acculturation – exchange due to direct contact – may be forced Multi-Scalar - Occurs at dif
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