Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Me and the “Other”: The Possibilities and Pitfalls of Social/Cultural Anthropology
1. Course Logistics
2. Class Discussion: Meaning
a. What is sociocultural anthropology?
b. Anthropological methods
Readings on blackboard, tutorial response info will be up tomorrow,
Robbins Preface + Ch1 + “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” + “Inner City Poverty”
Understand core concepts, case studies in texts can help with this but they won’t
necessarily be referred to or inquired about specifically
Class Discussion: a brown/orange octagon
Maybe it is supposed to be red. Symbol in driving for stop. Commonly agreed that
drivers stop and not other members of society such as pedestrians.
The implied rule of the symbol is to stop but it is not necessarily followed.
In South Africa car jacking was common and thus it was not common to drive
through stoplights. Becomes excuse for other motives, like getting home quicker.
Things that are agreed upon by society might have more than one meaning, not
everyone will stop at a stop light
What else can it mean? Can mean danger, alerting you to stay away. Pedestrians
crossing the road. Rest/Stillness. Stop sign can be coupled with graffiti and the
meaning can be changed completely.
Places with stop signs can indicate what is important to certain societies, such as
Cultural context. If put in a dorm room for example it takes on a different meaning.
It is a representation of a representation, of itself. The stop sign can mean stop, but
it can also be used to represent itself.
Meaning of thing is removed from the actual construction of it.
Cultural context makes it complicated, though it should be obvious.
Ways of Understanding the World? Culture. Gender. Order. Chaos.
Meaning is not self-evident, often overlooked.
What it means to be a woman varies at different periods in time.
What is sociocultural anthropology.
o 1. “To understand the human condition”
o what makes us human, what make human society and human culture?
Holistic, complex and paradoxical
We do not deal with the complexities of our lives on a day to day basis, nor do we
have the time or knowledge to deal with it
We live in a contradictory world, with conflicting values (ex. Reduce, reuse and
recycle – we need to stop consuming yet we are constantly forced to) To be holistic we cannot leave these contradictions of our lives out of the process.
These categories are being inflicted upon us throughout our lives, constantly.
Cultural meanings are created, they do not just appear. We shape our lives by
inadvertently shaping our lives
Societies are structured (e.g. political anthropology)
o Started in the 1930s and 40s when anthropologists went to Africa and could
not understand how hundreds of people, scattered, could have structured
lives though separated.
All societies are structured in some way or another, societies agree on the meaning
of certain things for a reason
Social behavior and beliefs are patterned – they are not random nor are they
chaotic (e.g. docile bodies). There are conse