Anthropology 2222F/G Lecture Notes - Sociocultural Anthropology, Trobriand Islands, Ethnography

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Published on 8 Oct 2013
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Sept, 23, 2013
Ethnographic Field Work and the Nature-Nurture Debate
-The way research is conducted in sociocultural anthropology is what makes it so distinct because it is very much
based in just making connections and having conversations with people (this can be messy)
-The social sciences offer many different ways of studying phenomena like ecotourism, or foot ball or a variety of
other things and there are many different stances one can take when doing research
-Sociocultural Anthropology used ethnographic fieldwork and this makes it different and Malinowski is seen as the
founder of this method and he worked in the Trobriand Islands and he advocated long term field work where one
would live with those you were studying
-He wanted to engage in participant observation but also in interviewing, collecting genealogies, photography, etc
and in this research the anthropologist is the research tool by becoming involved in the communities
-His book was called Argonauts of the Western Pacific and he invited people to imagine themselves in the position
of the ethnographer and he wanted to help people to grasp the native’s point of view but also perhaps through
realizing human nature in a shape very distant and foreign to us we can shed some light on our own
-This was a great idea but we have to ask how reliable anthropologists are as research tools because we are all
individuals with opinions and baggage and with Malinowski his diary was published after his death and this
revealed many of his biases (didn’t like the people he worked with, used racist language, he really only focused on
men, etc) but this is just part of being human
Mead in Samoa:
-To understand where she was coming from you have to think of her work in relation to other social sciences
-“Storm and stress” concept as applied to adolescence was coined by 20th century American psychologist G.
Stanley Hall and he considered it a separate category of humanity worth considering on their own
-He saw it as a time of conflict with parents, rapid mood fluctuation, risky behaviour, etc and to him these features
were a product of biological evolution and should thus be apparent in all humans
-Mead’s “negative instance” shows that what she thought she was doing was part of science and she was
interested and framed her case on this negative instance and she wanted to find the one instance of where storm
and stress did not occur in adolescence and she says this is not a universal biological experience
-This had implications because we then had to ask why American girls suffered though this period and it was worth
noting that the causes of such difficulties are a result of conflicting standards and the belief that every individual
should make their own decisions coupled with the feeling that choice is an important matter (must choose right)
-She said that in Samoa there wasn’t much choice you got married, had kids, and women and men had their
respective jobs and this was very different in America in the 1920’s when there was more freedom than ever
-Her next project was called “Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies” and this was more revolutionary
to be dealing with gender and she said that her society assigned different roles to the sexes with expectations laid
out from birth and it plays out through their lives in behaviour believed to be innate and therefore appropriate for
one sex or the other
-She wanted to find other societies and went to Papua New Guinea and there was huge cultural variability there
with hundreds of different groups of people who spoke different languages and had different lifestyles
-She wanted to compare cultures to dispute the notion that men and women had natural inborn temperaments
based in biology and this was the same mindset that went into her research in Samoa
-She went to the Mountain Dwelling people called the Arapesh and she said although the sexes do different things
but in personality they were expected to be the same and they were both nurturing, humble, non-aggressive, etc
and the role of men and women was to be maternal
-With the river dwelling Mundugumor they standardized all behaviour as masculine and virile and without any
softness and this just proved her point even further that differences in sexes are cultural
-With the lake dwelling Tchambuli men and women had different complimentary roles with women as the
dominant partners and the men were less responsible and emotionally dependant
-She concluded that many if not all of the personality traits which we classify as masculine or feminine are not truly
linked to sex and that the differences between members of different cultures are almost totally due to
conditioning especially in early childhood and this is culturally determined
-This raises interesting questions about the tendency we have as researchers to seek out what we are looking for
-She said all differences we see result from conditioning from birth that is culturally structured
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Document Summary

The way research is conducted in sociocultural anthropology is what makes it so distinct because it is very much based in just making connections and having conversations with people (this can be messy) The social sciences offer many different ways of studying phenomena like ecotourism, or foot ball or a variety of other things and there are many different stances one can take when doing research. He wanted to engage in participant observation but also in interviewing, collecting genealogies, photography, etc and in this research the anthropologist is the research tool by becoming involved in the communities. To understand where she was coming from you have to think of her work in relation to other social sciences. Storm and stress concept as applied to adolescence was coined by 20th century american psychologist g. Stanley hall and he considered it a separate category of humanity worth considering on their own.

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