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Anthro 1020E - Socio Lecture Notes.docx

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Anthropology 1020E
Andrew Walsh

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October 29, 2012 Sociocultural Anthropology What is sociocultural anthropology? - A field of anthropology - Concerns with human identity Anthropology in the “News” - Sociocultural Anthropologists are cited more often in tabloids than in the mainstream press (study in UK) - People view Anthropologists as experts of the bizarre, the strange & the exotic Misconceptions - Misconception 1: sociocultural anthropology is the study of the exotic, , bizarre or otherwise strange behavior - FACT: “Making the strange seem familiar and the familiar seem strange” Eg: Northern Madagascar – location research of Dr. Walsh Spirit Possession (Tromba) in Ankarana  Thousands of people come to a river/ocean and bathe annually  History: their ancestors instead of giving up to the invaders of another group, they drowned themselves. By bathing themselves in the water now, the people commemorate the tragedy  Purpose: to reproduce the commonly held ideas about life, death & the afterlife. To commemorate tragedies of the past that remain relevant in the present Eg: 9/11 Commemorations – we do things similar to what people do in Madagascar Making the Familiar seem Strange - Imagine a sociocultural phenom in which young people are separated from their parents, dress differently from everyone else, made to do things that they wouldn’t normally do - In the process, participants form life-long bonds with one another & with the institution that brings them together Eg: summer camps, monks, WUO FROSH week - Misconception 2: Sociocultural Anthropologists only do research with isolated groups in far away places - FACT: when they do research with people in far away places, they must always attend to the realties of an interconnected world. Sociocult. Anthropologists also commonly work at home, in settings familiar to them like office, factory, etc Eg: Mike Wesch – Digital Ethnography - An American anthropologist - Uses cameras, computers to show the experience of being an undergrad. - People use technology for other purposes instead of using it for learning eg: facebook, twitter, chatting Eg: My Freshman Year (2005) by Rebekah Nathan - Nathan, a prof, who lived as an undergrad for a month and wrote an ethnographic book - Nathan’s unexpected findings  How students manipulate their professors  Why students sleep in class: homework, extracurricular, work  Differences in faculty & student expectations:  Faculty assume that students attend university to study the things that they have to teach, no matter how impractical  Students’re more interested in practical relevance of what they’re studying - Misconception 3: the study of sociocultural anthropology is irrelevant - FACT: this discipline & course promote a particular, and very practical, way of looking at the world that is more relevant than ever R&L on Culture (p.4-6) - Something shared by groups of people organized in societies  and thus a means for differentiating groups - The means by which people give specific meanings to fundamental processes of human life. Eg: meaning of life, death, etc.  And thus a means by which we understand the world - Something distinctive to humans as a species  And thus something all of us have  All primates must eat, but humans have rules about what we can eat and cannot eat. Those rules are also different for different people. Eg: The culture of Halloween - It is a shared thing by many people: costumes, giving candies, economic surge Clifford Geertz (1926-2006) - Associated with a new way of interpreting cultures - Book: “The Interpretation of Cultures” (1973) - Anthropology is a way of interpreting culture - Anthropology as “microscopic”: looking at small things (microscopic) to understand the bigger world - Advocated an approach to big questions about humanity from “the direction of exceedingly extended acquaintances with extremely small matters” Geertz on Culture - “… a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic form by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, & develop their knowledge about & attitudes towards life” - Culture as the “webs of significance” that we spin ourselves & in which we are suspended  we make cultures but cultures also affect how we function in life - The value of “thick description” – holistic approach: take a phenomenon & describe and examine it thickly & deeply in order to open new questions about the world Eg: What is a difference b/w a twitch & a wink? - Similarity: physically close our eye - Difference: our intensions Geertz on the Balinese Cockfight (p. 21-23) - Cockfight in Bali is more than just a game for men - Rooster has a metaphorical meaning with the Balinese - Roosters get taken care of be men like men do with cars here in N.America - Questions:  What does the cockfight mean to Balinese participants, and to men in particular?  What might we learn from uses of the Balinese word for rooster or “cock”?  How does the relative status of participants play out in a cockfight?  How can the Balinese cockfight be interpreted as a “story Balinese tell themselves about themselves” (p.23)? Canadians & Hockey (p. 23-26) - Direct comparison with the Balinese cockfight - Questions:  How can hockey be interpreted as a story that Canadians tell themselves about themselves?  What does the language of the game tell us about its greater meaning?  What vision of success does this sport promote to those who see meaning in it?  What happened when Canadian hockey met Inuit style hockey, according to Collings & Condonth 19 Century Roots of Anthropology - Along with the increasing importance of global trade routes came increasing awareness of the diversity of human behavior & social life - How to make sense of all this diversity? - Some thinkers advocated “evolutionism”  Societies were compared & then positioned in relation to one another as more or less advanced  Often accompanied by assumptions about the biological/mental capacities of the different groups  Some groups were viewed as the most evolved societies (European) while other societies were less evolved (African) th  Notion of progression was very important in the 19 century - Others advocated the “psychic unity” of humanity, and the stance of “cultural relativism” (p.9) 20 Century Anthropology - A rejection of thinking that assumed the significance of race (as a biological category) in studying the diversity of human behavior (some races are more intelligent than others) - Instead, the assumption of the “psychic unity” of humanity, & the stance of “cultural relativism” - But how to study culture in a way that avoids the pitfalls of ethnocentrism? (p.8) November 5, 2012 How do we do Sociocultural Anthropology? Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) - English-trained anthropologist, Polish-born - Often credited as the “grandfather” of ethnographic research - Lived & conducted research in the Trobriand Islands (1915-1918) (near Australia) - The experience convinced him of the value of long-term research conducted in the communities & languages of those being studied Margaret Mead (1901-1978) - Worked under Fran Boas - Stayed in American Somoa (Polynesia) to study adolescent girls - Took Malinowski approach – living with the people and speaking their language - Wanted to understand:  Is adolescent “storm & stress” natural, as many psychologists of her time argued?  If it’s innate/natural, every adolescent in the world will experience it  If it’s nurture/environmental, only some will experience it - Research: a “natural experiment” comparing youth in Samoa to those living in the US in the 1920s - Result: Book: “Coming of Age in Samoa”  Adolescence in Samoa: a time of little “storm & stress”  Rather, a time of play, freedom & sexual experimentation (sex before marriage)  Comparison to the US: growing up in American society is like arming for a battlefield. Anxiety and stress come from the culture itself, not natural  The rise of “culture” as an alternative to “race” What’s wrong with “Culture”? - Like “race”, it is a concept that can lead us (or those who listen to us) to imagine a world of discrete, homogenous, & disconnected groups - It leads us to believe that people who live in another culture are fundamentally different from us because they have a different culture Consider R&L on “Turkish” beliefs & practices related to human reproduction (p.10) - Conception: men = seeds, women = soil, babies = plants - But the quality of the seeds determines the plants, soil is just generic substance for the seed to grow on. - This belief shows the over-value of men Other than culture, what else affects human understandings & experiences of reproduction & childbirth in the world today? - Education - Family Infant Mortality Rates - Low number in America, high number in Africa. So can culture help this problem? Nancy Schepar-Hughes (p.12-13) - Book: “Death Without Weeping” - Children in Brazil had high mortality rate - People practiced selective neglect:  When children are sick, parents neglect them & concentrate their effort on the healthier ones  Therefore, sick children are more likely to die - Is this because of culture? Is that the way they believe in? - Answer: this is NOT because of culture but b/c of lack of birth control & lack of resources - Proof: years later when people got access to birth control & resources (food & money), infant mortality rate decreased Lila Abu-Lughod – “Writing Against Culture” (1991) - Questioning the value of “culture” as the central preoccupation of researchers in the discipline - “Culture” can be a tool for “making other” & “freezing difference”, leading us to focus on what sets groups of people apart instead of on how they are connected - Experiences with TV interviews after 9/11 in the USA:  Asked to explain the relationship b/w “Muslim culture” & an event like 9/11 b/c she had experience/expertise with Middle East culture  To Abu-Lughod, “the question was why knowing about the “culture” of the region … was more important than exploring the history of the development of repressive regimes (women wearing veils) in the region & the US role in this history.” Why not give up on “Culture”? - Even though culture is problematic but it’s not something that we can give up because we’ve grown up with it & accustomed to it Better to distinguish sociocultural anthropology by its methods than by its central concepts The Ethnographic Methods - Participant observation: engage in the research as a participant & as an observer. Def’n on p. 15: “immersion of the investigator … to their existence”, sometimes, an awkward, embarrassing & dangerous method (p.15-19) How is this method inherently problematic? - People are not receptive of you - People do not act naturally when they know that they’re being observed - Objectivity: science research tends to be objective – doesn’t matter who the researcher is (male/female, ethnicity), the result should be the same. BUT anthropology research can have some biases Eg1: Derek Freeman – Book “The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead” - Children lied to her & told her what she wanted to hear - Problem: people had been Christianized by the missionaries by the time he did his research. Therefore, sexual experimentation became embarrassing - It’s hard to know who is right because Derek is a man & Margaret is a woman & the participants may give different answers depending on the gender of the researcher  Identity of the researcher DOES MATTER Eg2: Malinowski – Book “A Diary in the strict sense of the Term” - A diary book was published after Malinowski passed away - Malinowski as an individual was totally different from as a researcher - He wrote in the diary that he missed his girlfriend/wife, hated some of the people that he worked with. However, this part came from the early days of his research in Tro. Islands - Does this affect his research? - In science, this shouldn’t matter in the long-term if he gets accustomed to the culture & his findings should be valued. Objective/Scientific/Impartial - The problem of being what you study - Recall: Geertz & the role of anthropologists as interpreters of cultures - Question: on what do we base our interpretations?  Ethnographic Methods Ethnographic Methods - Interviewing - Surveying - Photography & mapping: multimedia - Charting family relationships - Archived research - On-line sources: discussion groups, social media, etc - Multi-cited research - Keeping, organizing, & analyzing “field notes” Benefits of Ethnographic Methods - Many of the skills it requires of researchers are already quite familiar to all of us such as:  Pattern recognition: recognizes what is the pattern of social norms  Conversation: know how to listen & how to communicate  Curiosity: we as humans tend to be curious about a lot of things - Encourages a “holistic” perspective on groups being studied  The ethnographic method requires researchers to consider the many different factors that shape people’s lives simultaneously, & in relation to one another  In “everyday experiences” it is not easy to pry apart economics, politics, family, religion, etc. - Requires researchers to call their own assumptions into question Nathan’s first week in “My Freshman Year” - Adjustments to:  The campus experienced by students (living in residence)  The speed of conversation: young students speak quickly to one another  The new words & expressions - Fitting in through:  Dorm life  Sports: plays a sport  Getting “busted” for drinking: not allowed to drink freely in residence - How well could a 50-yr old woman fit into this?  Clearly, she did not fit in with other young men & women  Just like when doing research, we will never totally fit with the participants but we can still experience something similar to what the participants are doing & the research can still be USEFUL. Applied Anthropology (p.33-34) - Mead’s WW2 wartime research: research on allies – American soldiers engaged in the relationship with British women  problems - More recent anthropology research in the war efforts: research in Afghanistan to improve life after the war - Schaper-Hughes (p.13) on the anthropologist’s obligations to people being studied - American anthropology Association’s statement on ethics November 7, 2012 How Do We Live Differently? Chapter 2: Meaning of Progress & Development - For majority of our history as a species, we lived in a certain way that is mostly differently from the way that we are living now:  We lived in small groups  Foraging & gathering for food - Richard Lee on Ju/’hoansi foraging (p.47-49)  Ju/’hoansi: people use click language  Did his research in the 1960s  Small, mobile, groups of 30-40 people  A near egalitarian, & largely peaceful, society. When in conflict, they leave.  Lee lived with the people & counted the number of hours hunting, hrs of leisure… Findings: - Foraging is NOT labor intensive  Gathering, by women, provided most calories  Hunting, by men, led to redistribution of meat – sharing  They actually worked less than the average American (40 hrs/week) - They have a very balanced diet A Diet high in Protein? - The Paleo diet: favored by many; live like a caveman – high in protein, low in carbs Why the Change? - Romantic portrayals of people living differently Eg: Movie “The Goods Must Be Crazy”  Setting: Kalahari in 1970s  It portrayed a romantic setting of foraging lifestyle vs. the busy lifestyle & routine in the urbanized area of Kalahari  civilization - Other movies to critique “civilization” in this way: AVATAR History of the “Noble Savage” - An image of thdigenous peoples advocated by some European & N.American thinkers since the 17 century (painting on walls in Czech Republic) - A romantic portrayal of “human nature” as exemplified in indigenous societies, as fundamentally good - Reaction to other, less complimentary, understandings of such people and their lives 19 /20 Century Understandings of “Progress” (p.43-47) - Lewis Henry Morgan, among others, suggested that humans evolve culturally as well as biologically - From Savagery to Barbarism to Civilization (using evolution concept): groups classified in comparison with one another based on technology - In Morgan’s and others’ thinking, there was no question that such evolution indicated a fundamental human inclination for “progress”  ie. Every culture should aim for civil’n Eg: Documentary – BTS of the movie “The Goods must be Crazy” - These people were being perceived as dangerous b/c their lifestyle is not civilized - So the government tried to civilize them & settle them down by putting them in a camp - Not a romantic portrayal like in the movie - People do live differently but they do not live separately:  People have different ways of living  But we are all connected: eg – sapphires that are mined in Madagascar are used to make jewelries in America November 12, 2012 MOVIE – “IF ONLY I WERE AN INDIAN” - Real Indians meeting with the Czechs living as Indians: struggled to see the image of Europeans living as Indians - People wanted to live as Indians b/c they were against the communism & didn’t want to give themselves to the ruling government  Communism illusioned people to not trust anyone but their family  Living as Indians, they found meaning of life: trust among people, cohesion - Women living as Indians b/c they wanted to express their feminine characteristics that may be suppressed in the urban Czech Republic - Idealizations of Indians:  Interdependence of men & women  Importance of family  Moral values  Tranquility & spirituality Eg: painting of Indians on the walls: portrayal as paradise, natural & rich in nature Ernest Seton: - A Canadian anthropologist, but worked mostly in Czech - Criticized the colonization of Whites to Indians - Predicted spiritual disorientation sometime in the future - Czechs didn’t have role models other than the ones presented by the communists: miners, potato farmers. Therefore, they looked into the Indians’ lifestyle German vs. Czech living as Indians from a German’s perspective - German living as Indians are more for showing rather than living as a true Indian - Idealization of living in beautiful, natural environment - The Native Canadians felt that the Czechs were not just copying the Indian culture but actually trying to live as authentic Indians. - They hope that Canadians would pay more attention to the Natives like the Czechs do - The Indians may be ag
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