AN101 Lecture Notes - Sociocultural Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology, Biological Anthropology

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8 Feb 2013
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Anthropo -: human being
-logy: science
Science of human being
Comparative discipline
Anthropology is not western focused
Anthropology studies humanity in its diversity
When you study another culture, you become more aware of your own culture
Anthropology studies what it means to be human
Diachronically - over time
Synchronically - across space
Four subfields of anthropology
o Study the human past through the analysis of material remains
Biological anthropology
o The study of the biological evolution of humanity
o The different stages of human evolution
o How we became from apes to human
o Subfields of biological anthropology
Primatology - the study of primates who are the closest living relatives of human
Paleoanthropology - the study of fossilized bones of our early ancestors
Linguistic anthropology
o The study of the relationship between language and culture
o Use language to organize one socially to transmit ideas and communicate
o Language gives many hints to its culture
Sociocultural anthropology
o Focuses on learned behaviors and ideas that human beings acquire as members of society
An extended period of close involvement with the people in whose way of life anthropologists are
interested and during which they collect most of their idea.
Participant observation
The method anthropologists use to gather information by living as closely as possible to the
people whose culture they are studying while participating in their lives as much as possible
Differences between anthropology & sociology
Comparative approach: anthropology compares different cultural settings (not western focused).
Methodology: Through fieldwork and participant observation, anthropologists get immersed in a
specific group of peoples' everyday life and try to understand their point of view from the inside.
A form of anthropological writing that describes the main social practices and ideas of a specific
group of people.
It is a synonym of sociocultural anthropology -> ethnologists
Holist Approach/Global Approach
The idea that all aspects of culture are interrelated: religion, politics, economics, art, etc., cannot
be studied without reference to each other and to the culture as a whole.
o Ex. Some religions had to do with their hunting practices, etc.
British Anthropologist Edward Tylor (1832-1917) classic definition
Culture is "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and
any other capabilities and habits acquired (…) as a member of society"
The process by which we learn a culture and we acquire the values and behaviors proper to that
Learn a culture like a child; do not learn based on your own culture; non-biased
o Ex. Some parts in Africa can sleep while standing up; all these behaviors are learned at the
early stage of life
o As an adult, you already possess your culture and you constantly compare between your
own culture and the culture that you're learning
The act of judging other peoples' cultures from one's own cultural standards.
Do no judge because there is always a reason to why people behave certain ways. It is our job to
analyze and try to understand WHY they behave the way they do.
Anthropology is all about resisting the ethnocentric impulse: by recalling "that if what we observe
appears to be odd or irrational, it is probably because we do not understand it and not because it
is a product of a "savage" culture in which such nonsense is to be expected"
Cultural Relativism
Involves understanding another culture in its own terms sympathetically enough so that the
culture appears to be a coherent and meaningful design for living
Trying to understand the insider's point of view
Film: Cannibal Tours
Documentation of bunch of white tourists and documenting the visits in the Africa
You see many private interviews in the film
You get to think what they think of the native people
German says they admire the native people's way of life
Talks to the aboriginal group a lot
Film is set up to show that the tourists are looking down on the natives
The native people display in a different way than they normally would in private life
Native people understands what is going on around them
There is a condescending view existing even today
o Eurocentric, ethnocentric <- reflects these sort of notions
o Not being overly racist, but still exists
For the exam:
Anthropology is a study of tourism as well, not just the aboriginals
Reflective look
Understanding different standpoints in the film: there is one scene where woman shouts and she
is mad how people bargains with her, but she doesn’t have the privilege to bargain in her own
o The view in pricing and purchasing is really different in how they view it and how we view it
o They do not understand tourism at all, they don't understand going to other countries and
Western stereotypes and ethnocentrism
o Unconsciously, even when we are trying to be sensitive, they still reflect a racist attitude
towards the native people
o Make sure to link ethnocentrism to examples:
Q1: How do you explain the title of the film?
Consumption is the main idea. These native people are selling themselves to the tourists. We're
consuming an image and they're selling it to us.
Q2: Who is the principle group of people observed by the camera? The tourist of the native people?
Q3: How are the tourist and the native point of views different from each other?
Q4: Think of some examples of ethnocentrism?
"these people are part of nature" , "primitive"