AN101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: James George Frazer, Auguste Comte, Social Evolution
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Lecture Two: Anthropology, History, Colonial, and Post Colonial Realities
September 15, 17, 19
• Interest in cultures pre-date the scientific phase in the early 20th century –
missionaries, traders, explorers
• Contemporary issues pre-dated the scientific phase (human nature, culture, race)
• Belief in the psychic unity of humankind (human minds are very similar to thinking
in the same way; mental capacities are similar)
• Idea that human perfection can be achieved through culture
• Contemplating the Stages of Social evolution (progression, change interested ppl)
• Explaining human diversity (what causes differences among people)
• Why do some institutions remain the same while others change
• The idea that culture is learned (not innate)
o Enculturation – John Locke 17th century philosopher, E.B. Tylor (first
comprehensive definition of culture)
• That social facts can be observed – positivism (Auguste Comte) – 19th century
• Comparison of society to a biological organism – function of parts (Saint Simone)
Explanations of Diversity: Pre-Scientific Phase (19th century and earlier)
• Racial Determinism of difference; classification of racial types (skin colour and
other physical features)
• Race explained mental capacities, social, cultural differences
• Differences meant deficient, less evolved, inferior
o Polygenesis: theory of difference. Humans have different origins. That is why
they are different. G-d created some people as inferior. Not everyone is equal.
o Monogenesis: theory against polygenesis. G-d created everyone equally but in
the course of evolution, some people fell from grace therefore became
o Evolution: look at evolution as a scale of hierarchy. Stages of evolution:
primitive to civilized.
- James Frazer: magic = most primitive science, religion, science.
- 20th century, race was replaced by idea of ‘culture’ to explain difference;
explains diversity; different but equal
• The cultural domination of a people by larger, wealthier powers
• Political subordination of people in frontier or border zones or other lands
• “The savage slot” – people who have the responsibility of studying people who live
like savages and have been pushed to the borderlands of colonized societies.
• “The new world” – colonizes discover a world they know
• Political Economy: centrality of economic interests underlying political control of
natives and others and organization of society (a holistic term that emphasizes the
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centrality of material interest (economy) in the organization of society and the use
of power (politics) to protect and enhance that interest)
• An economic system dominated by a supply and demand market designed to
create capital and profit
• Commodity production: transformation of land, labour, resources into ‘marketable
commodities’ (money, profit, sale); for exchange in market not for use, but for
anything that keeps circulating in the market.
• Need for foreign markets to sell produce and extract resources. Other countries
become places where resources can be found.
• Trading companies had support from various states to go and trade certain
• Charters from monarchy (power and economics) to control trading routes
Global Links: Imperialism
The colonial political economy created three kinds of links:
1) Connecting conquered communities with one another within a conquered territory
(created ethnic conflicts later)
2) Connecting different conquered terrorists with one another
3) Connecting all conquered territories with the country of the colonizers
• Modernization – economic changes. Trying to make all societies and all cultures
adapt the economic values and economic system of the ‘so called’ developed
countries. Model of progress and development imposed on traditional economies.
• “White man’s burden” – idea that colonialists always saw themselves as saviours.
It’s their burden to civilize & educate them (colonial responsibility to modernize)
• Altering of the human-land relations of indigenous people
• Loss of traditional subsistence patterns – beavers, buffaloes (N. America); textiles
(India) – band Indian textiles so that they could send their own from Manchester
therefore the textile industry in India collapsed.
• New forms of exchange where introduced – money, wages, trade (fur trade)
• Slavery & indenture – people became commodities that could be bought and sold
for a price based on supply and demand
• Altering gender balance – production relationship between husband and wife gave
a certain amount of independence and had an impact on their marital relationship.
• Acculturation – loss of culture from one generation to the next. This happens
through culture contact (cultural genocide) because new values & ideas are made
• Diseases decimated local populations (genocide); Wendigo complex – people were
starving and therefore starvation produces fear of cannibalism
• New social institutions introduced – courts, schools, laws, police, family systems
• Territorial reorganization of countries and societies led to ethnic conflicts later
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