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Lecture

AN101 Lecture 2

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Department
Anthropology
Course
AN101
Professor
Anne- Marie Colpron
Semester
Fall

Description
AN-101 Lecture 2 1/9/2013 10:25:00 AM Ancient Greek etymology Anthrop-: human being -logy: science Science of human being.  History  Nature Comparative discipline:  Anthropology is not Western focused  Anthropology studies humanity in its diversity.  Interested in what it means to be human all over the world. Anthropology studies what it means to be human:  Diachronically: over time o Culture changes over time o It changes through generation  Synchronically: across space. o Something happens at the same time but in different parts of the world o What it means to be human in north American and also in other parts of the world 4 subfields of anthropology  archeology o archeologists study the human past through the analysis of material remains o studies the past o try to reconstruct how people used to live  biological anthropology o the study of the biological evolution of humanity o Subfields of biological anthropology  Primatology  The study of primates who are the closest living relative of human beings  Paleoanthropology  The study of fossilized bones and teeth of our early ancestors.  linguistic anthropology o the study of the relationship between language and culture.  sociocultural anthropology o it focuses on learned behaviours and ideas that human beings acquire as members of society. o Why is it this way? Why do they think this way? Why are they organized this way? Methodology of sociocultural anthropology  Fieldwork o An extended period od close involvement with the people in whose way of life anthropologists are interested and during which they collect most of their data. o You go to the actual place  Participant observation o 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. Some differences between anthropology and sociology  Comparative approach: o Anthropology compares different settings (not western focused)  Methodology: o 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. Ethnography:  A form of anthropological writing that describes the main social practices and ideas of a specific group of people. Ethnology:  The comparative study of different cultures  It is a synonym of sociocultural anthropology. Holist approach:  Global approach o 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 You must know the culture as a whole in order to talk about these aspects. o They are all integrated Culture:  British anthropologist Edward Taylor (1832-1917) classic definition: o Culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits requires (…) as a member of society” Enculturation:  The process by which we learn a culture and we acquire the values and behaviours proper to that culture. Ethnocentrism:  It is the act of judging other peoples’ cultures from one’s own cultural standards.  We see through the eyes of our own culture. Anthropology is all about:  Resisting the ethnocentric impulse: o By recalling “that is what we observe appears to be off 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” (Greenwood and Stini, 1977) Cultural relativism:  Culture 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. WE DON’T JUDGE WE TRY TO UNDERSTAND By studying other cultures we become aware of our own. Chapter 1 1/9/2013 10:25:00 AM The anthropological Perspective on the Human Condition  All societies develop their own answers to certain questions.  The belief that human nature, or reality as a whole, is made up of two radically different yet equal forces is called dualism.  According to Plato, the people of the western tradition have understood that each person as made up of a material body inhabited by an ethereal mind.  According to Plato, the drama of human existence consist of the internal struggle between the body (drawn naturally to base, corruptible matter) and the mind or soul (drawn naturally to pure, unchanging forms).  The view of earthly life as a struggle between spirit and flesh is sometimes called conflict dualism.  Humans nature is spiritual, not material; the body is a material impediment that frustrates the full development of the mind or spirit. This is known as idealism.  Others argue that the activities of our physical bodies in the material world make us who we are. From this perspective, human existence becomes the struggle to exercise our physicality as fully as we can; to put spiritual values above bodily needs would „go against human nature‟. This view is known as materialism.  Idealism and materialism propose something forms of determinism: idealists claim that human nature is determined by the casual force of the mind or spirit; materialists argue that human nature is determines by the causal force of physical matter.  Essence: an unchanging core of features that is unique to things of the same kind (whether the are chairs, cows, ideas or people) and make them what they are. th  Some 19 century thinkers argued that the most powerful material forces that shape human nature were to be found in the surrounding natural environment.  Karl Marx and his followers argued that forces shaping human being‟s self-understanding were rooted in social relations shaped by the mode of economic production that sustained a society.  An extreme ideologist‟s reaction against such materialist thinking, influential in cultural anthropology, has argued that human beings have no fixed essence when they come into the world, but they become different kinds of human beings as a result of the particular ideas, meanings, beliefs, and values that they absorb as members of particular societies.  A number of scholars have adapted this basic assumption to portray humans as passive, pliable creatures who are wholly molded by environmental, socio-historical, cultural, or other forces beyond their control. Holistic Explanations:  Holism assumes that no sharp boundaries separate mind from body, body from environment, individual from society, my ideas from your ideas; rather it proposes that mind and body, body and environment and so on, interpenetrate and even define each other.  Holism holds great appeal for those who seek a theory of human nature that is rick enough to do justice to its complex subject matter.  Human beings are what they are because the mutual shaping of genes and culture and experience has produces something new, something that cannot be reduced to the materials used to construct it.  A society is not jus the sum of the behaviours of its individual members but a unique entity, and human beings living in groups are so deeply affected by shared cultural experiences that they become different from what they would have had they matured in isolation.  Social living and cultural sharing are necessary for individual human beings to develop what we recognize as a human nature.  Holism as a perspective allows us to consider human nature as the result of a co-evolution: Human beings are creatures whose bodies, brains, actions, and thoughts are equally involved in learning, co-determining, and co-evolutioning. The Anthropological Perspective: The Cross-Disciplinary Discipline:  Anthropologists want to learn about different human ways of life.  The anthropological perspective draws on the findings of these other disciplines and attempts to fit the together with its own findings to understands how these data collectively shape human life.  Anthropologists are convinces that explanations of human activities will inevitably be superficial unless they acknowledge that human lives are always entangles in complex and fluid patterns od work and family, power and meaning.  This holistic point of view recognizes that so long as they are alive, individuals and societies always remain open to influences and opportunities that may take them beyond that they are at the present moment or what they have been in the past.  To generalize about humanity requires evidence from the widest possible range of human societies. Thus, in addition to being holistic, anthropology is comparative.  When we compare things from different cultures, we realize that certain things are totally normal in some cultures, but weird in our own.  Thus, anthropological study involves gathering data from many cultures, comparing those data to derive informed and testable hypotheses about what it means to be human, and investigating what, if anything, can be said about the human condition that might be valid across space and over time.  Some anthropologists study the biological evolution of the human species, paying attention not only to human origins but also to the patterns of biological variation in living human populations; others study past cultures, tracing how elements of culture have changed over time.  One of anthropology‟s mot important contributions to the study of human evolution has been to demonstrate the critical differences that separate biological evolution situated in environmental circumstances, as Darwin would term it, from cultural evolution.  This distinction remained important as a way of demonstrating the fallacies and incoherence of arguments that assert that everything people do or think can be explained biologically.  Because anthologists are interested in documenting and explaining change, the anthropological perspective is evolutionary at its core. Biological Anthropology:  Focuses on human beings as living organisms and what makes us different rom or similar to other living things.  It has its roots in the nineteenth century interest in human variation, which was a by-product of centuries of exploration and encounters between geographically distant societies.  The more that anthropologists learned about the inner biological attributes of human populations, the more they realized that races with distinct and unique sets of such attributes did not exist. Thus they concluded that the concept of “race” did not reflect a fact of nature by was instead a cultural label incented by human beings to sort people into groups.  Franz Boas: devoted much time and energy to debunking racists stereotypes, using bother their knowledge of biology an
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