AN-101 Lecture 2 1/9/2013 10:25:00 AM
Ancient Greek etymology
Anthrop-: human being
Science of human being.
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
4 subfields of anthropology
o archeologists study the human past through the analysis of material
o studies the past
o try to reconstruct how people used to live
o the study of the biological evolution of humanity
o Subfields of biological anthropology
The study of primates who are the closest living relative of
The study of fossilized bones and teeth of our early
ancestors. linguistic anthropology
o the study of the relationship between language and culture.
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
Methodology of sociocultural anthropology
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
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
o Anthropology compares different settings (not western focused)
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.
A form of anthropological writing that describes the main social practices and
ideas of a specific group of people.
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
o They are all integrated
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”
The process by which we learn a culture and we acquire the values and
behaviours proper to that culture.
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)
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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