Sex, Gender and the Body: Cross-Cultural Approaches to
the Body, Gender, Sexuality and Kinship
ANTH2170 – Fall/Winter 2011/2012 – Karen McGarry
Lecture 2 – Evolutionary Myths – Sept 14
Introduction to Anthropology
- Only dates to the late 1800s in Europe and North America.
- The study of humanity across time and space.
o Across time – human behaviour and ways of life.
- Humanity – interested in human-like ancestors – from apes and monkeys to
- This course is in the social/cultural anthropology field.
- There are four sub-category fields: archeology, physical/biological anthropology,
linguistic and socio/cultural anthropology.
- Study past human societies, primarily through analyzing material culture
o Material culture – things that are made or modified by humans.
Artefacts are portable material culture.
o Examine things that get left behind – your trash – from past societies.
o If they are examining a society where documents are available, they will
use those forms to get information alongside artefacts.
- Study human and animal bodies as physical entities. They are interested in
things such as:
o Human evolution – hominids.
Hominids include humans and their bipedal ancestors.
o Primatology – e.g. Jane Goodall
Interested in studying chimps, monkeys, etc.
In an effort to reconstruct human evolution.
o Forensic analysis of skeletal material
Able to confer the sex of an individual, the sex of the individual and
when they passed away.
o Disease patterns in past societies.
Cultural behaviours that might influence disease in a particular
Compare patterns in different levels of a population – elite vs.
working class. Linguistics
- Study language in the past and present societies. They are interested in such
o Language acquisition.
o Language evolution and change.
What historical influences can cause a language to change over
o Identity and language
How is it a marker of gender in some cases?
Do men and women speak differently in a society?
How is class manifested in language?
- Study of contemporary human societies throughout the world.
o Politics, economics, religion, identities (gender, class, race), globalization,
o Tend to specialize.
o Ethnographic fieldwork.
Emerging yourself within the culture you are studying.
Participant observation – living with a particular group of people
and participating in daily tasks or chores.
Long term interaction in engagement with a group of people.
• Usually a year or more. Minimum 1 year in the field is
o In this course:
We are going to study anthropologists that study the body and
issues of the family.
- Culture – Sets of learned behaviours acquired by people as members of the
society. These behaviours are transmitted by various agents of enculturation.
o Thus, culture is shared, learned and dynamic.
Not something you are born with.
Includes learned behaviours such as table manners, issues of
religion, how we adorn our bodies, food, politics.
Dynamic in the sense that it’s constantly changing. We learn culture
through different mechanisms.
We learn about it through media, parents, family members, school
- Cultural relativism – the process of understanding another culture or another
group of people from their own perspective.
o Cultural relativism to battle pervasive ethnocentric attitudes in society.
o Trying to avoid the tendency to view your culture as the ‘right way’ or a
superior way to someone else’s.
o Trying not to pass judgement on other people’s belief system. - Ethnocentrisms – the belief that your way of life or way of thinking is superior to
someone else’s/another person’s/a group’s.
o The period from 1492 onward – when the Europeans thought that the
natives were below them.
- Ethnographic fieldwork – based primarily on long term, qualitative research.
Nature vs. Nurture
- Scholars who argue that behaviours are the result of nurture or environmental
- In later 1800’s science and social scientists, the nature vs. nurture began and is