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Lecture 2

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York University
ANTH 3320
Arun Chaudhuri

anthro lecture 2/3 - R3K4X7 04/12/2013 01:18:00 Myths were sort of a social charter, doesn’t explain origin of things but rather they were documents of regulation that talked about mundane sort od things. They came in various forms. Cayote – seen as a jokester or a trickster figure related to different in communities in the plane areas such as the mawabi people –trickster forms take on different types of forms such as the one that was mentioned in class… on a cold morning the cayote is sent out by wife to get firewood and he walks around till he sees a willow tree and he cuts it down, this involves lighting fire at the bottom of the tree and the tree would topple over, but the tree didn’t topple over rather it just burned, the cayote climbed on to the tree which made it topple over and the cayote fell out and as he falls, a part of the branch falls and hits the cayote in the ribs which causes a wound. He kind of just sits there and looks at his wound in curiosity,he starts to pull out his intestines and starts cooking it and curious about how it tastes and eats it and then he just keeps going and eventually pulls out his heart… he patches up his wound eventually and grabs sme branches and starts walking home, as he walks home, the rabbit who watches what happened starts making fun of the way the cayote is walking in turn the rabbit starts getting chased by the cayote and and hides in a hole but the cayotes still angry about this..after digging a little bit he gets closer and the rabit takes dirt and throws it in cayotes eyes which is painful and c gets more angry and motivates him digging more eventually he gets tired and asks the rabbit to help him. The rabbit does and then throws more dirt into the cayotes eyes and this is where the cayote dies;it really didn’t have any social lessons/charters but this was a story that was picked up by strauss (anthropologist), -trickster myth: featuring characters in diff cultures and they take all sorts of forms and theyre kind of nonsense, if you lookat it theres no real social lesson or charter, theres no real point to the story. This was the kind of story that strauss looked at and kind of analyzes using his structural method or structural analysis =-strauss takes myths and breaks them into pieces kind of like a structural analysis (dissects it in strange ways.. ), he was never interested in the story of if rather he was interested in the parts of it and structure. He put them into charts or put it into formulas etc., but why would he do something like this? To look at this you have to look at the rise of structural anthropology at the time and how they looked mostly at myths –he picks up the myth and sort of butchers it or breaks it or dissects it into strange simple parts without actually looking the whole story. He cared about the arts and structure of the myth. Why would strauss do something like this? By taking a myth and turning it into a set of symbols etc. in 1940’s, he started his own universal evolution, he believed that there were universal patterns of thought (or stuctures of the human mind)…he said that all minds were structured in the same way and he talked about the perception of binary opposites (hardwired to see the world in binary oppositions) (*linguistic analogy, arbitrariness of the sign*) (*prague school, structural linguistics: language as system and structure phonemes and minimal pairs*) –strauss kind of influenced structural antrho – he started his own universal notion, not of unilineal, there were universal patterns of throughts that structured peoples thoughts according to principles. These principles were the perceptions of binary opposites. To understand what he was saying you have to look at linguistics at his time there was a lot going around in linguistics, one of them was the work of Saussure. -ferdinand de Saussure –important in linguistics and revolutionized linguistics, his biggest insight was that there was two distinct types of dimensions in language: langue and parole. Parole: spoken side of language by humans in every day life and Langue: not the everyday spoken but more the abstract type of rules that are behind the language that kind of regulate how we put words together into sentences and therefore making sounds etc. and these are structures in every single culture regardless of whether you are aware of it or not. A second key idea that he offered was the insight that the content of the language is arbitrary –the assignment of meaning to words or sounds is arbitrary or no natural relationship between the meaning or sound and the word for example the observed elephant and the word elephant …the word or meaning is just a social convention (words develop meaning through culture etc hence why theres so many different words ) (sounds and associations would develop meaning) the concept of arbitrariness led to the whole discussion of symbols another development of the time: -prague school: roman jakobson and nikloiai troubetskoy; emphasized the analysis of language in terms of structures and the elementary core structure of language/Saussure, structural ling: language as system and structure. -they believed that they could be broken down into basic unit of structures. Phonemes: basic unit of sound ex k sounds like kuh, something that’s stripped down and comes down to physiology and how they’re physiologically made or articulated using our mouths for example, tuh would be considered a dental phonemes (they were the smallest parts that made up language). The bigger picture was that they talked about how basic sounds don’t have meanings on they’re own, but when they’re paired with other phonemes they begin to get meaning – theyre are various combinations relies on the ability to make distinctions bt the different sounds; to make a word that comes up with a meaning (our language is based on phonemes)  they said the only thing that was differentiating between two meaningful words was the ability to recognize the two sounds as different and so our linguistic system is build upon the fact that we can recognize these differences and we can recognize these differences because they contrast with one another and contrast to the point where they make different words. we only distinguish by how the phonemes are related to the other and with also the element of contrast (we know what it is because of what its not) – this is called the binary opposites, it differs in cultures but all cultures have basic sounds. -minimal pairs: set of binary opposites, what it is and what it is not structural analysis and mythology: he extended the language and structure thing to cultures and believed there were similar systems that human thought was built and that these were built on binary oppositions: ex nature and culture, life and death, raw and cooked, mother and father (he talked about how a lot of myths talk about incest such as oedipus) etc; this is scientific and so if you have methodology you can figure stuff out such as mythology because this was observed in almost every society etc, they represent different categories of stories and these cultures and societies have them but in different forms. So his thought of culture was kind of like an analogy to the language structure. –the underlying structure influenced Strauss and the meaning forming through contrasting structure is what became foundational to Strauss name, he took these insights of structural ling, and extended them to beyond the theory of language into a general theory of culture and human mind –universality of mind. Just like there were structures and systems in language, there would be similar ones that would operate the human mind or thought. And these structures would be to organize the world into binary opposites and systems of contrasting ideas. (his theory was based on linguistic analogy). With this idea, he studies mythology, the human mind was organized into universal structures and perceived reality in terms of binary opposites and this could be studied scientifically if you took the proper methodology – that a proper structural analysis was applied to the proper cultural norms that societies would produce then the larger structures and patterns of the human mind would emerge –from that you would find these universalities. Structural anthropologists like strauss believed the structural analysis of mythologies is the best way to expose the underlying and universal patterns of thought of the human mind. This was because first, the concept if mythology was something that was widespread and occurred across almost all societies (included stories of magic and supernatural beigns etc, they don’t recount facts but rather they reperesent different types of stories and all societies have some form of this) secondly, in so many societies, myth telling etc was dominate and active part because they were told over and over again over generations. He saw this has significant strauss, and that this was significant because of its repetitiveness it could serve as something universal and therefore a window into the human mind. at the time he didn’t like what was going on, and that anthropology had missed the boat on mythology because he thought that anthro just looked at the social charter –what rules these myths described, so ppl like him would take a myth and identify its key structures by finding the binary opposites in the myth and often mechanisms that would mediate the oppositions – reconcile the opposition. For strauss, the trickster stories were significant because they would mediate the opposite. mediation: ex trickster figure (coyote) mediated life and death (pulling out his guts etc.), for straus the coyote mediates human and animal, mainly for st
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