ANTH 120 Lecture 14: Anth. 120 (Language and Culture) Week Fourteen Lecture Notes
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Anth. 120 Week Fourteen Lecture Notes
● Agency and Structure: Language and Power at Work
● Why look at institutional settings?
○ Work - worldview - habits, are shaped here
○ Talk, tools, and interaction with others are primary shapes of our worldview and
■ Habitus: From Pierre Bourdieu related to our habits but encompassed our
perspectives on the correct ways to behave and perception of what
happens around us, shaped by current events but relies on past
● Ex 1: Putting Language to Good Use in Healthcare
○ A medical care challenge - patients often arrive with more than one ‘concern’, at
outset patients typically bring up just one concern, physicians ‘anything else’
questions often come late, patients leave with ‘unmet concerns’.
○ What is it about the way talk is organized that leads to unmet concerns?
○ Acute care visit structure: Studied by Bird and Long in 1976.
■ Greeting - problem presentation - data gathering - diagnosis - treatment -
○ A possible solution: train doctors to solicit additional concerns, etc.
● Polarity: A phrase can have positive or negative based on key word choices which carry
positive or negative polarity
○ Positive polarity: ‘some’ ex: I have some samples
■ ‘Some’ isn’t usually a word connotated to absence
○ Negative polarity: ‘any’ ex: I don’t have any samples
■ ‘Any’ is a word we use when talking about absence
● Preference: Indicating in the questions intentionally or unintentionally what the preferred
response would be or what it’s most likely be
○ ‘No’ preferring questions, no often linked to any
○ ‘Yes’ preferring questions are more like statements turned into questions
○ Basically all in the way a question is framed
● Data collection: Visits were transcribed and analyzed based on coding questions they
designed. Looking at if the physician asked the, when they asked, what was the question
form, what was the patient’s response, and did they report unmet concerns after the visit.
● Findings: Relative to nonintervention cases asking the ‘something else’ question
eliminated 78% of unmet concerns. Asking the anything else question could not be
significantly distinguished from the control condition. Asking didn’t lead to longer visits
didn’t lead to longer visits or unanticipated concerns getting mentioned.
● Conclusion: Patients unmet concerns can be dramatically reduced by a simple inquiry
framed with the positive polarity SOME question. Both the learning and implementation
of the intervention require very little time.
● Structure and Agency
■ Institutions are structural systems and these structural systems both
afford action (including speech) and constrain action (including speech)
○ Agency: Socioculturally mediated capacity to act
■ Not equivalent to free will, simply the capability of acting which can come
at various degrees
■ Not equivalent to resistance or anti-hegemony
○ An example of this are SOFI’s here at Geneseo that allows commenting on
instructors and their feedback but constrained in what you could possibly say,
use a likert scale.
○ Example: the institution of marriage
■ Historically: always between man and woman
■ Now: between two consenting adults
■ Changes in the structure of the institution
■ Affects things like taxes, parentage for children, legality for many things,
■ Preceded by changes in the DOXA (Bourdieu)
■ DOXA: That which is taken for granted and is common sense, things that
go without saying
○ Professional vision
■ ‘Seeing is… a socially situated, historically constituted body of practices
through which the objects of knowledge which animate the discourse of a
profession are constructed and shaped.’ (Goodwin)
■ A form of habitus
○ How do we see the natural world?
■ Archaeologists use a Munsell chart to categorize soil color and thus help
understand how old something is and the context in which it was found for
○ Rodney King Case
■ 1992 LAPD stopped a 25 year old black man Rodney King after a car
chase, multiple officers were present and several repeatedly kicked and
hit Mr. King with batons, the incident was caught on video by a neighbor.
The first of similar incidents to be widely publicized.
■ Four officers stood trial and were all acquitted and was the trigger for
what was called the “LA Riots”
■ How did the police get off?
● Jurors socialized to police vision related to the appropriate use of
● Called ‘expert’ witnesses who taught juror to ‘see’ the video in a
particular way by talking about actions in a particular way.
● Professional jargon of ‘escalation’ and ‘deescalation’
● Radically reorganized jurors perception of officer’s actions as
within a protocol
● Final exam 8:00 - 10:30 next Thurs.