ANTH 206 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Franz Boas, Social System, Environmental Determinism

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5 Feb 2016
ANTH 206
Key terms, definitions, main notions, and personalities
Anthropologists make the unfamiliar familiar and the familiar unfamiliar
What is culture?
is a complex whole which includes:
any other capabilities/habits acquired by man as member of a society
Material culture = subsistence strategies and technologies developed by humans as they
adapt to environmental conditions in their localities.
Symbolic culture = the information (cognitive, emotive, etc.) that one must know to act
effectively in the environment.
Environmental determinism…
is the view that environmental and material conditions determine culture.
Ex: ppl wear jackets cuz it’s cold, so climate determines ppl’s behavior. That’s
Therefore, it’s not just “what is explained by environmental factors” oversimplification
It fails to explain cultural diversity.
Culture does entertain some relations with the environment, of course, but not exclusively (it’s
not the only thing that shapes culture).
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Climatic determinism…
is the belief that the climate shapes man’s progress (Huntington), shaped his history
It has clear limits (we can’t explain all human progress and evolution bcz of climate, we must
take into account history, colonialism, specific variables…)
Determinism in development…
could it be that some of us have less opportunities to build a culture? some countries are more
prone to diseases, natural catastrophes, overpopulation, landlocked (etc) than others..
Any determinism is simplification. A civilization is not successful, striving because of one
single determinism.
Globes and Spheres
See my fiche on this lecture – article of…on globes VS spheres
Cultural relativism…
= all truth is relative.
= no culture is superior to any other culture.
= all cultures are worthy and equal
= all cultural beliefs are equally valid.
= all values, beliefs (political, religious, ethical…) are relative to the individual within a
cultural identity.
= the view that all beliefs, customs, and ethics are relative to the individual within his own
social context.
= “right” and “wrong” are culture-specific; what is considered moral in one society may be
considered immoral in another, and, since no universal standard of morality exists, no one has
the right to judge another society’s customs.
Creator of the concept: Franz Boas. He said: "...civilization is not something absolute, but ...
is relative, and ... our ideas and conceptions are true only so far as our civilization goes."
D, Haraway criticizes relativism. She accepts that all she does is influenced by culture, but…
we’re not all equal (?).
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is the study of the origin and the evolution of the universe – explain the origin of the
It situates humans within web relations (?)
We, Europeans, have changed the cosmology as we put Europe at the center of maps.
can give you a view on everywhere at once regardless of where you are
used to be navigational tools context of expansion
we keep our maps social
Situated knowledge…
is knowledge specific to a particular situation.
Term created by D. Haraway.
She wants to offer “a more adequate, richer, better account of a world, in order to live…in
critical, reflexive relation to practices of domination and the unequal parts of privilege and
oppression that makes up all positions.”
= the embedded knowledge that is affected by the history, language and values of the person
knowing it.
= "In situated knowledge it is implied that social, cultural and historical factors will constrain
the process of knowledge construction."
Leslie White
There are 3 levels of culture:
1. Material
Why? bcz culture is dependent upon the material.
For building shelters, to defend yourself, to hunt for food (tools)
To connect/join available flow of energy.
If you can’t sustain yourself materially -> no culture
Better material = more complex structure of society
The tool = cultural symbol/emblem/representation
2. Social
The material is used through different social interactions.
Social system = organized effort of human beings in the use of instruments of
subsistence, offense & defense & protection
(he sees the definition of a social system as an instrument for organization the use of
the material)
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