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ANT204H5 Study Guide - Final Guide: Franz Boas, Social Anthropology, Cultural Relativism

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Participant Observation
Definition: is a methodology of research in which an anthropologist spends at least 6
months to a couple of year in a culture and observe them and position themselves in a
situation to understand and gather data.
Context: Participant observation enables the social anthropologist to undertake detailed,
lengthy and often complex observations of social life in fine detail. It is expensive and
time-consuming but it can change a person as they are exposed to different point of
Why is it important?: It is relevant to the course because concepts learned in the course
have been acquired through participant observation. It is a key methodology because it
puts the observer in the shoes of those being observed, which allows the researcher to
gather more accurate data.
Cultural Relativism
Definition: is a ideology/mental attitude coined by Franz Boaz which states
that individual human's beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of
that individual's own cultural context, as a whole.
Context: We bring our own perspectives in anthropology, which is slightly different from
other kinds research such as in chemistry, biology as it allows for more of a bias
Why is it important?: This is relevant to the course because when anthropologists are
conducting ethnographic fieldwork they need to see things as a whole and consider it in a
local and cultural context and avoid their own biases to be able to conduct this research.
Franz Boas
Definition: is a German born American anthropologist and is known as the father of
anthropology(end of 19th century).
Context: He was Zora Hurston’s advisor. He is also the first person to bring cultural
relativism to America.
Why is it important?: introduced participant observation in America
-Brings Herders idea into anthropology
oCulture as the spirit, language and values of people
United by culture, more everyday culture
Medicinal Cannibalism
Definition: Medicinal cannibalism is the act of consuming substances from human
corpses to treat a variety of diseases and illnesses.
Context: It was documented in European literature in first century A.D. The historical
coexistence of institutionalized people eating on both sides of the Atlantic oceans reminds
us that cannibalism have appeared in a variety of forms, some of which Europeans have
considered socially acceptable and even health enhancing.
Why is it important?: It is relevant to the course because it shows how in a different
cultural context, cannibalism is seen as socially acceptable. While, this was at the same
time when they looked down upon mortuary cannibalism. It is amazing to see how eating
someone in some context was valid but not for other purposes such as grief.
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