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Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTA02H3
Professor
Maggie Cummings

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SOCIAL AND CULTUREAL ANTHROLOGY: A VERY SHORT
INTRODUCTION
Anthropology grew out of the intersection of European discovery, colonialism, and
natural science
Interested in reconstructing stages of social and cultural evolution
Early part of the 20th century anthro was typically concerned with small scale,
technologically simple societies
Desire to get at the essential or elementary forms of human institutions
Adopted a m ore interpretive, humanistic approach
Shifted its focus from an exclusive concern with non-western, small-scale rural
societies to group that would have been the purview of sociology, such as labour
unions, social clubs, and migrant communities found in urban and industrialized
setting
Broadly comparative
What role does the refusal to accept another religion play in establishing an ethnic
boundary between 2 groups (like the Dou Donggo and Bimanese)

Ethnography is to the cultural or social anthropologist what lab research is to the
biologist, what archival research is to the historian, or what survey research is to
the sociologist
Based on the apparently simple idea that in order to understand what people are up
to, it is best to observe them by interacting with them intimately and over and
extended period
It is this openness to the serendipitous discover that gives the ethnographic method
strength and flexibility not generally available to highly deductive social science
methods such as survey or statistical research
The randomness of ethnographic serendipity is compensated for by the length of
time a good ethnographer spends in the field; eventually, one hopes, one will
accidentally encounter most social phenomena of significance
[peter] due to his long residence in the village had allowed him to build up relations
of trust with people who were willing to confide in him and to explain events and
motivations beyond superficial appearances
It is this interplay between the specific and the general, between the specific and the
general, between the local and the universal that gives anthro much of its value as a
social science
Fieldwork: Strategies and Practices
The ethnographer doesnt enter into the enterprise unprepared. What ethnographers
need to know is as diverse and varied as the studies they undertake
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Most begin their preparation with several years of study in the history and previous
ethnographic literature of the region in which they propose to do fieldwork
Anthropologists are always anthropologists of something and somewhere
An ethnographers first task is to become established in the community
Once the ethnographer has found a source of funding for a project, it is often
necessary to secure a variety of permits from various levels of government, local
research institution, and the host community, can consume more than a year
Unfamiliarity with the language- lacking many of the amenities they may have been
used to at home
Locally powerful individuals may try to use the ethnographer as a prize or a pawn in
their rivalries
Members of the community may have an exaggerated idea of what the ethnography
can do for them, and make persistent demands that cannot be met
At the same time, the ethnographer often experiences the great joy of making new
friends and the thrill of seeing and doing things they would never otherwise have
been able to see or do can be filled with abruptly alternating emotional highs and
lows
Dialogue is the backbone of ethnography
Ultimately the key to ethnographic success is being there, available to observe,
available to follow up, available to take advantage of the chance event
Audio recording of speech and music, photography, film drawing, genealogy,
mapping, census-taking, archival research, collecting material culture, collecting
botanical or other natural samples, all have their ethnographic uses, depending on
the ethnographers specific research project
Leaving the field can be almost as difficult as entering it
No ethnographic research project is every truly complete
Critiques of Ethnographic Fieldwork
Fieldwork brings with it a substantial set of methodological and epistemological
problems
Fieldwork also carries with a unique set of ethical dilemmas
A temptation for the ethnographer to present the community in a kind of temporal
and spatial isolation
Anthropologists may sometimes be carried away by the romance of their own
enterprise and value the unspoiled traditions of a society far more than the people
themselves do
Another criticism of the ethnographic present has concerned the tendency of the
ethnographers to write in an omniscient third-person voice as if they had not been
actively involved in eliciting the information they present
Ethnography is incomplete without the cross-cultural comparisons which allow the
uniqueness of ethnographic description to find a comparative spatial and temporal
context
Each ethnographer is a unique individual
Amateurs untrained in anthro are apt to assume that they are free form bias, this
however, is far from the case; without a scientific training their observation will
certainly be hampered by preconceived attitudes of mind
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On occasion, anthropologist have engaged in the study of a particular community by
a team of researchers, partly to provide greater comprehensiveness and partly to
compensate for individual observer bias
Our bias—that is, our social and historical situationis what gives us a point of
view, and hence constitutes a resource we should openly draw upon in our
interpretations
To these critics the whole enterprise of ethnographic description is suspect so long as
asymmetries of power persist between the observer and the observed
Isnt it problematic that the vast majority of ethnographers are westerners when the
vast majority of their subjects have been non-westerners?
The Ethics of Ethnography
Researcher develops a unique set of relationships with the people studied
Ensures that ones research doesnt harm the people studied
Use pseudonyms for place reference
What extent is it appropriate for ethnographers to actively influence social,
religious, political life of the communities in which they work (ex cutting off clitoris,
killing twins because they are inhuman), most are not matters of life and death
though
Compelled to become advocates for the people they study
Usually study most vulnerable to colonization, oppression, genocide, displacement,
poverty and general powerlessness
Intellectual property rights
Criticised for profiting from the expropriation of indigenous cultural knowledge
Should cultures reserve the right to copyright their knowledge
To whom does the ethnographer owe their greatest allegiance? people studied,
sovereign government of country studied, agency or foundation funding the research,
academic or research institution that employs them, community of scholars to which
they belong?
Hard to deny that we(homo sapiens) are an unusual species, all others are faster,
stronger, better adapted to their environments by physique and instinct than we are
Our capacity to conceptualize the world and to communicate those conceptions
symbolically (culture)
What is Culture?
It has to do with those aspects of human cognition and activity that are derived from
what we learn as members of society, keeping in mind that one learns a great deal
that one is never explicitly taught
Our genetically inherited predisposition for language and symbolic communication,
and all of the complex social organization that makes possible, has allowed the
human race to achieve a kind of inheritance of acquired characteristics in which
acquisition of knowledge can be cumulative from generation to generation
Shared patterns of learned behaviour
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