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Midterm

ANT207H1 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Sherpa People, Ethnic Group, Symbolic Culture


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANT207H1
Professor
Fokwang
Study Guide
Midterm

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ANTHROPOLOGICAL APPROACH
Holistic: interested in humanity in all its diversity, past and present; combines different approaches
Comparative: devises concepts (such as kinship and culture) in order to study diversity; deals in concepts
that can be understood and applied in the context of different societies
Evolutionary: does away with the mis-applied concept of unilinear progress; studies change over time and
doesn’t treat any belief or practice as ingrained
CULTURE
Schultz/Lavenda: at most basic, learned sets of ideas and behaviours acquired as members of society
Thornton: a resource; the information humans aren’t born with but need to survive
culture creates boundaries
Wright:
Old notions: bounded, defined characteristics, unchanging, self-reproducing, underlying system of
shared meanings and “authentic culture”, homogeneous
New notions: active process of meaning-making and contestation; not bounded, interconnected,
fluid, constructed situationally; accounts for power dynamics
decision-makers deploying the concept of culture within fields of power
Functions: adapts and transforms the lived world; creates boundaries along ethnic, class, territorial, race
lines
Materialist: material things are culture
Interpretive: symbolic, mental things are culture
Romanticism: 19th c.; conceives of culture as the organic product of a people or nation (Thornton)
German school: Goethe, Hegel; each volk with its own folk wisdom, stories, beliefs, etc.
Enlightenment: brought in equation of culture with civilization; civilization was the result of rational
thought culminating in the ideal (Thornton)
Tylor: Romantic and Enlightenment; culture as encompassing (complex whole) and acquired as a
member of society
Modernism: 20th c.; retained the idea that culture is associated with particular peoples; functions to
maintain society/nations
began to embrace idea of change; culture is historical; determined and shaped by changes in
society and economy; each culture operates as a whole within society
Harris: acquired; emphasis on culture belonging to specific groups
Victorian: social evolutionists attributed cultural differences to race
Boas: little evidence for a link between biological determinism and mental or moral capacity; demonstrated
that cultural differences could be explained by social learning; morphological and cultural traits varied
between generations (e.g. immigrants)
Universal culture: culture in the singular; all human societies have it
Local culture: cultures in the plural; distinct patterns of learned and shared behaviours and ideas that are
found in local regions and among particular groups
critique that this view emphasizes differences and doesn’t acknowledge dissension within the
group; assumes a wish to preserve cultural differences (Schultz)
Single story: Adichie’s speech; peoples and groups in power are afforded multiple stories while the
marginalized are only given a single, homogeneous story of their experience; dangerous as it does not
account for the scope of human experience
Politicization of culture: (Wright); culture becomes the grounds for making homogenous claims
AGENCY
interconnected with structure
as a subject of a structure, you are meant to adhere to the rules it sets forth
collective and individual agency
Ortner’s article:
Sherpas creating agency and resistance
different meanings attributed to climbing (spiritual vs. financial)
deploy their religion to create agency within this structure: drawing the gods into protecting them
through rituals, validating religious specialists to deal with powerful forces, granting the gods
powers in the first place, emphasizing self-restraint in the face of death/tragedy
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Shultz/Lavenda: individuals’ abilities to react systematically to taken-for-granted cultural practices, imagine
alternatives, and take independent action to pursue goals of their own choosing
free will disregards the embeddedness in cultural practices
determinism doesn’t recognize individual freedom
critique of this: consequences are not always intended, can be through lack of intervention a la
Lieblich
Hays: agency explains the creation, recreation, and transformation of social structures
people make structures at the same time as structures make people
people make choices that have significant transformational consequences in terms of social
structures themselves
Lieblich: means to intervene in the world, or to refrain from such intervention with the effect of influencing
some process or state of affairs; some consequence, intended or not
Structure/agency dichotomy: explores the relationship between the enactment of social practices and
large-scale, historically-enduring social phenomena (e.g. between linguistic practices and large-scale
linguistic structure)
Agency on a continuum from structurally reproductive to structurally transformative
depth and durability of the structure in place, degree of power of agents, cultural milieu
e.g. psychiatric exams are reproductive and revolutions like the civil rights movement are
transformative (reductionism in attributing any antisocial behaviour to insanity; it dismisses agency)
STRUCTURE
interconnected with agency
social phenomena not reduceable to the individual
we are determined by and reproduce the structure, but agents have the capacity to enact the
process of change on the structure
historical process of change is tied in
revolutions destroy and then re-formulate a structur
Giddens: sets of rules and resources actors draw upon as they produce and reproduce society in their
activities; explicit or unwritten, embedded in society (rigid definition)
repetitive acts of individual agents reproduce structure
Hays: social structure is patterns of social life (fluid definition):
are not reduceable to individuals
are durable to withstand the whims of individuals
that have dynamics and underlying logic of their own
conceptions of social structure can accommodate flexibility (critiquing classical definitions)
creation of and mould for humans; it would not exist without the participation of social actors - it
produces them and they produce it
enabling and constraining; it’s the basis of human power and self-understanding
has several layers; it’s more or less open to intentional and unintentional human tinkering (feminist
movement)
IDENTITY
Jenkins: identity is a process, not a thing
can be individual or collective
emerges from interplay of similarities and differences
internal-external dialectic between self- and public image; we identify by it and others identify us
primary identities less changeable and mutable than others
identities can’t be understood outside the contexts of social interaction in which they are produced
and deployed
ETHNICITY
everyone has an ethnic identity, if it is important to them or not
collective identity with shared language, customs, and history that is changeable and situational
Sharp & Boonzaier on Nama identity: collectively revived as a strategic performance speaking to
their connection the land, exerting that this connection cannot be nullified by the government; self-
conscious and reflexive
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