Social-Cultural Full.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Ivan Kalmar

Social-Cultural Anthropology 2/28/2013 5:16:00 PM February 28 What is it?  The study of human society and culture, the subfield that descirbes, analyses, interprets, and explains social and cultural similarities and differences. It is particularly concerned with exploring cultural adaptation  Modern cultural anthropology has origins in 19 thcentury “ethnology,” which involves the organized comparison of human societies. Ethnology uses secondary data to compare and contrast and to make generalizations about societies and cultures  Early colonial ethnologists worked mostly with materials collected by others, usually missionaries  “armchair anthropology”  Modern cultural anthropology is characterized by the practice of ethnography, which is both a research method and the product of that research that describes and interprets a culture Why Social and Cultural?  Developed distinctly in Europe and America  “British social anthropology”  focused on society and sociality. Exploring relationships and social institutions (religion, economics, politics)  “America cultural anthropology  focused on the ways people expressed their view of themselves and their world, especially in symbolic forms  These approaches frequently converged and generally complimented each other  Gradual merging of social and cultural anthropology following WWII led to socio-cultural anthropology Social-cultural  One of primary goals is to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange  Developed historically as the study of the “Other”  Also served to help Europeans question and think more critically about their own societies and cultures Culture  European usage = 1700-1800  Process of improvement of individual, especially through education  Those with culture were deemed “civilized”  Those lacking culture were described as “living in a state of nature”  Non-Europeans were thought of as lacking culture  “Culture…is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” o Edward B. Taylor o One of the first descriptions. Not something we are born with, acquired through contact and exposure to society  Humans share society with other animals but culture is what sets us apart  Culture is: o Universal  All humans have the capacity for culture  Some cultural features are shared by all peoples (incest taboo, nuclear family)  Some are specific and unique to particular societies (Fraternal Polyandry  one women will marry a group of brothers) o Knowledge  What we think, believe, know, and interpret  Explicit (aware of)  laws  Tacit (unconscious)  language rules o Behaviour  What we do  Verbal/non-verbal communication, greeting, eating, etc. o Artifacts  What we make and use  Clothing, houses, tools, etc. o Learned  Children learn through process of enculturation  Direct  instruction  Indirect  observation o Symbolic  Unique and universal human capacity to use signals  Language/representation is an element of culture, but also the means by which culture is transmitted and reproduced o Shared  Attribute of social groups  Acquired through interaction o All-encompassing  All people have and “do” culture  Encompasses features that may be seen as trivial or unworthy of serious study, such as popular culture o Integrated  Not haphazard but a patterned system  If one part changes, others will change in response o Instrumental  People use culture to fulfill basic needs (food, shelter, reproduction o Adaptive  May be adaptive if it helps adapt to changing conditions o Maladaptive  If cultural changes do not have a positive adaptive effect of groups (i.e. fossil fuels) o Contested  Different groups struggle over whose values, beliefs, goals, will be dominant (hegemonic) o Dynamic  Culture provides framework, but people do not always follow rules or do what they should  Ideal (accepted norms) vs. Real(actual practices) Culture o Changing  Diffusion  indirect borrowing between cultures  Independent invention  innovation  Acculturation  exchange due to direct contact (colonization, globalization) – may be forced o Multi-Scalar  Occurs at different scales or levels o International Culture  Extends beyond and across national borders  Universal Human Rights o National Culture  Characterized by core values  Canada  collective wellbeing (public healthcare)  USA  individualism, freedom (Private healthcare)  National culture as “imagined community” o Subcultures  Different symbol-based patterns and traditions of particular groups within a large society (i.e biker gangs) March 21 Kinship and Gender  Distinction are universal  Nature vs nurture  All cultures have their own unique rules to guide gender, kinship relations, family structure, residence patterns What is Kinship?  Nature or Nurture?  Refers to relatedness by descent or marriage. And perceived social relationships/connections  Ideas about kinship don’t always assume biological relationship, rather social associations can form important connections  Trobrianders  pregnancy = paternity not biological relationship. Not result of sex. Fatherhood = social role. Motherhood = biological role.  Fictive Kinship: “uncle” “aunt” whatever  not biologically related just close friends. OR godparents  Kinship diagrams o Circle = female o Triangle = male o Equal = marriage o Vertical line = descent or parentage o Horizontal line = sibling  Traced through a central individual “EGO” figure. Reference point to think about how other people are related to them.  Kin types refer to basic uncategorized relationships  Supposedly culture free, etic components, though there is culture- specific terminology  Differences in kin terms designate people into different culturally reconstructed categories  Only 6 systems of kinship. Almost every culture has constructed a system like: o Sudanese  Unique kin term assigned to every particular position o Hawaiian  Least descriptive and merges many different relatives into a small number of categories. Ego distinguishes between reletives only on basis of sex and generation. I.e. all women older get on term, all men older get on term, etc. o Eskimo  Primary kinship system used in Europe and north America  Bilateral and emphasizes difference in kinship distance. Close relatives given unique labels, farther relations get grouped (i.e. cousins, aunts/uncles, etc.) Marriage  Social institution that provides certain rights and creates social bonds o I.e. legal father/mother
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