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AN101 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Biological Anthropology, Edward Burnett Tylor, Cultural Relativism

Course Code
Anne- Marie Colpron
Study Guide

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Friday January 7th, 2011
Anthropology (Ancient Greek)
- Anthropo- human being
- Logy- science
o Science of the human being
Comparative Discipline
- Anthropology is not focused on Western civilization
o It studies humans in diversity
- What it means to be “human” in all parts of the world (a human at large)
- Studies what it means to be human
o Diachronically- over time
o Synchronically- across space
o Basically studying humans in the broadest sense possible
4 Subfields of Anthropology
- Archaeology
o Study human past through the analysis of material remains
- Biological Anthropology
o Studies the biological evolution of humans
o 2 Subfields
Primatology- studies primates because it is the closest living relative to
Paleoanthropology- studies fossilized bones of our early ancestors
- Linguistic Anthropology
o Studies the relationship between language and culture
o Language is a universal feature in societies, but varies between different groups
Language is not instinctive (you are not born knowing a language, it must be
Language is learned in a social/cultural group, depending on what language
is learned, it affects how you see the world
Socio- Cultural Anthropology (SCA)
- “focuses on learned behaviours and ideas that human beings acquire as members of
society” (p.10)
- Methodology
o Fieldwork- being immersed for a long period of time in other people’s everyday life
o Participant Observation- getting involved in the everyday routine of people to
observe culture

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Difference Between Anthropology and Sociology
Comparative Approach- anthropology compares different cultural settings (not western focused)
Methodology- through field work and observation anthropologists get immersed into people’s everyday
life to try and understand their view of life from the inside
Ways to gather Information
- Qualitative
o Follow few people and go in depth, ge t a better ‘quality’ of information
- Quantitative
o Follow a large number to get a consensus and an approximate idea of the way of
life, cannot go into detail
- A form of anthropological writing that describes the main social practices and ideas of a
specific group of people
- The science of population
- Comparative study of different cultural groups
- A synonym for socio-cultural anthropology
Holist Approach
- Global Approach
o All aspects of culture are interrelated to each aspect of culture (religion, politics,
economics, art, etc.) cannot be studied without reference to the culture as a whole
- Edward Tylor (classic definition)
o Culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law,
customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired as a member of society
- The process by which we learn a culture and we acquire the values and behaviours proper
to that of culture
Cultural determinism
- Influences culture, does not determine it
- Culture greatly affects who you are and how you react

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- Judging other people and their culture from one’s own cultural standards
- We only realize we have a culture when confided by another culture
- Our culture is our point of reference
Cultural Relativism
- “cultural relativism involves understanding another culture in its own terms sympathetically
enough so that the culture appears to be a coherent and meaningful design for living
- We have to understand other cultures, not necessarily agree with them
Wednesday January 12th, 2011
Anthropology is all about resisting the ethnocentric impulse:
- By recalling “that if what we observe appears to be odd or irrational
By studying other cultures, we become aware of our own. Field work makes us realize:
- “the more familiar the strange becomes, the more and more strange the familiar will
Anthropology opens us to other possible ways of being human. It forces us to question our common
sense assumptions in which we are comfortable.
Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942)
- Initiated field work and participant observation
- Stayed 2 years among the Trobriand
- Learned the language
- Interacted in their everyday life
- Holism -> interested in all aspects of life
Anthropologists & Fieldwork
- Take notes/ pictures
- Audio and video recordings
o 19th Century Anthropology
Arm Chair Anthropologist
Just read about culture, don’t go and experience it
Followed evolutionist theories
They worked with materials collected by others (i.e. missionaries,
traders, explorers, colonial officials)
o Their work is biased towards Western culture
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