Textbook Notes for Lecture 2 - Culture

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Victor Barac

Notes From Reading for Lecture 2 CHAPTER 1:C ULTURE AND M EANING (P GS.2-39) Lecture: Culture: Concepts, Theories, and Methods of Study Introduction The World Behind Everyday Appearances - Sociocultural Anthropology – An anthropological approach that retains the British focus on social anthropology at the same time as it adds the American focus on culture to produce something slightly different from either one - The ways in which specific societies order behaviour through the arrangement of space and time is but one small area examined by sociocultural anthropology What Makes Sociocultural Anthropology Unique? - “Anthropology” comes from two Greek words: o Anthropos = “human beings” o Logia = “the study of” or “the knowledge of” - This study of, or knowledge of, human beings includes everything that humans do currently or have done in the past o Also includes collecting evidence of how and when we became human and comparing humans to other organism in the world - Anthropology is divided into four different approaches to the study of humans that focuses on different aspects of the anthropological question o Biological anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology and sociocultural anthropology (aka cultural anthro & social anthro) - Biological Anthropology o The oldest of the four sub disciplines o Focuses on human beings as one of a great multitude of organisms that inhibat the earth o Paleoanthropology – the study of fossil remains of the earliest humans, and attempt to understand the history of human biological evolution o Primatology – the study of our closet nonhuman relatives o Forensic anthropology – the study of human remains for identification and cause of death - Archaeology o The study of human history and its artifacts o Look at material remains of human groups in order to learn how people lived o Tools, pottery shards, and other artifacts offer clues about the social and cultural lives of societies that existed thousands of years ago - Linguistic anthropologists o Examine the relationship between language and culture o Interested in how people use language, both in a physical sense with regard to how communication is structure o Historical sense with regard to how different languages have developed and spread throughout history - Sociocultural anthropologists o Look at how societies are structured and how cultural meanings are created o Are interested in differences among people throughout the world o Also look for similarities in how people construct their own versions of what it means to be human o Explore both the universal and the particular, moving back and forth between these two levels of inquiry and analysis in their world o Do fieldwork among the societies and cultures they study o Gathering data by talking to people and by participating in and observing their day-to- day lives Notes From Reading for Lecture 2 CHAPTER 1:C ULTURE AND M EANING (PGS .2-39) - The focus on social structures and cultural meanings, in all their forms, is what makes sociocultural anthropology unique among the subdisciplines - Sociocultural anthropology incorporates aspects of both: o The methodological and analytical rigors of the sciences o The interpretive insights and nuances of the humanities - Eric Wolf (Eminent anthropologist) described anthropology as “the most scientific of the humanities, [and] the most humanistic of the sciences.” Question 1.1: Why do Human Beings Differ in Their Beliefs and Behaviours - Culture – The system of meanings about the nature of experience that are shared by a people and passed on from one generation to another o Incl. the meanings that people give to things, events, activities and people o People differ in how they view the world because of their culture - Members of all human societies experience specific life events such as birth, death and the quest for food, water and shelter - Culture is about meaning; Cultural meanings must be learned; once learned, meanings are shared by members of particular culture - Culture enables human beings to make sense of their life experiences and to understand those experiences as meaningful in particular ways - Human beings are cultural animals; they ascribe meanings of their own creation to objects, persons, behaviours, emotions and events and then proceed to act as if those meanings are real - Differences in culture arise in par from the fact that different groups of human beings, for various reasons, create, share and participate in different realities o As a consequence, they assigned different meaning to death, birth, marriage and food - Objects, persons, behavoiurs, emotions, and events in a human world have meanings ascribed to them by those who share, use or experience them - Understanding culture, and the culturally situated meanings that flourish in various cultural contexts, is therefore the main object of anthropological study Question 1.2: How do Anthropologists Learn About Culture? The Formative Years of Anthropology - Anthropology began at “the Age of Exploration” launched by Christopher Columbus when he arrived in the Americas in 1492 o This is where the Europeans first encountered people who looked and behaved very differently - Jesuit Relations, published in 1632, described the interactions between the Jesuit missionaries and the indigenous people in southern Ontario o These missionaries’ writings were a type of proto-anthropology o Missionaries and anthropologists today have very different motivations for the work they do - Anthropology did not emerge as a formal discipline until 1883, when Edward Tylor was appointed to the first position of anthropology in Britain - 1925, Thomas F. McIlwraith became the first anthropology appointment at UofT o Canada’s first Department of Anthropology was found at UofT in 1936 - Armchair Anthropologists – refers to an approach to the study of various societies that dominated anthropology in the late 1800s. o It involved the collection, study, and analysis of the writings of missionaries, explorers, and colonists who had sustained contact with non-Western peoples o Armchair anthropologists used these documents to make comparisons and generalizations about the ways of life of various groups Notes From Reading for Lecture 2 CHAPTER 1:C ULTURE AND M EANING (PGS .2-39) - Tylor relied on the accounts provided by travellers and missionaries as sources of information for his book, Primitive Culture - “Culture or civilization, taken in its wide [comparative] ethnographic sense, 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 his society” o For Tylor, he emphasized the shared and learned aspects of culture - Contemporary anthropologists remain interested in the differences and similarities between cultures o But no longer resort to hierarchies when comparing human beliefs and behaviours Ethnographic Fieldwork - Bronislaw Malinowski and Franz Boas are often regarded as the “fathers” of social and cultural anthropology (respectfully) - Boas sought first hand knowledge among the Inuit and the Kwakwaka’wakw - Malinowski went to live in the Trobriand Islands during the WWI o Extended periods of fieldwork became the required methodology of sociocultural anthropology - Ethnographic Method – The immersion of researchers in the lives and cultures of the peoples they are trying to understand in order to comprehend the meanings there people ascribe to their existence - Participant Observation – An element of fieldwork that can involve participating in daily tasks, and observing daily interactions among a particular group - The anthropologists also seeks to explain why people view the world as they do and to contribute to the understanding of human behaviour in general o Involves the meeting of at least two cultures: that of the research, and that of the people the researcher is trying to understand - Fieldwork – Anthropologists engage in long-term interactions (usually a year or more) with various groups of people o Often involves living with people observing and contributing to daily chores and tasks (participant observation), and conducting interviews o Most fieldwork in anthropology has historically been qualitative in nature - Malinowski was the first to abandon armchair approach and used fieldwork o By living with Trobrianders, observing and participating in their daily tasks, and learning their language, he established the importance of participant observation as a fieldwork strategy - This fieldwork technique would become a defining feature of contemporary anthropological fieldwork - Ethnography – A written description and analysis of a particular group of people, usually based upon anthropological fieldwork - Malinowski felt that by carefully documenting their experiences and observations with field notes with combination of participant observation and qualitative techniques o Anthropologists would be able to obtain “the native’s point of view” o Also referred to as “emic” or “insider” perspective o (“etic” or “outside” was then described for armchair approach) - Malinowski’s view was that cultures arise in order to meet the particular needs of specific peoples Changing Notions of Fieldwork - These days, PhD students in anthropology are still required to spend at least a year in the field, and incorporate participant observation as a fieldwork technique Notes From Reading for Lecture 2 CHAPTER 1:C ULTURE AND M EANING (P GS.2-39) - Salvage Anthropology – An approach to anthropology that arose in the late 1800s when anthropologists witnessed the extinction and/or assimilation of indigenous groups throughout the world o In response, some anthropologists, such as Franz Boas, suggested that anthropologists rapidly document the oral stories, songs, histories, and other traditions of indigenous groups before they disappeared - It is difficult to define exactly what is “Canadian” about Canadian anthropology, but Darnell has an interesting suggestion o In Canada, a critical mass of First Nations languages and cultures maintains them with a saliency in the national forum unparalleled in the United States” - Still interested in indigenous groups, anthropologists no longer restrict themselves to the study of non-Western peoples and places - Globalization also has transformed how anthropologists perceive and study societies o Resulted in increasingly fragmented communities and highly mobile groups, it is often no longer tenable for anthropologists to stay in one location for a long period - Multi-sited Fieldwork – Coined by George Marcus in 1995, refers to the process of connecting localized experiences of fieldwork with broader, global processes o It necessitates understanding various issues from multiple “sites” or perspectives o This approach often goes hand in hand with multi-locale approaches - Fieldwork has undergone changes since Malinowski’s time; but the content of fieldwork, or data collection, has under gone relatively few changes - Issues of how to accurately and ethically represent human beliefs and behaviours therefore remain central to the discipline Representation and Culture - Representation – the way in which a group of people is depicted in writing or through images o Anthropologists are increasingly conscious of the fact that when they write about a group of people o They are constructing particular representations that may have positive or negative long-term effects for a group of people - Essentialism – the act of creating generalizations or stereotypes about the behaviour or culture of a group of people - The people whom anthropologists study are becoming increasingly critical of how they are depicted - Representations put forward by anthropologists, the mass media, and others have social, economic and political consequences for various groups - It is important for anthropologists to consider the long-term impact of their work in various communities Question 1.3: Is it Possible to See the World Through the Eyes of Others? - The anthropologists must be able to look beyond everyday appearance to decipher the often hidden meanings of beliefs, objects, and behaviours o While at th
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