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ANTA02 textbook notes for the entire year

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Maggie Cummings

ANTA02 Notes Week One VSI Chapter 1: -ethnography is to the cultural or social anthropologist what lab research is to the biologist, archival research to the historian... -aka participant obs -based on the idea that in order to understand ppl, it is best to observe and interact with them over a long period of time -defines and distinguishes anthro from other disciplines -today anthropologists conduct fieldwork in unexotic settings such as tv stations, however in the beginning, anthro was distinguished by its conc on primitive non western societies -it was felt that a focus on primitive societies would give a view of the elementary workings of society and that it would allow anthropologists to record their cultures and way of life as they were rapidly disappearing -the idea of going native = completely adopting the lifestyle of the host communities and never going home -participant obs seems to be the most effective way of understanding the ways in which other ppl see the world and interact with it -story on page 15 -the account by an ethnographer of how a young woman was assaulted and the way the community dealt with it -to a historian the assault on Ina Mone would have been invisible as the tribe does not keep records and thus they would not be available to a historian -to a sociologist or criminologist the case would also be invisible as they rely on surveys and questionnaires- the assault would appear as a data pnt -to an ethnographer this case is seen as being about respect for the institution of marriage as ina Mone was threatened by her assaulter because she had ratted him out for being with a betrothed woman -the lesson Peter, the ethnographer learned, was that in disputes things are often other than what they appear to be and he learned this because he was able to witness the event as he had been living in the community day in and out for two years. -one of the principle advantages of ethnography is the ability to observe unusual events -it is openness that gives the ethnographic method strength and flexibility not available to highly deductive social science methods -there is a bit of randomness in ethnography as researchers often find themselves studying unanticipated subjects -ethnographic work provides context to events and cases and allows a certain amount of trust to build up between members of the community and the researcher so that are willing to confide in them and explain things -anthropology has long been engaged in relating the description of local beliefs and practices as categories of universal significance -there is an interplay between the specific and general, the local and universal Fieldwork: Strategies and Practices -ethnographers only study a particular aspect of social life -most ethnographic research begins with a long study in the history and previous ethnographic lit of the region and learning some of the language as they do not work with translators -an ethnographers first task is to become est in the community -they require funding and permits from local gov and the host community before even entering the field site which can take up to a year -ethnographers face the challenges of an unfamiliar setting as well as the possibility of being seen as a prized possession by local powerful indiv or as a person who can solve all the communities problems -the interview and dialogue are the most important techniques to elicit and record data -in a sense, no ethnographic research project is ever truly complete Critiques of Ethnographic Fieldwork -prob with participant obs has been a temptation for the ethnographer to present the community in a kind of spatial and temporal isolation -ethnographic present = where communities are presented as frozen in time, outside any historical context, without reference to neighbouring societies -also a prob where ethnographers tend to write in a 3 person voice as if they had no involvement in eliciting the info they present -ethnography is incomplete without the cross cultural comparisons which allow the uniqueness of ethnographic description to find a comparative spatial and temp context -when it comes to generalizations, anthropologists often make use of other methods used in other disciplines -there are persistent questions about the objectivity of the data collected through participant obs -there are instances where 2 anthropologists have come to diff conc about the same community -W.H.R Rivers, Bronislaw, Malinowski and Franz Boas were among the founders of professional anthro who insisted on first hand collection of ethnographic data by trained observers -they hoped that training would suffice to compensate for the prejudices of the observer -standardized categories for data collection have been created in an attempt to overcome observer bias and to ensure comparability -other attempts to reconcile observer biases has been to do re studies, however this does not happen often as there was an urgency to conduct salvage ethnography, trying to record ways of life before they became extinct -also a misguided sense of proprietorship on the part of an ethnographer for his/her people; no one else can study it because it is their territory -it is also rare for communities that have been studied to be approached by an ethnographer interested in the same issues -at times anthropologists engage in the study of a community in a team of researchers to compensate for observer biases and to get a more comprehensive understanding of it -no guarantee they are less subjective -today, some ethnographers favour the presentation of relatively unedited texts representing a variety of voices other than the ethnographers while others have adopted the inclusion of a autobiographical style presentation -the outsider status of an ethnographer can be regarded as both a strength and weakness as they are able to notice understandings that local ppl take for granted but are unable to notice subtle local variations The Ethics of Ethnography -for fieldwork, the first imperative is to ensure that ones research does not harm the ppl one studies -a persistent source of ethical dilemma is to be found in the extent to which it is appropriate for ethnographers to actively influence the social, religious, or political life of the communities in which they work -many anthropologists become advocates for the ppl they study however it is not without risk, as many face deportation and imprisonment -a more recent ethical issue is the idea that anthropologists have been profiting from the expropriation of indigenous cultural knowledge -pg 33 middle para -Conc: complete descriptive objectivity is impossible, comprehensive understanding unattainable and ethical problems are more easily posed than resolved. VSI Chapter 2: -humans most extraordinary characteristic is our capacity to conceptualize the world and to communicate those conceptions symbolically anthropologists call this capacity culture What is Culture? -most anthropologists agree that culture 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 learned a great deal that one is never explicitly taught -the primary human means for symbolic communication is language -in the Victorian era, Edward Tyler Bs definition endured for 30 yrs: culture or civilization, taken in its wide 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 society -during this time and to an extent today, ppl understood culture as something that ppl had to a greater or lesser extent (to be more cultured) -Franz Boas is considered the father of modern American cultural anthropology and to him culture embraces all the manifestations of social behaviour of a community, the reactions of the indiv as affected by the habits of the group in which he lives, and the product of human activities as determined by these habits -culture is like a set of glasses, it focuses our experience of the world -story of john and onion soup pg 38 -for John and his mixtec friends, eating is something that is part of a complex sys of ideas, perceptions, norms, values, feelings and behaviours so that the act of eating is never just about satisfying hunger, but is also an expression of how we have learned to see the world -culture can be used to study both the differences between people as well as the similarities between people such as basic classification systems -the universal prospensity of humans to create sys of classifications has long been a subject of fascination and debate among anthropologists -in the US this interest led to the ethnoscience approach in which formal methods of analysis were applied to domains such as colour and disease -one outcome of this was the obs that while the content of cultural categories are means of perception -some anthropologists now see the ability to control the content of cultural classifications as a primary source of power in society -back to the case of john and his mixtec friends and food, one can see the universal in the notion of etiquette and manners -eating is hedged about with a system of conceptual categories such as moral values -conc: human cultures seem to be infinitely variable, but that variability takes place within the boundaries produced by physical and mental capacities Where is Culture? -there are 3 pnts of debate in the way anthropologists talk about culture -one has to do with the extent to which a culture should be regarded as an integrated whole -a second with the extent to which cu
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