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Chapter 5

Anthropology - chapter 5.docx

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M Cummings

Anthropology Chapter 5 - The Cultural Construction of Identity Introduction - Whenever we interact with another person, the interaction must be based on some idea of who the other is - Some idea of who we are: a conception of the relationship that exists between us - Each tries to place the other in some identity at some spot on the social landscape - Imagine a society where every person is unique o Every interaction would be different and there would be no way of learn from one situation how to behave in another similar situation o We avoid this situation by categorizing people, placing them in groups o Based on criteria such as: gender, ethnicity, personal characteristics - Our social identities are constructed in large part by others, who by their behavior toward us, confirm that we occupy the spot on the landscape we claim to occupy o Nobody is anybody except in relation to somebody Question 5.1: How is Identity, and Ones Sense of Self, Learned Learning Identities - Imagine the inside of a skin tent, or a snowhouse, or a government-regulation low rental prefab - In this a small Inuit girl wakes in the night - Given the sounds of love, and know that she is safe - She is a baby who carries the spirit and name of her grandmother - Her grandmother is alive again in the baby, and she must be treated with respect - Is she born with this identity? Or is her identity something she learned Learning to Belong - The baby knows she is important almost the moment she is born and that this knowledge expands daily as she interacts with others - She learns that she is connected to her land and to all the other creatures that share the land with her - Storytelling is a way of communicating information from one generation to another – the childrens understanding grows as they grow - As this child grows she recognizes stories that are told over and over - Also learns that no one understands everything in the stories, and she keeps her sense of wonderment about the world - We are not boring knowing who we are or what places are on the social landscape o We learn to be Canadian o We learn how to relate with others o Identities are political and collective – formed around struggles against such threats as colonialism or the state - Identities like gender, sex, race, ethnicity and identity are not natural or biological - Enculturation – are sociocultural forces and instituations that teach us, about what it is to be a Canadian citizen o Ex. Learning how to sing the national anthem o Learn a government sanctioned version of Canadian history o Watching the new of Canadian television - Hockey has been promoted as a Canadian identity o Promotes or normative ideal of Canadian identity as white, middle-class and male o Excludes a large protion of the nation’s multicultural population o Trying to increase multicultural population – ex. Begin broadcasting in Punjabi - Sports and other mediated events are used to cultivate a sense of imagined community o Ex. Watching and listening to stories about the 2012 Vancouver Olympics - We see our identities are natural, primordial or biologically based rather the process of enculturation begins when we are young - Live in a pop culture that priveleges natural explanations for human behaviors - “nature vs. nurture” o Some people by virtue of their class, race, or other factors are better suited to reproduce as they are more “fit” - Many human difference like intelligence are rooted in biology or nature - Mead (1926) o Conduct research that would challenge widespread ideas among scientist that acts of teenage rebellion and experimentation were he result of hormonal or other physical changes brought upon by puberty o Travelled to the island of Ta’u to study teenage girls o Were given lot of freedom to experiment with their sexuality and did not go through periods of torment with parents o Argued that the experiances of adolescents varied depending on the culture in which they were raised o Emphasized the role of culture or “nurture” in human behavior o She visited three tribes to explor gender differences  In each tribe, men and women took on different responsibilities based on their gender o human behavioral differencers were the result of culture and not biology - research that trys to link human behaviors and biology is dangerous o Washburn and Lancaster  Argue that women we biologically better “nurturers” of children  It becomes easy to argue that a women’s place is in the domestic sphere - Human Genome Project continues to link identies with nature o Scientists are actively searching for specific geners that they believe are the cause of particular behaviours o “gay gene” or the “selfish gene” o This research ignores the role of culture that shapes identity like race, gender, and sexuality Question 5.2 How Does the Concept of Personhood Vary from Society to Society The Importance of Self - Names – differentiate individuals from others o Can reveal how people conceive of themselves and their relations to others - Remain with us through out entire life - How much of the self is revealed by a name varies by culture and situation o When North Americans meet, businesspeople meet they exchange first names, last name and business titles o Morrocans meets, names include their family names and town they are from o British Colombua – Tsimshian – the names people use depend on their social position - Umbundu people in Angoola, there are two ways of naming a child o Name a child after a relative who is either alive or dead (an ancestor) o New name refers to some unusual circumstance that was present during the childs birth o Ex. The child of a mother who dies in childbirth will be given a name that keeps the memory of his or her mothers suffering and death o Beyond an Umbundu name we can find a proverb and behind the proverb a story o Names are tools with which people reward the life they have received from their relatives and their world - When it was took over by a Portugese colony – found it difficult to keep track of the Umbundu people because the naming system did not group people in ways that the administrators understood o Tried to force them to discard their names and use Portuguese names - The different in naming practises among different socities conceptualize what a person if and how that person related to the group - North Americans are individualistic o As they move from status to status and place to place they stay the same person - In Umbundu – holistic – the person cannot be conceived as existing separately from society apart from his cultural beliefs and values - Gandhi – “the drop cannot survive without the ocean and the ocean loses its identity without the drops” The Egocentric and Sociocentric Self - Two distinct ways in which the person is conceived in different socities: egocentric and sociocentric - These terms are generalizations about the nature of self in different societies - There will be exceptions to these patterns, especially given the increasing influence of globalization in constructing identities o Individuals have become increasingly mobile, travelling in search of work, for immigration a tourists or as refugees - The egocentric – each person is a replica of all humanity, the locus of motivations and drives, capable of acting independently from others - Social relations are regarded as contracts between autonomous, free acting beings - Each individual is responsible for what and who he or she is - Places a high value of individualism and self-reliance - Factors such as poverty and ethnicity make individualism and self reliance difficult to achieve - Unlike individuals in some other socities, many Americans seek to cut themselves off from their past, especially from their parents - Each wishes to become his or her own person, to find his or her self - Need to show that they can stand on their two feet and be self supporting - Success is an outcome of free and fair competition among individuals in an open market - The only way they can deserve what they have achieved is by succeeding through their own efforts - Suffering from an individual pathology – eating disorders were the result of an individual problem o Conducted 14 months of ethnographic research at a small inpatient eating disorder clinic in the United States o Various cultural forces that have contributed to increases in diagnoses of eating disorders are being ignored in favour of “individualistic “explanations o Increasingly, the feminine ideal is being defined by physical appearance o Advertising on tv, internet, magazines and billboards are playing a role in shaping Westerners sense of self o Advertising provides a blueprint, or a measuring stick for comparing our bodies with others o Treatments replicate Western notions of individualism within their treatment plans, including the careful daily monitoring of weight and patient progress - Sociocentric view – the self exists as an entity only within the concrete situations or roles occupied by the person in much the same way that Tsimshian names are linked to a position in society and not to some autonomous, separate selfl - Instead of saying that a man is generous – the sociocentric persepective would be that “he gives money to his friends” Personhood in Japan and North America - The Japanese are more likely to include within the boundaries of the self the social groups of which the person is a member - North Americans does not extend beyond the physical body - Children are taught that interdependence between the person and the family or group is more important then independence - In English, children quickly learn to use the word I and you - Japenese boys – learn six and girl learn five - The Japanese language contains vocabulary that is very conscious of status - Keigo – “polite speech”- establishing at the outset of a conversation the relative social standing and degree of intimacy of speaker and listener - Use different forms of address depending on the social position relative to the person to whom they are speaking - When conversing with someone in a superior social position, a speaker must linguistically acknowledge the social difference between speaker and listener- - North Americans believe that it is desirable for people to stand out, to take charge - Japanese believe that social interactions should be characterized by restraint or reserve, traits they identify as enryo o Giving opinions is avoided; “the nail that sticks up shall be hammered” - Japanese do conceive themselves as separate entities o Belive in self development o Autonomy is distinguished away from society – where self-reflection and introspection are legitimate - Through introspection they find their true heart and are put into touch with their true nature Question 5.3 How Do Societies Distinguish Individuals from one Another? - Difference and similarities among persons are the materials from which we construct our social landscapes - Allow us to distinguish individuals from one another or to assign them to one group or another - Some characteristics of persons – some tools in the “identity toolbox” are used almost - universally to differentiate people or to group them together o Ethnic group, membership, skin colour, and wealth - In many societies – kinship is the central organizing principle – the main determinant of a person’s social identity - To have no kinship label or designation in such socities is to have no meaningful place on the social landscape - Language is another important identity marker essential to group identity - In Quebec efforts of one group to preserve French as the official language of the province, and thus protect what is sees as essential to group identity have led to movement for independence from the English speaking remainder of Canada - 1791 – tw separate societies were formed: Lower Canada was French and Upper Canada was English - 1867 BNA Act – created two provinces; Quebec for the French and Ontario for the English - 1960s – Quiet Revolution – Quebec began building its own sense of nationalism which saw Quebec as its homeland and the French “masters in their own house” Question 5.4 How Do Societies Mark Changes in Identity - Identities are not static and people are constantly changing - Have ceremonies or rituals that mark a change in a status or role in society The Transition to Adulthood - Introduced the concept of rites of passage - These rituals mark a persons passage from one identity to another, in the same way that a persons progress through a house might be marked by entering one room after another - Three phases in rites of passage: o Separation, liminality, and reincorporation - First, the ritual seperates the person from an existing identity; next the person enters a transition phase .. finally the changes are incorporated into a new identity - A young man or women joins the military is required to undergo “boot camp” - He or she marks this sense of seperatarion undergoing physical changes – standardize physical appearances and visually mark an individual as a newcomer/initiate - Undergo a period of transition where they are expected to perform physically and emotionally draining tasks, such as running long distances when sleep deprived or enduring verbal insults - A recruit is able to endure the stresses of boot camp re-enters mainstream society with a new status – soldier o Marked by a uniform and by a ceremony where the initiate is reintroduced to family and friends with a new status - One reason why socities incorporate tests of masculinity is because male identity is more problematic then the female identity - Ndemdu of Zambia o When the boys reach puberty they are taken as a group of age mates, away from their mother out of the village to live in the forests o Shave their heads and remove anything from their bodies that might identify them as individuals o Are circumcised and taught all the special knowledge that men know o Return to the village as new persons with new identities Question 5.5 How do Individuals Communicate Their Identities to one another? - The clothes we wear and the things we possess are used to display an identity that we desire or that we think we have - Clothing marks individuals as “others” even within their own society - Muslim veil in North America o Identified as the “the enemy within” o Have dealth with it by changing their names and creating fictious orgins - Study by Homa Hoodfar o Young women said that wearing the veil was not something their parents forcedthem to do o Had to fight their parents in order to wear it o Contradicts the North American feminists that belive that banning it will help oppressed women o “allowed to be a person” rather then “object of male scrutiny” o “by taking the veil they announce to parents and their community that, despite their unconventional activities and involvement with non-Muslims, they retain their Islamic mores and values” - Muslim
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