Anthropology 1020E Chapter Notes - Chapter ALL: Ethnography, Participant Observation, Ethnic Group

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ANTHRO 1020E - Readings Winter/ Spring 2016
NOTES BY: Nicola Kowal
Week 1:
Monaghan and Just: Introduction
- fieldwork is the core of the anthropological discipline
- Anthropology grew out of the intersection of european discovery, colonialism, and natural
science
- ethnography distinguishes anthropology from the rest of the social sciences
- Ethnography: systematic study of people and culture (derived from Greek ethnos meaning,
“folk, people, nation”)
Monaghan and Just: Chapter 1
A Dispute in Donggo: Fieldwork and Ethnography
- what anthropologists do is ethnography
- ethnography is often called ‘participant observation’ and characterized by long term intense
interaction with relatively small groups of people.
- the ethnographic approach distinguishes anthropology from other social sciences
- ‘participant observation’ (or ethnography) seems to be the most effective way of understanding
in depth the ways in which other people see the world and interact with it.
- anthropology has long been engaged in relating the description of local beliefs and practices to
categories of universal, pan-human significance.
Fieldwork: Strategies and Practices
- most anthropologists begin their preparations with several years of study in the history and
previous ethnographic literature of the region in which they propose to do fieldworkan
ethnographer may need to acquire fluency in several languages before they begin their
fieldwork
- anthropologists are always anthropologists of something and somewhere (e.g. John is an
anthropologists of religion and a Mesoamericanist; Peter is an anthropologist of law and a
Southeast Asianist.
- an ethnographers first task is to become established in the community
- often a difficult process, it is necessary to secure a variety permits from various levels of
government, institutions, and/or the local community (this can consume more than a year of the
ethnographer’s time)
- dialogue is the backbone of ethnography
- Interviewing is the most important technique to gather data. The interviews can be highly formal,
or informal.
- the key to ethnographic success is being there (i.e. audio recording, photography, film, drawing,
maps, genealogy, material culture, collecting natural samples)
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Critiques of Ethnographic Fieldwork
- one problem with participant observation (ethnography) has been a temptation for the
ethnographer to present the community in a kind of temporal and spatial isolation
- ethnography is incomplete without the cross-cultural comparisons
- ‘objectivity’ of data: there have been notorious instances in which two anthropologists have
studied the same community but come to very different conclusions about them.
- many of the world’s smaller societies and traditional ways of life are fast disappearing.Thus,
anthropologists feel it is more important to record data from communities that have never been
studied rather than to confirm results that have already been collected
- it is difficult to re-study communities because of the rapid change that occurs in them.
- anthropologists have long regarded the ‘outsider's perspective’ as a principle advantage to the
ethnographic method
- while insiders are capable of noticing subtle variations, the outsider is far more likely to notice
tacit understandings of that local people take for granted as ‘common sense’ or ‘natural’
- the outsider status can then be regarded as a strength as well as a weakness
The Ethics of Ethnography
- moral issues surrounding the relationships between ethnographers and the people they study
- ethical dilemma regarding the extent to which it is appropriate for ethnographers actively to
influence the social, religious, or political life of the communities in which they work
- anthropologists have been criticized for ‘profiting’ from the ‘expropriation’ of indigenous cultural
knowledge
- anthropology has always relied on what amounts to a good-faith effort on the part of
ethnographers to tell their stories as fully and honestly as possible
Week 2
Monaghan and Just: Chapter 2
What is Culture
What makes humans unique?
- A capacity to conceptualize the world and to communicate those conceptions symbolically
- AKA culture
What is ‘Culture’?
- Aspects of human cognition and activity that are derived from what we learn as members of society
o Not necessarily explicitly taught
- Ways of knowing and doing that are unique to each society
- Conceptualizing abstract ideas and communicating them symbolically
o Language
- “Shared patterns and learned behaviour”
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- “The complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other
capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”
- Culture embraces all of the manifests of social behaviour of a community, the reactions of the
individual as affected by the habits of the group in which he lives, and the product of human activities
as determined by these habits
- Culture becomes a part of us, right down to natural reactions
- The ability to control the content of cultural classifications is seen as a primary source of power in
society
- Infinitely variable
Where is Culture?
- Three points of debate
o To what extent should a ‘culture’ be regarded as an integrated whole
o To what extent can culture be seen as an autonomous, ‘superorganic’, entity
o How can we best go about drawing boundaries around cultures
- The indeterminacy that is built into the concept of culture makes it difficult to determine where one
culture ends and another begins
Cultural Relativism
- There is no objective basis for asserting that one such worldview is superior to another, or that one
can be used to measure another
- Cultures can only be judged relative to one another
Monaghan and Just: Chapter 8
People and Themselves
Coessential Animals
- The Mixtec believe that living things that come into the world at the same time are linked
o Ex) A human and an animal born at the exact same time share a soul, life experiences,
and at times share a consciousness
- This explains good and bad luck, sudden illness or death, the nature of dreams, and why some people
have more wealth and power
o Ex) You would be more powerful if your coessential animal was a lion than if it were a
squirrel
- The Mixtec see themselves as not being bounded by the body
- What an ‘individual’ or ‘person’ is seen as varies from culture to culture
o In some cultures, things are seen as people
o In others, certain humans are not considered people
- Concepts of persons and self are culturally constructed
The Self in Sickness and Health
- In Latin America there is a syndrome called ‘susto’ in which the soul leaves the body causing
depression and sickness
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Document Summary

Monaghan and just: introduction fieldwork is the core of the anthropological discipline. Anthropology grew out of the intersection of european discovery, colonialism, and natural science. Ethnography distinguishes anthropology from the rest of the social sciences. Ethnography: systematic study of people and culture (derived from greek ethnos meaning, Ethnography is often called participant observation" and characterized by long term intense interaction with relatively small groups of people. the ethnographic approach distinguishes anthropology from other social sciences. Participant observation" (or ethnography) seems to be the most effective way of understanding in depth the ways in which other people see the world and interact with it. Anthropology has long been engaged in relating the description of local beliefs and practices to categories of universal, pan-human significance. Anthropologists are always anthropologists of something and somewhere (e. g. john is an anthropologists of religion and a mesoamericanist; peter is an anthropologist of law and a. An ethnographers first task is to become established in the community.

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