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Chapters 1-4

by: Alexia Davis

Chapters 1-4 100

Alexia Davis

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These notes are for the midterm
Intro to Cultural Anthropology
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This 9 page Bundle was uploaded by Alexia Davis on Saturday April 2, 2016. The Bundle belongs to 100 at Rutgers University taught by in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 21 views. For similar materials see Intro to Cultural Anthropology in anthropology, evolution, sphr at Rutgers University.


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Date Created: 04/02/16
January 21, 2016  What is Cultural Anthropology?  It is the scientific and humanistic study of the human species. The Quadripartite Approach  Archaeology: The task of archaeology is to reconstruct, describe and interpret past human behavior and diverse cultural patterns through the study of material remains.  Biological Anthropology: The task of biological, or physical, anthropology is the study of human biological diversity in time and space.  Linguistic Anthropology: The task of linguistic anthropology is the study of language in its social and cultural context, across space and over time.  Socio Cultural Anthropology: The task of socio-cultural anthropology is the study of human society and culture. It is the subfield that describes, analyzes, interprets, and explains social and cultural similarities and differences. ***Applied Anthropology: Medical, developmental, and urban anthropology. The integrated study of human nature, human society, and human history. Anthropological Knowledge  Cultural Anthropology has specific stakes in terms of both: o VALUATION of cultural difference. o METHOD to approach and acknowledge such difference. January 28, 2016 Unit 1: Culture and Meaning  Cultural anthropology strives to look beyond the world of everyday experiences to discover the patterns and meanings that lie behind that world.  The classroom chair poses interesting questions to the cultural anthropologist: o Why do we have chairs? o Why does the classroom chair take the form it does? o Why don’t we sit on stools? Culture:  World Behind Everyday Appearances o World of Everyday Appearances (Patterns/ Meanings/ Power)  Behaviors  Beliefs  Objects  Etc. A Working Definition of Culture: From an anthropological perspective, then, individual members of a society view the world in a similar way because they share the same culture. Simultaneously, human groups differ between each other in how they view the world because their cultures differ. There is thus a simultaneity of sameness and difference here. A Synthetic View of Man and Culture:  Humans: incomplete animals Humans are born incomplete. They are, in physical terms, incomplete and unfinished animals. They are not genetically equipped for survival. As such, they need institutions to be able to complete themselves.  Culture: a set of control mechanisms for governing behavior Plans, recipes, rules, instructions…”programs” for the governing of behavior in relation to the environment and to society.  This evolution brings about capability for symbolic thinking and language.  There is no sequential relation between physical evolution and the cultural development of man. Physical evolution and cultural development overlap and interact. Humans are Cultural Animals:  The concept of the human cannot be separated from the notion of culture, and vice versa.  Culture, rather than being added on, so to speak, to a finished or virtually finished animal, was ingredient, and centrally ingredient, in the production of that animal itself. There is no such thing as a human nature independent of culture.  We are, in sum, incomplete or unfinished animals who complete or finish ourselves through culture-and not through culture in general but through highly particular forms of it. The first formal anthropological definition of culture “Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, 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.” –Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917) Basic Characteristics of Culture:  Symbolic composition: Culture is composed of traits (material artifacts, behavior regularities, concepts and beliefs that express meaning. As such, they are symbols.  Systematic patterning: These symbols take their meaning in relationship to other symbols within a broader context of a meaning system.  Learned transmission: Cultural traits are transmitted across generations and maintain continuity through learning-i.e. enculturation.  Societal grounding: Culture is observable in personal behavior and individual’s actions, but it is attributed to the social groups to which they belong. February 4, 2016 The Meaning of Progress and Development Life 10,000 years ago: Advantages-  More cohesive  Stronger families  More peaceful Disadvantages-  Harder life  Less food  More sickness  More labor intensive  More infant death Modern Civilization: Advantages-  Life is much easier  Better health treatment  Better food  Better means of communication  Entertainment Disadvantages-  Socially complex  Family breakdown  Prejudice  Racism  High rates of crime Framing the Problem: Cultural Change (Progress): *Less technology=Less “progress”? Less successful in attaining a “good life”? *More technology=more “progress”? More successful in attaining a “good life”? The premise here is that humans transitioned from a life dependent on the whims of nature to a life of control and domination over natural forces, and that such transition was made possible by the invention of technology. Progress Theory in Anthropology 1. Henry Lewis Morgan (1818-1881) a. “Stage theory” of progress i. Savagery (Foraging)- fire and fishing, bow and arrow ii. Barbarism (early agriculture)- Pottery, domestication of animals, irrigated agriculture iii. Civilization (writing)- smelting iron ore, invention of phonetic alphabet 2. Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917) Morgan’s theory of evolution Neo-evolution: Leslie White (1900-1975)  Technology is an attempt to solve the problems of survival.  This attempt ultimately means capturing enough energy and diverting it for needs.  Societies that capture more energy and use it more efficiently have an advantage over other societies.  Therefore, these different societies are more advanced in an evolutionary sense. Modern technology is not inevitably more energy efficient  The human and non-human energy required to convert a potato into potato chips is far greater than the energy expended in New Guinea to produce a more nutritious and healthier sweet potato. What are the theories of “progress” missing?  The relation of human societies with environment is affected by the relations that human societies develop between themselves, and these relations are of conflict, war, conquest, enslavement, etc.  It is a problem of power and history rather than will. February 11, 2016 What Anthropology is and does:  It is the scientific and humanistic study of the human species.  It is the exploration of human unity and diversity in time and space.  It confronts basic questions of human existence: how we originated, how we have changed, and how we are still changing. The Ethnographer’s Magic (Malinowski)  Ethnography: The description of individual cultures o Not merely theoretical speculation (as in Ethnology) or amateurism (as in travelers’ or missionaries’ accounts), but scientific observation and study of man.  Who is Malinowski? **Ethnography is different from Ethnology. February 25, 2016 What is neoliberalism?  Neoliberalism is a theoretical doctrine of economic, social and political organization.  It proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade.  It uses concepts of human dignity and individual freedom to appeal to broadly to a wide variety of constituents, having become a ‘common sense’ discourse. Neoliberalism in Theory  Marketplace: o Relations among individuals not regulated by the state, but governed by the free play of demand and supply o Contractual obligations o Strong individual property rights o The rule of law o Institutions of freely functioning markets and free trade.  Rule of law o Protect private property rights. o Sanction the sanctity of contracts o Guarantee individual rights to freedom of action, expression and choice. Political Implications:  Because contacting individuals are juridical individuals, corporations (juridical entities) are seen as individuals as well. o Let private enterprise and entrepreneurial initiative work because they are seen as the keys to innovation and wealth creation.  Promote privatization and deregulation of the market, and animate competition. o Elimination of bureaucracy increase efficiency and productivity, improve quality, and reduce costs.  Let individuals be responsible and accountable for their own actions and wellbeing.  Ensure the free mobility of capital between sectors, regions, and countries.  Favor the government of experts and elites. They do not like the majority rule.  Protect key institutions from public scrutiny and accountability. Tensions and Contradiction in Neoliberal Theory  Monopoly of power  Market failures  Competitive failures  Asymmetric power relations  Fetish belief on technology  Mistrust of democracy March 10, 2016 The Social and Cultural Construction of Reality Humans are Cultural Animals  The human is made in interaction with: o Environment o Others in society o With herself/himself  Humans are incomplete or unfinished animals who complete or finish themselves through culture. Humans make a work for themselves = CULTURE  Human mind classifies the material world. [cognitive function] o Environment o Chaos o Totally heterogeneous endless arrays of singular things  Culture-serves the mind by imposing a collectively shared cognitive order upon the world.  Social and Cultural Construction of Reality: the process through which humans in society create their worlds and, thereby, themselves as human beings. Mechanisms  Language o Vocabulary o Grammar o Metaphor  Symbolic Action o Myth o Ritual  Ordinary practices o Education, family, love  Social structure o Group o Grid Language and Thought: levels of relation  Vocabulary reflects the social and physical environment of a people. o Example: the Inuit have a variety of words for different kinds of snow.  Grammar reflects, reinforces, and perhaps determines our general view of the world. o Example: the English two dominant types of sentences. The objectification of time in English. Patterning vs. Determination  Language provides patterning to the ways in which we experience the world, but we should be careful to avoid claiming that there is a causal link between language and thought. “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” –Roman Jakobson Metaphors  Metaphors take language from one domain of experience and apply it to another domain.  They involve not only speaking of one experience in terms of another but also understanding one experience in terms of another.  Metaphors from different domains of experience assign different meanings to the same event Metaphors are like theories, templates, lenses, or filters we can use to help us understand one domain of experience in terms of another. Key Metaphors  Most societies seem to have one or more domains from which they borrow extensively for metaphor.  These become key metaphors that give a culture a style that makes it distinctive. By ordering a view of the world according to a particular domain of experience, people try to control their lives by controlling the domains of experience they use to represent aspects of their lives. Symbolic Actions-Ritual  Extraordinary moments isolated from mundane activities in which societies dramatize central features of their worldviews.  Rituals both reflect and reinforce the moral framework underlying social arrangements.  Rituals usually reenact foundational moments by initiating new members into human society. Myth  Myth is a narrative that speaks of some being or event situated beyond historical time. As such, it cannot be either proven or disproven.  While different from ritual, myth also plays a role in organizing and making concrete a particular view of the world.  It provides a narrative not only of remote origins, but also of how it is that humans are to make themselves full members of society. It provides key scenarios. Myth and Key Scenarios- different movies have similar plots that reflect a distinct theme.  Finding oneself can be understood as becoming a full and realized member of society. The Grid/ Group Theory  Fatalist- High grid, high group  Hierarchist- High grid, high group  Individualist-low grid, low group  Egalitarian- High group, low grid Agreement and Change  Agreement in a form of life makes our interaction intelligible to each other.  Agreement is negotiated, and reinforced, in interactions.  Agreement in a form of life is “given” and part of an “objective reality”.


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