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ANTH 021, Week 3

by: Katherine Reid

ANTH 021, Week 3 Anthro

Katherine Reid

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Week 3, Anthropologists and their theories, language
Cultural Anthropology
Dr. Teresa Mares
Class Notes
Cultural Anthropology, Anthro, Anthropology, linguistic anthropology, UVM, University of Vermont, Mares, Teresa Mares, ANTH 021, theories, Boas
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This 11 page Class Notes was uploaded by Katherine Reid on Tuesday April 12, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Anthro at University of Vermont taught by Dr. Teresa Mares in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 16 views. For similar materials see Cultural Anthropology in anthropology, evolution, sphr at University of Vermont.


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Date Created: 04/12/16
Anthropology, Class 5 Theory - Generally accepted idea that attempts to explain something that can be tested and proved - Formal description of some part of the world, in terms of cause and effect, why that part of the world works the way that it does - Truth versus falseness Three Big Debates in Cultural Anthropology Biological Determinism Vs. Cultural Constructionism - in what way are we products of our genes? Interpretive Anthropology Vs. Cultural Materialism - the idea of Meaning vs. Stuff Individual Agency Vs. Structure - how much are we free wield vs. how much are we defined by our social structure? Theory Chart Unilineal Evolution • Herbert Spencer • Lewis Henry Morgan • Oldest anthropological theory • Human societies evolve in size and overall internal complexity over time (much like animals) • Savagery > Barbarism > Civilization • “One line” moving forward Diffusion • German Anthropologists • Response to unilinear evolution • cultures evolve by borrowing ideas from other cultures • Cultures don’t follow one specific linear path in their evolution Historical Particularism • Franz Boas • Rejected extremes of diffusion • focused on how particular cultures have particular histories • Compared cultures in close proximity together to see similarities and differences between their histories Functionalism • Malinowski • Cultural phenomena is classified by the way that cultures fulfill basic human needs (food, water, shelter, reproduction, social order, etc.) • Patterns employed; customs • How cultures function in their own right Structural Functionalism • AA Radcliffe-Brown • How cultures’ customs function in preserving structure of society • What keeps cultures from falling apart • Kinship, myth, etc.- how do these things keep order • related to Functionalism- what keeps order vs. what prevents disorder Cultural Determinism • Al Kroeher • Culture is super-organic • Culture exists apart from humans • Our culture evolves on its own beyond our control • Touches on “universal human condition” • Something is determining human practices (from the top down) Culture-and-Personality Approach • North American Anthropology • Psychological Anthropologist Ruth Benedict • Alongside Mead, Benedict helped introduce women into the discipline • Connects anthropology and other social sciences • What do other social sciences bring to anthropology? • Focused on the individual personalities of cultures • Looked at child-bearing methods within cultures- how adults raise their children • Beginning of childhood anthropology Ethnoscience • How members of groups (cultures) classify their world- “scientize” • draws on ideas of linguistics • categorization within their own system • Emic- inside meaning is important (as opposed to Etic, which is the importance of the outside meaning) Structuralism • Claude Levi-Strauss • focused on internal mental structures • all humans have the same mental structures • Humans, due to inherent need to classify, are constantly trying to put things into binaries • Classification of the world reflects similar mental structures/thought processes present in all humans • bricolage: take pieces of cultural patterns to make own culture Ecological Anthropology • how humans are affected by their environment • how humans relate to and interact with their world • humans place/role in which they happen to exist Cultural Ecology • Julian Steward • explains how cultures change over time in a changing environment and changing technologies • Changes in subsistence Multilineal Evolutionism • Julian Steward • A culture’s desire to achieve certain goals • Change in relationship to the ecologies people live in Symbolic Anthropology • M. Douglas • C. Geertz • Y. Turner • Materialism vs. Symbolism • understanding meaning as it applies to human society • studies how humans make meaning of the world • Culture is about meaning, not practice/structures • we agree upon meaning within our societies, therefore society functions Behavioral Ecology • Related to studying “stuff” • Combination of ecological anthropology and behavioral anthropology • argues humans are no different than other non-human animals that live in societies • Attempt to pass down genes, emphasize self interest Cultural Materialism • Marvin Harris • particular customs (that may shock-disgust) were invented to ensure human survival through material purpose, (i.e. cannibalism= population control, less resource usage and competition) • draws on Marxist ideology - connection to importance of tangible resources • any culture has to confront material constraints • utilitarian ideology- a culture’s ability to change/evolve is limited by material world/resources Postmodernism • endorsed by many anthropologists • questioned modern science and suppressed scientific theories regarding culture • Michel Foucault • Reductionist/ Positivist science shouldn’t be used to understand culture • called for highly interpretive and reflexive approach that rejects generalization and highlights individual stories • Beginnings of Race/Class/Gender Theories • form of critique- no universal truth exists Political Ecology • Political= POWER • interactions between human groups and the struggle for access to resources • Power relationships within ecologies • human struggle over resources • local communities often exploited by more powerful external bodies for resources of that community Science Studies • Anthropologists concerned with science/technology • takes science as the object of study • Anthropologists turn lens away from classical study of culture to studying science and its effect on the way humans interact within the science world • The way science/technology are direct effects of the development of culture • The way that science/ technologies may affect the belief systems and values of different groups (i.e. stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, etc.) • “Putting science under the microscope” Anthropology, Class 6 Language - Why is it important that language is seen as distinctively human? - What are some approaches to studying language in anthropology? How had anthropology been connected to linguistics? - What does language reveal about power and identity? - Are humans necessarily exceptional creatures? - Why do we want to believe that language is distinctively human? • Religious explanations • superiority and power • human identity Basic Concepts - Communication: the process of sending and receiving meaningful messages - Not specifically human - Language: a system of arbitrary symbols that human beings use to encode their experience of the world and to communicate with one another - Systematic symbols are socially defined - with what we know about nonhuman communication, most would argue that language is distinctively human Origins and History of Language - Verbal language developed between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago - Historical Linguistics: study of language change using formal methods that compare shifts over time and across space • Comparative method in studying language - Language Families: group of languages descended from a parent language, or protolanguage - biophysical manifestations of language- how body allows us to speak and how brain has evolved to allow speech - trace relationships between languages and language families and geographical spaces Writing - Writing systems developed in the fourth millennium BCE - Evidence of earliest forms of writing from Mesopotamia (Fertile Crescent- domestication/agriculture), Egypt, and China - Emergence of writing linked to development of the state (nation) - An empire without writing • khipu among the Inca- system of knots functioned as writing/ definition maintenance of records/ laws/etc. - Why do we need writing in the formation of a nation? • to make laws • communicate over vast number of people • keep records • how to communicate with people you won’t actually speak with-keep government - What makes our language as special? • humans like to believe we’re each special Two Distinctive Features of Human Language - Productivity: ability to create an infinite range of understandable messages efficiently - language evolves socially- example: “they” has formally been accepted as being able to refer to one person due to social change and integration into our culture - Displacement: ability to refer to events in the past and future (past and future are considered to be displaced domains) Nonverbal Language and Embodied Communication - Sign Language: a form of communication that uses mainly hand movements to convey messages - Gestures - Silence - Body language including dress, hair styles, postures, eye contact - Sometimes embodied language is even more important and telling than spoken language Three Ways to Formally Analyze Language - Sounds • Phonology: is the study of phonemes (sound patterns peculiar to particular languages) and phonetics is the study of the much larger range of speech sounds that human beings are theoretically capable of producing and hearing. - Vocabulary • Ethnosemantics: study of the systems of linguistic meaning and classification developed by people in their own languages and used in their own cultures - Grammar or Syntax: the patterns and rules by which words are organized to make sense in a sentence - Quantitative approaches to studying lingustics - Older approach within the discipline Saussare’s Contributions - started field of descriptive linguistics with the goal of describing the rules that governed languages as people actually spoke it - Distinguished between parole (what comes out of the mouth) vs. langue (underlying rules that generated speech) - Drew attention to the arbitrariness of language and individual idiosyncrasies of speech Chomsky’s Contributions - proposed that linguistics study both syntax and semantics - Distinguished between linguistic competence (the underlying knowledge of grammatical rules encoded in the brains of all fluent speakers of a language) and linguistic performance (the actual thing people said, which may or may not reflect linguistic competence) - relationship between the mind and speech- mental capacities relate to language production Language, Thought, and Society: Two Theories - Sapir-Whorf • Deterministic theory • claim that culture and thought patterns of people are strongly influenced by language they spoke • people who speak different languages inhabit different “thought worlds” - Sociolinguistics • the study of the relationship between language and society • focuses on speech communities (any concrete community of individuals who regularly interact verbally) • culture shapes language, and conversely, language shapes culture • what speech does for social organization and visa-versa Renewed Focus on Language and Power: Discourse - How do people resist or subvert linguistic oppression? (influenced by postmodern turn) - How do people use irony and parody? • Ethnopragmatics: study of culturally and politically inflected rules of use that shape particular acts of speech communication among particular speakers and audiences, in the the specific cultural settings in which they regularly occur. Ex. “Spanglish” - Language + Power= Discourse - How do powerful groups enact language ideology, or the beliefs and practices about language that are regularly revealed in what people say and how they say it? - When and why do people code switch, or switch one variety of language code to another as the situation demands (formal vs. informal)? - cultural conditioning is revealed when you don’t speak as you’re expected to in certain situations - The way identity is shaped through language in culture - Language can be a performance of assigned identity - Approximation of identities associated with power can connect perception of identity to other identities - relationship between ethic/racial identities across borders and how an individual is received in different situations, and how that can affect the creation of identity Effects of… - Colonialism - Nationalism - Globalization


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