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ANT 170 week 1 notes

by: Madison Hewson

ANT 170 week 1 notes ANT 170

Madison Hewson

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Cultural Anthropology
McLean, Athena
Class Notes
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Madison Hewson on Saturday September 24, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ANT 170 at Central Michigan University taught by McLean, Athena in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 3 views. For similar materials see Cultural Anthropology in Cultural Anthropology at Central Michigan University.


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Date Created: 09/24/16
Ant 170 Introduction, Prof. McLean, LECTURE 1 Class 1 (wk 1a)  1.  Introductions 2. Check class list 3. Hand out and review syllabus. 4. Hand out and discuss:  CMU’s  Harassment , discrimination. sexual misconduct   policy 5. Homework for next class       (1)  Bring in the title of an article (w the authro) written by a cultural  anthropologist.  (you may print out the abstract  to the article if you wish).   Write the name of the author or authors, the year of publication and the  name of the publication (journal), if available.       (2)  Also read and be prepared to discuss article by Horace Miner on  the Nacirema . ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ 6. If time, IN Class: (1) Take a sheet of paper and write down what you think is cultural about  your life and world. We will discuss. Ant 170 Material from Prof. McLean, LECTURE 1 Class 2 (wk 1b)  I.  Culture and Meaning   On p. 5, Robbins asks,”Why do humans differ in their beliefs and  behaviors?” His answer is because of Culture.    A. But what is “culture”? (1) A classic comprehensive definition comes from  Edward Tylor   (an early British social anthropologist writing in 1871.)  He writes: “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.”      Tylor’s focus is holistic and on things and ideas  themselves ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ (2)Robbins  offers a definition of culture focused instead on  meaning.  He calls culture “the meaning that people give to things, events, activities and  people in a world they create.” The emphasis here is both the meaning but also the fact  that people create or produce their world. In fact man is called “the unfinished animal”  because she/ he  lacks sufficient instinct to help them adapt to their world.  It is  CULTURE that human beings create as substitutes for instinct  to help people better adapt to the world. 1 (3) Clifford Geertz’s  Semiotic definition (1973): “The concept of culture I espouse…is essentially a  semiotic  one….that man is an animal Suspended in webs of significance he himself  has spun, I take culture to be those webs,and the analysis of it to be  therefore not an experimental science in the search of law, But an interpretive one in search of meaning.” The Example of a TWITCH: it can be a result of an itch, an  involuntary action, a wink (as a tease or FLIRTATIOUS  signal, or a sign  to your friend that it is time to get ready to leave)                                      Geertz emphasis is interpreting the meaning of signs,  symbols and communicative signals.  It also shows the agency  (intentional creative  action (the wink)  of cultural actors)   ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ B. The PARADOX of the concept of "culture"  ­ On one hand we use the term "culture" to help describe the patterns and practices commonly shared by a particular group  of people. ­ On the other hand such "cultural patterns" are constantly in flux and  changing. ­ But when we use the term "culture" to describe these patterns we  often "freeze" or "fix" them as timeless and unchanging characteristics of  that group, even though they are changing and many members no longer  share them. C. WHAT ANTHROPOLOGY  DOES It helps us to analyze the taken for granted objects, ideas,  behaviors (like deliberate use of twitches) and patterned behaviors  that occur or are part of our everyday lives. Or, as Robbins puts it,  “cultural anthropology strives to find meanings behind appearances” (p.3). 2 SOME EXAMPLES:  1. Chair – a wooden object, but what is the meaning behind its design? e.g.,  A classroom chair (w. folding desktop or large table in front of  you, from which it would be conspicuous to leave) ­ Whys is it shaped that way? Philosopher Michel Foucault says the chair is designed as a “Disciplinary  Technology” to exert control over students – to sit forward, not move  around, look at the teacher and be attentive.   But this deliberate design  also controls the shape of bodies so he calls this also “political anatomy.” 2. Other technologies of control in a classroom: ­ a clock – controls  time of class, credit hours, linked to $ ­  Arrangement of space in the class room                                                       ­professor at the front an students facing her/ him suggests power of  professor as director or the class, II.Now let’s consider what anthropologists study. (Homework 1)     A. What kinds of subjects or things do cultural  anthropologists study? Get out the article (or article title) by a cultural anthropologist (We will keep this for next class ­ Be sure everyone has a title or article, by a  cultural anthropologist) a. Get in groups to discuss the different titles/ articles your  group members found b.First, assign a secretary. Secretary should write Date, class  time and name of everyone in your group. c. Second, secretary should write title, author and date of each  article in your group (with name of person who found the article next  to it).   d. Make a  list of the kinds of things and issues studied by the  cultural anthropologists, based on the articles your group members  found.   3 e. Each group should then choose one title to share with class.  (I'll write all the issues that this title suggests on the board). ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ Based on this list of subjects:  (A) What kinds of things do cultural anthropologists  study?   (class list showed everything from age groups and life cycle, to politics, nutrition, food, dress, medicine, disability and technologies  to help disabled, to language, to regions of the world and the way  their people adapt to their world, to relationships between people and  with animals.  Just about everything related to human beings and  their world.) ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­    B. Now, let's consider who (what kinds of people) do  cultural anthropologists study.   E.g.,   Exotic” others who appear very different from us  Socially marginalized persons  Mentally ill, sick, homeless  Older people  Prisoners  People undergoing change  Migrants  People undergoing modernization  Victims of wars and human disasters  Experts: doctors, scientists, politicians, corporations  Ourselves and our neighbors (“anthropology at home”) ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ III. Now let’s look at an exotic culture (Homework 2) The Nacirema ­ How many of you read the link to the article?   4 ­ group / or whole class (jot down answers to following  questions) ­ Questions  (1) Who are the Nacirema? ­ Americans!! (spelled backwards) (2) Describe some of their exotic rituals ­ fetish w cleanliness; using boar's hairs in mouth in morning  (disgusting habit!); sadistic practices of mouth doctors; shrines dedicated to ritual cleanings in homes, obsessiveness with oversized breasts of women, etc. (3) What might have been the purpose of this article? (why did  Horace Miner write it?)  ­ to exoticize our own culture, to show how bizarre or different it might appear to an outsider, so different in fact that we can no longer  recognize ourselves. ­ to help de­exoticize other peoples, to help show that they may  actually not be that different from ourselves. 5


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