Anthropological Theory & Language and Communication
Anthropological Theory & Language and Communication ANTH 1102
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Carina Sauter on Monday March 28, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ANTH 1102 at University of Georgia taught by Dr. Birch in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 22 views. For similar materials see Introduction to Anthropology in anthropology, evolution, sphr at University of Georgia.
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Date Created: 03/28/16
Anthropological Theory • A theory is a systematic organization of ideas proposed to explain a phenomenon o Answer questions we want to understand o A world view or way of understanding the world • What is a theoretical perspective? o A set of assumptions about reality that underlies the questions we ask and the kinds of answers we arrive at as a result § Helps to shape kinds of questions you might ask § Answers you may feel are adaptable o A conceptual framework that informs how we collect and analyze our data and which colors our interpretations § Similar to religion/ ideology/ set of beliefs • Examples of Perspectives: o Evolutionism (late 19 century) § Cultures, like biological organisms, evolve § Cultures evolve in unlineal evolution • Unlineal evolution = one line or path through which cultures evolve § Prevailing view § Culture evolves in uniform/progressive manner § Lewis Henry Morgan § Edward Tyler (culture definer) § Many ideas disproved this theory / it went out of fashion § Savagery à barbarism à civilization o Historical Particularism § Franz Boas and his students • Four-field Anthropology o Relationships between culture and biology, adaptation and variation are recognized § Gathering data and analyzing it according to scientific method § Rooted in the notion that each culture is unique and intelligible only in its own terms • Cultural relativism vs. ethnocentrism § Rejects the comparative method § Factors like cultural diffusion, trade, environment and historical processes/accidents causes cultures to look more/less like each other and demonstrate unique histories § Critics thought it was anti-theoretical because they couldn’t make a statement about everyone in the world o Functionalism § Social systems = biological or physiological systems § Integrated whole § Any social practice exists because it performs useful functions § All customs and institutions in a society are interrelated § Each aspect of a culture was a function of the others § Adjust for what was a theoretical deficit § Create broadly applicable generalizations to describe everyone § Branches • Needs functionalism: For Malinowski, biological needs were preeminent (food, shelter, sex) and other aspects of a culture developed to help fulfill those needs o biological • Structural functionalism: customs and social practices function in order to preserve the social structure o Support culture itself and reproduction of form o Neoevolutionism § Renewed interest in WHY cultures change or evolve § Not enough attention to progress of cultural change § “new” evolution § social and cultural evolution § how society becomes more complex and what drives these processes § determinism • cultures evolve as a result of various factors: o environmental determinism § change (like climate) need to be adapted to o technological determinism § advancements o economic determinism § organization o Today (late 20 and 21 century approaches) § Agency and Practice (complimentary) • Agency o The idea that the actions of individuals, alone and in groups, create and transform culture o Human agencies • Practice o Cultures are generated and transformed by the practices of individuals – the things that we do o Those practices are informed both by society (social structure) and agency o Cultural practices § Folding Socks example: • Many ways to fold socks • Learned from parents • Some persistent cultural norms OR things that can change quickly o Letters à email (ten years) relatively quick § Modern theory: complex relationships • Concerned with understanding complex relationships between o Culture o History o Power o Environment • Top-down – world, societies, nations • Bottom-up – communities, households, individuals Language and Communication • Language o The primary means of human communication o Can be spoken or written o Transmitted through learning o Facilitates learning o Highly symbolic and complex o Express extremely complex thoughts § Compared to other earlier species § Ex. the term “lion” vs “World War II” – so many things o Culturally situation associations o Language is powerful to transmit ideas o Like mind control • Language and Human Evolution o Advantageous biological adaptation o Permits: § Complex Communication § Learning of practices and skill sets § Cooperation • Non-verbal Communication o Body language § Facial expressions, bodily stances, gestures, movements § Conscious and unconscious • Cultural context § Conveys power relations • Insecure à small o Releases stress hormone • Power à tall/big o Release hormone that makes you feel more confident o Ex. animalsgg` § Shapes how others see us and how we see ourselves o Cultural differences in non-verbal communication § Hand gestures (regulators) § Different meaning in different cultures § Ex. US “okay” = Japan money = France “worthlessness” § Ex. US “peace” = UK finger § Ex. nodding: US “uh huh” = “no” in Madagascar • Linguistics o The scientific study of the human language o Includes three parts: § Language form § Language meaning § Language in cultural context o Language form: components of linguistic analysis § Phonology is the study of speech sounds § Morphology is the formation and composition of words § Syntax refers to the formation and composition of phrases and sentences from these words o Language and Meaning § Semantics – a language’s meaning system or how meaning is inferred from words and concepts • “It’s a matter of semantics” • meaning system • inferred/understood § Universalist vs Relativist approaches • Universal grammar o Argument that the human brain contains a limited set of rules for organizing language o Thus all languages have a common structural basis – or a “universal grammar” o Supported by: § Translation between languages § Creole languages • Linguistic Relativity or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis o This principle holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers conceptualize their world o We understand the world in terms of our language o Grammatical categories allow our speakers to think in different ways • Focal Vocabulary o The sets of words that describe particular domains of experience that are especially important in a culture o Ex. Saami words for types of reindeer and types of snow • Linguistic Diversity o Style shifts § Varying one’s speech in certain social contexts § Church talk vs Saturday Night DT talk o Diglossia § Language with “high” 9formal) and “low” (informal) dialects § Church, writing, media • Language and Social Capital o Local dialects as markers of socio-economic status § Ex. movie “My Fair Lady” • Dialect shift to make people believe a poor women comes from a better, higher economic and social class o Stereotypes about people based on how they talk o Cultivating accents and losing accents • Grammatical Gender o French/German/Spanish – words are gendered o Sweden – recently made a new gender pronoun to respect LGBTQ • Language Loss o Some languages close to extinction
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