Intro to Cultural Anthropology

by B.J. on 1/15/2004 09:28:00 PM 0 comments Print this post

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Yep, I got a 20 question quiz tomorrow. No big deal, but still. Study time.

CULTURE: Shared patterns of learned behavior based on the human capacity to conceptualize the world and communicate that conception symbolically. Humans know the world through it. Its our defining feature !

What would humans be like without culture ?

All it would take to find out would be to take a newborn baby and strand it. But that's just wrong.

Is culture actual behavior or what lies behind behavior ?

Culture consists in patterns abstracted from behavior. Culture a blueprint, program, code, or deep structure in behavior.

How much of a culture is shared in one society ?

- Unequal knowledge, different lifestyles, variable prestige, agency of marginalized. ex/ Kresge college history.

- Foucalt suggests that control of the content of classifications is the primary source of power. ex/ Aba Riots or Women's War ?

Difference between sociology and SOCIO-CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY: 1) Anthropology is not good with numbers and 2) Sociology began by studying western cultures, anthro began by studying the "exotic" 3) Anthropologists make qualitative rather than quantitative judgements

ETHNOGRAPHIES are: writings based on living with and observing people intimately over an extended period, 24/7. These observations are made based on friendship/rapport built and may reveal details that wouldn't be elicited in statistics.

The advantage of ethnographies over armchair anthropology is that it gives a fuller understandings of the meanings and workings of social life, covering what isn't written. Ethnographies also give access to deeper and contradictory meanings. Moreover, ethnographies lead a person more open to discovery in a way that sociologists with a set of predetermined questions about their personal lives.

Some criticism of ethnographies are that it is subjective, that it is biased. This appears to be basically the only real constant problem. Answers to that problem have been for anthropologists to explain their points of view, to show where they have been coming from. They can also re-study and go in groups to fix this problem of subjectivism. However after this problem of subjectivity, critics have to cite old anthropology's use of ethnographic present to make it seem like a "traditional" society was one way and would never change. Of course old anthro has been proven wrong, and new school anthropologists have fixed the problem by presenting things historically. Thirdly, another old school criticism also has to do with the sample being isolated. Their actions were not being seen in a bigger context involving surrounding tribes. Again that has been addressed by anthropologists noting local/global relationships. A fourth criticism has been about the anthropologists' lack of representation of others. This has been addressed through the gathering of multivocal and autobiographical accounts.

ANTHROPOLOGICAL METHODS: Participant observation, dialogue, interviews, music/dance, photos/film, mapping, survey questionnaires

ETHICAL ISSUES, Phillipe Bourgois' Ethics. (Phillippe Burgois was a guy who lived among crack dealers in Harlem to get a grip on that kind of culture. His actions are the example of him exercising those ethical issues.):
1. Protect Identity of informants - Change name and places
2. Don't actively influence social, religious, or political life - Minimally distort indigenous social relations
3. Advocacy/Activism, Giving back - Bourgois fosted debate of poverty
4. Respect intellectual property - Respectful, empathetic, suspend value judgements
5. Make contribution to human knowledge - Explain how and why social relations develop in local-global context
6. Identify self as researcher, get agreement from members of community - Informed consent to observe

Bourgois also challenged this notion of a culture of poverty. The culture of poverty essentially blamed the victims of it. Those who looked at poverty before in attempt to explain this trend of unending poverty found that attitudes and values made people unable to improve their life conditions. However, Bourgois said that the structural inequalities limited opportunities. That as a result of these limited opportunities, the men internalized their oppression. And when they did get opportunities, they were involved in a very different uncomfortable situation. They felt the racism from their co-workers. They were reacting to society to gain their dignity and so they have been establishing this culture of drugs for quick money and power. That beating up a guy is not so much a sign for mental problems as it an advertisement to anyone who would want to hire him as a lookout.

CULTURAL RELATIVISM: Meaning of any action or belief must be understood within context of its own cultural beliefs and practices. It is in strict opposition to ETHNOCENTRISM which is a belief that one's belief is universal.

Some complaints with cultural relativism are that it creates too much of a different, seperate world. With this different seperate world, translation becomes almost impossible. It brings up questions of "where does one culture end and another begin ?" And moreover, it puts a hamper on the arguments of universal human rights. For example, a Chinese man in the United States literally got away with murder because a cultural anthropologist said that it was in the Chinese culture to kill an adulterer. So much debate will continue on that.


Marx = Modes of production
Freud = Unconscious in psych
Levi-Strauss: Calssifications based on binary oppositions
Edward Tylor = Culture
Bronislaw Malinowski = Field work
Franz Boas = Race and culture
Benedict = Consistent and mutually reinforcing internal patterns with culture contrasts with other cultures; ex/ order with the Zuni, indulgence with the Kwakiutul

Geertz = Disparate elements create fabric of meaning and belief; Take any aspect of society and you'll find other stuff embedded in that aspect

Language is arbitrary

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