Ch. 1: The Nature of Anthropology

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  1. What is anthropology?
    • The study of humankind in all times and places 
    • Anthropologists seek to produce reliable knowledge about the people and their behaviour, about what makes them different and what they all share in common
  2. How do anthropologists do what they do?
    • Most anthropological investigation involves fieldwork
    • Biological anthropologists and archeologists: conduct excavations of sites where human activity has been found 
    • Linguistic anthropologists: often live with the people whose language they are studying for brief periods 
    • Sociocultural anthropologists: live with the people, participate in their daily activities and observe how they live
  3. Development of anthropology: Why did it take such a long time for the discipline of anthropology to appear?
    • Human technology
    • People have been restricted to their geographical horizons 
    • Without the means to travel to distant places, observations of distant cultures was a difficult venture if not an impossible one

    • The failure of Europeans to recognize that beneath all the differences, they share a basic "humanity" with people everywhere
    • At the root of this cultural arrogance were colonialism, cultural imperialism and a dominant evolutionary theory within anthropology that viewed Western cultures as the pinnacle of achievement 
    • Colonialism: When one nation dominates another through occupation (colonies), administration (military presence) and control of resources, thereby creating a dependency 
    • Cultural imperialism: Promoting one nation's values, beliefs and behaviour as superior to those of all others
  4. The Development of Anthropological Thought: Early anthropological theory introduced the concept of "cultural progress"
    • ...that all cultures passed through evolutionary stages until they reached the technologically advanced level of Western societies
    • This was also the time when the concept of race was put forward, eliciting a contentious debate among scholars that continue to this day
  5. The Development of Anthropological Thought: Franz Boas (1858-1942)
    • The most famous of all empiricists 
    • Argued that every culture is unique, with a unique history, and is neither superior nor inferior to one another 
    • Rejected racism and promoted cultural relativism that is, the belief that all cultures are equally valid and must be studied on their own terms 
    • Followers of Boas also developed the "Four Field Approach" to anthropology, which is still evident in most anthropology departments
  6. The Development of Anthropological Thought: Early 20th century
    • Some empiricists turned their attention to the diffusion of customs, material culture and ideas from one culture to another 
    • Looked at the impact this diffusion may have on similarities between cultural groups
  7. The Development of Anthropological Thought: Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski
    • Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski turned their attention to the functions of economic, social, religious and political institutions, all of which are found in every culture 
    • Radcliffe-Brown focused on how culture as a whole functions to maintain itself of Canada
    • Malinowski argued that anthropologists should consider how the various systems of a culture work to meet the needs of its members
  8. The Development of Anthropological Thought: 1950s and 1960s
    • Anthropologists turned to the study of culture change 
    • Leslie White proposed that culture changed in direct response to technological "progress," such as the Industrial Revolution 
    • Julian Steward built on the idea of technology as a cultural mover, suggesting that society evolve to fit a particular ecological niche and that the environment influences the way of life 
    • Other anthropologists examined how the environment is exploited using technology to meet basic human needs; they posited that culture change comes about through numerous forces, including population density, trade networks, diffusion and warfare
  9. The Development of Anthropological Thought: Many anthropologists rejected this materialist approach, with its heavy emphasis on material culture
    • Levi-Strauss held that free will and the ability to make choices based on ideas and desires influenced culture
    • Geertz took a more particular approach, studying the uniqueness of each culture and the actions that have meaning for them
  10. The Development of Anthropological Thought: Canadian anthropology
    • Three major influences are evident in the development of Canadian anthropology: museums, academic departments and applied research 
    • Although anthropological and archaeological interest in the Aboriginal peoples of Canada (First Nations, Inuit and Metis) has remained paramount, Canadian anthropologists have also turned their attention to other issues such as multiculturalism, ethnicity, immigration, health and gender.
    • By the closing years of the 20th century, Canadian anthropology has matured into a multifaceted, comprehensive and intrepid discipline, alive with potential and poised to provide valuable insight into Canada's future role in the global community
  11. The Development of Anthropological Thought: A note about terminology
    • Many of the names assigned to Aboriginal peoples, usually by European explorers and colonial governments, were not the terms used by the people to refer to themselves.
    • Often the names had derogator connotations
  12. The Discipline of Anthropology: Anthropology is traditionally divided into four field...
    • Biological anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology and sociocultural anthropology 
    • Anthropology's four fields are closely related: we cannot understand what people do unless we know what people are
    • Applied anthropology has become increasingly important and today is often considered a fifth field, one that intersects with the other four
  13. Biological anthropology
    • The branch of anthropology that focuses on humans as biological organisms
    • Studies present-day human variation
    • Applies the techniques of modern molecular biology to learn about human variation and the way it relates to the different environments people have lived in
    • Also interested in the human condition
  14. Biological anthropology: paleoanthropology
    The study of fossil remains of our ancient ancestors, in order to reconstruct the course of human biological evolution
  15. Biological anthropology: primatology
    • The study of the biological and social nature of our closest relatives: prosimians, monkeys and apes
    • Well-known primatologists such as Fossey (gorillas) and Goodall (chimpanzees) have provided startling insights into the complex social behaviour of nonhuman primates 
    • Through the analysis of fossils and observation of living primates, biological anthropologists try to trace ancestry of the human species in order to understand how, when or why we became who we are today
  16. Biology anthropology: forensic anthropology
    A field of applied biological anthropology and archaeology that specializes in the identification of human skeletal remains for legal purposes
  17. Archaeology
    The study of material remains in order to describe and explain the behaviour of people who have lived before us
  18. Archaeology (continued)
    • The word "archaeology" is derived from two ancient Greek works: archaios, meaning "ancient," and logos, meaning "word" or "speech"
    • Archaeologists excavate sites where evidence of cultural activity is found
    • Some archaeologists also study material objects in contemporary settings
  19. Archaeology: Prehistoric/pre-contact archaeology
    The study of ancient cultures that did not possess writing systems to record their history
  20. Archaeology: historic archaeology
    • The study of past cultures that possessed written records of their history 
    • Historic archaeologists study those cultures with historic documents available in order to
    • supplement the material remains people left behind
  21. Linguistic anthropology
    The study of how people use language to relate to one another and how they develop and transmit culture
  22. Linguistic anthropology (continued)
    • Language is what allows us to preserve and transmit our culture from generation to generation
    • Linguistic anthropologists examine how people use language and other means of expression to develop relationships with one another and to maintain social distinctiveness
    • Through the study of language in its social settings, known as sociolinguistics, anthropologists can understand how people perceive themselves and t he world around them
  23. Linguistic anthropology: Both approaches yield valuable information, not only about the ways people communicate both verbally and nonverbally, but also about the ways they
    understand the world around them...
    • Descriptive linguistics: the study of patterns and structure in language --the way a sentence is formed or a verb is conjugated
    • Historical linguistics: the study of language origins, language change and the relationship between languages --the way languages develop and influence  one another with the passage of time
  24. Linguistic anthropology: Linguistic
    anthropologists also make a significant contribution to our understanding of the human past
    • By working out the genealogical relationships among languages and examining the distribution of those languages, linguistic anthropologists may estimate how long the speakers of those languages have lived where they do.
    • Identifying words in related languages that have survived from an ancient ancestral tongue can suggest where and how the speakers of the ancestral language lived
  25. Applied anthropology
    A veritable gold mine of cultural knowledge that, when put to practical use, can help solve or at least alleviate some of the social problems that humans experience
  26. Applied anthropology (continued)
    • Applied anthropologists often work within government bureaux, private corporations and international development agencies. More often than not, they function as mediators between the members of a cultural group and some government or private agency.
    • Applied research is extremely important in sociocultural anthropology, but it also affects the other fields of anthropology
  27. Sociocultural anthropology
    The study of human behaviour in contemporary cultures
  28. Sociocultural anthropology (continued)
    • Sociocultural anthropologists concentrate on the study of human behaviour as it can be seen, experienced and even discussed with those whose culture is to be understood
    • Closely related to other social sciences, especially sociology, since both attempt to explain people in social contexts
  29. Sociocultural anthropology (continued)
    • Sociocultural anthropologists are products of their own culture, just like sociologists, so they are also vulnerable to culture-bound theorizing. However, they constantly seek to minimize the problem by drawing together corroborating information from many different cultures before attempting to explain human behaviour 
    • Culture bound: theories about the world and reality based on the assumptions and values of one's own culture
  30. Sociocultural anthropology (continued)
    • Sociocultural anthropologists seek to understand the characteristics of diverse cultural groups --how they live their lives-- to explain similarities and differences found among humans groups 
    • Seek to understand the interrelatedness of sociocultural systems, the ways in which our economic, religious, and social and political organizations influence one another
    • Also study culture change --the ways in which cultures everywhere continue to change as they adapt to new situations
  31. Sociocultural anthropology (continued)
    • Sociocultural anthropology is both comparative and descriptive 
    • Ethnography: the collection of descriptive material on a culture
    • Ethnology: the comparative study of cultures to explain human behaviour
    • Ethnohistory: the study of cultures from the recent past using oral histories, archaeological sites, and written accounts left by explorers, missionaries and traders
  32. Ethnographic fieldwork: participant observation
    A method of learning a people's culture through direct observations and participation in their everyday life
  33. Ethnographic fieldwork: culture shock
    The difficulty anthropologists have in adapting to a new culture that differs markedly from their own
  34. Ethnographic fieldwork: holistic perspective
    A fundamental principle of anthropology, that the various parts of culture must be viewed in the broadest possible context to understand their interconnections and interdependence
  35. Ethnographic fieldwork: key informants/respondents
    Members of a culture who help the ethnographer interpret what she or he observes.
  36. Ethnographic fieldwork: popular culture
    The culture of our everyday lives --television, sports, fashion, arts and crafts, fiction and music
  37. Ethnological research: cross-cultural comparison
    Comparing one particular aspect of a culture with that same aspect in others
  38. Anthropology and science
    The primary concern of all anthropologists, regardless of specialization, is the careful and systematic study of humankind
  39. Gender
    A set of standards and behaviours attached to individuals, usually but not always based on biological sex
  40. Feminist anthropology
    A subfield of anthropology that investigates gender and gender relations and that critically analyzes gender roles, positions and experiences
  41. Androcentrism
  42. Anthropology and the Humanities
    • The humanistic side of anthropology is perhaps the most immediately evident in its concern with other cultures' languages, values and achievements in the arts and
    • literature (including oral literature among people without writing systems)
    • The emphasis on qualitative research (detailed description based on observation and interviews) as opposed to quantitative research (numerical measurement). 
    • This does not mean that anthropologists are unaware of the value of quantification and
    • statistical procedures, they do make use of them for various purposes
    • However, reducing people and what they do to numbers has a definite dehumanizing effect and ignores important issues that are not susceptible to numeration
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Ch. 1: The Nature of Anthropology
2015-02-16 06:06:22
Chapter 1
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