Chapter3

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Chapter 3Theoretical Approaches : 

Chapter 3Theoretical Approaches History of Theoretical Orientations The Hypothesis-Testing Orientation

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations A theoretical orientation is a general attitude about how cultural phenomena are to be explained. Also known as a paradigm

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations The prevailing theoretical orientation in anthropology during the 19th century was based on the view that culture generally develops or evolves in a uniform and progressive manner.

Early Evolutionism (not used today) : 

Early Evolutionism (not used today) Culture generally develops or evolves in a uniform or progressive manner. Most societies pass through the same series of stages. Edward B. Tylor (1832-1917) and Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1889). 3 basic stages of development: Savagery to Barbarism to Civilization Independent Invention or Diffusion

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Diffusionist Approach Popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Suggested that most aspects of high civilization had emerged in culture centers from which they then diffused outward

Diffusionism : 

Diffusionism British and German-Austrian roots Independent invention rare Diffusionism explains most cultural behavior and people are generally uninventive. Spread of agriculture American Diffusionism: Alfred Kroeber & Clark Wissler believed there was a geographical culture center where traits first developed and then diffused outward.

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Historical Particularism Franz Boas opposed evolutionism Stressed the importance of collecting as much anthropological data as possible, from which the laws governing cultural variation would emerge Today: specialization and not the collect everything mentality

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Psychological Approach How do psychological factors and processes help to explain cultural practices? Culture and personality paradigm Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead

Psychological Approaches : 

Psychological Approaches Benedict: cultures can be characterized by personality types. What type of personality do you think the ‘North American culture’ has? Mead: psychological differences between men and women in three different societies in New Guinea. Nature vs. Nurture: they sided on nurture Applied Anthropology and WWII

Primary vs. Secondary Institutions : 

Primary vs. Secondary Institutions Primary Institution: the sources of early experiences, such as family organization and subsistence techniques, that presumably help form the basic, or typical, personality in a society. Secondary Institution: aspects of culture, such as religion, music, art, folklore, and games, which presumably reflect or are projections of the basic, or typical, personality in a society.

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Functionalism An analysis of what function or part some aspect of culture or social life plays in the maintenance of society. Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) A. R. Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955)

Functionalism : 

Functionalism Malinowski: all cultural traits serve the needs of individuals in a society including nutrition, reproduction, bodily comfort, safety, relaxation, movement and growth. Radcliffe-Brown: various aspects of social behavior maintain a society’s social structure rather than satisfying individual needs a.k.a structural-functionalism

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Neoevolution Leslie A. White revived the evolutionist approach Added the conception of culture as an energy-capturing system.

Neoevolution : 

Neoevolution Specific evolution: refers to the particular sequence of change and adaptation for a particular society in a given environment. General evolution: refers to a general progress of human society, in which higher forms (having higher energy capture) arise from and surpass lower forms. Explained evolution in terms of adaptation to particular environments.

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Structuralism Lévi-Strauss’ approach views culture as a surface representation of the underlying patterns of the human mind.

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Ethnoscience or cognitive anthropology Grasping the rules of thought that underlie a culture by attempting to derive these rules from a logical analysis of ethnographic data that are kept as free as possible from contamination by the observer’s own cultural biases.

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Cultural Ecology The study of the relationships between cultures and their physical and social environments. Behavioral Ecology The application of biological evolutionary principles to social behavior.

Individual & Group Selection : 

Individual & Group Selection Individual selection: behavioral ecologists talk mostly about how a certain characteristic may be adaptive for an individual in a given environment. Group selection: cultural ecologists talk mostly about how a certain behavioral or social characteristic may be adaptive for a group or society in a given environment.

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Feminist Approaches A highly diverse area of research. Common interest is the role of women in culture. Political: how are women exploited? Domestic: how are women’s lives are different then men’s? Science is neither male nor female. Gender affects participant-observation.

History of Theoretical Orientations : 

History of Theoretical Orientations Interpretive and Postmodernists All knowledge is subjective and actively shaped by the political powers-that-be.

The Hypothesis-Testing Orientation : 

The Hypothesis-Testing Orientation An increasing number of contemporary cultural anthropologists employ a hypothesis-testing orientation versus relying on a particular theoretical orientation.