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Doing Cultural Anthropology:

Doing Cultural Anthropology

PowerPoint Presentation:

“you cannot make a person into an anthropologist; people are drawn to this field because on some level they already are anthropologists… I have heard anthropologists characterized as philosophers of human nature, pure scientists, humanitarians, thrill seekers, or even as people attracted to other cultures because they already feel alienated from their own. For my part, I have to admit that my motives are somewhat selfish. Although the idea of experiencing another culture has always been rather intimidating, it is not as frightening as the idea of having lived my life without having made an attempt to see outside of my own narrow frame of reference.” ~ Loretta Cormier “Kinship with Monkeys”

Cultural Anthropology:

Cultural Anthropology A brief history of Anthropology…. Takes shape as a discipline in the late 1800’s Highly influenced by colonialism and evolutionary theory Mostly comparative data collection and analysis; Based on other people accounts

History of Fieldwork:

History of Fieldwork “Armchair” approach 1870s “Verandah” approach Early 1900s Participant observation Today

Cultural Anthropology:

Cultural Anthropology Developed a theory of “Social Evolution” A linear ranking of cultures based on a host of criteria Savagery, Barbarism and Civilization Lewis Henry Morgan and Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (“Armchair” Anthropologists) Standpoint: the colonialist, Euro-centric perspective was inescapable for them. They could not fully see the perspective of the “other”

Cultural Anthropology:

Cultural Anthropology Franz Boas and the American tradition: Began his career in Germany; did field work among the Kwakiutl Father of American anthropology: insisted that grasping the whole of a culture could be achieved only through fieldwork and participant observation Rejected Social Evolutionary theories; believed all humans have the same capacity for culture

Cultural Anthropology:

Cultural Anthropology Franz Boas and the American tradition: Argued that cultures are products of their own history and are unique and particular Insisted that anthropologists free themselves as much as possible from ethnocentrism and practice cultural relativism. Tirelessly promoted human rights and justice Instrumental in shaping the four-field approach

Cultural Anthropology:

Cultural Anthropology Ethnocentrism: Judging other cultures from the perspective of one’s own culture. The notion that one’s own culture is more beautiful, rational, and nearer to perfection than others. Cultural Relativism: The notion that cultures should be analyzed with reference to their own histories and values rather than according to the values of another culture. This does not mean there is no objective truth

Culture Shock:

Culture Shock Feelings of… Uneasiness, loneliness, and anxiety that occur when a person shifts from one culture to another one Reduced competence as a cultural actor Can include problems with food, language barriers, and loneliness Reverse culture shock may occur after coming home

Cultural Anthropology:

Cultural Anthropology The British tradition Bronislaw Malinowski: Worked as a participant observer in the Trobriand Islands; Pioneer in fieldwork methods and practice Stressed the interrelations among the elements of the culture Developed ethnography centered on empathic understanding Description of social institutions, and cultural and psychological functions

Cultural Anthropology:

Cultural Anthropology Differences between the traditions: Malinowski : Emphasized the notion of function: contributions made by social practices and institutions to the maintenance and stability of a society “Structural Functionalism” Boas: Emphasized understanding cultures in their own context and history Similarities: Both have a strong emphasis of fieldwork and participant observation Publicly and scientifically opposed racism Agreed that all cultures are equally rational and none is superior to any other

The Ethnographic Method:

The Ethnographic Method Fieldwork: Firsthand, systematic exploration of a society Develops a holistic perspective about a culture It involves living with a group of people, participating in, and observing their behavior Participant Observation: The fieldwork technique that involves gathering cultural data by observing people’s behavior and participating in their lives Live and work within a community for at least a year Culture Shock: Feelings of alienation and helplessness that result from rapid immersion in a new and different culture.

PowerPoint Presentation:

Bernard 2006: 344

The Ethnographic Method:

The Ethnographic Method Emic perspective – examining a societies using concepts and distinctions that are meaningful to that culture; an insider’s perspective Etic perspective – examining societies using concepts, categories, and rules derived from science; an outsider’s perspective

Practicing Anthropology:

Practicing Anthropology Keys to success in the field: Informants or Consultants : People from whom an anthropologist gathers data. Key informants : key people with deep understanding of their culture, and willing to share their perspective Integral to the fieldwork process Help establish other relationships and integrate the anthropologist into the community Ethical concerns: Anthropologists must- Obtain consent of the people to be studied Protect them from risk and respect their privacy and dignity Protect other anthropologists and future research possibilities Publish research findings

Fieldwork Techniques:

Fieldwork Techniques Interviewing Photography Genealogy Surveys and Questionnaires Mapping Silent observation Serving apprenticeships Just “being”

Practicing Anthropology:

Practicing Anthropology Cross-Cultural comparisons: British and European anthropology emphasized ethnology – attempt to find general principles or laws that govern cultural phenomena Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) – an ethnographic database that includes descriptions of many cultures and is used for cross-cultural research This is looking at Culture with a big ‘”C”- overarching similarities that shared between most cultures e.g. Incest taboos

Practicing Anthropology:

Practicing Anthropology The times are changing… The discipline has changed to reflect the changes in the world and in science In a more globalized, informed world, new issues and biases are being addressed, and anthropological goals have changed

Practicing Anthropology:

Practicing Anthropology Collaborative Anthropology: Gives priority to the informants on the topic, methodology and written results Poses it’s own dilemmas- Opinion is not uniform, so who’s position is privileged?

Practicing Anthropology:

Practicing Anthropology Engaged (Applied) Anthropology: Anthropology that includes political action as a major goal of fieldwork Tension between goals of the informants and goals of scientific inquiry (may be asked to falsify data) Political engagement among anthropologists is a major ethical concern in the discipline. Where is the boundary? e.g. Anthropologists and the military; Female genital mutilation

Practicing Anthropology:

Practicing Anthropology Native Anthropologists: Native peoples conducting anthropological studies of their own culture May have more of an understanding of some parts of their culture, but may also not have access to other parts due to gender or social standing Becoming much more common but it presents some issues with biases

Practicing Anthropology:

Practicing Anthropology Things have changed…. We ask different questions and we have different goals No societies remain truly “untouched” Much of current research is focused on aspects of globalization (many projects are involve multiple sites) We are learning to turn the ‘anthropological gaze’ on ourselves

From “Holistic” Studies of Small Groups…:

From “Holistic” Studies of Small Groups… Such as indigenous peoples of the Andaman Islands, to…focused topical studies such as health or conflict in larger societies…

To the Study of How Globalization affects Local Markets in the Old City of Istanbul, Turkey:

To the Study of How Globalization affects Local Markets in the Old City of Istanbul, Turkey

Specialized Topics Such as Women’s Lives in a South Indian Urban Neighborhood:

Specialized Topics Such as Women’s Lives in a South Indian Urban Neighborhood

Or Social and Environmental Effects of Tourism in the Andaman Islands :

Or Social and Environmental Effects of Tourism in the Andaman Islands

How about you?:

How about you? Things to think about… If you were an Anthropologist where would you go and what part of a culture would you want to study? Have you ever experienced ‘culture shock’? When and what was most difficult for you? Have you ever felt judged by someone who was from a culture other than your own? (been a victim of ethnocentrism) Have you ever been ethnocentric? How and why?

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