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UCR Anthro001


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Purpose of the Performance
o Challenge our deeply embedded cultural “norms” and cultural “common sense” (also the goal of the course!) o Make us aware of how symbols give meaning to and order our world o Demonstrate how culture is reproduced in our everyday lives through practices, interactions, values, institutions, and belief systems.
Four Fields of Anthropology
Biological/Physical Archeological Linguistics Cultural/Social
Biological/Physical Anthropology
human evolution, forensics
Archeological Anthropology
reconstructing past lives/cultures through material artifacts
Linguistics Anthropology
interested in the role of language in culture
Study of people current lives and their cultures
What is Culture?
o Culture is a shared system of meaning embedded in symbols o Culture is universal: every society, every group of people has culture o Culture: “That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom... acquired by man as a member of society. EB Tylor 1871
Connection between a symbol and its meaning
o is arbitrary o is not natural o is never fixed o is often unspoken o depends on cultural and historical context
Traits of Culture
o It is learned o It is shared o It is transmitted o It has a history o It involves debate o It involves struggles over power
Cultural Relativism
the principle that an individual human's beliefs and activities should be understood in terms of his or her own culture.
belief in the superiority of one's own ethnic group
the interpreting of the meaning of a text and the subsequent production of an equivalent text, likewise called a "translation," that communicates the same message in another language
the impossibility to measure or compare in value or size or excellence
Summary 1
o Performance to dislodge our cultural “common sense” o Culture: a system of meaning embedded in symbols. o Culture is learned, shared, transmitted, and has a history (and thus is never static) o Symbols are arbitrary and created by culture o The meanings of symbols are never fixed, but vary according to cultural and historical context
Cultural Immersion
being completely one with another's culture
Darmok (film)
Star Trek showed us the difficulty of cultural translation and that to really understand and decipher a radically different culture one has to immerse her/himself in another cultural world.
â—Š The Work of Anthropologists: What Do They Do and How??
o Choose a culture / anthropological subject to study o How to study that subject, methodology: fieldwork
Summary 2
o Darmok as an example of incommensurability and the difficulties of cultural translation o Napoleon Chagnon, “A Man Called Bee” as an example of anthropological methods fieldwork involves immersion and participant observation
entails power risks "exoticizing" culture often relies on "othering" people
Entails Power
who has the authority to depict and assert the “truth” about another culture?
Risks “exoticizing” culture
turning people and their practices into exotic spectacles
Often Relies on "othering" people
creating an image of an exotic, non- Western “Other” who is defined in opposition to “civilized” white men.
Early European views and representations of “natives”
o Irrational savage o Noble savage o “Natives” as remote, untouched, outside history and the modern world o “Natives” as “living primitives” – people representing earlier stages in “human” (Western) evolution o “Natives” as living in simple (rather than complex) societies o “Natives” as timeless, static and a part of nature
Irrational Savage
⬢ barbaric, fierce, violent, warlike and uncivilized: i.e. Yanomamo
Noble Savage
⬢ peaceful, in tune with nature, pure, uncorrupted by civilization i.e. !Kung people
What is Scientific Racism?
o The belief that social and cultural differences between human groups are expressions of fundamental different biological types. o Based on biological determinism, which attributes learned characteristics to biology o A doctrine of racial inferiority which has been used to justify inequality o It used highly empirical studies of human body measurement—anthropometry—to prove “racial” differences.
Scientific Racism is Incorrect
o Culture is transmitted socially, not biologically o Biological differences are not “racial” o Race is a social construction (confused with culture)
Social Evolution
o 19th century belief that culture evolves steadily and slowly in the direction of increasingly greater complexity, toward technological advancement, progress and betterment. o Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism o Challenged theories of degeneration: religious belief that humans have fallen from a state of grace; some have fallen more than others almost to the point of being animals. o Social evolution theory took a secular approach: higher forms evolved out of lower, from simple to complex societies
Key Assumptions of Social Evolution
o Human societies evolve in a pattern from savagery to barbarism to civilization (Morgan) o Human societies evolve from bands to tribes to chiefdoms to states o “Natives” (non-Europeans) are actually “living primitives”
Criticisms of Social Evolution
o Bad science not grounded in empirical fact o Assumed all societies follow the same evolutionary trajectory. Rather, change is not unilineal but multi-linear o Ethnocentric assumptions about “progress” o Popular culture and Devo(lution): Critique of modern society and technology
The Myth of Economic Progress
o The myth that our current economic system—capitalism—has evolved to be the most efficient and progressive economic system, that it provides the most leisure time and fulfills needs better than any other system.
Sahlins: The Original Affluent Society
o increase in population = increase in famine o sedentary lifestyles = decreasing nutritional levels o populations settle = increase in disease. o economic “progress” = increase in poverty, decrease in leisure time
N!ai: The Story of !Kung Woman
o !Kung = San [Bushman] o Line in Dobe area of the Kalahari Flimed between 1950s and 1970s
The Godfather
o Gifts are not just free expressions of sentiment of friendship; they are a type of exchange o Gifts create socio-political alliances and social obligations o They reconfirm social status and establish power relations
Trobiand Islanders
o Originally studied by Malinowski o Method of subsistence: Horticulture (use swidden cultivation or slash-n-burn o Main crop: YAMS o Division of labor: men grow yams, women work in gardens (other crops) o Matrilineal society (descent and wealth through the mother’s side)
Trobiand Islanders and Yams
Symbols of wealth and power o Linked to a complex system of distribution and consumption. o Primarily grown not for food, but for distribution o The more yams a man grows the more power and prestige he will have because he has more to give away
Yams, Wealth & Prestige
o A man grown yams for his sister and her husband (matrilineal) o Many wives (polygyny) = more yams (from wives’ brothers) and thus more power. o Yams create an affinal alliance and social obligations between two families.
o Traces descent o Transmits identities o Creates and maintains relationships o Organizes out life into a social unit (“family”)
Kinship terminology Distinctions
o Gender o Generation o Age o Cross cousins and parallel cousins
Nonlinear System
Eskimo Hawaiian Iroquois
⬢ Emphasizes the nuclear family unit
⬢ The simplest classificatory system of kinship ⬢ The Hawaiian system is named for the pre-contact kinship system of peoples in the Hawaiian islands ⬢ This form of kinship is most common in societies with ambilineal descent groups where economic production and child-rearing are shared.
⬢ The system has both classificatory and descriptive terms. ⬢ Iroquois kinship also distinguishes between parental siblings of opposite sexes. ⬢ Parental siblings of the same sex are considered blood relatives (i.e., 'Parents'). However, parental siblings of differing sex are labeled as "Aunt" or "Uncle" as the situation necessitates. Thus, one's mother's sister is also called mother, and one's father's brother is also called father; however, one's mother's brother is called father-in-law, and one's father's sister is called mother-in-law
Summary 3
o There is no “true” family form; no universal motion of family and kin o Family is culturally constructed; how family is constituted differs across culture.
Marriage as A Social Contract
o Not only about love, but bound up with other social relations and institutions o Constitutes a labor unit o Establishes property relations o Establishes affinal alliances and kinship bonds
marriage to a person belonging to a tribe or group other than your own as required by custom or law
marriage within one's own tribe or group as required by custom or law
money or property brought by a woman to her husband at marriage
an amount of money or property or wealth paid by the groom or his family to the parents of a woman upon the marriage of their daughter to the groom
Bride Service
the service rendered by the bridegroom to a bride's family as a bride price or part of one
a term referring to the social system in which a married couple resides with or near the husband's parents
a term referring to the societal system in which a married couple resides with or near the wife's parents
kinship terminology refers to the words used in a specific culture to describe a specific system of familial relationships
having only one spouse at a time
having more than one spouse at a time
Three Senses of Reproduction
o Of individual beings o Of socialized, encultured beings o Of the whole society and culture
Models of Reproduction
Western Model Trobriand Model
Western Model
intercourse causes pregnancy ⬢ Seed in the oil ⬢ Commingling of egg and sperm
Trobriand Model
intercourse opens a path for the fetus to enter the womb and it helps “feed” the fetus
Tombriand Myth of Procreation (Malinowski)
o Baloma Spirits o Tuma o Waiwaia
Relationship between Child and Parents
o ⬢Biological roles: genitor and genitrix o ⬢Social roles: pater and mater o In the Trobriand Islands, the genitor is NOT the pater.
A person's biological father or mother
(latin) A person's biological father or mother
The Five Sexes (Fausto-Sterling)
o Male o Female o Herm o Merm o Ferm
Having both male and female reproductive organs
A permanent for a man; A pseudohermaphrodite person, often offensive
A permanent for a woman; A pseudohermaphrodite person, often offensive
Unilineal Evolution
all societies evolve in the same direction and through the same stages

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