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AN 10 Definitions and Places


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Cultural Relativism
Culture must be examined within its own context and from its own point of view. Franz Boaz was instrumental in articulating this belief. There are no universal standards by which all cultures can be evaluated. Cultures must be analyzed and referenced to their own histories and cultural traits must be analyzed as part of a cultural whole (holism). The belief that no culture is inherently better/worse/more forward/more backward than any other
The basis of the field of anthropology. An ethnography studies one culture intensively, finding out everything there is to know about it. Rather than distributing surveys and looking for quantitative information, it focuses on getting to know a small number of people very well. It also embraces the outliers rather than looking for the “average.”
First used by Gertz. The actual practices that people of a culture engage in, which often (but not always) reflect the abstract morals and “world view” of the culture.
Four Fields-
Archaelogy, cultural anthropology, linguistics, and physical anthropology.
Every aspect of a society must be analyzed in context with other elements of the society. It is a methodology.
Nature vs. Nurture-
The belief that a person’s intelligence/personality/etc is biological and is set from birth vs. the belief that such traits are a matter of culture and experience.
Against the idea of “universal.” Anthropologists mostly believe in the second view.
Biological Determination-
Nature. Certain things are predetermined based on genes. Innate. Evolution.
A very complicated and ambiguous term. A system of meanings, symbols and associated practices and relationships. A series of “webs of significance” that we ourselves spin. What defines us as human.
UN Model of Culture-
Belief that culture coincides with geographic boundaries. Anthropology would argue that such boundaries are mostly random and the UN model is therefore flawed.
Symbolic behavior that is repetitive and socially standardized.
Social Constructivism-
Importance of culture and context and social interactions in analyzing a society.
Standpoint Theory-
Idea that certain people will have certain insights into certain cultures because of who they are (women, gay men, Muslims, etc).
Armchair Anthropology
Early anthropologists read travel journals and other accounts to learn about other cultures instead of actually visiting them.
Culture Shock-
What happens when someone enters a culture different from their own.
Extensive notes on aspects of the studied culture.
(Ethnographic) Fieldwork
Learning about a culture by living with them, observing them up close, having long conversations with few people, and studying the “ignored.”
Key Informant-
- The main source of information/the “in” to the group.
Trying to limit bias by acknowledging bias; a moral viewpoint can be projected.
The idea that one can completely separate one’s morals from one’s research.
Participant Observation-
dea that an ethnographer is participating in the culture rather than simply observing it. In the process, the ethnographer becomes a part of the culture.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative method
holistic approach, knowing a few people well, using words for description (Anthropological method) vs. using statistics to quantify data and often conducting surveys.
You did work to get what you have.
Fatherly lineage
Relation by blood
You were born into a role to get what you have.
Three Capitals-
Economic (ownership of the means of production), Political (positions of control in politics), Cultural (networking/fitting in). Power/ability to control other people and resources.
Idea that separate and different roles aren’t necessarily indicative of inequality.
Segmentary Lineage-
The process by which charts of a family are divided into smaller groups on the basis of parental lineages.
Culture and Personality-
Explaining personality with culture/cultural problems, ascribing personality traits to culture.
the process by which a culture enculcates an individual with its accepted norms and values. Establishes boundaries and propriety.
Life Course ritual-
a ritual which marks a change in status, usually linear (not reversible). Includes birth, puberty, marriage, and death rituals. Inclusion in a group depends on passing through these rituals successfully.
An extended period of childhood/dependence on adults. Humans have prolonged neotony in comparison to other animals.
Rites of Passage-
Refers to the ways in which differences and similarities related to physical sexuality are understood, contested, organized and practiced by societies.
Believing that one’s own culture is superior.
People whose body parts are characteristic of more than one gender.
Bride service
the groom does work to help in-laws.
Bride wealth
what (money, goods) the groom brings to the marriage.
what (money, goods) the bride brings to the marriage.
marring outside “the group”
marrying inside “the group”
The condemnation of sex between relatives (however the term “relatives” is defined.)
When a person has more than one spouse at the same time.
When a man has multiple wives.
When a woman has multiple husbands.
tracing a family through male descendents. Matrilineal- tracing a family through female descendents. Bilineal- tracing a family through both descendents.
the couple lives with the groom’s family. Matrilocal- the couple lives with the bride’s family. Neolocal- the couple lives alone.
the family will “focus” on the father as the figurehead of the family. Matrifocal- the family will “focus” on the mother as the figurehead of the family. Bifocal- both parents have a say in how the household is run.
men run societies.
women run societies. (A true matriarchy has never been found.)
A society that is state-less or government-less. Does not imply “primitivness.”
Social Movements/ New Social Movements-
Groupings of individuals/organizations focused on specific social and political issues (carrying out social change). New- civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, etc with non-materialistic goals.

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