Presentation on theme: "THEORIES & METHODS OF ANTHROPOLOGY. PART ONE: BUILDING THE DISCIPLINE."— Presentation transcript:
THEORIES & METHODS OF ANTHROPOLOGY
PART ONE: BUILDING THE DISCIPLINE
EVOLUTIONISM AIM: Why did evolutionism fade away?
Evolutionism Dominate intellectual perspective in the middle of the 19 th century. Evolutionism eventually overtaken by historical particularism and structural functionalism. Evolutionism, historical particularism, and structural functionalism were most significant theoretical orientations for almost 100 years.
Evolutionism – Early Controversies Do all human beings have a common origin (monogenesis) or different origins and developments (polygenesis)? Much of this theory contained racial predjudice
Basic Features of Evolutionism Ethnocentric Tended to evaluate cultures of the world in terms of model of Victorian England Underlying assumption that evolutionism culminated in England and Europe Armchair Speculation Early anthropologists did not do fieldwork Relied on data supplied by untrained amateurs Focus was the comparative method, with the assumption that societies could be arranged into a taxonomy
Basic Features of Evolutionism Assumption all cultures had gone through same stages of evolution, in the same order Inevitable Progress Emphasis on progress, order, rationality
KEY FIGURES IN EVOLUTIONISM
Edward B. Tylor ( ) Born into a wealthy family in London, England Never conducted in-depth, original fieldwork 1871 – Primitive Culture Focus on religion Defined religion as a belief in spiritual beings Argued culture evolved from the simple to the complex Three Stages Savagery Barbarism Civilization Tylor stressed the rationale basis of culture Social institutions are driven by reasons, and customs
Lewis Henry Morgan ( ) Born in the United States Ethnographic studies focused on Native Americans 1877 – Ancient Society Like Tylor, argued society evolved over three stages Savagery Lower Middle Upper Barbarism Lower Middle Upper Civilization Shift from lower to higher stage was introduction of a significant technological innovation
Morgan also associated with distinction between classifactory and descriptive kinship terminology Classifactory System – same terms that apply for relatives such as husband and wife may be applied to a wider range of kin Descriptive Terminology – terms such as father or daughter designate a specific and narrow range of individuals characterized by biological or marital relations.
For Tylor and Morgan, the transition from lower to higher stage meant progress, not only technological sophistication but also in morality. Racist perspective Terminological Adjustments Savages Hunters & Gathers Barbarians Horticulturalists Civilized People citizens of modern, stratified states
Herbert Spencer ( ) Born in England Two Stages of Evolution Militaristic (central authority) Industrial (individual freedom) At an advanced stage of evolution, the parts of society (individuals) dominate the whole (the state) rather then the reverse Believed society evolved from simple to the complex Some of Spencer’s ideas paved the way Darwin “Survival of the fittest” coined by Spencer Believed humans subject to same natural laws as non-humans Eventually society would progress to perfection
Evaluation Evolutionism placed emphasis on survival of the fittest and with the assumed superiority of the European Provided support for colonialism & imperialism
HISTORICAL PARTICULARISM AIM: Why did historical particularism fade away?
Diffusionism Historical particularism was main argument in America against evolutionism Main aspect was diffusionism Diffusionism – an aspect of culture, such as discover of the wheel, religious belief, or marital practices tend to spread from one culture to another, eventually becoming integrated into all of the cultures in a given geographical area No longer need for each culture to evolve through specific stages in a specific order
Three schools of Diffusionism Kulturkreise School Explain the development of culture through migration and diffusion British Diffusionism Implausable claim that Egypt was source of virtually all cultural traits and innovations, which then diffused to rest of the planet Short-lived Historical Particularism
Basic Features of Historical Particularism Focus on one culture (or cultural area) and that the history of that culture be reconstructed Diffusion Any particular culture was partly composed of elements diffused from other cultures Culture is a loosely organized entity, rather then a tightly fused system Culture is to some extent unique Focus on emic analysis Social life is guided by habit and tradition Relativism Since each culture is to some degree unique, unacceptable to pass judgment on beliefs and actions found in other cultures Cautious generalizations Emphasis on original fieldwork Inductive procedure
KEY FIGURES IN HISTORICAL PARTICULARISM
Franz Boas ( ) Born and educated in Germany Focus on importance of culture Concentrate research efforts on Native people of the west coast of British Columbia Descriptive accounts of potlatch among Kwakiutl (1897) Rigorous fieldwork standards Collect native texts, vernacular accounts of aspects of culture Inductivist Only after masses of solid data had been collected could stabs at explanation and generalization be made Impact on American anthropology Taught at Columbia from 1896 – 1937 Trained and influenced a lot of anthropologists
Ruth Benedict ( ) Trained by Boas 1934 – Patterns of Culture Leading figure in culture and personality school Believed each culture promoted a distinct personality type, and that there was a high degree of consistency between cultural type and patterns of emotion Modal Personalities A statistically most prominent personality which left room for other types Eventually view emerged that each culture had several modal personalities
Margaret Mead ( ) Student of both Boas and Benedict Selected Samoa to demonstrate overwhelming importance of culture 1928 – Coming of Age in Samoa 1930 – Growing Up in New Guinea 1935 – Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies Focused on gender studies in her later years
Evaluation Boas’s emphasis on: Subjectivity (personal interpretation) Insistence on collection of original texts (emic) Distrust in grand theoretical schemes Promotion of relativism
STRUCTURAL FUNCTIONALISM AIM: How did structural functionalism become the dominant anthropological theory?
Structural Functionalism Initial reaction in British anthropology against evolutionism took form of diffusionsim From late 1800s until 1950s/60s, structural functionalism was leading theory in British anthropology
Basic Features of Structural Functionalism Organic Analogy Society is like a biological organism, with structures and functions Natural science orientation Empirical, orderly, patterned Narrow conceptual territory Investigations should be restricted to social structure (society) Rarely paid much attention to art, language, ideology, the individual, technology, or environmental factors Existing structures and institutions in any particular society contained indispensable functions without which the society would fall apart, and these structures and functions or their equivalents were found in all healthy societies
Basic Features of Structural Functionalism Significance of kinship system and the family Equilibrium Society was not only thought to be highly patterned, but also in a state of equilibrium and would re-equilibrate when disruptions occurred Society exhibited long-term stability Anti-historical Did not encourage a historical perspective Fieldwork Orientation Devoted to first-hand, participant observational research
KEY FIGURES IN STRUCTURAL FUNCTIONALISM
A.R. Radcliffe-Brown ( ) Born in England Disciple of Durkheim Powerful theoretician Promoted three stages of scientific investigation Observation (collecting data) Taxonomy (classifying the data) Generalizations (theoretical excursions) Believed cross-cultural comparisons and generalizations were essential to anthropology Natural science model of society was unable to cope with complexities of social life
Bronislaw Malinowski ( ) Born in Poland, but taught in London Father of Modern Fieldwork Long-term participant observation in a small community Research among Trobrianders Remained among them for four years, setting standard for future fieldwork Kula Ring
The Kula Ring Necklaces were exchanged clockwise from one Trobriand island to another Armshells were exchanged counter- clockwise Exchange was ceremonial (neither item had any intrinsic value) Exchanges increased level of interaction and decreased the degree of hostility among the people of various islands Made bartering for valuable resources possible with others Could not barter with groups you exchanged necklaces or armbands with Contributed to social solidarity and prevented squabbles over who got the best deal
Malinowski vs. Radcliffe-Brown Malinowski placed emphasis more on function than structure Focused more on what institutions actually contributed to a society Radcliffe-Brown gave priority to social structure Malinowski argued that the function of institutions was to satisfy biological needs. Radcliffe-Brown saw their function as fulfilling the mechanical needs of society Malinowski stressed the importance of gathering native texts, or accounts of beliefs and behaviors in native’s own words Malinowski & Radcliffe-Brown held many of the same views as well
Evaluation Structural functionalism provided anthropology with a coherent and tidy framework At its most basic level, procedure only required ethnographers to identify patterns of action and belief, and specify their functions. Downplayed conflict and almost ignored social change Structural functionalism suited to maintaining colonial empires once they had been established
CONCLUSIONS Through the first phase of anthropology, there was a general commitment to establishing a scientific study of culture or society
METHODS AIM: What methods did anthropologists use through the first phase of theories?
Methods Methods courses were almost unheard of until the 1960s / 70s Very little attention paid to ethics 1874 – Notes and Queries Published by British Association for Advancement of Science in era before anthropologists began to collect their own data Provided a guide to amateurs, highlighting themes and categories they should focus their inquiries on
The Fieldwork Situation In the late 1800s, there was a division of labor between the professional anthropologist and amateur fieldworker Anthropologist remained in comfort of the library and museum Amateurs travelled to remote parts of the world collecting materials By early 20 th century, anthropologists themselves began to do fieldwork At first the emphasis was on fieldwork rather then participation When 1913 edition of Notes and Queries was published there was an argument for intensive participant observation studies, to be carried out by a sole researcher in a small population over a period of at least a year
Basic Techniques and Related Elements - Fieldwork Participant observation Reliance on informants The interview (usually unstructured) Genealogies & life histories Collecting census material Long period of fieldwork Learning indigenous language Emphasis on actor’s point of view (emic) Emphasis on informal rather than formal structure Back rather then front stage Emphasis on validity rather than reliability Validity implies ‘truth’ Reliability just means that repeat studies will produce same results Limit on size of population Comparative method as alternative to controlled lab experiment Inductive research design Reaching conclusion based on observation: generalizing to produce a universal claim or principle from observed instances Search for virgin territory Exaggeration of the degree of cultural uniqueness The more exotic, the better One’s research site should be as remote and isolated as possible so no other anthropologist will ever check up on one’s ethnographic findings Fieldwork personality Flexible and perceptive, sense of humor Strong constitution, good listener Sustained disbelief Doubt about what people said, about their explanations for beliefs and behavior…anthropologists had to get to the truth
PART TWO: PATCHING THE FOUNDATION AIM: How did future theories help to fill in some of the holes of earlier anthropological theories?
CULTURAL ECOLOGY AIM: How did future theories help to fill in some of the holes of earlier anthropological theories?
Historical particularism in America and structural functionalism in Britain proved to be the leading theoretical approaches, dominating the discipline up to World War II By 1950s & 1960s anthropological landscape had changed Cultural ecology Conflict Theory Social Action Theory (…) Each orientation, in different ways, attempted to keep the dream of a scientific study of society alive by patching the cracks that had begun to weaken historical particularism and structural functionalism
Cultural Ecology (and Neo-Evolutionism) Julian Steward developed theoretical orientation about influence of the environment on culture Eventually grafted into a revitalized version of evolutionism
Basic Features of Cultural Evolutionism Culture is shaped by environmental conditions Techno-economic factors combine with environment to influence social organization and ideology Human population continuously adapt to techno-economic-environmental conditions Culture also shapes techno-economic-environmental factors Emphasis on etic rather then emic data Meaning is a product of social structure Culture is purposeful and functional De-emphasis on the individual Social structure, social groups, ecological and technological factors explain culture Emphasis on etic data Capable of producing causal explanations and laws Evolutionary context Ecological and technological factors driving force in human interaction, also fundamental to historical development of society
KEY FIGURES IN CULTURAL ECOLOGY
Julian Steward ( ) Influenced by Boas 1955 – Theory of Culture Change Ecology defined as adaption of culture to environmental and technological factors Less developed the level of technology in a society, greater the influence of the environment Hunting-and-Gathering societies at whim of environment Social organization and population dictated by environment No economic surplus to permit stratification As level of technology in a society improves, there is greater control over environment, increased economic surplus and population density, and a shift from egalitarianism to class stratification In highly advanced societies, environment ceases to be a controlling force Cultural ecology loses influence when environment does not matter Today, environmental factors such as pollution, deforestation, global warming are making people think twice about environment ceasing to be a controlling factor
Not only did environmental conditions shape culture, but each culture was composed of thoroughly practical and useful adaptions to its environment If a foreign culture consisting of agriculturalists and possessing different social organization was plopped into ecological zone occupied by hunters-gathers, the alien culture (agriculturalists) would have to adapt their social organization and values to survive Steward divided culture into core and periphery Core consisted of enduring and causal features of culture Core includes social organization, politics, religion Cannot escape impact of techno-economic factors Periphery consists of fortuitous or accidental features Includes artistic patterns, fads, quirks Largely independent of techno-environmental base
Steward and Evolutionism Emphasis on critical role of environment in evolutionary scheme Rejected notion of unilinear development Particular cultures diverge significantly from one another and do not pass through unilineal stages Cultures have evolved along several different lines, at different rates Multi-linear evolutionism Rejected old assumption that evolution equals progress Neo-evolutionists Unilinear vs. Multi-linear
Leslie White ( ) American anthropologist Emphasized etic rather then emic Saw culture as a highly integrated entity rather then a loose bundle of traits Assigned contributing priority to techno-economic factors, while dismissing individual and personality as irrelevant to anthropology Culture is utilitarian Culture composed of four sectors: Technology Social Structure Ideological Attitudinal White believes the symbol has replaced the gene in importance as an explanatory tool We live today in a symbolic universe, guided more by culture than heredity Distinction between signs & symbols Meaning of signs is inherent in things; meaning of symbols in things is arbitrary Culture advances according to increase in amount of energy per capita per year E x T = C (E represents energy, T represents efficiency of tools, C represents culture) Amount of energy varies across cultures Simplest societies rely completely on human energy
Marvin Harris ( ) Essentially an armchair anthropologist instead of a fieldworker Cultural Materialism Focuses on and assigns causal priority to the material conditions of life, such as food and shelter Before there can be music and poetry, people must eat and be protected from the elements Human activity organized to satisfy the material conditions of life is affected and limited by our biological make-up, the level of technology, and the nature of the environment, which in turn generate ideological and social organization responses. Harris downplayed importance of emic data. People’s consciousness, perspectives, interpretations, ideas, attitudes, and emotions never explain their reactions.
India’s Sacred Cow The refusal of Indians to eat their cattle has often been interpreted as a perfect example of just how irrational cultural practices can be According to Hindu doctrine of ahimsa, Indians should worship their cattle rather then eat them, even if they are starving. Spiritual obsession obligates material welfare
India’s Sacred Cow Harris suggests… India’s undersized cattle are far less important as a source of food than they are as a source of power, fertilizer, transportation, and fuel Undersized, undernourished cattle in India are perfectly suited to difficult environmental conditions they face Rather then being irrational, it plays a positive and critical economic role in India
John Bennett (1916 – 2005) Bennett recognized that culture not only adapts to ecological conditions, it also modifies them Key to cultural ecology is adaption 1969 – Northern Plainsmen Describing various ways in which four different groups of people adapted to the same environment
Evaluation of Cultural Ecology Emphasis on causality and objective conditions, especially technology and the environment, constituted a massive repudiation of historical particularism Cultural ecology and neo-evolutionism aspired to be scientific, but to achieve that ‘soft’ data such as meaning, emotions, and individual motivation had to be relegated to the sidelines. Does not match up with contemporary anthropology and its data
CONFLICT THEORY AIM: How did future theories help to fill in some of the holes of earlier anthropological theories?
Conflict Theory Structural functionalism was dominant theoretical orientation in British social anthropology right up to the 1950s A healthy society rested on a unified set of indispensable, universal functions and equilibrium was maintained Critics complained it puts cart before the horse Structural functionalism was incapable to cope with social change
Basic Features of Conflict Theory Conflict is normal and widespread Opposite to structural functionalism Conflict was viewed as abnormal and rare Conflict knits society together, and thus maintains society in a state of equilibrium Conflict with an outside group generates internal solidarity Society consists of criss-crossing identities, loyalties, and strains which ultimately nullify each other, resulting in harmony and integration Societal equilibrium is the product of the balance of oppositions
KEY FIGURES IN CONFLICT THEORY
Max Gluckman (1911 – 1975) Guru of Manchester school of anthropology Gluckman influenced by Radcliffe- Brown Gluckman argued conflict is essential to social interaction Society achieves equilibrium, product of conflict People tend to create different sets of loyalties and allegiances which clash with each other Criss-crossing loyalties cancel each other out
Lewis Coser (1913 – 2003) Several scholars, independent of each other, were promoting the same ideas Overlap with Gluckman Portrayed conflict as normal, widespread, and positive, contributing to the integration of society and acting as a safety valve for strains that might otherwise build up and tear society apart Group cohesion due to external conflict In some cases, external conflict is intentionally fostered by societal elites in order to deflect hostility and tension within a community onto an imaginary enemy Realistic Conflict Arises from frustration between two or more persons Non-Realistic Conflict Free-floating frustrations; aggression flies off in all directions, and rather than resolving the frustrations, aggression is an end in itself Criticism was conflict model was disguised as an equilibrium model, slightly different then structural functionalism
Evaluation During the several decades in which structural functionalism had dominated, conflict and strain had been ignored Conflict theorists emphasize interests which divide people in society unite them, not common values
SOCIAL ACTION THEORY AIM: How did future theories help to fill in some of the holes of earlier anthropological theories?
Social Action Theory (Interactional Theory) When conflict theory proved to be an inadequate substitute for structural functionalism, British social anthropologists began to play around with other theoretical approaches Central message in structural functionalism is that human beings conduct their behavior in accordance with the rules laid down by society Others argued social life is messy and disjointed. People say one thing but do another; rather than adhering perfectly to the rules of society, they bend, twist, and ignore these rules as self-interest dictates Theory that emerged had the capacity to cope with both social change and conflict Referred to as processual, interactional, or transactional model
Basic Features of Interactional Theory Society is constantly changing Norms are ambiguous and unclear, even contradictory There is a gap between normative order and actual behavior, which means rules or norms do not explain behavior Human beings are in constant competition for scarce goods and rewards Humans must constantly choose between alternatives Emphasis on the individual as a self-interested manipulator and innovator Emphasis on reciprocity, exchange, and transaction Focus on informal (back stage) rather than formal structure (front stage)
KEY FIGURES IN INTERACTIONAL THEORY
F.G. Bailey ( _ ) British social anthropologist who worked under Gluckman 1969 – Stratagems and Spoils Bailey challenged assumption that there is a simple, direct relationship between normative order and actual behavior Assumption fails to take into account the degree to which individuals manipulate the world around them Most people are guided by self-interest, thread our way between norms, seeking the most advantageous route Bailey distinguishes between normative and pragmatic rules of behavior Normative rules – general guides to conduct; make up the public, formal, or ideal rules of a society Pragmatic rules – deviations from the ideal rules; tactics and strategies that individuals resort to in order to effectively achieve their goals When pragmatic rules drastically increased, the normative order, or ideals of a society, must be rebuilt to fit current realities Bailey’s assumption is that pragmatic rules more closely correspond to how people actually behave
Stratagems and Spoils was an innovative work The people portrayed by Bailey are not puppets controlled by institutional framework People are active, choice-making agents locked in competitive struggle Social structure is dynamic, continuously being reshaped by shifting allegiances, coalitions, and conflicts that characterize human interaction Social Action model provides an alternative to structural functionalism In addition to laying the groundwork for a new theoretical orientation, Bailey also provided a vocabulary to articulate it
Jeremy Boissevain ( __) 1974 – Friends of Friends Social life unfolds in the informal arena, where what counts is one’s contacts – who one knows rather than what one is qualified to do In reality, people do what is best for themselves Boissevain believes structural functionalism just documents how people are supposed to behave, not how they actually behave Everyday life is acted out in an arena of competition and conflict, and social change rather than stability is the normal state of affairs
Fredrik Barth ( __) Norwegian anthropologist 1966 – Models of Social Organization Describes relationship between leaders and followers as a form of transaction Leaders provide protection, followers allegiance Self-interested individuals manipulating values and norms to their own advantage, choosing between alternative strategies, and establishing relationships and alliances governed by reciprocity, with the whole process feeding back on and transforming the value system and social organization Advocated a focus on the processes that produce structural form Central to this is the capacity of people to make choices End products are patterns of behavior which are formed and reformed over time
Victor Turner (1920 – 1983) British cultural anthropologists Studied under Gluckman Worked on symbolism, ritual, and rites of passage Turner analyzed three types of conflict: Conflict between principles of social organization Contradictions embedded in the social structure Conflict between individuals and cliques striving for power, prestige, and wealth Inconsistent, even contradictory, norms exist side by side People must select and discard norms most advantageous to their interests Internal conflict between egoism and altruism (selfish or social motives)
Max Weber (1864 – 1920) Influenced by Marx According to Weber, society consisted of 4 quasi-autonomous spheres - economic, political, legal, religious – and ideas, beliefs, and values had an independent causal impact on human conduct Weber made important contribution to study of power, authority, the state, bureaucracy, class, and status Weber believed there were significant differences between natural and the social sciences Weber defined social action as intentional, meaningful, and oriented to others The only real or concrete phenomenon was the individual human act Social institutions are not concrete realities, instead, they consisted of a plurality of actors who only have a high probability of interacting for a particular purpose Social Relation – two or more persons guided by meaningful conduct and oriented to each other Bridged the gap between actor and social institution.
Evaluation Social action or transactional model can be traced back to the Manchester school presided over by Gluckman Trained Bailey, Boissevain, and Turner Gap between what people say and what they do, or between rules of behavior and actual behavior Incorporated conflict into framework
Critique By concentrating on the intricate and complex maneuvers of individuals and coalitions, focus is lost on the larger social structural context Fail to take history into account, and the degree to which it explains the present Macro-Micro Dilemma How to achieve a sensitive, detailed analysis of the local situation while simultaneously bringing into play the wider structural-historical context
Nature of anthropological theory changed dramatically from phase one to phase two, the pursuit of science remained the same
METHODS AIM: What methods did anthropologists use through the second phase of theories?
Method Cultural ecology, social action theory, and conflict theory tried to keep true to scientific Unintentionally made goal of science more difficult Conflict theorists rejected assumption of unified central value system Social Action writers promoted the image of a choice- making, manipulative actor, and the porous, shifting social structure Phase Two begins to see first gaps between theory and method
Methods Literature Majority of anthropology professors of the time belonged to the sink-or-swim school Rather then being provided with techniques, students were advised to take lots of notes and participate Young anthropologists began to write about their own fieldwork experiences and set off an explosion of publications on ethnographic method Goal was make open and public what has been previously closed and mysterious ‘How To’ textbooks Qualitative methods became very popular Profiled qualitative methods as a distinctive research approach, and gave it some legitimacy Much of this literature was published by American anthropologists Students learned methods by actually doing research, which was basically the attitude of earlier anthropologists Purpose of methods literature was to demystify the fieldwork process, to render it more scientific Slight problem degree to which one’s data and interpretations are shaped by one’s informants Two different informants can result in two radically different ethnographies Also pointed out role played by chance and accident in fieldwork Cast doubt on anthropology as science
Fieldwork Situation Most of the basic assumptions and elements of research that existed in phase one continued into phase two, with some modifications Greater emphasis was placed on theory, and fieldwork became shorter Students were encouraged to narrow the focus of their studies, and to concentrate on limited number of sharply defined problems rather then trying to cover everything Recognition that outside social and historical forces always penetrate and shape the small community and must be taken into account Recognition that cultures being studied were no longer primitive Interview emerged as a principle technique Increased emphasis on the ethics of fieldwork Greater sensitivity to ethical issues (rationalization) Anthropologists began to accept they did not have a right to intrude on people’s lives Demand for research to be useful Fieldworkers to make research goals explicit Seek permission from and respect the privacy of people
New Rules of Thumb for Fieldwork Use multi-methods, not just participant observation and informants Keep daily diary on methods Appendix on methods in report, thesis, or book Information for the reader to understand methodological approach Keep data separated Distinction between actor’s and observer’s interpretation is usually blurred Clearly identify native analytic concepts and observer analytic concepts in report, book, or thesis Select research project on basis of a problem to be solved, rather than an area or tribe to investigate Leading up to WWII, anthropologists looked for virgin territory Let the research problem dictate your choice of methods Learn to count Quantitative data…more specific then “more, less, a lot, a little” Provide universities in countries where research is conducted with copies of one’s publication Part of new ethical stance Assure informants represent all sectors of a community Do fieldwork abroad and at home
Formal Analysis In the American school there was an even greater effort to introduce more systematic research procedures Formal analysis supposedly was able to provide a scientific explanation of mentalist data Sometimes labeled cognitive anthropology Formal analysis can be written off as a quick blip on the anthropological record with few followers
Case Study One: A West African Utopia Challenge of impression management Age, sex, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, etc. all will have an impact Four distinct research roles Complete participant Participant who observes Observer who participates Complete observer Managing deviants First individuals who cozy up to anthropologist tend to be deviants, people who for some reason or other are marginal in their communities Participant observation is crucial Need informants to interpret what you have observed and provide information to which you have not had access Moral &Transactional informants Moral based on trust and friendship; transactional informant is paid Nothing ever works out as planned Critical turning point – an event or situation that has determined whether the project continued or was abandoned How do you know when to stop your fieldwork?
Case Study Two: The Radical Right in Canada Influence of anthropologists background and bias
Conclusion The theoretical literature, the methods of literature, and actual fieldwork had begun to head in different directions, a trend that picked up speed in phase three
PART THREE: DEMOLITION AND RECONSTRUCTION
Theory For the one hundred years prior to the 1970s, the discipline of anthropology of swung back and forth between hard and soft versions of science Objective conditions such as technology and environment Subjective conditions portraying people as robots controlled by a rigid social structure, or active, manipulating agents in an ever-changing universe Goal throughout was of a scientific study of society Emergence of structuralism, postmodernism, and feminist anthropology basically discarded science Structuralism – questioned positivism, emphasis on empirical data, evidence, confirmation of a hypothesis Postmodernism & Feminists – questioned fieldwork. Ethnographic fieldwork accused of gender and cultural bias, as powerful and privileged academics misrepresented the lives of natives and women for the benefit of Western males. Aim was not to patch up scientific foundation of anthropology as in phase two…phase three aimed to dismantle discipline and start over again
STRUCTURALISM AIM: Why did structuralism appear?
Structuralism Structuralism in the 1960s and 1970s was a theoretical perspective with a distinct methodological approach Offered an alternative to positivism
Basic Features of Structuralism Deep structure vs. Surface structure Structuralists examine the underlying principles and variables (deep structure) that generate behavior instead of empirical, observable behavior (surface structure) Structuralists focus analysis on deep structure, where the range of key variables is more confined Primacy of unconscious over conscious What motivates people lies beyond their consciousness at the level of deep structure Etic vs. Emic analysis Structuralism places priority on etic analysis. Relegates to the explanatory sidelines the individual human being, whose motives and actions are seen as largely irrelevant and merely a distraction to the researcher Structuralism sometimes described as having an anti-humanistic orientation Emphasis on synchrony vs. diachrony (change) Structuralists are concerned with repetitive structures Different forms of social organization are produced over and over again by the underlying principles Reversibility of time Distinction drawn between chronological (historical) and mechanical (anthropological) time Chronological time is cumulative; events unfold across history Mechanical time is repetitive, events unfold across space According to structuralists, social organization supposedly is reproduced generation after generation
Basic Features of Structuralism Transformational analysis Assumed different institutions of human existence – economic organization, marriage systems, architecture, ritual – are transformations of each other, manifestations of the same finite set of underlying principles Linguistic analogy Aspects of culture derive their meaning in the context of the overall system of relationships in which they are embedded Various cultural institutions constitute codes or messages that anthropologists decode, to tell us what they are saying Focus on mental life Emphasis on belief systems, cognitive maps, and oral and written thought Main focus on mythology, understood as a distinctive ‘language’ or ‘code’ that reflects the way the human brain operates and articulates fundamental themes, dilemma's, and contradictions in life Neurological reductionism Behind the level of observable behavior (surface level), lies the principles that generate everyday interaction Assumption culture is modified and restricted by the operations of the brain, which are thought to be universal across humankind Structuralists strive to detect the impact of the brain on cultural organization Dialectical method The brain is assumed to operate in terms of binary oppositions Nature-culture bridge Is there any difference between humans and other animals? Humans as classifiers Central to structuralism is contention that what makes humans unique is capacity for classification Reduced models Types of culture or categories of culture reduced to most simplistic, elementary properties Primitive culture contains basic elements that characterize human existence everywhere
KEY FIGURES IN STRUCTURALISM
Claude Levi-Strauss (1908 – 2009) Structuralism in anthropology was almost single-handedly established by Levi-Strauss Challenged empirical, positivistic tradition, arguing that culture is more like a language or logical system of signs than a biological organism (analogy used by structural-functionalists) Implication was epistemological and methodological approach favored in natural science was not appropriate for anthropology Several reasons, according to Levi-Strauss for not focusing on surface structure At the level of observable human interaction there are too many facts, too much going on At the empirical level there is a degree of randomness that makes systematic analysis exceedingly difficult When investigating cultural life, the focus is on underlying principles which generate the surface patterns, not the patterns themselves Levi-Strauss always tried to reduce data to binary oppositions
Best known for his imaginative analysis of mythology Assumed that myths constitute a kind of language Myths are vehicles which supposedly take the analyst close to the workings of the brain Concerned with what myths indicate about the brain ‘operations’ Not so much in what humans think as in how they think Rejected basic methodological principle beliefs and behaviors must be explained in their specific cultural context One version of a myth is not better then another Attempts to explain myths that occur in one part of the world with those that are found in other parts of the world In mechanical time, cultural materials such as myths do not progress chronologically; they are simply reproduced across space Consists of decoding the messages in a cultural institution, and tracing these codes as they are transformed from one institution to another
Edmund Leach (1910 – 1989) Trained by Malinowski Political Systems of Highland Burma (1965) Drew a distinction between actual behavior and anthropological models used to explain it. Everyday behavior is dynamic, messy, driven by choice, contradiction, power Anthropological models, in contrast, are always equilibrium models Provide a sense of orderliness in an otherwise chaotic universe Leach’s achievement was to retain a fundamental feature of structural-functionalism, the notion of equilibrium, while simultaneously promoting social action model contained in Malinowski’s work
Evaluation Levi-Strauss placed big question about humankind back on the anthropological agenda…what does it mean to be human? There are no superior societies Threw out conventional, positivistic science Argued structuralism constituted the appropriate scientific procedure for the investigation of culture Defined social structure not as a general representation of the empirical world, but rather as an abstraction or model in which variables consist of logical relationships between things instead of things themselves In the 1960s & 1970s, Levi-Strauss was probably most highly regarded anthropologist alive Given his popularity, it is amazing how quickly structuralism fell out of favor Dealt almost exclusively with mentalist data, failed to relate data to material world, and sidestepped major social and political issues
POSTMODERNISM AIM: Why did postmodernism appear?
Postmodernism Although Levi-Strauss thought he was still engaged in scientific work, it was radically different version of science Non-positivistic & non-verifiable With postmodernism, no longer was the case of science being unobtainable due to technical obstacles Postmodernists regarded fieldwork as a political activity whereby powerful Westerners have traditionally represented (or misrepresented) the lives of non-Westerners, depersonalized and objectified them as scientific specimens
Basic Features of Postmodernism (Interpretive Anthropology) Challenge to anthropological authority Arrogant for anthropologists to assume they have capacity and responsibility to describe, interpret, and represent lives of people in other cultures. Assumption is people in other cultures lacked capacity to speak for themselves. Dialogical and polyvocal approaches Complex dialogue between ethnographer and ‘the natives,’ a joint venture out of which meaning and interpretation emerge. Anthropologist lets go of some authority and allows for voices from research subjects. Ethnography as a literary text Can be analyzed in terms of tone, style, and literary devices. Can be analyzed using the tools of literary criticism. Focus on interpretation and meaning rather than on causality and behavior Culture is regarded as a system of signs and symbols, a complex of meanings. Anthropologist joins forces with ‘the natives’ and interpret it. Trend away from grand theory and generalization Positivism is regarded as both inadequate and immoral. It cannot cope with the vision of culture as an endless complex of changing and contested individual interpretations and meanings. Postmodernists, in contrast, emphasize the particular and the unique, valorize (give validity to) ‘the other’ (subjects of the research), and are comfortable with an image of social life that is inherently fragmented, disjointed, and incomplete. Renewed emphasis on relativism Relativism, pioneered by Boas, emphasized uniqueness of each and every culture. Simple view that customs had to be understood initially in their specific cultural context and it was unacceptable to comment on the moral worth of customs, especially by comparing them negatively to those in one’s own culture. Author-saturated rather than data-saturated ethnography Author has taken center stage – how the author ‘knows’ a culture and interprets data, how meaning is negotiated between researcher and the researched, self-conscious musings on the subjective experience of fieldwork.
KEY FIGURES IN POSTMODERNISM
George Marcus & Michael Fischer “Interpretive Anthropology” Social life must fundamentally be conceived as negotiation of meanings Importance of relativism –subjective value according to differences in perception
Clifford Geertz (1926 – 2006) American cultural anthropologist “Thick Description” essay (1973) “Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of a law but an interpretive one in search of meaning.” Interpretive anthropology aims for ‘thick description’ by generalizing deeply within cases. Emphasis on texts and writing and the switch from structure causality to meaning and interpretation. “Anthropological writings are themselves interpretations.” Geertz continues to regard interpretive perspective as a science
Evaluation Criticisms against Postmodernism Postmodernists demand that the author as the sole authority step down, that books be dialogical, recognizing all voices that are involved Critics believe this goal is not feasible Postmodernism may amount to a post-fieldwork model If research, especially in our own cultures, is unsound both on epistemological grounds (how can we ‘know’ the other) and on ethical grounds (what right do we have to represent the other), why not just give up on it completely? Postmodernism, with its heightened sensitivity to ‘the other,’ and its critique of positivistic, colonial anthropology, appears to be radical, even revolutionary. Sometimes contended that there are no standards in postmodernism, that one cultural account is as good as any other, that anything goes. Views postmodernism primarily as a power play, with academics jockeying for influence, mobility, tenure, and promotion.
FEMINIST ANTHROPOLOGY AIM: Why did Feminist Anthropology appear?
Feminist Anthropology Academic feminism has been paralleled and fuelled by the ongoing actions and changes in the empirical world, notably in connection to the women’s movement. Anthropology has provided the basis for exploring numerous issues significant to feminism, such as whether gender roles and female oppression have been universally the same or culturally diverse.
Basic Features of Feminist Anthropology All social relations and knowledge is gendered Gender must be included alongside class, status, role, power, and age as a basic term Distinctive epistemology Research should be a collaborative, dialogical affair Subjectivity (bias) is associated with females, and is superior to ‘male’ objectivity (neutrality) Urges female scholars to incorporate their own subjective experiences of oppression into their research projects Distinctive ethics Primary purpose of research is to empower women and eliminate oppression Anti-positivism Language of science is regarded as the language of oppression. Positivistic research is said to serve the interest of elites. Value-neutrality, even if possible, would be ruled out, because feminist research unapologetically promotes the interests of women
Basic Features of Feminist Anthropology Preference for qualitative methods Empathy, subjectivity, and dialogue supposedly allow the investigator to understand the inner worlds of women, helping them to articulate and combat their oppression The life history A specific qualitative technique, was very prominent in the social sciences before WWII, had been rediscovered by feminist writers. Seen as a means to give voice to people, vividly to capture institutional and historical forces as they impinge on and are experienced by individuals. Female essence Provides a counter-balance to misogynist representations Universal sexual asymmetry Anthropology has proved to be fertile ground for examining two key questions. Has gender inequality existed in all cultures at all times? Has gender inequality increased or decreased as human societies have moved through history? Anthropology of women versus feminist anthropology Anthropology of women was the forerunner to feminist anthropology
KEY FIGURES IN FEMINIST ANTHROPOLOGY
Marjorie Shostak Nisa: The Life and Works of a !Kung Woman (1981) Wanted to find out what it meant to be female among the !Kung Some people question the ethnography because the fact that only in the two-week period before Shostak’s departure did the focus on the woman called Nisa crystalize. Apparent lack of deep rapport, and the businesslike arrangement (Nisa was paid for her interviews) that Shostak was forced into with Nisa in order to obtain her cooperation, raise considerable doubt about the validity of the central theme of the book; Nisa’s obsession with sex Gives voice to and humanizes a !Kung woman
Elvi Whittaker Canadian anthropologist “Decolonizing Knowledge: Towards a Feminist Work Ethic and Methodology” Concerned with the representation of women by men Relationship between men and women is comparable to that between the colonized and colonizer. In both, Western, white, heterosexual males have imposed their world view on the other (women and colonial peoples)
Feminism and Marxism Both center on issues of inequality and oppression, with women compared to natives Marxists charge feminism with promoting gender at the expense of class, resulting in an analysis that props up the ruling class. Feminists accuse Marxism of being male-oriented approach that serves the interests of men by promoting class at the expense of gender, obscuring women’s rights.
Feminism and Postmodernism Both concerned with the issue of representation Feminism – woman’s voice Postmodernism – multiple voices
Evaluation Although there are a several varieties of feminism, they all start off from the assumption that conventional social science has been male-biased Four reactions to this… Don’t do anything How most social scientists have responded Add women when convenient to one’s analysis Women-centered research Non-sexist research
METHOD AIM: What methods did anthropologists use through the third phase of theories?
Method With the emergence of postmodernism and feminist methodology, science took a pounding Hope was qualitative research would be seen as rigorous and explicit as quantitative research
Methods Literature Major change was the emergence of literature on the use of computers in qualitative research Software programs are no substitutes for the researcher’s insights and interpretations Tendency to exaggerate scientific quality of their reports, assuming that because they have used a computer their work must be valid
The Fieldwork Situation In phase three, there was a huge gap between the theoretical and methods literature By the 1990s, a few changes in the fieldwork situation had become apparent Life history had been revived as the principle technique Comparative method was not dead By phase two it had been recognized that no community was isolated and that the external forces that impinged on it had to be taken into consideration By phase three, outside forces didn’t just intrude into the small community; they were an essential part of the community Tendency of shorter field work continued from phase two into phase three