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Presentation on theme: "CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY"— Presentation transcript:


2 Anthropology & Theory As anthropologists began to accumulate data on different cultures during the mid-nineteenth century, they needed to be able to explain the cultural differences and similarities they found The desire to account for the vast cultural variation that had been observed gave rise to anthropological theory.

3 Anthropology & Theory Anthropological theories attempt to answer questions such as “Why do people behave as they do?” and “How do we account for human diversity”?

4 evolutionism In an attempt to account for the diversity of human cultures, the first anthropologists, writing during the last half of the 19th century suggested the theory of cultural evolutionism.

5 evolutionism All societies pass through a series of distinct evolutionary stages. We find differences in contemporary cultures because they are at different evolutionary stages of development.

6 evolutionism Edward Tylor Lewis Henry Morgan

7 Evolutionism Euro-American cultures were at the top of the evolutionary ladder and ‘less-developed’ cultures on the lower rungs. The evolutionary process was thought to progress from simpler (lower) forms to increasingly more complex (higher) forms of culture.

8 Evolutionism: Lewis Henry Morgan
*Hired to represent the Iroquois in a land grant dispute >began a study of the Seneca culminating in the book “Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity”(1871) >wrote “Ancient Society” (1877) and developed a system of classifying cultures to determine their evolutionary niche

9 Lewis Henry Morgan Morgan used the categories , savagery, barbarism and civilization according to the presence or absence of certain technological features. Lower savagery-from earliest forms of humanity subsisting on fruits and nuts Middle savagery-began with the discovery of fishing technology and the use of fire Upper savagery-began with invention of bow and arrow

10 Lewis Henry Morgan Lower barbarism-began with the advent of pottery making Middle barbarism-began with the domestication of plants and animals in the Old World and irrigation cultivation in the New World Upper barbarism-began with the smelting of iron and use of iron tools Civilization-began with the invention of the phonetic alphabet and writing.

11 Criticisms of Evolutionism
Ethnocentrism Armchair speculators *Both Morgan and Tylor were trying to establish secular evolutionary rationales rather than relying on the supernatural

12 Diffusionism During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, diffusionists addressed the question of cultural differences in the world by determining that humans were essentially uninventive Certain cultural features developed in one or several parts of the world and then spread, through the process of diffusion, to other cultures.

13 diffusionists All societies change as a result of cultural borrowing from one another A deductive approach is used, with the general theory of diffusion being applied to explain specific cases of cultural diversity Diffusionism overemphasized the essentially valid idea of diffusion

14 American Historicism A reaction to the deductive approach and headed by Franz Boas, this school of anthropological thought was prominent in the first part of the 20th century and insisted upon the collection of ethnographic data through direct fieldwork prior to making cross-cultural generalizations

15 American Historicism Ethnographic facts must precede the development of cultural theories (induction) Any culture is partially composed of traits diffused from other cultures Direct fieldwork is absolutely essential Each culture is, to some degree unique Ethnographers should try to get the view of those being studied (emic) not their own view (etic)

16 Functionalism Theory of social stratification holding that social stratification exists because it contributes to the overall well-being of a society No matter how bizarre a cultural tem might at first appear, it had a meaning and performed some useful function the well-being of the individual or the society; the job of the researcher is to become sufficiently immersed in the culture and language to be able to identify these functions

17 Functionalism-Bronislaw Malinowski
Like Boas, Malinowski was a strong advocate of fieldwork, but he had no interest in asking how a cultural item got to be the way it is. Focused on how contemporary cultures operated or functioned Ex: the kula among the Trobriand Islanders

18 Funtionalism-Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown
Like Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown held that the various aspects of a society should be studied in terms of the functions they perform. Whereas Malinowski viewed functions mostly as meeting the needs of the individual, Radcliffe-Brown saw them in terms of contributions to the well-being of the society

19 A.R. Radcliffe-Brown Because of the emphasis on social functions rather than individual functions, Radcliffe-Brown’s theory has taken the name STRUCTURAL FUNCTIONALISM

20 functionalism The functionalist approach is based on two fundamental principles: Universal Functions-every part of a culture has a function Functional Unity-a culture is an integrated whole composed of a number of interrelated parts; a change in one part of the culture is likely to produce change in other parts

21 Psychological Anthropology
Looks at the relationships among cultures and such psychological phenomena as personality, cognition and emotions As early as the 1920s American Anthropologists became interested in the relationship between culture and the individual

22 Psychological Anthropology
Some of Boas’s students began asking questions about what role personality played in human behavior, should personality be viewed as a part of the cultural system or if personality variables are part of culture, how are they causally related to the rest of the system

23 Edward Sapir Individuals learn their cultural patterns unconsciously in the same way that they learn language Culture can be found within the interaction of individuals

24 Margaret Mead Early interest in adolescence in the U.S.
Coming of age in Samoa (1928) Research on Gender *Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935)

25 Psychological Anthropology
Anthropologists need to explore the relationships between psychological and cultural variables Personality is largely the result of cultural learning Universal temperaments associated with males and females do not exist

26 Neoevolutionism School of thought that attempted to refine the earlier evolutionary theories of Tylor and Morgan Boas and others were extremely critical of 19th century evolutionists, in part because they made sweeping generalizations based on inadequate data. Yet no one was able to demonstrate that cultures do not develop or evolve in certain ways over time

27 Leslie White Resurrected the theories of the evolutionists
Felt their major shortcoming was an absence of data “Culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year increases or as the efficiency of the means of putting energy to work is increased” *C=E x T

28 Julian Steward More interested in developing propositions about specific cultures or groups of cultures *unilinear evolution-an attempt to place particular cultures into specific evolutionary phases

29 Julian Steward *multilinear evolution-suggestion that specific cultures can evolve independently of all others even if they follow the same evolutionary process *cultural ecology-assumption that people who reside in similar environments are likely to develop similar technologies, social structures, and political institutions

30 Neoevolutionism Cultures evolve in direct proportion to their capacity to harness energy Culture is shaped by environmental conditions Through culture, human populations continuously adapt to technical-environmental conditions Because technological and environmental factors shape culture, individual factors are de-emphasized

31 French Structuralism Theoretical orientation holding that cultures are the product of unconscious processes of the human mind Claude Levi-Strauss

32 French Structuralism Human cultures are shaped by certain preprogrammed codes of the human mind Theory focuses on the underlying principles that generate behavior rather than the observable empirical behavior itself Emphasizes repetitive structures rather than sociocultural change

33 French Structuralism Rather than examining attitudes, values and beliefs, structuralists concentrate on what happens at the unconscious level The human mind categorizes phenomena in terms of binary oppositions.

34 Ethnoscience Theoretical school popular in the 1950s and 60s that tries to understand a culture from the point of view of the people being studied

35 Ethnoscience Attempts to make ethnographic description more accurate and replicable Describes a culture by using the categories of the people under study rather than by imposing categories from the ethnographers culture Because it is time-consuming, ethnoscience has been confined to describing very small segments of a culture Difficult to compare data collected by ethnoscientists

36 Feminist Anthropology
Seeks to describe and explain cultural life from the perspective of women

37 Feminist Anthropology
All aspects of culture have a gender dimension that must be considered in any balanced ethnographic description Theory represents a long overdue corrective to male bias in traditional ethnographies More subjective and collaborative than objective and scientific Largely critical of a value-free orientation

38 Cultural Materialism Cultural systems are most influenced by such material things as natural resources and technology *Marvin Harris

39 Cultural Materialism Material conditions determine human thoughts and behavior Theorists assume the viewpoint of the anthropologist, not the native informant Anthropology is seen as scientific, empirical and capable of generating causal explanations De-emphasizes the role of ideas and values in determining the conditions of social life

40 Postmodernism Human behavior stems from the way people perceive and classify the world around them Interpretive Anthropology: the critical aspects of cultural systems are subjective factors such as values, ideas and worldviews *Clifford Geertz

41 Postmodernism Calls on anthropologists to switch from cultural generalization and laws to description, interpretation and the search for meaning Ethnographies should be written from several voices-that of the anthropologist along with those of the people under analysis Involves a return to cultural relativism


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