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Chapter 3 Doing Cultural Anthropology

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1 Chapter 3 Doing Cultural Anthropology
What are the aims of ethnography and fieldwork? How does an anthropologist do an ethnographic field study? How has ethnography changed in the past century? What are some of the theories in anthropology and what do they search for? What are the special opportunities and problems in doing anthropology in one’s own society? What are some of the ethical problems raised by ethnography?

2 Fieldwork Firsthand exploration of a society and culture.
Develops a holistic perspective about a culture. Reveals the difference between what people say they do and what they do.

3 Fieldwork Techniques Participant observation Photography and filming
Recording life histories Using historical archives

4 Common Issues in Fieldwork
Fieldwork is done by colleting data & testing a hypothesis Community acceptance Appropriate data-gathering techniques. Understand local political structure Choosing knowledgeable informants. Coping with culture shock. Learning a new language. Reevaluate findings in the light of new evidence.

5 Advantages and Disadvantages of Participant-observation
Enhances rapport Enables fieldworkers to distinguish actual and expected behavior. Permits observation of nonverbal behavior. Small sample size. Difficult to obtain standardized comparable data. Problems of recording. Obtrusive effect on subject matter

6 Ethnography in History
Anthropology began in the late 19th Century as a comparative science. Ethnographers concentrated on small-scale, technologically simpler societies. Cultures were place on evolutionary scales of cultural development.

7 Early 20th century Boas- insisted that fieldwork was essential for holistic study. Malinowski- “main goal for an ethnographer was to obtain the native’s point of view.” (Emic perspective)

8 Feminist Anthropology
Questions gender bias in ethnography and cultural theory. Men, who had limited access to women’s lives, performed much of the fieldwork. Ignoring women’s perspectives perpetuates the oppression of women.

9 Anthropological Theory
Attempt to answer questions such as: Why do people behave as they do? How do we account for human diversity?

10 Evolutionism in Brief All cultures pass through the same developmental stages in the same order. Evolution is unidirectional and leads to higher levels of culture. A deductive approach is used to apply general theories to specific cases. Ethnocentric because evolutionists put their own societies at the top.

11 Morgan’s Evolutionary Stages
Lower savagery: From the 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 the invention of the bow and arrow. Lower barbarism: Began with the art of pottery making. Middle barbarism: Began with 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.

12 Diffusionism in Brief Societies change as a result of cultural borrowing from one another. A deductive approach is used by applying general theories to explain specific cases. Overemphasized the essentially valid idea of diffusion. mother

13 American Historical Particularism in Brief
Franz Boas- changing from a deductive to an inductive approach by collecting detailed ethnographic information. Ethnographic facts must precede development of cultural theories (induction). Any culture is partially composed of traits diffused from other cultures. Direct fieldwork is essential. Each culture is, to some degree, unique. Ethnographers should try to get the view of those being studied, not their own view.

14 Functionalism in Brief
Through fieldwork, anthropologists can understand how cultures work for the individual and the society. Society is like a biological organism with many interconnected parts. Empirical fieldwork is essential. The structure of any society contains indispensable functions without which the society could not continue. Radcliffe-Brown- structural functionalist Malinowski’s psychological functionalism- 7 universal needs: Nutrition, reproduction, bodily comfort, safety, relaxation, movement, and growth. Radcliffe-Brown- structural functionalist- discern & describe the role of social institutions in the smooth working of society & preserving social solidarity. Malinowski’s psychological functionalism- 7 universal needs: Nutrition, reproduction, bodily comfort, safety, relaxation, movement, and growth.

15 Psychological Anthropology in Brief /Culture & Personality
Anthropologists need to explore the relationships between psychological and cultural variables. Personality- result of cultural learning. Universal temperaments associated with males and females do not exist. Margaret Mead ( ) Ruth Benedict ( ) Ruth Benedict studied the Zuni and believed that cultures had their own personality traits. The Zuni were reserved and levelheaded & avoided excess of any kind (Appolonian configuration). Margaret Mead studied New Guinea islands and Samoa’s adolescent sexuality. Interested in exploring relationship between culture and the individual. Benedict described whole cultures in terms of individual personality characteristics. Mead’s early research brought her to Samoa to study the emotional problems associated with adolescence and later to New Guinea to study male and female gender roles.

16 Neoevolutionism in Brief
Leslie White ( ) Julian Stewart’s Cultural Ecology ( ) Cultures evolution= capacity to harness energy. Shaped by environmental conditions. Techno-environmental conditions. Individual factors are de-emphasized. Cultural ecology, relationship between culture and environment. Cultures at similar technological leves, in similar environments would develop similar institutions. Work depended on cross-cultural comparison. Cultures evolve in proportion to their capacity to harness energy. Culture is shaped by environmental conditions. Human populations adapt to techno-environmental conditions. Because technological and environmental factors shape culture, individual factors are de-emphasized. C=E x T culture= energy X technology

17 Cultural Materialism in Brief
Material conditions determine human thoughts and behavior. Theorists assume the viewpoint of the anthropologist, not the native informant. (Etic perspective) Anthropology is seen as capable of generating causal explanations. Deemphasizes the role of ideas and values in determining the conditions of social life.

18 Postmodernism in Brief
Switch from cultural generalization and laws to description, interpretation, &search for meaning. Ethnographies- written from several voices Involves a return to cultural relativism. 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 Involves a return to cultural relativism. Grew from feminist anthropologists, interpretive and symbolic and neo-Marxists, mainly dependent on the writings of Michel Foucault ( ) and Jaques Derrida (1930). Renato Rosaldo (1941)- Focuses on explanations of culture highlighting conflicting interpretations. Vincent Crapanzano & Obeyesekere study the ethnography as a text with the analysis of the anthropologists and western society. Critics include Marivn Harris, James Lett (1955) and they believe their thinking is based on logical fallacies. Material world extists independent of the observer and interpretation. Anthropology must be kept as a positivistic science that can be replicable as much as possible.

19 Cross-Cultural Comparison
Use statistics to test generalizations about culture and human behavior. Human Relations Area File (HRAF) Use statistics to test generalizations about culture and human behavior. Human Relations Area File (HRAF)—database including cultural descriptions of more than 300 cultures. George Peter Murdock ( ) began this project to index and tabulate information on all world’s known cultures. CSUF is one of the few Universities with that has this database in its library.

20 Native Anthropology Study of one’s own society.
Maintain the social distance of the outsider. “Going Native” More common as native cultures disappear. Study of one’s own society. Anthropologists must maintain the social distance of the outsider to stay objective and avoid going Native. Becoming more common as native cultures disappear.

21 Ethical Fieldwork Anthropologists must:
Obtain consent of the people to be studied. Protect them from risk. Respect their privacy and dignity.

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