Presentation on theme: "Dr. Tanya Argounova-Low, course coordinator The course. Continuation of the AT1002 Requirements: lectures, tutorials, TPG. Tutorials start week 3. Signing."— Presentation transcript:
Dr. Tanya Argounova-Low, course coordinator The course. Continuation of the AT1002 Requirements: lectures, tutorials, TPG. Tutorials start week 3. Signing for tutorials on-line. Two essays: a) critical review of the books (books ordered Blackwells), b) an essay on a certain topic.
Lecture 1. How anthropology provides orientation in the world. Cultural relativism
Anthropology as a discipline has very specific characteristics. Distinctive from other disciplines (sociology, psychology, history, religious studies, and so on) which can all claim to study people, societies in one way or another. Four points to make: 1. Anthropology is comparative. - it asks not only what people do? or why they do?, but why people do things in this way here and in that way there?. - it discovers differences : in the way people do things or in the ways they think, and to find the reasons for these differences. - distant places to carry out their research. Not to look for exotic primitive tribes, but passion for difference. The word they generally use to denote such difference is culture.
2. Anthropology is holistic. - many disciplines in order to study the world in depth, have to split it up into lots of separate parts. Certain advantages in doing so. But main disadvantage is loosing sight of the connections, of the relationships that bind everything together into what experience in our lives as an unbroken flow; - anthropology focuses on relationships and relations between aspects of life; - anthropology wants to find out how economic life is related to political or religious life.
3. Anthropology looks at the social life from inside - point of view of those who live in it. The result is a focus on the fine grain of everyday life starting from the most intimate settings of house and family and moving out into wider spheres of social interaction. This is what we refer to as emic approach.
How do we get this view from the inside? 4. Distinctive method of research participant observation and immersion into environment that anthropologist study – fieldwork.
Anthropology thus provides with good sense of orientation in the other peoples lives, different cultures, including our own, the world we live in. Sense of orientation. Learning experience. Learning many new skills through our life time: as a toddler, child, young person. This course will provide orientation to major aspects of life: - culture and nature, - modes of subsistence, - environment, landscape and place (spatial orientation); - time (temporal orientation) - vision, listening and senses - language and knowledge. - religion and art. Anthropology is like philosophy, for it is about life and life of our own, just as of somebody elses. Tim Ingold: anthropology is philosophy with people inside.
What is anthropology the study of? A) societies, B) cultures, C) people. A) Societies. Problem 1: societies do not exist with the same concrete defined borders.Where a society ends and another begins? At what time was a society born? Problem 2: the term society - Western provenance. Many debates about societies, yet there is no concrete definition and concept. When anthropologist study so-called society they are referring to the quality of relationships between people, rather than overarching entity in which they are all included.
B) Cultures? Problem 1: anthropology as a discipline has grown from colonial legacy, studying primitive people who are other. American anthropologists -traditional cultures of native American groups during the early part of the century. British ethnographers - cultures of African kingdoms and tribes Indigenous peoples from every part of the world were the subjects of anthropological enquiry. Usually these societies served as a contrast to complex and modern society of the West. Since then, anthropology has developed into a less exotic field (as unexotic as television stations in city centres, magistrates courts, church congregations, etc.)
Problem 2: Culture - a slippery concept, difficult to grasp. A contested concept by some anthropologists – should be dropped. Williams Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society: Culture in all its early uses was a noun of process: the tending of something, basically crops or animals. Horticulture, agriculture. Beginning in the 18 th century - idea of cultivation was transferred to humans and with it was born a notion of a cultivated person. Distinct class overtones and close to the idea of civilization. Still culture is often associated with great works, poetry and literature, painting and sculpture, symphony and opera, theatre and dance. Western culture was - epitome of civilization. When combined with a belief that culture is an evolutionary, unidirectional, and progressive phenomenon - assumptions about class and race and gender get reinforced.
In the twentieth century, many anthropologists have dropped this framework with the realization that different cultures are different.
Some argued that group behaviour is inherited. - this argument allows to stereotypical characterisation of groups of people: as hardworking, lazy or stubborn. - usually implied in such statements was the idea that group members were born that way. - such thinking persists to the present and in its least discriminating guise takes the form of racism.
The behaviour characteristic of a group is learned. The way people ate, how they talked – as acquisitions. E.g. a baby born in China growing up in France. Cultural anthropologists focus on the explanation of learned behaviour. The idea of learning, and need to label the lifestyles associated with particular groups, led to the definition of culture. In 1871, British anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor argued that Culture…is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and many other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. We will say that culture is the acquired knowledge that people use to generate behaviour and interpret experience.
Culture is the knowledge used to construct and understand behaviour. It is learned (children grow up in society, discover the world through parents and others, interpret the world). Through socialization children learn a culture. Learning: distinguish objects, qualities, characteristics, moral values THUS: Culture is a system of knowledge by which people design their own actions and interpret the behaviour of others.
Culture is an acquired knowledge - culture is a kind of knowledge that is in peoples heads. - reflects the mental categories they learn from others as they grow up. It helps them to generate behaviour and interpret what they experience. - at birth we lack a culture. No system of beliefs, knowledge and patterns of customary behaviour. - laughing and smiling are genetic responses, but infants soon learn when to smile, when to laugh, how to laugh. We also inherit the potential to cry, but we must learn our cultural rules for when crying is appropriate. - we also acquire a way to interpret experience. E.g. different attitude to dogs in Britain and Siberia. Not dogs that are different, but the meaning that dogs have for people that varies. - such meaning is cultural; it is learned as part of growing up in each group.
- anthropology is the study of people. But how different from all the other ways – sociology, psychology, history? - anthropology is thus not so much the study of people as a way of studying with people. People - not mere objects of investigation, but teachers. Fieldwork - we learn to see things (or hear them or touch them) in the way our teachers do. And that can lead us to perceive our own world quite differently too. An education in anthropology, then, does more than furnish us with knowledge about the world. It also educates our perception of the world and helps us to orient in it. It is about learning how to learn. Anthropology - studying with people
Johann Gottfried von Herder, 18 th century German historian: every people (volk) had their own values, language and spirit (geist). The idea of volkgeist led to another idea, a key principle in anthropology, cultural relativism.
Cultural relativism: principle that an individual human's beliefs and activities should be interpreted in terms of his or her own culture. philosophy that believes that when it comes to matters of right and wrong, and other values of a moral nature, that there are no absolutes, or any fixed truth, but rather that all is relative.good and bad are merely assigned and attached to beliefs and actions by the culture in which one lives. good is simply what is socially approved in that culture by the majority and is therefore a matter of social convention. What constitutes something being considered bad, or even evil, is therefore also culturally relative. Therefore no belief or action is inherently good or bad, rather it is either acceptable or taboo within that given culture, we should all therefore learn to be tolerant, suspending personal judgment, because the real issue isnt goodness or badness per se, but simply a matter of difference.
Principle of cultural relativism was established as axiomatic in anthropological research by Franz Boas ( ) in the first few decades of the 20th century and later popularized by Boas' students (Ruth Benedict). Boas himself did not use the term as such, but the term became common among anthropologists after Boas' death in The first use of the term was in the journal American Anthropologist in 1948; the term itself represents how Boas' students summarized their own synthesis of many of the principles Boas taught.