2 Lectures 1-2 Anthropology as a discipline Culture and Nature
3 1. Anthropology is comparative Anthropology as a discipline has very specific characteristics. Distinctive from other disciplines (sociology, psychology, history, religious studies) which can all claim to study people, societies in one way or another.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.- anthropologists go to 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’.
4 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 one aspect of life (e.g. economic) is related to another (political or religious).
5 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.
6 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 anthropologists study so-called society they are referring to the quality of relationships between people, rather than overarching entity in which they are all included.
7 B) Cultures? Problem 1: 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.
8 Problem 2: Culture - a slippery concept Problem 2: Culture - a slippery concept. Some anthropologists suggested it should be dropped. Idea of cultivation: 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”. E.g.: horticulture, agriculture. Idea of cultivation transferred to humans (18th century). Notion of a cultivated person: class overtones and idea of civilization. Culture is associated with poetry, literature, painting, symphony, etc. Western culture - 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.
9 Some argue that group behaviour is inherited: - stereotypical characterisation of groups of people: as ‘hardworking’, ‘lazy’ or ‘stubborn’ implication that group members were born that way. - such thinking persists to the present and in its least discriminating guise takes the form of racism.
10 Group behaviour is learned The ways people behave (eat, talk, dance ) – are 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: “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.
11 ● Culture is the knowledge used to construct and understand behaviour ● 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.
12 Culture is an acquired knowledge Culture is a kind of knowledge that is in people’s 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 people 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. Infants inherit the potential to cry, but they learn 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.
14 The Nature versus Culture distinction is one of the most visible oppositions in Western culture, that attribute a superiority of one term over the other. For the most part, culture is considered superior to nature, just as mind is thought to be "over" body, men over women. A modern consensus of cultural relativism has made the old conception of "Nature" anachronism.
15 There is a great debate in social science about what it is that shapes us both as individuals and as members of society. With regard to individuals, this debate is about Nature versus Culture (Nature versus Nurture) meaning whether it is our inherited genetic predisposition ("nature") or what we learn as we grow up ("nurture") that predominantly shapes us and our differences as individuals.Similarly, anthropologists ask how much of our behavior as a group is pre-determined by geography, culture, or history.Studies increasingly indicate what most of us know from common sense: these differences between us as individuals and those between groups of people can be explained by no single factor alone, but by the complex interaction between them.
16 Anthropology and its colonial legacy: ● non-western societies served as a contrast to complex and modern society of the West. ● a contested concept for the idea of cultivation (18th century). ● 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.
17 The ways we tell differences between peoples: race and genetics NATUREor biologyreligion, economy, technology CULTURErace,geneticstheir environmentreligion,economy,technologydevelopmentYet the two categories can overlap since there has been anunderlying assumption that those with the most advance cultureare also ‘better’ naturally, that is, they have the best naturalendowment (genes, intelligence, strength).
18 BUT: - Whose judgements about ‘advanced’ vs ‘primitive’ - Whose scale was being used as the standard?- Advanced in what sense? kinship, then Australian aborigines kinship system is the most complex, as well as religious concepts. technology of locomotion - then some of the Western nations meditative practices - Hindus or Zen Buddhists most sophisticated.- 19th century social theorists ranked peoples on an evolutionary, progressive, unilinear, and universe scale of cultures (with themselves at the top). The same unilinear path of civilization. Only one scale and one orientation – up and West.
19 Assumption:● a constant human nature and that the differences are only superficial.That means that a Shakespeare play, for example, could be understood by all people because people everywhere would have the same concepts, emotions, and motivations (Bohannan, Reader). Indeed, Shakespeare’s genius, like that of any great artist, is supposed to rest on his ability to appeal to universal emotions and circumstances. But others have asked whether a people’s emotions and responses are instead conditioned by the particularities of the culture they live in. Anthropologist Laura Bohannan put these different positions to the test when she told the story of Hamlet to a group of Africans with whom she was living and conducting her anthropological fieldwork. A major difficulty arose with the translation – not just words, but the concepts. Was it possible to translate the concepts and emotions from Shakespeare’s world into the African language and context to render the story understandable to them, or did the translation totally alter it?
20 Nature in Anthropology: Two main conceptsexternal nature, or the ecosystem,inner nature, or human nature.Both of these concepts represent the opposite of culture.What is cultural is always something other than nature.Culture always implies a transformation, and sometimes a denial, of that which is natural.
21 Binary oppositions:Levi-Strauss’s axiom: human societies distinguish between culture and natureOur non-humanised surroundings may sometime appear as a major threat to human projects: they may threaten to destroy our crops, kill our livestock and so on. Every cultural project seems to imply a transformation of both external and human nature.Claude Levi-Strauss b.Nov.28, 1908
22 Nature-Culture intrinsic connection ● culture is intrinsically connected with nature.● nature furnishes the raw materials culture is based onstrong relationship of mutual interdependence between the two.● nature stronger and more permanent in character than cultural products, cultural products by comparison appear as fragile, vulnerable and temporary. If we say about social order as ‘natural’ - indeed legitimate it.● Nature as threatening and difficult to control, yet provider of raw materials for cultural products. Ambiguous: nature simultaneously a source of a legitimation and an opponent.● Marilyn Strathern After Nature (1992): exceptional system of kinship and descent, replacing ‘natural’ reproduction with (cultural) technologically controlled reproduction (test tubes, insemination, surrogate mothers). We now see a change in conceptions of cultural and natural.
23 Two approaches the nature-culture relationship: ● how nature and the nature-culture relationship is conceptualised in different societies;● how nature (the environment or inborn characteristics of human) affects society and culture.Nature thus exists both as cultural representations of nature and as something outside culture and society, yet influencing the ways in which humans live. As biological species, we take part in ecosystems and modify them; as cultural beings, we develop concepts about our environment and place ourselves outside it.
24 What is human nature?Orthodox view: a suite of capacities universal to the species. Some of them: language, bipedal locomotion, ability to make/use tools, self-consciousness, and the capacity to represent the world symbolically through art, design and ritual. It is said these capacities evolved gradually from ancient times. But no more.Ever since creatures appeared on the scene that were recognisably like ourselves, human nature has remained fixed in perpetuity, common to all of us, and underwriting everything we do.If human beings differ from one another, whether at the level of the individual or the population, this is not because of variations in their nature, but because of the particular circumstances they encounter in their lifetimes, including both the cultural tradition and the physical environment in which they were brought up.
25 But we can argue that nature is not set and universal But we can argue that nature is not set and universal. Common examples to illustrate the argument: walking and talking (everyone does it) Bipedal locomotion, as it is technically called, is supposed to have evolved among our ancient ancestors as an adaptation to hunting and gathering in an open savannah environment. Yet: people walk in very different ways, depending on factors (surface or terrain, footwear, as well as age, gender or status). E.g.: shuffling gait vs upright posture. Carrying devices (rucksacks to suitcases) are designed accordingly.Great differences, as well as startling similarities, can be seen when comparing world cultures. People around the globe are similar in their essential humanity: we communicate with each other, we sustain ourselves with food, and when we sleep we often dream. Yet we speak different languages, eat different foods, and dream different dreams. These are what we call cultural differences. What causes them is not always obvious to the ordinary person.
26 Let me sum up: there is no standard or universal form of human being, underlying the variations that are so apparent to all of us. In their dispositions and their capacities, and to some extent even in their morphology, the humans of today are different not only from one another, but also from their prehistoric predecessors. This is because these characteristics are not fixed genetically, but emerge within processes of development, and because the circumstances of development today, cumulatively shaped through previous human activity, are very different from those of the past. In this sense the story of human evolution is still going on, even in the course of our everyday lives. But it is not a story of upward movement, along a scale from lower to higher, nor is it one of breakthrough to a superior level of being, over and above the organic. There never was any mighty moment in the past when the upper limits of nature were breached and our ancestors emerged onto the stage of culture, or where they could spread their wings and fly off into history. For the very idea of a division between nature and culture is a Western conceit.
27 The anthropological concept of "culture" reflects in part a reaction against earlier Western discourses based on an opposition between “culture" and “nature", according to which some human beings lived in a "state of nature". Anthropologists argue that culture is "human nature," and that all people have a capacity to classify experiences, encode classifications symbolically, and teach such abstractions to others.Since humans acquire culture through learning, people living in different places or different circumstances may develop different cultures. Anthropologists have also pointed out that through culture people can adapt to their environment in non-genetic ways, so people living in different environments will often have different cultures. Much of anthropological theory has originated in an appreciation of and interest in the tension between the local (particular cultures) and the global (a universal human nature, or the web of connections between people in distinct places/circumstances).
28 Key readingsBohannan, Laura Shakespeare in the bush. In: Spradley, J. and D.W. McCurdy (eds.). Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. New York: Longman, ppIngold, T Human nature and science. In: Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 24 (4), ppIngold, T Culture and the perception of the environment. In: Croll E. and D. Parkin (eds). Bush Base: forest farm. Culture, environment and development. London: Routledge, ppLee, Richard Eating Christmas in Kalahari. In: Spradley, J. and D.W. McCurdy (eds.). Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. New York: Longman, ppDelaney, Carol Investigating Culture: An Experiential Introduction to Anthropology. Malden: Blackwells, pp. 1-18
30 Does one have to be human to be a person Does one have to be human to be a person? Is the distinction between persons and non-persons the same as that between humans and non-humans? Are all humans persons? Can non-human animals be persons too? If social relations are relations among persons, is the scope of social relations limited by the boundaries of humanity?
31 Definitions as we are finding out are hugely important Definitions as we are finding out are hugely important. They have enormous practical consequences for people, often in matters of life and death. The definition of personhood in our society underlies one of the most difficult issues of medical ethics that has been the subject of public debate. Is just fertilized egg in the womb of a mother-to-be a person? If not, then when does the cross line between non-person and person start? This is a point of the abortion debate, because if a fertilized egg is a person, then termination of pregnancy is a murder.
32 Then again, the debates about animal rights rise the question of personhood. Many people feel bad about the slaughter of the animals like, whales and dolphins, not because of concerns about species conservation, but because these animals seem so intelligent, that equal them to a certain extend to human person.
33 ‘Person’ comes from the Latin persona, meaning a mask ‘Person’ comes from the Latin persona, meaning a mask. With time the word the word referred to the rights and obligations that went with being a citizen as opposed to a slave who did not possess any rights. Later still, the concept of the person finally came to settle on the meaning which is most commonly attributed today, namely the individual self. So, if we talk about rights then, person means human. However, we commonly believe that all and only persons have certain rights, for example, the right to life. However, if we take example of animals, despite not human beings, have all rights to life too. That makes animals persons in this sense too.
34 Personhood of animalsVladimir Arsent’iev, Russian geographer. Expedition in theFar East. His guide, a native man, became a prototype for a main character called Dersu Uzala. Film Dersu Uzala (director Akiro Kurasawa). Concept of the person.- Hallowell, American anthropologist, worked with Ojibwa, north Canada. Ojibwa sorcerers can transform into bears.
35 Anthropomorphism and personhood Western context: pet-keeping and animal fables. Fantasy/invented world. Allegory.Ojibwa: nothing anthropomorphic about non-human beings.Animal’s contacts with humans are entirely incidental to itsstatus as a person.Western relationship to animals: domination and subordinationOjibwa: equal creaturesOjibwa fables:- no allegory,- stories are based on accurate and detailed observation, not invention,
36 Inanimate objects as persons If inanimate objects can be persons, what are definitions then?Ojibwa: thunder and stone.Person: inner vital part (enduring) and outer part (changing).Vital properties of a person: sentience, volition, memory and speech.
37 Bambi and visions of nature Matt Cartmill: ‘A view to a death in the morning’(1993). History of hunting in the Western world.Walt Disney’s Bambi (1942). Reaction to WW2.Message: nature as harmony vs destruction of a man
38 American gun lobby and outdoor sports enthusiasts: accused Bambi lovers in indulging themselves in a sentimental, anthropomorphic fantasy. - Regulated culling of wildlife was part of a rational and reasonable policy of game-management, and use of natural resources - American field sport magazine ‘Shooting Editor’: “In the Wonderful World of Disney animals are cuter than people . Wolves spend their time playing like kittens. The lion and lamb love one another and only many is the bastard in the black hat…whose chief aim is spilling of Bambi’s blood. Now this is the Bambi Syndrome”.
39 Conflict between two views of nature Nature as a realm to be dominated and controlled by a man through superior force and intelligenceSacred space of beauty, mystery and harmony, to be preserved and protected from the devastating impact of human civilization
40 Nature viewed differently: For the Sakha (Yakut) people in Siberia ‘ayilha’ (nature) everything that is not made by a man.Ayilha is a seat for multiple powerful spiritsAyilha is sentient. Compare: Sentient ecology (Anderson)Human being is humble in front of ayilha
41 Metamorphosis:A human being through the course of life can transform herself/himselfinto different beings. Death turns a human being into an animal.Eskimo hunter’s wife turns into a whale.SO:“The human is just one of many outward forms of personhood”Ingold (2000: 50)
42 Key readings:Cartmill, M A View to Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature Through History. Chapter 9, ‘The Bambi syndrome’. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, ppHallowell, I Ojibwa ontology, behavior and world view. In: Dimond, S. (ed.) Culture in History: Essays in Honor of Paul Radin. New York: Columbia University Press, ppIngold, T The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London: Routledge, pp
44 1. By modes/systems of production Capitalist (private ownership)Socialist (state ownership)In Marxist scholarship:Relations of production (property and the ability to control other people’s labour power) and forces of production (raw materials, technology) make up a mode of production, and this is considered decisive for the organisation of society
45 2. By dominant mode of subsistence It is not the same as mode of production but is related to dominant production techniques.Three modes:Hunting and gatheringHerding of livestock (pastoralism)Cultivation of plant crops (agriculture and horticulture)
46 This classical division of human modes of subsistence stems from popular scenario of human social evolution: hunting and gathering correspond to the stage when men and women could scarcely be distinguished from other animals.Present hunters and gatherers lack wit to improve their condition.Evolutionary model: a hunter who herds animals is seen as a pastoralist, but a pastoralist who does hunting is NOT a hunter;Why are there so few hunters and gatherers in the world? Defined out of existence by us. No society where people do not do some hunting and gathering.
47 Lewis Henry Morgan “Ancient Society” (1877) Three universal stages of human social evolution:Savagery, characterised by the economy of hunting and gatheringBarbarism, characterised by the so-called ‘food-producing’ economies of agriculturalists and pastoralists; andCivilisation, characterised initially by the rise of urban settlements including non-food producing specialists (merchants and artisans). Invention of writing. Further divided into bronze age with city states, iron age with slave empires, the era of feudalism, and finally mercantile and industrial capitalism
48 What are subsistence economies? Economies in which people are producing for the most part what they themselves consume.
49 Are people practising these economies poor? Are they on the verge of starvation?- Do they live a ‘hand to mouth’ existence?Yes, insecurity, but only as a symptom of the breakdown ofindigenous economies due to their having been caught in anincreasingly exploitative system of global political and economic relations.
50 Marshall Sahlins “Stone Age Economics” (1972) Hunter-gatherer societies are not poor.Poverty is relative deprivation.People are poor when they have access to only a fraction of what they need.Hunter-gatherers’ needs are minimal.There is always enough to satisfy the needs.‘Original affluent society’.
51 The more intensive the system of cultivation – the harder people have to work Gathering is comparatively light work but can usually maintain human populations at low densities.The need to extract more food to support growing human population drove the transition from gathering to cultivation and from land-extensive swidden cultivation to land-intensive fixed field agriculture.Continuous mode of subsistence based on gathering signifies lack of pressure to move to another form.
52 Transition to a more intensive system increases population growth Thus, growth of population was both cause and consequence of the transition from gathering to cultivation and of its subsequent intensification.
53 How does a shift from gathering to cultivation, from hunting to pastoralism occur? NOT according to evolutionary model of human development. Evolutionary model - a form of historical consciousness of western tradition of thought. BUT:Due to growing population;Due to increasing pressure on maintaining life by a certain mode of subsistence.
54 Viewing hunter-gatherers from western perspective: Two extremes: primitive/backward or idealised Garden of EdenEnvironment is harsh and hostile.Indigenous perspectives:Environment is a dwelling place, homeAnimated environment. Aiylha, Sakha word for nature.Consideration and respect
55 Key readings:Ellen, R Modes of subsistence: hunting and gathering to agriculture and pastoralism. In: Ingold, T. (ed.) Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology: Humanity, Culture and Social Life. London: Routledge, ppSahlins, M. D Stone Age Economics. Chapter 1, ‘The original affluent society’. London: Tavistock, ppBird-David, N The giving environment: another perspective on the economic system of gatherer-hunters. In: Current Anthropology, vol. 31, pp
57 Spatial orientation: The need for spatial orientation The meaning of space
58 What is space?A continuous unlimited area or expanse which may or may not contain objects etc.Vacuum
59 Space in anthropology Social Constructed Not empty Not a vacuum Examples:some distances seem shorter, social space, private space
60 Some categories of theoretical discussion of space in anthropology: Embodied space, gendered space, inscribed space, contested space, transnational space, spacial tactics.
61 Spatial organisation in a society MapsParts of the world: East, West, The Orient, Third WorldCosmology: four cardinal points, four corners of the globeWorldview: divine vs material; supernatural vs naturalChristian worldview: Garden of Eden, Heaven, Hell
62 Nations and regions Nations. Obvious way for distinction Western conceptModern ideaE.g. Nomads,Gypsy people, migrantworkers
63 Institutionalised segregation Until recently: separate places for non-white people. Apartheid in South AfricaThe Berlin WallGhettosConstruction of space.Applied restrictionsPerception of space: gendered, e.g. safety
64 Gendered spatial organisation Space divided by genderTea rooms (Turkey),Gentelmen’s clubs,Universities (Cambridge until 1952)House of Commons (until 1919)
65 Spaces in the citiesDivision: by activity, ethnic group, income categoryHigh streetsShopping centres. ‘Mall culture’ in USA.Work space
66 Houses and roomsVarieties of houses: across the world, time and regionHouse space reflects lifestyle, spacial values of a particular culture.E.g. chum, reindeer herder’s house
67 GUESTSSacred side: hunting gear/amuletsKitchen stuffMen working areaWomen working areaFIREKitchen stuff/foodFirewood/water/ice
68 Space and frontier concept: ‘frontier’: 1893 Frederick Jackson TurnerA way of reading American historyPart of political, social and economic thoughtWild West, Siberia or colonial territories
69 Spacial conceptSpace is socially constructed (Foucault 1980, Lefebvre 1974, Harvey 1990)No neutral spaceProduction of space (Lefebvre 1974)Space and power (Foucault 1980). Space is a container of power“Whole history remains to be written of spaces” (Foucault 1980: 149).
70 Space is NOT emptyBUT: it is abstract continuumLocations can be specified, as points in space
71 Space and environmentEnvironment – relative term. Space to environment is like ‘etic’ to ‘emic’Environment is never completeNot to confuse environment with nature
72 Key readingsNelson, R.K Make prayers to the raven: a Koyukon view of the northern forest. Chapter 13, ‘Nature and the Koyukon tradition’. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ppBasso, K Western Apache language and culture. Chapter 6, ‘Stalking with stories: names, places, and moral narratives among the Western Apache’. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, ppDelaney, Carol Investigating Culture: An Experiential Introduction to Anthropology. Malden: Blackwells, pp
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