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Flashcards in Culture and Meaning Deck (28)
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Belief that reality consists of 2 different but equal parts (mind vs. matter; spirit vs. flesh)



Human nature is reduced to ideas



Human nature is reduced to biology



The whole is greater than the sum of its parts; based on the assumption that mind and body, person and society, humans and their environment interpenetrate and define one another



Examines similarities and differences between societies



Treats each culture equally and with respect


Difference between anthro and socio

Anthro has a comparative approach


Anthropological research

- Long term and with same populations
- Based in reciprocity
- Reflect on own power/positioning and stance
- Results in ethnography (description of 1 culture) or ethnology (description of multiple)
- NO exoticizing cultures
- Provides view of culture from native POV
- Fieldworker must balance emic (insider) and etic (outsider) POV


"Thick" description

Details about life and context (e.g. wink vs. twitch)


Applied anthropology

Use tools of anthro to solve modern problems


The culture concept

- System of meanings about nature of experience shared by people
- Frame through which we see the world
- Considered tacit knowledge (taken for granted)



Reduction of complex events to single forces


Influence of genes and culture on human nature

Mutual shaping of genes and culture; nurture AND nature



Study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture.


Biological anthropology

Concerned with the biological and behavioral aspects of human beings, their related non-human primates and their extinct hominin ancestors


Linguistic anthropology

Study of how language influences social life


Principles of anthropological research

- Holistic
- Comparative and relativistic
- Evolutionary (changes over time)


Today, many cultural anthropologists study....

- Study one domain of human activity
- Reject labels such as "primitive" or "savage"
- Engage in fieldwork (prolonged exposure to fieldsite)


Medical anthropology

Broadly defined as the study of health, illness and healing through time and across cultural settings.
Emerged post WWII, in relation to international development


Anthropologists view humans as biocultural organisms because

- We have a capacity to use symbolic thought
- Our genetic makeup allows us to create and use culture
- Our survival as biological organisms depends on our ability to adapt


What do the bee larvae, and the Christmas ox have to do with culture?

- Reveal our distinctions between what is considered to be “normal” and “not normal” in a given culture
- Comes down to our natural reactions, such as disgust at eating ‘strange’ foods, or confusion about why a gift would not be praised
- Culture not just cerebral, but embodied and visceral


Debate on culture is focused on:

- The use of culture (singular) vs. cultures (plural, ways of life of specific group)
- The ways that the concept has been used to oppress people considered “other”
E.g. Essentializing culture or ‘freezing’ in tradition
- How the term can be used in a way that most anthropologists can agree on (e.g. anthropologists must exoticize their own cultures as well, see culture as dynamic rather than static, and situate their analyses within a wider political social framework)



The opinion that one’s own way of life is natural or correct, indeed the only way of being human
E.g. Cultural “baggage”


Cultural relativism

- A methodological concept
- The perspective that all cultures are equally valid and can only be truly understood in their own terms
- Makes moral reasoning more complex


Why is the argument that "my culture made me do it" flawed?

- Humans do not passively follow their culture
- There is dissent and resistance to some cultural norms and beliefs
- Cultures are not uniform within
- Alternative perspectives may exist within cultures based on experience and choice
- Cultural relativism does not endorse practices that are harmful merely because they are cultural


Consensus on culture

- Culture is learned, not genetically programmed
- Learned culture (and how it is learned) is always shaped by power relations of some kind
- No culture is “pristine” or untouched by the outside world
- It is incorrect to assume that penetration of local communities by global forces dooms all cultural traditions to extinction – they often adapt and “indigenize” cultural elements from elsewhere


The anthropological perspective makes life more complicated by

- Forcing us to question common-sense assumptions
- Making moral and political decisions more difficult
- Encouraging us to decrease ethnocentric thinking


Promise of anthropological perspective

It provides a holistic, comparative, and cross-cultural understanding of the human condition(s) and exposes us to the diversity of other ways of living