Cultural Anthropology – Exam 1

4 subfields of anthropology
1. cultural
2. archaeology
3. physical
4. linguistics
Cultural antropology
The study of all aspects of living human behavior.
Archeology
The scientific study of the material remains of past cultures.
Physical anthropology
The study of the biological aspects of humans.
Linguistics
The study of language origins and acquisition.
Holistic view
A view that combines both biological and sociocultural aspects of humanity as a way to describe in the broadest sense possible what it means to be human.
Definition of ‘culture’
That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired as a member of society.
Culture is…
1. learned
2. shared
3. symbolic
4. integrated
5. adaptive
6. changing
Learned (culture)
People acquire cultural ‘norms’, ‘values’ and ‘symbols’ from others in the process of growing up in a society.
– 90% of culture is learned.
(example: children modeling behavior)
Shared (culture)
Numerous people hold roughly the same set of beliefs, values, etc. This gives them the capacity to communicate with one another without serious misunderstanding.
(example: “M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hands”)
Symbolic (culture)
Events, objects and behaviors become symbols that are understood within a culture.
(examples: weddings, solute)
Integrated (culture)
As one aspect of culture changes, others are affected.
(examples: as technology changes, our pattern of communication changes – portable devices)
Adaptive (culture)
Our culture is a toolbox. Being able to adapt helps us to solve problems in our physical, social and emotional environment.
– Needed for surival.
(examples: behaving appropriately in social groups, dealing with death – funeral tradition, heaven)
Changing (culture)
Our plasticity allows us to thrive under a wide variety of social and ecological conditions.
– Often occurs via innovation or diffusion.
– Culture is always changing.
Innovation (aka invention)
The creative innovating of new solutions to old and new problems.
(example: fax machines, email)
Diffusion
The spread of cultural traits through borrowing from one culture to another.
– Can be direct or indirect.
(example: salsa)
Ethnocentrism
The assumption that one’s own culture is the best, most sensible, natural and normal.
Cultural relativism
The notion that cultures are best understood from the point of view of their own culture, rather than according to the values of another culture.
– Accepting other cultures as products of their own realities (non judgemental).
Comparative approach
Identifying similarities and differences from the widest possible range of human societies.
– Valuing all different ways equally.
– No assumption that our way is the best way.
Holistic approach
Looking at the whole picture – factoring in genetics, biological evolution, prehistoric development of culture, language technology, and the diversity of modern cultures.
Applied anthropology
The application of anthropology to the solution of human problems.
(example: research and fieldwork that leads to suggestions on the best way to sell products or deliver services)
Ethnography
Includes both fieldwork among people in a society and the written results of such fieldwork.
– The major research tool of cultural anthropology.
The 5 components of the ‘Ethnographic Method’.
1. participant observation
2. life histories
3. surveys
4. Consultants (Informants)
5. interviews
Participant observation (ethnographic method)
Becoming involved in the culture that you are studying while making detailed observations of what is going on.
– Most common technique of Anthropologists.
Life histories (ethnographic method)
Intimate and personal collections of a lifetime of experiences from certain members of the community being studied.
– Reveals how specific people deal with similar issues and illustrates diversity within a given community.
Surveys (ethnographic method)
Includes a set of standard closed-ended questions to gather lots of information from many people.
– Answers are easily quantified (quantitative statistics; charts).
Consultants (Informants)
A person within the culture that you are studying who services as a “guide” to what’s going on.
– They help the Anthropologist to interpret the things that they observe from an emic perspective.
Interviews (ethnographic method)
Generally open-ended questions are asked that allow people to elaborate on (give detail about) their lives and their society as a way to gather subjective information.
Emic perspective
The insider’s view (Informants).
Etic perspective
The outsider’s view (Anthropologist).
Non verbal communication
A system of postures, facial expressions, and body motions that convey messages.
– Culture specific-symbolic (part of “the code”)
(examples: ok hand signal/culture specific, be quiet forefinger)
Qualitative data
Very descriptive; subjective
(examples: participant observation, interviews)
Quantitative data
Gives numbers that can be used to do statistical analysis; appears to be more objective – numbers can be graphed, etc.
(example: surveys)
Geneology
The study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history.
Postmodernism
Believes that “culture transforms physical reality into interpreted reality”,
“We are all biased by our cultural experiences and education” and
“We need to recognize our own biases and consider various perspectives”
Androcentric bias
Excessive focus on male activities or male perspectives.
– Excluding women’s contributions to society lacks a holistic view.
– Androcentric bias is still evident today with men bringing in higher salaries than women for the same jobs.
Symbol
Something that stands for something else.
– Culture is based on symbols.
– We react to the meanings rather than the “things”.
(examples: middle finger, thumbs up)
Frank Boaz
Known as “The father of American anthropology” – Rejected evolutionary ideas about culture – Believed that ‘fieldwork’ was the key to understanding culture.
Branislaw Malinowski
Goal of ethnography was to get the “native” point of view – Believed that all aspects of culture were linked and intertwined, making it impossible to write about just one cultural feature without discussing how it relates to others – culture is “integrated”.
Norms
Shared ideas about how people should act – rules for acceptable behavior.
Values
People’s beliefs about the goals or way of life that is desirable for themselves and their society.
Subculture
A group within a society that shares norms and values that are significantly different from those of the dominant culture.
(examples: gangs, sororities, religious organizations)
Enculturation
The process of learning to be a member of a particular cultural group.
(example: infants and children socially learn the culture of those around them – norms, values, symbols)
Cultural universals
Cultural traits that are common to all human cultures worldwide.
– Anthropologists believe that there are NO cultural universals.
Call systems
The form of animal communication composed of a LIMITED number of sounds that are tied to specific stimuli in the environment.
Human Language
A unique form of arbitrary symbolic communication that is learned (not biologically transmitted).
– Humans use language to communicate needs.
– Human language is the only one that allows communication about the past and the future.
– Language is the principal means by which we conduct our social lives.
Importance of language for Anthropology
Language is a defining feature of humans – therefore, in order to understand humans we must understand language.
– It is helpful for the Anthropologist to learn the language of their subjects.
Universal grammar
Chromsky’s belief that humans all possess an innate capability for language aquisition. It is then developed through learning.
Relationship between language and culture.
– Both language and culture are part of symbolic thought.
– Language influences culture (talking about someone before meeting them).
– Culture influences language (70 words to decribe beer in Germany).

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