Anthropology V02 - Spring 2012
Study Questions Weeks 1-4
Anthropology is distinguished by five 'hallmarks': cultural relativism, subjective understanding, holism, fieldwork, and comparison. Explain what each of these terms means and describe how an anthropologist adhering to each of these criteria would go about investigating some aspect of a culture different from his or her own.
Name the four subfields of anthropology. Describe or give an example of one kind of investigation for each subfield.
What is the difference between emic and etic approaches in anthropology? Describe one example of an aspect of a culture from the readings, lectures, or films, a) from an etic perspective, and b) from an emic perspective.
What is ethnology?
What is applied anthropology? Give one example.
A(n) ___________ is the anthropological description of a particular contemporary culture by means of direct fieldwork.
In the film, A Man Called Bee, what were 4 kinds of data that Chagnon collected? What were 4 of the methods he used?
From the film, A Man Called Bee, and the handout, describe 4 of the difficulties that Chagnon encountered in conducting his fieldwork.
Define cultural relativism and ethnocentrism. Describe one aspect of Yanomamö culture from an ethnocentric viewpoint. Describe the same aspect from a culturally relative one.
What is an "armchair anthropologist"? How did the division of labor in anthropological data gathering and theorizing change after the 19th century (how was it done before, and how was it done after the turn of the century)? Who were the two main figures, one in the U.K. and one in the U.S., in initiating this change?
Who are the Nacirema? What is the point the author is making?
How do the Nacirema view the human body?
According to Nanda and Warms, why is it inaccurate to describe any group of people as "uncontacted"? In other words, describe the reality of these "uncontacted tribes."
What is enculturation? The film, A Man Called Bee, shows some examples of enculturation. Describe one of them. Describe one way in which Inuit children are enculturated.
Use the following terms to describe Chagnon's fieldwork among the Yanomamö: cultural relativism, culture shock, subjective understanding, holism, participant observation, emic, etic, and bicultural perspective. (Note: you must describe these in a way that indicates your understanding of the terms).
What is meant by 'reflexive anthropology'?
What is 'methodological pluralism'?
Describe the difference between statistical cross-cultural comparison and controlled comparison. Beatrice Whiting and Siegfried Nadel both studied witchcraft using comparative methods. Describe how these two studies illustrate the two different types of comparisons.
Give one definition of 'culture' in the anthropological sense.
According to Leslie White and others, the ability to symbolize is the single most important aspect of humans that separates us from the other animals. What is one example of this aspect of culture?
Three major characteristics of culture are that it is shared, learned, and largely unconscious. Give one example for each of these aspects from your own life. Give one example of how someone in a different culture might misunderstand your actions based upon cultural difference.
Give 3 examples of something that you think, feel, or do, that someone in any culture would understand. What do you call this phenomenon (things that people in all cultures have in common)?
Briefly describe the 'nature vs. nurture' controversy. According to lecture, what is the current view of most anthropologists in this regard?
What is wrong with this statement: "The XYZ have lived in the same way for thousands of years."?
Innovation and diffusion are the two processes by which cultures change. Define these terms and give one material and one non-material example of each.
What is a pluralistic society? Give one example.
Explain how the introduction of guns and snowmobiles to the Inuit hunters on the Alaskan tundra can be considered both adaptive and maladaptive.
Nanda and Warms argue that 'humanness' is a cultural, rather than biological designation. They compare perceptions regarding when one becomes a human, that is, a social person, among groups in Ghana, the Toda of India, and the poor in Brazil. A) Compare one of these 3 perceptions to one American perception of when an embryo becomes a person. B) Describe how this question relates to debates over birth control in the U.S., and why it is a cultural rather than biological question.
Explain one example of how an aspect of culture such as religion, gender relations, or economic status can affect the spread of HIV/AIDS in a particular culture.
Give one example of a cultural norm among the Yanomamö. Give one example of a cultural value held by most Americans. Name one subculture in the U.S. and describe how their norms and values differ from those of the dominant culture.
Give one example of biological adaptation among animals or humans. Give one example of cultural adaptation. What is one advantage that cultural adaptation has over biological adaptation? Describe one example of how cultural adaptation can be disadvantageous.
Nanda and Warms describe the difference between a materialist approach and an idealist or interpretivist approach to understanding the events of 9/11. Describe these two different approaches to understanding this event..
How does Nadel's research on witchcraft exemplify a scientific approach to anthropological theory? In other words, explain how he arrived at his frustration-aggression hypothesis, and how it both explained and predicted correlations between witchcraft accusations and other aspects of culture.
What were two of anthropology's 'roots' prior to the 19th century? What prompted or gave rise to theorizing about culture?
What was the major theoretical rubric or paradigm of the 19th century that greatly influenced anthropological theorizing about culture?
Comte, Darwin, Spencer, and Marx were some of the non-anthropologists in the 19th century whose ideas were influential in the development of anthropological theory. Choose two of these thinkers and describe how each of them influenced thinking about culture and history.
Briefly explain what is meant by the 'organic analogy.' How does it relate to functionalism?
Karl Marx was the 'founding father' of the materialist perspective in the 19th century. Briefly explain the basics of this theory. In other words, what is at the base of society that determines the rest of it? According to Marx, what is the driving force of society, history, and change?
Lewis Henry Morgan and Edward Tylor were two major figures in 19th-century anthropology. Describe their cultural evolutionist view, and their explanation for cultural differences. How was their explanation for cultural differences, and their concept of the "psychic unity of humankind" progressive in terms of previous 'degeneration' explanations for cultural difference?
Franz Boas is considered the father of American anthropology. What were 3 of the basic tenets or views of his American Cultural Historicism school of theory regarding what anthropology should be about? What were two things that Boas was adamantly against?
During the first part of the 20th century, functionalism was being developed in British social anthropology. Briefly describe this theory.
Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown were two of functionalism's major figures, but they each took slightly different approaches to the explanation of how society works. What was this difference?
Malinowski conducted his fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands during the first World War. How did he help to change ideas about fieldwork? According to Malinowski, what was one function of the Kula Ring?
What is one critique of functionalism?
In the 1920s Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict began working in the Culture and Personality school that developed out of the Boasian tradition. What was the major thrust of these two women's research? In other words, describe Mead's research in Samoa and New Guinea, and what she was trying to show. What was Benedict basically attempting to show with her two studies, one of Native American and South pacific groups, and the other of Japanese culture?
Leslie White developed a neo-evolutionist theory of culture. Describe his basic ideas about culture and what drives change. In what ways was his theory influenced by Marx?
Explain the basics of Julian Steward's cultural ecology theory. How is Steward's 'multilinear' cultural ecology different from Leslie White's universal evolutionary model? Were these two theorists coming from a materialist or an interpretivist perspective?
According to Nanda and Warms, what is meant by "engaged anthropology"? Give one example. What is one problem that can arise with this kind of anthropology?
Describe two changes in the methods, conditions, or goals of ethnographic research now compared to the first half of the 20th century.
Provide one culturally relative argument for female genital operations.
Briefly describe the basic ideas of Claude Levi-Strauss's structuralism: binary opposition, the structure of the brain, and psychic unity of humankind.
What do cognitive anthropology and ethnoscience attempt to do? Where is the locus of culture according to this approach? Is this approach etic or emic?
Marvin Harris developed the school of cultural materialism. Describe this approach to explaining culture. Describe how Harris applied this approach in his analysis of vegetarianism among Hindus. Is his approach emic or etic?
Victor Turner and Clifford Geertz were two major figures in symbolic anthropology. Describe the focus of this theory.
Give one example of Victor Turner's concept of "antistructure." According to Turner, what is the function of antistructure?
What was the difference between Turner's and Geertz's approaches to the analysis of symbols? How did this difference reflect their different theoretical backgrounds in the U.K. (structural-functionalism) and U.S. (Boasian cultural anthropology)?
How would Turner analyze the American flag? What would Geertz's analysis of the flag focus on?
The interpretivist theoretical school grew out of the work Geertz's symbolic anthropology. Compare this interpretivist approach to the materialist perspective.
Feminist anthropologists beginning in the 1970s had several important concerns and questions that drove their research. What was one of them?
In The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Friedrich Engels lays out his theory of how women came to be subordinate to men. His narrative includes the development of private property, the patriarchal family, the domestic/public divide, and production for exchange. Describe Engels's narrative and explain how each of these factors affected the status of women.
Feminist archaeologists and physical anthropologists challenged the androcentrism and ethnocentrism of the "Man the Hunter" model of human evolution. Describe this critique. In other words, describe the "Man the Hunter" model and the feminist "Woman the Gatherer" critique of it, including the terms 'androcentric' and 'ethnocentric'. Include in your answer definitions of the terms 'androcentric' and 'ethnocentric.'
Feminist anthropologist Sherry Ortner used Levi-Strauss's theory of binary opposition to theorize about what she regarded as women's universal subordination relative to men due to their association with nature. Explain her theory. What is one critique of this theory?
What is one of Margaret Mead's major contributions in the development of feminist anthropology?
Describe two contributions that feminist anthropology has made to the study of culture.
Choose one theoretical approach and describe how you would use it to conduct ethnographic research to analyze some aspect of Yanomamö culture. In other words, name and describe the theory, whether it is materialist or interpretive, the methodology, the focus of your research (what question you are asking about the culture), and how you might analyze that particular aspect of culture (e.g. conflict, gender relations, subsistence, social change, religious beliefs, ritual, exchange system, etc.).
Describe two of the basic ideas associated with what is popularly called "postmodernism."
Describe the basic ideas of biological determinism vs. cultural constructionism. In other words, how does each explain human behavior?
According to lecture, how does the 'practice-centered' approach attempt to reconcile the agency vs. structure debate?
The culture of a group of people includes the belief that a particular sacred plant that is used for medicine can only be harvested on certain days of the year, and by certain people. How would you investigate and attempt to explain this behavior from a materialist perspective? How would you explain it from an interpretivist perspective?
Describe two characteristics of language that give humans an advantage relative to other animals.
What is the basic premise of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? Give one example that supports this hypothesis.
Give one example of code switching (the situational use of language).
Give an example of the use of euphemistic phrases in corporate or military language to alter people's perceptions of something (i.e. to make it sound better than it really is).
There are several forms of nonverbal communication, including artifacts, haptics (touch), chronemics (time), proxemics (space), and kinesics (body). Choose 3 of these types and give an example of each.
Deborah Tannen analyzes everyday conversations and their effects on relationships. What do you call this branch of linguistics?
In the Deborah Tannen article regarding gender differences in language, what is one difference that she describes between the way boys play and interact and the way girls play and interact? To what does Tannen attribute these gender differences?
With respect to men and women, who talks more? How does Tannen explain the contradictory beliefs regarding who talks more?
What does Tannen mean by rapport-talk and report-talk?
OUTLINE OF THEORIES:
Ancient travel writers, esp. Herodotus, Marco Polo, Ibn Khaldun
European exploration and colonial expansion
19 th -century Evolutionists
Comte – organic analogy
Darwin – biological evolution, adaptation
Spencer – organic analogy, social progress, evolution of social systems toward more complexity, 'survival of the fittest'
Marx and Engels – materialism, infrastructure (economic base/means and relations of production/subsistence) determines superstructure (religion, law, social organization, ideology), societies evolve through stages based upon modes of production, class struggle
Durkheim – organic and mechanical solidarity, forerunner of structural-functionalism
19 th -century Anthropology
Cultural evolutionists: Tylor, Morgan
Evolutionary stages: savagery, barbarism and civilization
Unilineal progress from lower to higher
Opposite of degeneration, Psychic unity of humankind
Early 20th-century American Cultural Historicism
Boas and his students
Diffusion, anti-evolutionist, anti-racist, cultural relativism, inductive method, historical particularism, fieldwork
British Social Anthropology
Malinowski – parts of society function to benefit individual
Radcliffe-Brown – structural-functionalism: parts of society function for benefit of society as a whole
Merton – dysfunction
American Psychological Anthropology
Culture and personality
Mead – life stages and gender culturally constructed, not biologically determined
Benedict – Configuration, national character, normalcy and deviance are culturally constructed and variable from one culture to the next
Influenced by Marxist materialism and 19th-century evolutionism
White – technology drives cultural evolution by harnessing more energy, thermodynamic law (E x T = C), layer cake model (technology and economy->social organization->ideology), materialist
Steward – multilinear evolution, adaptation to specific environments, similar environments produce similar technological solutions
Sahlins and Service - combine approaches: general evolution from simple to complex, specific evolution in response to particular environments
Lévi-Strauss – binary opposition, myths and symbols, structure of the mind, psychic unity
Sapir and Whorf – emic, language and culture, language determines view of world
Componential analysis, folk taxonomies, native categories
Culture is carried in the mind and language
Harris – causal explanations, etic, infrastructural determinism, material constraints, interaction with environment, technology, anthropology is science, Marx
Symbolic Anthropology - cultural meanings, symbols, rituals
Turner – structural-functional, symbols are vehicles for social solidarity, anti-structure
Geertz – interpretive, symbols are public, carriers of cultural meaning, culture as text
Geertz , subjectivity, reflexivity, relativism, emic
Feminist Anthropology - androcentrism, subjective methodology, sex vs. gender
Postmodernism - Rejection of grand theory and possibility of objective science, power relations, collaborative, humanistic
Link to Anthropology.net
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