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ANTH 1013 Week 7 Chapter 6: Anthropological Explanations and Chapter 7: Analysing Sociocultural Systems. Steward in retrospect. Cultural ecologist accused of environmental determinism Civilizations in Americas, Asia, Africa evolve in similar econiches,

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ANTH 1013Week 7 Chapter 6:Anthropological Explanationsand Chapter 7:Analysing Sociocultural Systems

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Steward in retrospect

  • Cultural ecologist accused of environmental determinism

    • Civilizations in Americas, Asia, Africa evolve in similar econiches,

      • e.g., dry river valleys modified by irrigation

  • Environmental determinism vs possibilism

  • Too idealistic?: some adaptations are mal-

  • Steward and White’s environmental determinism on culture parallels Mead and Benedict’s cultural determinism on personality (mid 20th century)

  • Advocate of multilinear evolution

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Cultural Materialism: Marvin Harris

  • Based on neoevolutionism and cultural ecology

  • Sociocultural systems divided into:

    • Infrastructure (technology, subsistence strategy)

    • Structure (sociopolitical system)

    • Superstructure (intangibles of culture, ideas)

  • Infrastructure is prime determinant of other two

  • Ignores social, political, religious beliefs?

  • Technological determinism or possibilism?

  • Downplays symbolism and language

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Harris’ Cultural Materialism: Ahimsa

  • Killing cows illegal in India

  • Ghandi: “central fact of Hinduism is cow protection”

  • Vedic culture, 1800-800 BC, northern India

    • Herds of cattle as wealth of chieftans

    • Communal feasts of beef on special occasions

    • Population grew, grazing lands plowed, forests shrank

    • Cattle inefficient consumers of feed - compete w. people

    • Brahman priests and rulers continued to eat beef

    • Resentment and unrest by 600 BC

    • Buddhism appears ca 500 BC - banned killing of animals

    • Also Jainism: against killing even bugs

    • Brahmans co-opt Buddhist respect for life doctrine as Hindu practice of Ahimsa

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Harris’ Cultural Materialism: Ahimsa (cont.)

  • Materialist justification for Ahimsa

    • Zebu cattle feed on scraps, no competition with people

    • Zebus drought and disease resistant

    • 12 year life as draft animals for plowing

    • Cattle cheaper than tractors for small farms

    • Produce milk

    • Dung for fertilizer and fuel

    • Zebus worth more alive than dead

  • Case for practicality of Ahimsa based on:

    • cultural ecology (Steward)

    • energy relationships (White)

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Marxist anthropology

  • Modified Morgan’s unilineal scheme:

    • Tribal, Asiatic, feudal, capitalism, communism

  • Materialist: mode of production is prime determinant of social, political, religious life

  • Believed class struggle unending

    • Capitalists vs proletariat

  • Social context: exploitation of workers during Industrial Revolution

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Symbolic Anthropology

  • Humanistic approach

  • Argues cultural symbols can be independent of material factors, e.g., trucker hats

  • Collect data on kinship, ritual, myth, values

  • Interpret these from perspective of people studied

  • Produce “thick description” to explain the internal logic of a culture for outsiders

  • May neglect historical, political, materialist factors

  • Symbolic determinism?

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  • Developed by E. O. Wilson, 1970’s

  • Focus on biological basis for social behaviour

  • Assumes innate predispositions for behaviour a consequence of natural selection

  • Predicts men are more promiscuous than women

    • Limited # of eggs vs unlimited # of sperm

    • 9 months + 3 yrs breastfeeding per child

    • Women naturally more selective of mates

  • Inclusive fitness basis for family ties

    • Protect kin, they protect you

  • Kin selection causes nepotism

    • Critics cite lack of biological basis in some kin categories

  • Offensive to anthropologists who see enculturation as dominant in nature vs nurture debate

  • Enculturation can override innate tendencies

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Feminist Anthropology

  • Pre-WW II, Mead popularizes anthropology

    • Redbook column

    • First to focus on gender roles

    • Questioned biological determinism re gender differences

  • Male anthropologists tended to focus on male informants; yielded biased ethnographies

  • Women’s Liberation movement in early ‘70’s

    • More female anthropologists

    • Critiqued sociobiological theories of gender difference

    • Downplayed biological and behavioural differences

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Postmodernism and Anthropology

  • Question objectivity of ethnographers and validity of old field methods

  • Demand ethnographers acknowledge their biases

  • Formerly marginal cultures now in mainstream

    • Access to education

    • Internet

    • Can tell their own stories, ethnographers redundant

  • Impact on anthropology

    • Self-reflection now common in ethnographies

    • Team approach to ethnography predicted

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Chapter 7: Analysing Sociocultural Systems

  • Introduction to ethnographic field methods

  • Examine cultural universals and variables

    • Subsistence and physical environment

    • Demography

    • Technology

    • Economy

    • Social structure

    • Political organization

    • Religion

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Ethnographic field methods

  • Devise research design

    • Identify research objectives

    • Describe schedule, methods to be used

  • Background studies

    • Archival data (images, documents, maps, notes)

    • Read published work on

      • Anthropology

      • Ecology

      • History

      • Economics

      • Political science

  • Obtain research permit from country of study

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Ethnographic research strategies

  • Participant observation

    • Learn language

    • Stay at least a year

  • Naturalistic observation

    • Mapping anthropogenic features

      • Dwellings

      • Gardens

      • Trails, roads

    • Mappping environmental features

      • Rivers, streams

      • Topography, soil types

      • Natural vegetation

      • Climate

    • Recording daily activities of people in community

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Ethnographic research strategies (cont.)

  • Time-allocation analysis

    • How many hours spent on different activities each day

    • E.g.: eating 2 hrs; attending class 5 hrs; reading 2 hrs; writing; 2 hrs; physical recreation 2 hrs; sleep 8 hrs

    • Record for different age groups and genders

  • Develop relationship with key informant

    • Makes introductions, provides information and advice

  • Unstructured interviews

    • Spontaneous, open-ended conversations

    • Avoid leading questions

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Ethnographic research strategies (cont.)

  • Structured interviews

    • Ask same questions to many people

    • Cross-checking makes data more reliable

    • Craft questions carefully for best results

    • May submit questionnaire to random sample of pop.

  • Etic perspective

    • Gather quantitative data

    • Outsider’s perspective

  • Emic perspective

    • Qualitative data

    • Insider’s perspective

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Ethnographic research strategies (cont.)

  • Take field notes

    • Use waterproof paper and pencil

    • Laptop with database program to help organize notes

    • Tape recorders

    • Still photographs

    • Video cameras

      • Risk getting “performance” not reality

      • Useful for re-interpretation later

  • Surviving culture shock

    • Loneliness

    • Anti-malarial medication can cause panic attacks

    • Adopting diet of subjects can be challenging

    • Consumption of drugs/alcohol, e.g., in Amazon

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Ethnographic research strategies (cont.)

  • Ethics

    • Must not let incriminating details get into wrong hands

    • Can use pseudonyms to protect informants

      • But this invites falsification of data

    • Anthropologists have acted as spies (WW II)

    • Must reveal motives to culture under study

    • Not supposed to try to change culture under study

    • Supposed to resist sexual involvement with subjects

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Ethnographic research strategies (cont.)

  • Correlation is interaction of two variables

    • Causal or spurious relationship?

  • Independent variable affects dependent variable

    • E.g., population increase causes increased warfare

  • Interconnectedness of cultural variables makes assigning “dependent” or “independent” tricky

    • Multidimensional approach needed

    • Flows from holistic approach

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Cultural Universals and Variables: 1. Subsistence and Physical Environment

  • Modern cultural ecology

    • Humans adapt to environmental niches in biomes

    • E.g., head of tide on river in temperate deciduous forest

  • Subsistence patterns

    • Develop as adaptations to biome parameters

    • Foraging

    • Horticulture

    • Pastoralism

    • Agriculture

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Cultural Universals and Variables: 2. Demography

  • Mainly quantitative data from censuses and surveys indicating population trends in society

  • Three variables: fertility, mortality, migration

  • Fertility (number of births)

    • Crude birth rate = number of live births annually per 1000 people

  • Mortality

    • Crude death rate = number of deaths annually per 1000 people

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2. Demography (cont.)

  • Migration rate

    • In-migrants - out-migrants = net migration

  • Natural growth rate = CBR-CDR

    • Factor in net migration to determine total population change

  • Other demographic variables

    • Fecundity (potential # of births based on women stats)

    • Life expectancy

    • Infant mortality rate (# of babies /1000 that die before 1)

    • Child mortality rate (# of children /1000 that die before age 5)

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2. Demography (cont.)

  • Push factors induce people to leave

    • Drought, warfare, poverty

  • Pull factors induce people to in-migrate

    • Economic opportunity, religious tolerance

  • Carrying capacity

    • Maximum population that an environment can support

    • Influenced by technology, e.g. food production

  • Cultural values and practices affect demography

    • Attitudes towards birth control vary

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Cultural Universals and Variables: 3. Technology

  • Broader meaning than in popular usage

    • Tools and knowledge humans apply to solve practical problems like subsistence and shelter

  • Material culture: goods (e.g., scissors)

  • Nonmaterial culture: services (e.g., haircut)

  • Role of technology in social change still debated

  • For next week: read Ch 6 & 7: TEST III