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Chapter 3 Doing Cultural Anthropology
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Chapter 3 Doing Cultural Anthropology

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  1. Chapter 3 Doing Cultural Anthropology • What are the aims of ethnography and fieldwork? • How does an anthropologist do an ethnographic field study? • How has ethnography changed in the past century? • What are some of the theories in anthropology and what do they search for? • What are the special opportunities and problems in doing anthropology in one’s own society? • What are some of the ethical problems raised by ethnography?

  2. Fieldwork • Firsthand exploration of a society and culture. • Develops a holistic perspective about a culture. • Reveals the difference between what people say they do and what they do.

  3. Fieldwork Techniques • Participant observation • Photography and filming • Recording life histories • Using historical archives

  4. Common Issues in Fieldwork • Fieldwork is done by colleting data & testing a hypothesis • Community acceptance • Appropriate data-gathering techniques. • Understand local political structure • Choosing knowledgeable informants. • Coping with culture shock. • Learning a new language. • Reevaluate findings in the light of new evidence.

  5. Advantages and Disadvantages of Participant-observation

  6. Ethnography in History • Anthropology began in the late 19th Century as a comparative science. • Ethnographers concentrated on small-scale, technologically simpler societies. • Cultures were place on evolutionary scales of cultural development.

  7. Early 20th century • Boas- insisted that fieldwork was essential for holistic study. • Malinowski- “main goal for an ethnographer was to obtain the native’s point of view.” (Emic perspective)

  8. Feminist Anthropology • Questions gender bias in ethnography and cultural theory. • Men, who had limited access to women’s lives, performed much of the fieldwork. • Ignoring women’s perspectives perpetuates the oppression of women.

  9. Anthropological Theory • Attempt to answer questions such as: • Why do people behave as they do? • How do we account for human diversity?

  10. Evolutionism in Brief • All cultures pass through the same developmental stages in the same order. • Evolution is unidirectional and leads to higher levels of culture. • A deductive approach is used to apply general theories to specific cases. • Ethnocentric because evolutionists put their own societies at the top.

  11. Morgan’s Evolutionary Stages • Lower savagery: From the earliest forms of humanity subsisting on fruits and nuts. • Middle savagery: Began with the discovery of fishing technology and the use of fire. • Upper savagery: Began with the invention of the bow and arrow. • Lower barbarism: Began with the art of pottery making. • Middle barbarism: Began with domestication of plants and animals in the Old World and irrigation cultivation in the New World. • Upper barbarism: Began with the smelting of iron and use of iron tools. • Civilization: Began with the invention of the phonetic alphabet and writing.

  12. Diffusionism in Brief • Societies change as a result of cultural borrowing from one another. • A deductive approach is used by applying general theories to explain specific cases. • Overemphasized the essentially valid idea of diffusion. mother

  13. American Historical Particularism in Brief • Franz Boas- changing from a deductive to an inductive approach by collecting detailed ethnographic information. • Ethnographic facts must precede development of cultural theories (induction). • Any culture is partially composed of traits diffused from other cultures. • Direct fieldwork is essential. • Each culture is, to some degree, unique. • Ethnographers should try to get the view of those being studied, not their own view.

  14. Functionalism in Brief • Through fieldwork, anthropologists can understand how cultures work for the individual and the society. • Society is like a biological organism with many interconnected parts. • Empirical fieldwork is essential. • The structure of any society contains indispensable functions without which the society could not continue. • Radcliffe-Brown- structural functionalist • Malinowski’s psychological functionalism- 7 universal needs: • Nutrition, reproduction, bodily comfort, safety, relaxation, movement, and growth.

  15. Psychological Anthropology in Brief /Culture & Personality • Anthropologists need to explore the relationships between psychological and cultural variables. • Personality- result of cultural learning. • Universal temperaments associated with males and females do not exist. • Margaret Mead (1901-1978) • Ruth Benedict (1887-1948)

  16. Neoevolutionism in Brief • Julian Stewart’s Cultural Ecology (1902-1972) • Cultures evolution= capacity to harness energy. • Shaped by environmental conditions. • Techno-environmental conditions. • Individual factors are de-emphasized. Leslie White (1900-1975) C=E x T culture= energy X technology

  17. Cultural Materialism in Brief • Material conditions determine human thoughts and behavior. • Theorists assume the viewpoint of the anthropologist, not the native informant. (Etic perspective) • Anthropology is seen as capable of generating causal explanations. • Deemphasizes the role of ideas and values in determining the conditions of social life.

  18. Postmodernism in Brief • Switch from cultural generalization and laws- to description, interpretation, &search for meaning. • Ethnographies- written from several voices • Involves a return to cultural relativism.

  19. Cross-Cultural Comparison • Use statistics to test generalizations about culture and human behavior. • Human Relations Area File (HRAF)

  20. Native Anthropology • Study of one’s own society. • Maintain the social distance of the outsider. • “Going Native” • More common as native cultures disappear.

  21. Ethical Fieldwork Anthropologists must: • Obtain consent of the people to be studied. • Protect them from risk. • Respect their privacy and dignity.