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ANTH 1013 Week 7 Chapter 6: Anthropological Explanations and Chapter 7: Analysing Sociocultural Systems

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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

steward in retrospect
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
cultural materialism marvin harris
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
harris cultural materialism ahimsa
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
harris cultural materialism ahimsa cont
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)
marxist anthropology
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
symbolic anthropology
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?
  • 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
feminist anthropology
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
postmodernism and anthropology
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
chapter 7 analysing sociocultural systems
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
ethnographic field methods
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
ethnographic research strategies
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
ethnographic research strategies cont
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
ethnographic research strategies cont15
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
ethnographic research strategies cont16
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
ethnographic research strategies cont17
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
ethnographic research strategies cont18
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
cultural universals and variables 1 subsistence and physical environment
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
cultural universals and variables 2 demography
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
2 demography cont
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)
2 demography cont22
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
cultural universals and variables 3 technology
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