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Culture and Power How can we understand & analyze aspects of culture (ideas, music, food, work, etc.) as they are embedded within institutional structures of power? How do young artists participate within and speak back to structures of power?

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culture and power
Culture and Power

How can we understand & analyze aspects of culture (ideas, music, food, work, etc.) as they are embedded within institutional structures of power?

4 approaches
  • Social Justice
  • Historical
  • “Subjective” Analysis
  • Anthropology of Home
1 social justice approach
1. Social Justice Approach
  • How humans are positioned within and negotiate systems of inequality
  • hegemony = dominant culture or ideology (taken for granted); how people are expected to think
  • we consent with the dominant culture when we do not ask questions
1 social justice approach ex
1. Social Justice Approach Ex.
  • How is Kudi positioned within systems of inequality—in Nigeria, in the world?
  • What are the hegemonic understandings of Muslim cultures today?
2 historical approach
2. Historical Approach

Investigating the origin of a process or problem to denaturalize taken-for-granted categories

2 historical approach ex
2. Historical Approach Ex.
  • What is the origin of the idea that women are prone to hysteria?
  • Biomedical discourses, rooted in Enlightenment Europe, linked hysteria to having a womb.
  • Thus, if we know the idea of hysteria has an origin, we know the idea was historically created and could even be Recreated
3 subjective analysis is more objective
3. Subjective Analysis is More Objective
  • As the anthropologist identifies and critiques her background or position in relation to her subject, she is able to produce a more “objective” account.
  • The reader can better evaluate the study and its findings when she is clear about the researcher’s stakes.
3 subjective analysis is more objective ex
3. Subjective Analysis is More Objective Ex.
  • Political background: civil rights, decolonization & global equality
  • Personal interests: scholar, activist, yogi, dancer
  • Race/nationality/class/gender: white skin color privilege, US privileges, middle class family from NY, woman
  • Geography: grew up in FL; participated in mixed language, mixed class Cuban dance community; attended private middle & high school in FL
4 anthropology of home is legitimate
4. “Anthropology of Home”Is Legitimate
  • Cultural Difference is not only “out there.”
  • Focusing on home allows us to understand how cultural difference works close to home
  • If we understand how cultural difference works close to home, we can better understand “other” places
nacirema american

Argument: (p.10)

The Nacirema belief system rests on the idea that the human body is ugly & that its natural tendency is to debility and disease. The Nacirema have an aversion to the natural body and its functions. They are magic-ridden and masochistic people. But their exotic customs have meaning and will eventually guide them to higher stages of civilization.

supporting evidence data
Supporting Evidence/Data:
  • Every household has at least one ritual shrine in which the “natives” perform daily, private rituals & ceremonies to prevent disease and ugliness.
  • Medicine men prepare magical charms and potions for “natives” in exchange for gifts. “Charm-boxes” are usually overflowing.
  • Every member of a family bows before the charm-box and mingles holy water in the font, a rite of ablution/cleansing.
supporting evidence data14
Supporting Evidence/Data:
  • “Natives” go to “holy-mouth-men” to rid the mouth of evils. This is like ritual torture.
  • The culture has masochistic tendencies: men scrape and lacerate the surface of their faces with a sharp instrument, women bake their heads in small ovens. This is barbaric.
objectifying language
Objectifying Language
  • Objectifying:Turning the thing or person being examined into an object (v. subject) of study, something separate/distant from the investigator
  • 1920s-1960s Anthropology: culture & people are objects to be studied (like things). Anthropologists studied “people.”
  • Since 1970s: Culture & people are subjects who have their own agency or will (desires, ideas, etc.). We study with people and communities as “collaborators.”
miner s objectifying terms
Miner’s Objectifying Terms:
  • The Nacirema A Nacireman woman/man (names?)
  • ritual activity everyday practice
  • shrine bathroom (what do they call it?)
  • natives people
  • charms/potions medicine, soap, toothpaste, etc.
  • medicine men doctors
  • herbalist pharmacist
  • charmbox medicine cabinet
  • font sink
  • holy water water
  • rite of ablution washing face, brushing teeth
  • Water Temple water purification tank
miner s objectifying terms17
Miner’s Objectifying Terms:
  • holy mouth men dentists
  • mouth-rite teeth cleaning
  • magical materials fillings
  • sharp instrument razor
  • vestal maidens nurses
  • gift money
  • neophyte patient
  • listener therapist
how can we write about other cultures
How can we write about other cultures?
  • Pay attention to “cultural framing.” Is the event a casual event or a religious ceremony?
  • Ask the people what they think!
  • Participant Observation
  • Interview: Formal & informal
  • Opening question: what do you think about… or what’s it like to..? List of 10 questions