HISTORY OF ANTHROPOLOGY PART 2. Roy Rappaport's Pigs for the Ancestors. Neo-Evolutionism and Cultural Ecology. A major theoretical shift occurred in American anthropology in the late 1940s and 1950s
HISTORY OF ANTHROPOLOGY PART 2 Roy Rappaport's Pigs for the Ancestors
Neo-Evolutionism and Cultural Ecology • A major theoretical shift occurred in American anthropology in the late 1940s and 1950s • antievolutionary perspective of the Boasian school competes with the new and more sophisticated evolutionary approaches • similarities between cultures could be explained by parallel adaptations to similar natural environments • not all societies passed through similar stages of cultural development i.e. unilineal models of evolution were too sweeping.
Julian Haynes Steward 1902 - 1972 • central figure in the introduction of ecological concepts into social and cultural anthropology • “cultural ecology” • Multilinear Evolution
Cultural Ecology “Cultural Ecology is the study of the processes by which a society adapts to its environment. Its principle problem is to determine whether these adaptations initiate internal social transformations of evolutionary change”1968 Cross-cultural parallels in social patterns could be explained as adaptations to similar environments
3 basic steps for a cultural ecological investigation • Analysis of the relationship between the material culture and the natural resources • the behaviour patterns involved in the exploitation of a particular area by means of a particular technology must be analyzed • how behaviour patterns entailed in exploiting the environment affect other aspects of culture This three step approach identifies the cultural core: “the constellation of features which are most closely related to subsistence activities and economic arrangements
Cultures with similar core features belong to the same culture type • culture types can be arranged into a hierarchy by complexity • Steward’s original ranking was family, multifamily and state-level societies - later refined into band, tribe, chiefdom, and state. Shoshone Women with large baskets for carrying gear and collecting wild foods, flat baskets for preparing seeds and nuts. In the Great Basin Desert circa 1868.
Band Tribe Chiefdom Ag. State Industrial State Hallmarks of Difference: -Centralized -Decentralized Band: -H/G -mobile -kinship -egalitarian Tribe: -Hort./pastoralist -Complex kinship -Headman -warfare • Chiefdom: • Intermediate b/w tribe • and bureaucratic gov’ts. • -1 (or >1) descent group • gains dominance • -hierarchical social strata • - 1,000’s 10,000’s Ag. States: -bureaucratic gov’t -dense populations (urban) -food surpluses -many economic roles -writing systems -public works (labor) -10,000’s Million(s) Chief: any individual who held leadership role in a non-western, stateless society
Materialism versus Idealism 2 opposite philosophical approaches, underlying 2 corresponding opposed theoretical tendencies in anthropological theory • MATERIALISTS -- social and cultural phenomena analyzed broadly as natural systems and in terms of their material conditions: • e.g. how particular social and cultural systems relate to their environment — i.e. how they transform it, extract energy from it, distribute the captured energy among their members, • in this analysis, the members’ own mental concepts and ideas are treated as dependent variables — that is, they are passive reflections in human consciousness of material processes, and not autonomous causal forces in their own right IDEALISTS --- human cultures are shaped primarily by processes of shared human consciousness, ideation, and imagination — processes which cannot be reduced to purely material causes
Marvin Harris1927-2001 1979 Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture • culture = a system of energy-transfer between nature and human populations (use of standard energy measures: calories, horse-power) • cultures viewed as systems of energy transfer and redistribution • By focusing on observable, measurable phenomena, cultural materialism presents an etic approach
Basic Premise • Cultural Materialism is "...based on the simple premise that human social life is a response to the practical problems of earthly existence..." • that a society's mode of production (technology and work patterns, especially in regard to food) and mode of reproduction (population level and growth) in interaction with the natural environment has profound effects on sociocultural stability and change and thus on social institutions. • A good deal of Harris' work, therefore, is concerned with explaining cultural systems (norms, ideologies, values, beliefs) and widespread social institutions and practices through the use of population, production, and ecological variables.
Example: India’s “sacred cow” • a firmly-established “culture complex” of ideas and practices linked to Hinduism, based on the cultural premise of the sacred status of cattle as symbols of holiness • cattle are kept and cows dominate the physical landscape, even in densely populated urban neighborhoods Delhi's 14 million residents share the streets with an estimated 40,000 cows
Respect for animal life has been a central theme in Hindu life. • Some trace the cow's sacred status back to Lord Krishna, one of the faith's most important figures. He is said to have appeared 5,000 years ago as a cowherd, and is often described as "the child who protects the cows”. • Another of Krishna's holy names, Govinda, means "one who brings satisfaction to the cows”. • Other scriptures identify the cow as the "mother" of all civilization, its milk nurturing the population.
Idealist interpretation A distinctive complex of ideas and practices which grew up and became institutionalized, following an inner “symbolic logic” which requires to be understood in (emic) cultural terms. The practices follow from the ideas
cattle provide milk, butter, traction, and dung (fuel) but the meat is not consumed (“inefficient” use of resources, by Western standards) • why is beef taboo for a Hindu, whereas in Canada and the U.S.A. and most of the Western world is it considered to be a very honorific and delicious food • it is inadequate to say Hindus don’t consume beef because their religion prohibits it. • This is no explanation, you must also ask, why Hinduism has this kind of reverence for cattle but Islam, Judaism, and Christianity do not Materialist Objection
Materialist interpretation • A cultural complex adapted to a specific ecological setting characterized by plow agriculture and vast populations: • require oxen (castrated male cattle) to draw plows — in chronic short supply
Cows also convert marginally useful resources (garbage, odd patches of grass) into useful resources (milk, butter, dung) • the ideology grew up to support the practice, which was ecologically necessary to sustain the vast population
Materialists place the stress on the priority of the material factors (“functions”) over the ideological factors. • do not deny that an ideology of the “sacred cow” emerged and flourished • but take the position that the ideology is the dependent variable (the “effect”), while the overall ecological adaptation is the independent variable (the “cause”) • “folk models” usually reverse the sequence of causation and hence folk models are rarely adequate accounts of any situation
Critique • can we be so dismissive of the informant’s emic viewpoint if culture is rooted in values and meanings held by individuals? • What does it say about individual free will and purpose • oversimplification via reduction • Is it ethnocentric? • Postmodernists view: science is itself a culturally determined phenomenon that is affected by class, race and other structural variables • Do all food taboos have functional explanations; are such explanations intrinsically more satisfying than symbolic ones
Symbolic or Interpretive Anthropology 1960s –1970s general reevaluation of cultural anthropology as a scientific enterprise • From function to meaning • from materialist theories to idealist theories • shift toward issues of culture and interpretation and away from grand theories • increased emphasis on the way in which individual actions creatively shape culture
A common Hindu and Buddhist symbol of good luck and success the swastika has been around for thousands of years. • It’s discovery at Troy and ancient Germanic sites revived an interest in N. America in the early part of the 20th century • Like the horseshoe "lucky penny" and the heart with an arrow through it, in this 1907 postcard sold in US drugstores. • Appropriated by the Nazis in 1920s Coke watch fob 1925
Most “symbolicists” would agree on these two points: • culture is, fundamentally, a symbolic system and so analysis of cultural symbols provides the natural point of entry into a cultural universe • If culture is symbolic then it follows that it is used to create and convey meanings since that is the purpose of symbols. Red - romance, beauty, respect, courage, passionate love and unity White - unity, loyalty, reverence, humility, Yellow - strong feelings of pure joy, gladness, happiness and friendship If meanings are the end products of culture then understanding culture requires understanding the meanings of its creators and users
Thick Description Toward and Interpretive Theory of Culture “The concept of culture I espouse…is essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take cultures to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law, but an interpretive one in search of meaning”. (Geertz The Interpretation of Cultures 1973:5) Clifford Geertz 1926-
Geertz’ Interpretive Anthropology: • PREMISE: “man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun” and our name for those webs is culture • CONCLUSION: “the analysis of it therefore is not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning”
It is not just cocks that are fighting but men • Cocks are masculine symbols • The word cock is used metaphorically to mean bachelor, lady-killer, tough guy etc
The Balinese cockfight, is fundamentally a dramatization of status concerns. • nothing really happens at a cockfight.
The conflicts, alliances, wins and losses are all symbolic of things that happen elsewhere. • In the cockfight all action is symbolic. • The real causes lie elsewhere, presumably in material circumstances.
Questions • If cultural knowledge is inherently interpretive, how can we invalidate the truth of an interpretation since there are potentially as many true interpretations as there are members of a culture? • I.e. If ethnography is interpretation how can we know that interpretation is correct. • Most of us cannot go to Bali and check the interpretation • if all such claims are equally valid, then the most anthropology can hope for is to create a rich documentary of multiple interpretations, none denied and none privileged. • This means that it cannot be a science since it cannot generalize from truth statements or tests the statements against empirical data; the nature of culture precludes this
Geertz triggered a profound rethinking of the anthropological enterprise • forced anthropologists to become aware of the cultural contexts they interpret and the ethnographic texts they create. • He also touched off a major debate about the fundamental nature of anthropology • These issues arose against a backdrop of a changing world and world view • As independence movements transformed former colonial subjects into new national citizens, intergroup conflicts intensified as power was reconfigured and new governments exerted their control
THE DECOLONIZATION DISCOURSE • For the first time, Anthropology directly criticized as the ‘handmaid of colonialism’... • assisting in the pacification of peoples • use of ethnographic information about them in their own subjugation • providing justifications for the colonial system
1978 Orientalism • scathing analysis of Western scholarship on the Middle East • this scholarship = an ideological tool of domination • the West creates a simplistic stereotype of the Orient and subsequent scholarship studies not the Orient but rather reaffirms the stereotype • the ‘other’ presented as timeless, changeless, essentialized (in contrast to Westerners’ concept of themselves as individuals in particular historical contexts) • the power relationship between the constructing subject and constructed object ignored Edward Saïd 1935-2003
ORIENTALISM • ignores the variability of Middle Eastern society and substitutes a single ‘mentality’ to stand for the Orient • evidence selected to fit the schema and contrary evidence ignored • the construction of an ‘Other’, not like ourselves, but fundamentally different • The ‘oriental’ of Western scholarship is constructed as exotic, driven by hidebound Tradition, thinks ‘differently’ from ourselves, is envious of the West, but at the same time incapable of shuffling off the (sometimes rather charming) superstitions which make his society backward Subtext: they need our help to attain their full potential
Postmodernism • literally means “after modernity” • An extremely diffuse concept • Provided a major focus of debate and commentary • Postmodernists challenge modernist assertions • believe that objective neutral knowledge of another culture, or any aspect of the world is impossible Yao initiation rite Malawi)
Postmodernist view of Fieldwork • Fieldwork crucial to creation of ethnographic texts. • anthropologists can never be unbiased observers of all that goes on in culture • Fieldworkers must of necessity be in specific places at specific times. • As a result they see some things and not others • The particular circumstances of fieldwork, the political context in which it occurs, the investigator’s preferences and predilections, and the people met by chance or design all condition the understanding of society that results.
Postmodernist view of ethnography • Writing ethnography is the primary means by which anthropologists convey their interpretations of other cultures • Traditionally written as if the anthropologist was a neutral, omniscient observer • Postmodernists claim that because the collection of anthropological data is subjective, it is not possible to analyze the data objectively. • Postmodernists question the validity of the author’s interpretations over competing alternatives • And examine the literary techniques used in the writing of ethnographies
Throughout the history of anthropology anthropologists have claimed to be authorities on other cultures • this claim fortified with emphasizing the mystique of fieldwork and by explaining other cultures to their audiences through written descriptions. • The hermeneutic and deconstructionist approaches led many anthropologists to ask a variety of questions about the relationship between the ethnographic texts and the fieldwork experience upon which those texts are based. • the filtering of exotic otherness through the constructions of social theory is exposed as a literary excursion disguised as scientific reportage
Ethnographies have traditionally followed some basic literary conventions • rather than saying “I am writing my interpretation of what the natives were doing” authors claim to represent the native point of view. • But the anthropologist chooses who speaks for the society and in his or her translation of the native language decides what words are presented to the audience. • Writers also claim to describe completely other cultures or societies, even though anthropologists actually know only the part of a culture that they personally experience
Ethnographic authority was characteristic of ‘the Modern’ — it was the official narrative explaining the significance of the antecedent cultures out of which the National-State cultures of the Modern era were composed • Its tools: monographs, museums, and research institutes. example, at major museums like the American Museum of Natural History, authoritative accounts of Polynesiancultures are determined by the curator • The ‘whole’ represented by a few artifacts selected by the curator, usually with an eye to the predominantly Western aesthetics of the audience... James Clifford
Postmodernity in Anthropology therefore has focused on 1. an examination of the power relations according to which the Other has been constructed 2. examinations of the rhetorical devices and preoccupations of ethnographers themselves
REFLEXIVITY • With what to replace objectivity? • Consensus solution: reflexivity — not the unintentional mirroring of the author’s culture in a descriptive work about the Other, but a self-aware reflexivity: • detailed disclosure of the terms and conditions of the fieldwork • discussion of interpersonal relationships with informants that led to acquisition of the knowledge reported • self-analysis of author’s motives, agendas, and self-doubts • the knowledge presented situated in terms of how the ethnographer collected it reflexive ethnographies tend to read more like diaries or autobiographies than the conventional ethnographic genre
Renato Rosaldo, Ilongot headhunting, 1883–1974 • Ilongot explanation of headhunting: “He says that rage, born of grief, impels him to kill his fellow human beings. He claims he needs a place ‘to carry his anger’ The act of severing and tossing away the victim’s head enables him, he says, to vent and, he hopes, to throw away the anger of his bereavement... To him grief, rage, and headhunting go together in a self-evident manner.” October 1981: Michelle loses footing on steep trail, falls to her death... LUZON, PHILIPPINES
“Immediately on finding her body I became enraged. How could she abandon me? How could she have been so stupid as to fall. I tried to cry. I sobbed, but rage blocked the tears... This anger in a number of forms, has swept over me on a number of occasions since then, lasting hours and even days at a time...” In other words, his own subjective experience (and not any amount of reasoning) enabled him to grasp the connection between grief and rage... and only by alluding to the personal account of Michelle Rosaldo’s death could he communicate it to the reader
Critiques of Postmodernism • Taken to its logical extreme postmodernism comes close to turning anthropology into a sub field of literature. • If all writing is nothing more than interpretations of interpretations then ethnography is fiction • And no conclusions can ultimately be reached about anything • anthropology is a representational genre rather than a clearly bounded scientific domain
BREAKDOWN OFNATIONAL SCHOOLS DEVELOPMENT OFSPECIALIZATIONS 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 ECOLOGICAL ANTH. NEO-EVOLUTIONISM CULTURAL MATERIALISM C & P ETHNOSCIENCE-CUM--COGNITIVE INTERPRETIVE Schools and analytical theories in abeyance Main duality: Political Economy vs. Interpretive & Deconstructionistapproaches AMERICAN CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY NEO-STRUCTURALISM (LEACH, GLUCKMAN, BARTH, BAILEY, STRATHERN) BRITISH SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY FRENCH ETHNOLOGIE MAUSS — LÉVI-STRAUSS: FRENCH STRUCTURALISM MODERN PERIOD POSTMODERN PERIOD