Anthropological Theory Anthropology 330 Kimberly Porter Martin
DEFINITION Definition: a set of related hypotheses that provide a better explanation than any single hypothesis. KEY COMPONENTS Definitions for the central concepts used for explanation or prediction Logical connections between concepts to create a system of explanation and/or prediction Explanation and/or prediction The development of assumptions that affect the way a problem or issue is viewed. What is Theory?
Theories can be based on logic, ideas or belief without the use of empirical evidence Grounded theories are derived from empirical evidence, and are continuously tested against new empirical evidence Many different and sometimes conflicting theories can coexist and be used for different purposes Theories are the basis from which world views are developed and changed The World of Theories
General Types of Theories • Materialist Theories Focus on practical, concrete economic factors such as technology and distribution systems as the shapers of culture. • Ideological Theories Focus on ideas, beliefs and symbols such as religion and values as the shapers of culture.
Evolutionism • The nineteenth-century school of cultural anthropology, represented by Tylor and Morgan, that attempted to explain variations in world cultures by the single deductive theory that they all pass through a series of evolutionary stages.
19th Century Evolutionists Lewis Henry Morgan Edward Tylor
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. • Ethnocentric because evolutionists put their own societies at the top.
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.
Diffusionism in Brief • Societies change as a result of cultural borrowing from one another. • Overemphasized the essentially valid idea of diffusion. • Very popular in Europe – especially Germany
American Historicism in Brief • 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 because of the specific history of events that caused it to change over time. • Ethnographers should try to get the view of those being studied, not their own view.
Franz Boas Franz Boas, the teacher of the first generation of cultural anthropologists in the United States, put the discipline on a firm empirical basis. Developed the theory of American Historicism AKA Historical Particularism
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. • All parts of a culture are interconnected so a change in one part of the culture is likely to bring about change in other parts. • Empirical fieldwork is essential. • The cultural traditions of a society persist because serve a purpose in society.
Bronislav Malinowski During one of the longest uninterrupted fieldwork experiences on record, Bronislav Malinowski not only set the standard for conducting fieldwork but also developed an important new way of looking at cultures known as functionalism.
Psychological Anthropology in Brief • Anthropologists need to explore the relationships between psychological and cultural variables. • Concluded that nurture was more important than nature with regard to personality and gender traits. • Focused on socialization and enculturation of children.
Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict Margaret Mead devoted much of her long and distinguished career in anthropology to the study of how culture affects the process of growing up. Ruth Benedict Benedict described whole cultures in terms of individual personality characteristics.
Psychological Anthropologists • Interested in exploring relationship between culture and the individual. • Benedict studied Native Americans and wrote about the Japanese during World War II to make them intelligible to Americans • Mead’s early research brought her to Samoa to study emotional problems associated with adolescence. • Later she studied male and female gender roles in New Guinea.
Neoevolutionism in Brief • Cultures evolve in proportion to their capacity to harness energy. • Culture is shaped by environmental conditions. • Human populations continuously adapt to techno-environmental conditions. Leslie White
French Structuralism • Culture as Mental Structures • Structures of knowledge about kinship. All kinship systems classify relationships by gender, generation and collaterality. • Structures of meaning within myths. Myths consist of (1) elements that oppose or contradict each other and (2) other elements that "mediate", or resolve, those oppositions.
Ethnoscience • An attempt at cultural description from a totally emic standpoint, using only the concepts and categories of the people being studied. • Ethnographic Interviews to elicit native categories. Charles Frake
Cultural Materialism • All aspects of culture can be explained by economic factors. • Sacred cows in India. • Aggression and protein in the Amazon Basin
Postmodernism • Rejects the existence of objective facts in favor of emic perspectives. • Studies culture as a phenomenon that creates different realities for each person and each society. • Writes descriptions rather than research reports Renato Rosaldo
Powerpoint Study Guide Theory Grounded Theory Materialist Theory Ideological Theory Evolutionism Diffusionism American Historicism Functionalism Structural Functionalism Psychological Anthropology Neoevolutionism French Structuralism Ethnoscience Cultural Materialism Postmodernism