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Transcript of Cultural Materialism
By: Dev and Jacky
Examples of Cultural
Examples of Cultural Materialism
Books about Cultural Materialism By Marvin Harris
Pros and Cons
What is Cultural Materialism?
Components of Cultural
- Anthropology is the study of humans. Cultural Materialism is an anthropological school of thought (or "research strategy") that says that the best way to understand human culture is to examine material conditions - climate, food supply, geography, etc.
Cultural Materialism proposes three primary influences on cultural change:
- infrastructure (technology, economics, demographics)
- structure (cultural and kinship systems)
- superstructure (ideology, religion)
- The main figure associated with Cultural Materialism is Marvin Harris (1927-2001) who came up with the name, wrote classroom textbooks, scholarly books, and popular works about cultural materialism throughout his career. He had a strong view about the scientific aspect of culture.
- other working cultural materialists, many of which were Harris’ former students include:
Today there are two main rivals to the materialist approach:
- idealism (sometimes called "cultural" in opposition to "materialist") which says that human ideas have a stronger effect on culture than material conditions.
- evolutionary psychology, which says that human culture can best be explained through human biological evolution.
- Born August 18th, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York
- Completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University during the early 1950's.
- Trained as an anthropologist
- Continued to teach at Columbia until 1980 serving as Chair of the Anthropology Department
- His work has been a great resource for various sociologists and has helped in cross-cultural and comparative research.
Cannibals and Kings (1977): Origins of Cultures
- Urgent theory about the nature of man and at the reason that human cultures take so many diverse shapes (The New Yorker)
Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture (1979)
- Developed and modified his ideas over the past two decades. Generations of professors refer to this book for the explanation of the science of culture.
Cows, Pigs, Wars & Witches: The Riddles of Culture (1989)
- Argues that we can change the world by changing the way people think. Shows that no matter how bizarre a persons behavior is, it stems from concrete social and economic conditions.
- Cultural materialism can be credited with challenging anthropology to use more scientific research methods.
- Cultural Materialism can be used to explain other cultural theories.
- Archaeologists have also adopted Cultural Materialistic approaches in order to understand and analyze the past.
For cultural materialists, the level of infrastructure is the most important determining factor in the form a society will take. A classic example is the protection of sacred cows in India. Although many of us might see these cows as a valuable food source, for the adaptive strategy of agriculture, cows are more useful for their labor in the fields. When the infrastructure changes (people adopted agriculture), the superstructure also changed (a new belief in the sacredness of cows) to facilitate practices that support the community's economic viability.
- Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) moves from a South African culture into an American one.
- Two different cultures
- There are ''clans'' which represent different classes of people or cultures: the plastics, jocks, cool asians, burnouts etc.
- Since Cady came and grew up in a different culture, she sees and understands things differently than the other girls. i.e; " I know how this would be settled in the animal world, but this is girl world, all the fighting had to be sneaky."
- Maxine Margolis
- Jerry Milanich
- R. Brain Fergusson
-Martin F. Murphy
-David H. Price
-Anna Lou Dehavenon
The Meat and Potatoes
- In the Halloween scene Cady is unaware of the cultural differences and as a result she dresses up differently than in the ''girl world''- Over time, the new culture Cady lives in changes her in terms of the way she dresses, the way she acts, and the way she talks.
Cons:- Said to be ''Vulgar Materialism'' by Marxists and its approach to culture change is too simple and straightforward. - Postmodernists argue against cultural materialism because of its use of strict scientific method. - Some aspects of Cultural Materialism create biased conclusions.