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Doing Cultural Anthropology (190815)

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Michelle Low

on 20 August 2018

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Transcript of Doing Cultural Anthropology (190815)

Doing Cultural Anthropology (MLHY)
Franz Boas & American Anthropology
evolutionary anthropology
X
- intellectually flawed!
- European superiority!
- morally defective
deeply
critical
of the
data-gathering
techniques and the reasoning of the former anthropologists
NO
"armchair anthropologists!"
"we should be devoted to
fieldwork
to collect objective data!"
-
participant observation
-style
- study people
holistically
, recording the
cultural patterns of the group, language,
material goods and religion
-
free
themselves from
ethnocentrism
and

approach
each culture with
cultural
relativism
argued that all human beings have
equal
capacities for culture - no one culture is more superior than the other
Haddon - Malinowski
(England & the Commonwealth)
Haddon and his colleagues of Cambridge and LSE: students were required to do fieldwork!
Changing Directions and Critical Issues in Ethnography
Cross-cultural comparison:
Carod-Artal & Vazquez-Cabrera (2007)
: migraine headache symptoms among 3 different groups of Native Americans: the Tzeital Maya of Mexico, the Kamayura of Brazil and the Uru-Chipaya of Bolivia
Margaret Mead's 'Coming of Age in Samoa'
illustrated that adolescents' experience with sexuality and growing up differ depending on societies.
Effects of Globalization
What do anthropologists do?
statistical analysis
formal & informal questionnaires
recording life histories
making ethnographic films
working with indigenous peoples as advocates in cultural and political projects
fieldwork
engaged
anthropology: includes
political action
as a
major goal of fieldwork

for anthropology to be relevant and meaningful, it must be involved in political and social efforts to
improve
the life chances of people in these communities

David Graeber: Occupy Wall Street movement - p 39 (old textbook)

Objectivity and Activist Anthropology - p. 12-3 (online textbook)
Ethical Considerations in Fieldwork
1. to the
people
they
study
and to the people
whom they
work
AAA (1986): "anthropological researchers must do everything in their power to ensure that their research does not harm the safety, dignity, or privacy of the people with whom they work"
informed consent, confidentiality and debriefing
2. to the
discipline
of anthropology
anthropologists' conduct should not endanger the research prospects of other anthropologists
3.
publish
and make their findings
available
to
other anthropologists and the general public
Anthropological Techniques
1.
fieldwork
:
"
imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all your gear, alone on a tropical beach close to a native village, while the launch or dinghy which has brought you sails away out of sight...imagine further that you are a beginner, without previous experience, with nothing to guide you and no one to help you...this exactly describes my first initiation into field work
" - Malinowski (1922)
mapping space, taking census data, photography and film, historical archives, recording life histories and
participant observation

advantage:
24/7
observation
disadvantage: work with a relatively
small
number of individuals

do anthropologists ever feel truly a member of the cultural group they are observing?
Anthropology in Historical Perspective
Sir Edward Burnett
Tylor
& Lewis Henry
Morgan
:
19th century anthropologists
"
armchair anthropologists
"
referred to 'simpler' societies as "
living fossils
"
belief: societies remained
unchanged
for thousands of years
Tylor & Morgan's flawed social pyramid - why?
Tylor: "all my theoretical perspectives are so
established that I can totally ignore any
data that doesn't fit mine because such
data is inaccurate!"
Postmodernism
definition: a theoretical perspective focusing on
issues of
power
and
voice

postmodernists hold that
all knowledge
is
influenced
by the
observers' culture
and
social position
- fieldwork will not produce an objective reality
- how each anthropologist observes another culture
is tainted by their own culture and social position
Can an outsider present a fully accurate and unbiased portrait of a culture?
historical archives
curating
Malinowski: spent a long time in the Trobriana Islands due to WW1 - opportunity of a lifetime - p. 6 (of online textbook)
Anthropological Techniques
2.
emic
perspective:
to enable cultural outsiders to gain a sense of what it might be like to be a member of the culture
"see the world through another's lens"
perspective of the studied culture

3.
etic
perspective:
seek to derive principles or rules that explain the behaviour of members of a culture
perspective of the observer

4. hypothetical theory --> collect empirical data
does the data agree with the hypothesis or not?
natural science research

5.
history- and literature-based research

6.
informants/consultants
Ethnographic Data and Cross-Cultural Comparisons

Boaz encouraged his student; Margaret Mead to conduct an ethnographic research on adolescent girls and their experiences with sexuality and growing up
- p. 3 (online textbook)

Cultural determinism
: the idea that one's cultural upbringing and
social environment, rather than one's biology,
primarily determine behaviour.
no
attempts of
systematic comparison
of one culture to another
no
attempts at discovering laws/principles of cultural behaviour
understood that
each
culture is a
product
of its
unique
history

Feminist Anthropology
are female anthropologists making a difference?

focus
of anthropology: social roles, activities and beliefs of
men
- why the
gender segregation
?
men and women lived quite segregated lives
assumption that men's activities were more
politically-oriented
thus
more important
; women's activities domestic i.e. less important
assumption that the
more public
and
visible
activities are
more important
i.e. men's activities
spoke
man
for the society:
biased perspective
that cultures were harmonious and homogenous

late 1990s: > 50% new anthropology PhDs and > 40% anthropology professors => women

Engaged and Collaborative Anthropology
collaborative
anthropology: ethnography
prioritizes
the inputs of the informant
-
biased
input because no community is homogenous

attempts to displace anthropologists as the sole author representing a group -->
joint process
between researcher and subject


Studying One's Own Culture
native
anthropologist

are we capable of seeing our culture as an outsider might?

nothing about being a native requires an individual to take a specific political position BUT

"being a native in one identity
does not
make one a native in all one's identities"
isolated and bounded societies
?
immigration, inexpensive communication and cheap airfare

interaction
of local units with larger
social
structures,
economics
and
cultures

constant reevaluation
of the nature of the cultures we are studying

participants have a
better knowledge
of the world, what anthropology is and what anthropologists do

revitalization
of
cultural identities
that have been nearly effaced by Western impact

Ethics in Anthropology
difficult

to isolate moral judgments or
ethical dilemmas
because anthropology studies tend to
focus
on
religion
,
aesthetics
etc
i.e. situations which the subjects also practice conscious moral or ethical exercises

American Anthropological Association
(AAA)
Code of Ethics
:
1. Anthropologists should
not
communicate findings
secretly
to some and
withhold
them from others
2. In providing
professional
opinions, anthropologists are
responsible
not only for
their
content
but also for
integrity
in explaining both these opinions and their bases
3. As people who devote their
professional
lives to
understanding people
,
anthropologists bear a
positive responsibility
to
speak out
publicly, both individually
and collectively, on what they know and what they believe as a result of their
professional expertise gained in the study of human beings

Ethics are
personal
- not something to be taken out of context and defined

Acting ethnically involves
living in accordance
with
commonly accepted
beliefs of the group(s) of which one is a
member
of

Abortion. Child bride.
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