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social anthropology

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nicolas liporace

on 12 August 2013

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Transcript of social anthropology

Cultural materialism
Is the theoretical position based on the concept that material conditions or modes of production determine human thought and behaviour
Conflict theory
the conflict perspective focus on conflict among many groups and interests as a fact of life in any society.
conflict is a permanent feature, this is why societies are in constant state of change.
groups struggle over goals and values, to achieve power, wealth and prestige.
Those who gain control of these resources are able to protect their own interests.
social conflict is not always a destructive force, it can often have positive results.
Social Anthropology
Anthropological cases
Basic Assumptions
Cultural materialists provide casual explanations by studying materials constrains that arise from the universal needs of producing food, technology, tools and shelter.
Main Figure
Marxists criticized cultural materialism for ignoring structures influence upon infrastructure.
Post- modernists believe that reliance upon the etic in studying culture is not appropriate, a science is merely a function of culture.
Idealists criticize cultural materialism for ignoring variables such as genetics, and believe emic is more significant than cultural materialism allow.
Harris has been criticized for devaluing the importance of ideas and political activities as sources of cultural change.
Harris and the cultural materialists see the material constrains do the primary casual factors accounting for cultural variations.
Harris suggests that ideas and political activities have a secondary or less important rate in causing cultural change or variation.
Cultural materialists rely heavily on an etic research methodology.
Marvin Harris
Marvin Harris (August 18, 1927 – October 25, 2001) was an American anthropologist. He was born in Brooklyn, New York. A prolific writer, he was highly influential in the development of cultural materialism. In his work he combined Karl Marx's emphasis on the forces of production. After the publication of The Rise of Anthropological Theory in 1968, Harris helped focus the interest of anthropologists in cultural-ecological relationships for the rest of his career.
This theory states that social order is maintained because the most powerful groups subordinate the other groups of the society
this theory fails explaining why there are certain aspects of society that are more ordered, stable and less controversial
Main figures
Marx saw the struggle between social classes as the "engine " of history an the main source of change.
C. Wright Mills
C. Wright Mills was born in Waco, Texas on August 28, 1916. His main works were: The Power Elite, White Collar, The New Men Of Power and The Sociological Imagination. He was critical of intellectual sociology and believed sociologists should use their information to advocate for social change.
Lewis Coser
Lewis Coser was an American sociologist born in Berlin, 27 November 1913. Coser is remarkable because he is the first to consider the functional consequences of conflict. Before, conflict had been understood as a source of social change and disintegration. Simmel was the first to acknowledge that conflict is a natural and necessary part of society;Coser brought Simmel’s idea to mainstream sociology. He wrote a book called "The functions of social conflict" in which he said: "groups require disharmony as well as harmony, dissociation as well as association; and conflicts within them are by no means altogether disruptive factors. . . Far from being necessarily dysfunctional, a certain degree of conflict is an essential element in group formation and the persistence of group life."
Cultural materialism- Conflict theory
Conflict theory- functionalism
-Functionalism states that each cultural item of a society has a meaning and performs some useful function for the well being of the individual and society. Conflict theory states that conflict in a society is permanent and through it, it can be explained the relationships between social groups and function of culture.
-Both fail explaining why some aspects of culture are either controversial or not.
-Both are based on an etic anthropological research.
-Both acknowledge there is a relationship of power and resources between different groups
-Both are related to the Maxist's theory, class struggle, which states there is a conflict between an ownership class that controls production and a proletariat that provides the labor for production. Cultural materialism is extremely related to it because the struggle produced between the capitalist and proletariat is due to materials (production). Conflict theory is also very related because of the conflict produced among groups.
-If material conditions determine behavior, then, there is going to be inequality and conflict between those who own more resources than others.

1970s and 1980s
Structuralists, interpretativists and feminists.
Basic assumptions:
-All ethnographic accounts are subjective because they are conditioned by the experiences and personal histories of thee ethnographer.
-Postmodernists claim that scientific anthropologist's enterprise was based on the privilege status of science.
-Postmodernists contend that only through a dialogical process between the ethnographer an the people being studied, the meaning and interpretation will emerge.
-Emphasized the uniqueness of every culture.
-Culture is constantly changing, therefore it requires a continual reinterpretation. Culture doesn't have any level of predictability.
- It has an emic approach.

Interpretative anthropology
-Clifford Geertz.
- Descriptive approach. How people being studied understand their ow culture.
-Emic approach.
-Not generate models that will predict human behavior.
-Dialogical ethnoography.
Clifford Geertz
August 23, 1926 – October 30, 2006
In his work The Interpretation of Cultures (1973), Geertz outlined culture as "a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life."
For Geertz, culture is “an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and their attitudes toward life”

Deciphering the Balinese cockfight.
-illustration on how to decipher culture as a text.
-1970, Clifford Geertz, Interpretativist approach.
-Through the cockfight Geertz could understand the Balinese status.
-Never the owners of the two cocks that are going to fight are family or friends.
-An individual bets to one of the cocks if the other owner of the other cock that is going to fight is an enemy or an enemies friend.
-If the cockfight has a lot of audience, which bet a lot and the individuals are looking forward to it is probably because the owners of the cocks fighting are leaders of a community or have a high social status.
Cockfight illustrate how important is honor for the individuals of the Balinese society.
The loosing owner is sometimes driven in despair to wreck their family shrines, because they dishonored their family when they lost the cockfight.
The cockfight do not take place for economic factors.
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