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Anthropology- Stereotypes?Only study “exotic” cultures, particularly indigenous hunter-gatherers.Only study “stones and bones”What is anthropology?-Anthropology is a science.Science: a systematic method for exploring, describing, explaining and predicting some phenomena.Scientific research: based on empirical observations and can be checked and replicated by others.Anthropology is…As a simple definition, it is the study of humankind.Anthropology is not the only subject that studies humans, of course. Social sciences among other disciplines…Anthropology is a holistic discipline.It incorporates elements of all of the other disciplines mentioned.The definition we’ll use:Anthropology: the holistic study of human cultural and biological variation across space and time.Anthropology and space/timeAnthropologist consider human biological and cultural patterns across the face of the earth today as well as the origins and changes in biology and culture in the past.Anthropology and human variabilityAnthropologists also focus on human variability, or similarities and differences.Differences and similarities can be examined from social, cultural, and physical/biological perspectives.Anthropological sub-disciplinesThere are four:1. Physical anthropology2. Archaeology3. Linguistic anthropology4. Sociocultural anthropologyPhysical anthropologySometimes referred to a biological anthropology.Focuses exclusively on human biodiversity through space and time.Examines questions of human physical evolution, including biological adaptation, and issues of human development.ArchaeologyExamines human culture and cultural evolution from the past to the present through their material remains/traces.Also looks at cultural adaptation:the ways in which human societies use culture to deal with each other and their environments.Linguistic anthropologyThe study of human language and discourse.Examines the ways in which language is used to communicate ideas and affect social and cultural actions.Also examines the adaptive significance of the development and use of language.Sociocultural anthropologyAlso studies human culture but its focus is on the present and studies culture actively through observation of living communities.Sociocultural has the greatest ability to study a culture holistically (i.e. economics, politics, religion, etc.).The concept of ‘culture’Culture is the central concept in anthropology.It is more complex than any single definition can provide for, and there are many.DefinitionCulture can be considered simply as ‘the general way of life of a group of people’It consists of a set of guidelines for behavior.Humans can choose whether or not to follow these guidelines, but when they are followed the result is consistent, predictable behavior.One of the goals of anthropology is to be able to predict behavior.A couple of things to note…Guidelines re not rules or laws in the sense we are familiar with.Nor does consistence behavior imply passive or peaceful behaviors.A culture can have guidelines that promote aggressive, confrontational behavior as much as one that promotes cooperative and peaceful ones.Culture is not a thing…It cannot be purchased or owned.You are born into it, or you achieve membership into it via acceptance of guidelines.In fact, people generally belong to more than one culture.Characteristics of ‘culture’In expanding the definition of culture anthropologists generally study 8…1. culture is learnedHumans are born with the ability to learn culture, but it is not innate.Neither is culture associated with skin color.All cultural behavior is learned, but not all learned behavior is necessarily cultural (i.e. cracking your knuckles, food avoidance)2. Culture is sharedCultural knowledge is shared among members of a community or society.Sharing culture is never absolute or complete. No one person knows everything.Culture vs. SocietySociety: a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.A society is not necessarily a culture.Pluralistic Society – United StatesA state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain an autonomous participation in and development of their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.At the same time…There is a lot of sharing between these different cultural entities.A pluralistic society like the U.S. is one where there is cultural overlap.People share knowledge, but knowledge can also be withheld and people from these different cultures may choose not to learn what is shared.3. Culture is diverseCulture must provide for basic needs, which include things like: biological continuity, producing and distributing goods, maintain order, etc.Diversity arises in the number of ways cultures provide for these basic needs.Any one issue can have several different solutions.4. Culture is cumulativeCulture involves accumulated knowledge.The ways in which a culture transmits this knowledge can have profound effects on its development.Knowledge can be controlled, and access to it limited, and it can be lost.5. Culture is integratedCulture can be analyzed as a series of components (i.e. you can look at religion, political structure, economy, etc.).However, they are not discrete entities. They are parts of an integrated wholeAs a result, when there is a change in one part of culture there are usually effects in all others.6. Culture is dynamicCulture changes.The process is not constant and the various components of a culture can change at different rates.While change is a feature of culture, there are also forces that resist change and channel it in certain directions (we call it the federal government).7. Culture is symbolicSymbol: something verbal or nonverbal that comes to stand for something in a particular language or culture.Humans are the only species in the planet that will bestow meaning on objects or actions and then live according to those meanings.Language is the most significant set of symbolic meanings in human culture.It allows for the other characteristics of culture we have talked about.For example… color symbolismMany popular festivals have color symbolism. What do these mean to you? Red & green – Christmas. Orange and black – Halloween. Red and pink – Valentine’s day. Red, white and blue- 4th of July. Red, white and black- Ndembu Initiation


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MSU ISS 310 - Anthropology Basics

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