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Sc2218 Lecture 1 (2008a)

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Lecture 1: Introduction to Anthropology and The Human Condition

Lecture 1: Introduction to Anthropology and The Human Condition

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  • 1. SC2218: Anthropology and the Human Condition Lecture 1: Introduction to Anthropology and the Human Condition Eric C. Thompson Audrey Verma, Seuty Sabur Semester 1, 2008/2009
  • 2. “ Baraka”
    • Baraka , an ancient Sufi word with forms in many languages, translates as a blessing or as the breath or essence of life from which the evolutionary process unfolds.
    • Reflections on the film Baraka . . .
    If you wish to view the complete film (approx. 2 hours), it is available in the Central Library (CDV788R). Also recommended, by the same producers: Koyannaisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (CDV781R)
  • 3. Anthropology
    • anthropos = humankind
    • logia = study of
    • the study of people
  • 4. Anthropology and Other Disciplines People who study their own society call themselves Sociologists People who study other societies call themselves Anthropologists People who study markets and exchange in their own society call themselves Economists People who study markets and exchange in other societies call themselves Anthropologists People who study individual thought and behavior in their own society call themselves Psychologists People who study individual thought and behavior in other societies call themselves Anthropologists You get the idea . . . The same is true for history, art, geography, language, genetics, physiology, politics, and every other aspect of “ the human condition .”
  • 5. Anthropology Past & Present
    • The relationship between anthropology and other “human sciences” is based on a specific history and intellectual tradition (which we will discuss in greater detail throughout the course).
    • Anthropologist have always studied “their own” societies, and increasingly do so in the early 21 st century.
    • But, the emphasis on studying all aspects of “ other ” societies continues to influence the “anthropological perspective” of the discipline…
  • 6. Elements of the “Anthropological Perspective”
    • Anthropology has a “holistic” and integrative perspective . . . Meaning that different aspects of human experience are seen as interrelated and non-reducible. You cannot study politics in isolation from family structures or economics in isolation from cultural values.
    • Anthropologists have a “multi-field” approach – incorporating cultural and social anthropology, linguistic anthropology, archaeology, and physical anthropology (“stones & bones”). (This course will focus mainly on cultural and social anthropology).
  • 7. Elements of the “Anthropological Perspective”
    • Anthropologists have a strong “ethnographic” tradition , focusing on “thick descriptions” of societies and cultures. (The book by Richard Lee, The Dobe Ju/’hoansi is a good example of ethnography)
    • Social and Cultural Anthropologists are especially interested in the qualitative study of meaning . What do people think, feel and believe? Why do they think, feel and believe those things? How do their thoughts, feelings and beliefs influence their behavior?
  • 8. About the Course: Materials and Methods
    • Lectures & Tutorials
    • Readings
      • Course Pack: Forum COOP & RBR e-reserve .
      • Richard B. Lee, The Dobe Ju/’hoansi – Available at the COOP Bookstore.
    • Films – Available on IVLE (may not be able to view from home).
    • Tutorial Exercises
    • Course Wiki
  • 9. Assignments & Evaluation
    • Tutorial Exercises – 10%
      • (Kinship 5%, Exchange 5%)
    • Participation – 15%
      • (Wiki 10%, Tutorials 5%)
    • Eropagnis Project – 15%
    • Final Exam – 60%
  • 10. Tutorials (Discussion Groups)
    • The following topics will be covered in tutorials:
    • Session 1: Origins of Anthropology, Human Diversity, Concept of Culture (Wk 1-4 Material)
    • Session 2: Kinship (esp. Ju/hoansi kinship and marriage), Gender, Sexuality (Wk 5-6 Material)
    • Session 3: Economics & Exchange; Ethnicity, Nation, & Other Communities (Wk 7-8 Material)
    • Session 4: Eropagnis (presentation); Issues of Representation; Culture Change (Wk 9-10 Material)
    • Session 5: Poststructualism, Discourse, Anthropology in the 21 st Century (Wk 11-12 Material)
  • 11. About the Readings, Films, Tutorials
    • You are responsible for coming prepared to discuss the topics for each tutorial.
    • We recommend that you:
      • Read materials from the course pack and view films on a weekly basis.
      • Read The Dobe Ju/’hoansi from cover-to-cover during the first two weeks of the course, then refer back to specific chapters week-to-week.
    • Keep up-to-date with materials on the course Wiki.
  • 12. About the Films
    • We will view parts of all films during class session.
    • All films will be available on IVLE.
    • If you wish to review the films on IVLE, you may have to do this on campus.
  • 13. Tutorial Exercises
    • Tutorials will include both discussion and a number of interactive exercises.
    • Details of the exercises will be explained in tutorials.
    • Completing the exercises must be done in tutorials (so you must attend and be on time in order to receive credit).
    • Failure to attend and failure to attend on time will result in incompletes for the exercise assignments.
  • 14. Course Wiki
    • A Wiki is “a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content.”
    • Why a Wiki? – Participation, Collaboration, Learning, Producing, Creating
    • Check IVLE to find your Wiki Group
    • Check the Course Schedule to see what material your group is responsible for.
    Anthropology and the Human Condition http://sc2218.wetpaint.com/
  • 15. Eropagnis Project
    • You will be assigned to an Eropagnis Project Group in your first tutorial session.
    • The Eropagnis project is based on “Bodily Rituals of the Nacirema” by Horace Miner.
    • Read this before the first tutorial.
    • Details of the project will be explained in the first tutorial.
  • 16. Questions… (so far)
  • 17. Anthropology as a Personal and Intellectual Journey
    • Anthropologists are known for studying “others”
      • Anthropology and the “Savage Slot”
    • But anthropologists always reflect upon themselves and their “own” societies.
      • The importance of “Reflexivity”
    • Questioning categories of self/other? “Going native”? … Intersubjectivity
  • 18. About the Lecturer:
    • Eric C. Thompson is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore. Before joining NUS, he completed a PhD in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Washington and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies , University of California Los Angeles. He teaches anthropology, gender studies, urban studies and research methods. His research interests include transnational networking, urbanism, culture theory, and ASEAN regionalism . His work has appeared in the journals American Ethnologist, Urban Studies, Political Geography, Asian Studies Review, Contemporary Sociology, and Contemporary Southeast Asian Studies among others. He is author of Unsettling Absences: Urbanism in Rural Malaysia (NUS Press, 2007) .
  • 19. About the Lecturer: Eric C. Thompson
    • PhD – Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Washington (2000)
    • Postdoctoral Fellow – Southeast Asian Studies, UCLA (2000-2001)
    • Assistant Professor – Sociology, NUS (2002-2008)
    • Associate Professor – Sociology, NUS (from about a month ago)
  • 20.  
  • 21. The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968)
  • 22.
    •       The basic premise of sorcery for a sorcerer is that the world of everyday life is not real, or out there, as we believe it is. For a sorcerer, reality, or the world we all know, is only a description.       For the sake of validating this premise I will concentrate the best of my efforts into leading you into a genuine conviction that what you hold in mind as the world at hand is merely a description of the world; a description that has been pounded into you from the moment you were born.
  • 23.
    •       Everyone who comes into contact with a child is a teacher who incessantly describes the world to him, until the moment when the child is capable of perceiving the world as it is described. We have no memory of that portentous moment, simply because none of us could possibly have had any point of reference to compare it to anything else. From that moment on, however, the child is a member . He knows the description of the world; and his membership becomes full-fledged, perhaps, when he is capable of making all the proper perceptual interpretations which, by conforming to that description, validate it.
  • 24.
    •       The reality of our day-to-day life, then, consists of an endless flow of perceptual interpretations which we, the individuals who share a specific membership, have learned to make in common.
    •       The idea that the perceptual interpretations that make up the world have a flow is congruous with the fact that they run uninterruptedly and are rarely, if ever, open to question. In fact the reality of the world we know is so taken for granted that the basic premise of sorcery, that our reality is merely one of many descriptions, can hardly be taken as a serious proposition.
  • 25.
    •       Fortunately for you, I'm not concerned at all with whether or not you can take my proposition seriously, and thus I will proceed to elucidate my points, in spite of your opposition, your disbelief, and your inability to understand what I am saying. Thus, as a teacher of sorcery, my endeavor is to describe the world to you. Your difficulty in grasping my concepts and methods will stem from the fact that the units of my description are alien and incompatible with those of your own.
  • 26.
    •       I am teaching you how to see as opposed to merely looking , and stopping the world is the first step to seeing .
    •       Stopping the world is not a cryptic metaphor that really doesn't mean anything. And its scope and importance as one of the main propositions of my knowledge should not be misjudged.
  • 27.
    •       I am teaching you how to stop the world . Nothing will work, however, if you are very stubborn. Be less stubborn, and you will probably stop the world with any of the techniques I teach you. Everything I will tell you to do is a technique for stopping the world .
    •     The sorcerer's description of the world is perceivable. But our insistence on holding on to our standard version of reality renders us almost deaf and blind to it.
  • 28.
    •       When you begin this teaching, there is another reality, that is to say, there is a sorcery description of the world, which you do not know. As a sorcerer and a teacher, I am teaching you that description. What I am doing with you consists, therefore, in setting up that unknown reality by unfolding its description, adding increasingly more complex parts as you go along.
  • 29.
    •       After stopping the world the next step is seeing . By that I mean what could be categorized as responding to the perceptual solicitations of a world outside the description we have learned to call reality.
    •       All these steps can only be understood in terms of the description to which they belong; a description that I'm endeavoring to give you. Let, then, this teaching be the source of entrance into that description.
  • 30. The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
  • 31. Dave McCurdy Macalester College Jack Weatherford Macalester College
  • 32.  
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  • 36.  
  • 37.  
  • 38.  
  • 39.  
  • 40.  
  • 41.  
  • 42.  
  • 43. NUS Anthropologists John Miksic Southeast Asian Studies Tong Chee Kiong Sociology Roxana Waterson Sociology Vineeta Sinha Sociology Pattana Kitiarsa Southeast Asian Studies Thang Leng Leng Japanese Studies Maribeth Erb Sociology Irving Chan Johnson Southeast Asian Studies Eric Thompson Sociology Mokshika Gaur South Asian Studies Liz MacLachlan Japanese Studies Goh Beng Lan Southeast Asian Studies Maznah Mohamad Southeast Asian Studies Farhana Ibrahim Sociology
  • 44. Anthropology: Your Personal and Intellectual Journey
    • Origins: Where does anthropology come from?
    • Anthropological perspectives:
      • Why do people do what they do?
      • The concept of Culture
    • Anthropological approaches to:
      • Gender, Sexuality, Kinship
      • Exchange, Economics
      • Ethnicities, Nations and other Communities
    • Anthropology today and tomorrow:
      • From culture to discourse?
      • Who are the anthropologists of today and tomorrow?
  • 45. Go forth and learn….

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