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Sc2218 lecture 10 (2010)

Sc2218 lecture 10 (2010)



Lecture 10: Ethnography and the Crisis of Representation

Lecture 10: Ethnography and the Crisis of Representation



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    Sc2218 lecture 10 (2010) Sc2218 lecture 10 (2010) Presentation Transcript

    • SC2218: Anthropology and the Human Condition Lecture 10: Anthropology, Ethnography and the Crisis of Representation Eric C. Thompson Semester 1, 2010/2011
    • Where Are We Going?
      • Part 1: What is Anthropology?
        • Strangers Abroad, Race, Culture
      • Part 2: What do Anthropologists Study?
        • Kinship, Gender, Economy, Community
      • Part 3: Current Debates and Trends
        • The “Crisis of Representation”
        • The Poetry of Culture
        • World Anthropologies
    • To Summarize… Domains Anthropologists Study:
      • Kinship: Cultural concepts for organizing social relationships based on family ties.
      • Gender: Cultural concepts for organizing social relationships based on sex.
      • Economy: Cultural concepts for organizing social relationships of exchange.
      • Community: Cultural processes for imagining group identities.
    • From Domains of Study to Questions of Representation
      • In this module, we have looked at…
      • Part 1: Foundations of Modern Anthropology
      • Part 2: Domains Anthropologists Study
      • Part 3: How is Anthropology Changing (from the 20 th century into the 21 st century)?
        • Issues of representation
        • Issues of reflexivity
        • Example: Consider issues of how nations and other communities are represented (America, Singapore, etc.)
    • In This Lecture…
      • Anthropology c.1960-1980
      • What is the “Crisis of Representation” in anthropology?
        • Writing Culture / Critiquing Ethnography
      • What is the basis of Questioning Anthropological Representations?
        • Gender
        • Ethnicity, Race
      • Revisiting and Revising Ethnography
      • Ongoing Debates…
    • Anthropology c.1960-1980
      • Scientific, Structural-Functional Approach
      • Cultural Relativism; Non-hierarchical (no culture is better than another; they are just different)
      • Non-evolutionary (rejection of unilinear evolution of cultural ‘stages’ from 19 th c.)
      • Societies and Cultures seen as “Whole”, functional, equilibrium systems (structures) of thought and behavior
      • Most anthropologists are white (European / American) men doing research in the “Third World”.
    • Challenges c.1960-1980
      • If cultures are whole, equilibrium systems, how does one account for change?
      • Entry of larger numbers women and non-Europeans into anthropology, began to question male and Euro-centric biases.
      • Critique of Ethnography: Representations of “Others” by Europeans for Europeans
      • Critique of Colonialism, Anthropology’s Role
      • Globalization, Urbanization, Rapid Change
    • “ Sight Unseen” (An Example of “New” Ethnography)
      • The film compares points of view of members of a Balinese family with those of visitors to Bali. What different points-of-view are emphasized?
      • What examples does the film provide? What counter-examples are in the film?
      • What does the film mean about “mistaking a process for a product”?
      • What is the point of the guy walking around with the ice cream cart???
    • Representing Bali
      • View of the tourist (structural anthropologist?) – looking for the ‘authentic’ Bali, the ‘real’ Balinese culture.
      • View of the Balinese (poststructuralist?) – creating and recreating “Balinese” culture in their everyday life.
      Structural... Culture… “Product” Poststructural... Discursive… “Process” *Does the film privilege the “product” or “process”? *Is either more “real” than the other?”
    • The “Crisis of Representation”
      • How have anthropologists represented the people they study?
      • How and why are these representations problematic?
      • Issues from the reflexive “Writing Culture” movement of the 1980s & 1990s.*
      *Reflexive – an action directed or turned back on the agent of that action; marked by or capable of reflection
    • Contributing to the “Crisis”…
      • Critiques of Ethnography
      • Feminist Standpoint Epistemology
      • De-Colonization; Association of Anthropology with Colonialism
      • Shift from studying Culture to studying Power
    • Ethnography
      • “ Ethno” – Etymology: French, from Greek ethno-, ethn-, from ethnos : race : people : cultural group < ethno centric>*
      • “ graphy” - 1 : writing or representation*
      • Ethnography is “writing about or representation of a group of people”
      • Lee’s The Dobe Ju/’hoansi is a classic example of Ethnography.
      * http://www.m-w.com/
    • Writing Culture / Anthropology as Cultural Critique
      • Approaching Ethnography as a literary genre.
      • Influenced by:
        • Clifford Geertz (1970s - ) (anthropology as interpretation )
        • James Clifford (1980s - ) (ethnography as literature)
      • Seeking new approaches to ethnographic writing
    • Power & Politics of Representation
      • Representations are cultural – they are models of the world and models for the world . (They shape how we think and act.)
      • Gender and Racial/Ethnic representations shape our beliefs of ourselves and others.
      • Ethnographic representations shape our understanding of peoples represented.
      • Does it matter who does the representing?*
      • Does it matter who the author is?
      *The argument that it does matter is sometimes called standpoint epistemology ; i.e. knowledge is not neutral, but depends on your point of view (or ‘standpoint’)
    • Case 1: Gender Man the Hunter
      • Evolutionary Anthropology & Concepts of Gender
      • “ Man the Hunter ” was the dominant representation of our ancestors…
      • Men central actors, Women “along for the ride”
    • Woman the Hunter?
    • Did Women ever Evolve?
    • Ever?
    • The Woman That Never Evolved
      • Critique of androcentric* theory.
      • Male anthropologists focused on males and never paid attention to all the things females do…
      • Females choose mates.
      • Females compete.
      • Females forge social bonds.
      • Females socialize infants.
      • In all of these ways females (more than males) drive evolution .
      Sarah Hrdy * Androcentric : Centered on or biased toward men.
    • “ Feminist Standpoint Epistemology”
      • Epistemology – Knowledge
      • Standpoint – Point of view; position
      • Feminism – Taking women seriously
      • The idea that knowledge is never completely neutral or objective; knowledge is always produced from a particular standpoint… in social science, traditionally from the standpoint of affluent, heterosexual, European men.
    • Case 2: Social Evolution
      • 19 th C. European Idea
      • All societies progress through stages
      • Europeans = most advanced
      • Justification of European Colonial Rule
      Lower Savagery Middle Savagery Upper Savagery Lower Barbarism Middle Barbarism Upper Barbarism Civilization Lewis Henry Morgan’s Scheme of Social Evolution L.H. Morgan
    • Critiquing Anthropology
      • Talal Asad: Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter
      • Syed Hussein Alatas: The Myth of the Lazy Native
      • Daniel Goh: Ethnographic Empire
      • These and many others have critiqued hidden the Eurocentric ideology in much 19 th and 20 th century anthropology.
      Talal Asad Daniel Goh Syed Hussein Alatas * Eurocentric : Centered on or biased toward Europe or European people.
    • “ On Cannibalism”
      • To what sort of representations is the narrator reacting?
      • What is at stake in these representations?
    • Are Anthropological Representations about Power?
      • Who gets to “represent” whom?
      • What do these representations mean?
      • What are their effects?
      • Is a “World’s Fair” about diversity or European superiority?
    • Ethno… (a group of people) graphy… (writing about or of) Revisited and Revised…
    • “ These peoples (foragers) , despite their cultural and geographic diversity, have a core of features in common , and this core of features represents the basic human adaptation stripped of the accretions and complications brought about by agriculture, urbanization, advanced technology, and national and class conflict – all of the “advances” of the last few thousand years .” (Lee 2003: 3) Echoes of 19 th Century Social Evolution in Lee’s Dobe Ju/’hoansi
    • A “Land Filled with Flies”*
      • Wilmsen: Critique of Lee and others.
      • !Kung-San (incl. Dobe Ju/’hoansi) foragers are made to represent a earlier stage in human evolution. But this is inaccurate.
      • Foragers have a history, including a history of pastoralism (cattle herding).
      • Foraging is an effect of politics, marginalization and impoverishment; NOT a reflection of our evolutionary past.
      *The land is “filled with flies because of cattle. Many San people are now and in the past were cattle herders.
    • “ I no longer believe that studies of contemporary hunter-gatherers are primarily a tool for understanding the evolution of human behavior . Understanding hunter-gatherer ecology, however important, is not enough. One has to both build on it and transcend it by looking at adaptation in a much broader sense, including the internal dynamics of foragers and their articulation with wider political economies .” (Lee 2003: 195) Lee Revised (in response to criticisms)
    • Ongoing Debates…
      • Who is “representing” whom?
      • Who has the power (political, social, economic, cultural capital) to produce representations?
      • What are the effects of the representations we produce?
      • Should people only represent themselves and not “others”?
      • If so, who counts as “us” (selves) and “them” (others)?
      • Does this just reinforce racism, sexism, nationalism, ethnocentrism?
    • Subjectivity, Fieldwork, Representation
      • Young
      • Malay
      • Muslim
      • Malaysian
      • Rural
      • Women
      • Young
      • Malay
      • Muslim
      • Malaysian
      • Rural
      • Men
      Aihwa Ong UC Berkeley Eric Thompson National U of Singapore
    • Ongoing Debates…
      • The critique of anthropology has resulted in a “crisis of representation”…
      • Do we stop doing anthropology, ethnography, cross-cultural research?
      • Or do we do it differently , more reflexively , perhaps even…. better ?*
      *Many postmodernists do not believe in “better”… but that is another story 
    • Final Thoughts…
      • How are different groups of people represented in Singapore?
      • Who creates or controls these representations?
      • Who are the “others” against which you have learned to think about who you are?
      • What sort of ideological work does this do; what kind of systems of power does it support?
      Anthropologists think about these questions both in reflecting on their own writings and within the societies they study.