Sc2218 lecture 4 (2011)
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Sc2218 lecture 4 (2011)



SC2218 Lecture 4 (2011): Culture, cultures

SC2218 Lecture 4 (2011): Culture, cultures



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Sc2218 lecture 4 (2011) Sc2218 lecture 4 (2011) Presentation Transcript

  • SC2218: Anthropology and the Human Condition Lecture 4: Culture, cultures, and the Human Condition 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
      • Representing Others
      • The Poetry of Culture
      • World Anthropologies
  • Opportunities for Extra Credit
    • Participation in Class Exercises:
      • Week 5: Kinship Exercise (in Lecture)
      • Week 7: Exchange Exercise (in Lecture)
    • Contribution to the Wiki
      • There is no “maximum” contribution.
      • Extra work will earn you extra credit.
  • From Last Week:
    • “ Old fashioned concepts of Race are not only socially divisive, but scientifically wrong.”
    • Genetic and physical changes (evolution) of the past 50,000 years has been minor and mostly random (non-selective; based on genetic drift, founder effects, migration, etc.)
    • Evolution means qualitative change over time.
    • Not necessarily worse-to-better
    • Not in a single direction (unilinear)
    • Not necessarily gradual or “peaceful”
  • Outline of Today’s Lecture
    • “ The form is fixed… but culture takes off”
      • What is Evolution? (Review)
      • The Importance of Culture (Wells)
      • The human capacity for culture.
    • What is Culture?
      • Definitions
      • Culture/cultures
    • What is the Difference between Culture & Society?
  • What is Evolution?
    • Change in a system over time resulting in a qualitatively different system.
    • The qualitative difference may or may not entail greater complexity .
  • Some Examples of Evolved Systems
    • Biological Species
    • Language
    • Bird Songs
    • Ecosystems
    • Settlement Patterns
    • Modes of Production
    • Kinship Systems
  • Recent Human Evolution?
    • Human evolution in the past 50,000 years?
    • Biologically – No (not substantially)
      • Biologically, humans are not qualitatively different from each other now or from humans alive 50,000 years ago; differences are minor.
    • Socially and Culturally – Yes
      • Major, qualitative differences between human society and cultures today compared to 50,000 years ago.
  • “ The Form Is Fixed . . .”
    • 2.5 Million Years Ago – Homo habilis (the “handy man”)
    • 1.8 Million Years Ago – Homo erectus (first out of Africa)
    • 200,000 to 50,000 years ago – Modern Homo sapiens*
    *Wells calls this “the Great Leap Forward” and “First Big Bang” in modern Human cultural evolution. Marking a qualitative difference between Homo sapiens and others; like Homo erectus . (pp.151)
  • “ . . . and Culture Takes Off”
    • Biological change in humans has been largely & literally superficial for 50,000 years .
    • Human diversity is primarily cultural not physical or racial.
  • All Humans have the Same Capacity for CULTURE
    • Culture is a cognitive capacity for concept formation.
    • All mammals (and some other species, like birds) share this capacity.
    • Humans have an extremely complex version.
    • All humans alive today; and all humans who have lived for the past 50,000 to 100,000 years have the same capacity for Culture – i.e. all !Kung San, all other Africans, all Europeans, all Chinese, all Malays, all Indians . . . Everybody.
  • Humans are to Culture what Giraffes are to Necks Do animals have culture like people? Animals think and conceptualize… but is that really CULTURE? Do other animals, have necks? They have stubby connections between their head and body … but is that really a NECK?
  • Agricultural Revolution* (a.k.a. Neolithic Revolution)
    • 10,000 – 5,000 years ago
    • Humans start routinely planting and harvesting food
    • Surplus production (especially of grains – rice, wheat, etc.)
    *Wells calls this the “Second Big Bang” ( The Importance of Culture, pp.150-151)
  • Agricultural & Surplus Lead To:
    • Settled Populations
    • Specialization in non-agricultural production
    • Increased interdependence
    • Increased trade and exchange
    • Hierarchy and State Building
    Complex Social Networking Mesopotamian Ziggurat: Representation of State Power
  • First Urban Revolution
    • From 5,500 – 2,500 yrs ago
    • Urban Centers (“Cities”) appear in:
    • Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus Valley (5,500-4,500 y.a.)
    • China (3,800 y.a.), Central & South America (2,500 y.a.)
    Mesopotamia Egypt Indus Valley + + +
  • Second Urban Revolution
    • First Urban Revolution was associated with the Agricultural Revolution (about 10,000 years ago)
    • Second Urban Revolution is associated with the Industrial Revolution (since about 200 yrs ago)
    • Some call this “Modernity”
  • Population Growth
    • Population Explosion from about 1800 C.E.
    • 10,000 y.a.: 8 million
    • 1750 C.E.: 800 million
    • 1820 C.E.: 1 billion
    • 1930 C.E.: 2 billion
    • 1960 C.E.: 3 billion
    • 1976 C.E.: 4 billion
    • 1987 C.E.: 5 billion
    • 2002 C.E.: 6.3 billion
  • A few final thoughts on social and cultural complexity . . .
    • Are greater complexity and all evolutionary changes a “good” thing?
      • Militarism? Hierarchy? Patriarchy? Alienation?
      • As Wells points out, settled agriculture actually reduced quality of life for most individuals (e.g. more disease, less autonomy, warfare)
    • Is everything in industrial society more complex than a foraging society?
      • Compare Ju/’hoansi knowledge and reckoning of kinship to that of the average Singaporean?
  • “ The form is fixed… and culture takes off”
    • In the past 50,000+ years…
      • Human biology has not changed (except only superficially… ‘skin deep’).
      • Human society and culture have changed significantly.
    • What are Society and Culture?
  • What is….
    • CULTURE?
    • (Anthropology’s Key Concept)
  • E.B. Tylor’s definition . . .
    • “ Culture or Civilization . . . is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man* as a member of society. ” – 1871
    • *Ummmm…. and woman.
    E.B. Tylor *See: “Mr. Tyler’s Science” in Lee Cronk (1999)
  • Franz Boas . . . Culture as cultivation
    • “ If this trip has … a valuable experience, it lies in the strengthening of the viewpoint of the relativity of all cultivation . And that the evil as well as the value of a person lies in the cultivation of the heart, which I find or do not find here just as much as amongst us. ” – 1883-1884
    Franz Boas *Quoted in the film: “Shackles of Tradition”
  • Clifford Geertz’s definition . . .
    • “ Man* is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun. I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning.” – 1973
    • *Again . . . to include woman!
    Clifford Geertz 1926-2006
  • Clifford Geertz’s definition (2) ...
    • Culture is our “models for and of the world.” – 1973
    • Models of… categories, ideas through which we make sense of the world.
    • Models for… categories, ideas through which we act in the world.
    Clifford Geertz 1926-2006
  • Lee Cronk, That Complex Whole…
    • “ Culture is neither the act of baking a cake nor the cake itself, but the recipe, the socially transmitted information that tells a person how to bake a cake.” (1999, p.12)
    • “ An ideational definition of culture… While culture is indeed not directly observable, it is nonetheless real. Real things that are not directly observable are routine things in science, and scientists study them all the time.” (1999, p.13)
  • Culture & cultures
    • “ Culture”: A general capacity & process.
      • The cultural process is both public (Geertz) and “in people’s heads” (Cronk)
    • “ cultures”: Patterns of thought (and behavior?), which are produced through the processes of “Culture”.
      • Malay culture, Chinese culture, American culture, !Kung culture, etc…
      • Corporate culture, YouTube culture, etc…
  • “ Strange Beliefs”
    • How did Evans-Pritchard’s view of magic and witchcraft differ from some of his predecessors?
    • How were Azande granaries important in Evans-Pritchard’s research?
    • What does it mean to say that Azande thinking has a “different point of departure”?
    • Why was Evans-Pritchard interested in Nuer cattle?
  • Zande Witchcraft (E.E. Evans-Pritchard)
    • Not “irrational” but different way of understanding the world.
    • Zande know why granaries collapse – but why do they collapse on a particular person at a particular time?
  • Religion, World View and Healing among the !Kung
    • //Gangwasi – the ghosts of recently deceased Ju/’hoansi
    • N/um – spiritual medicine or power given by the gods to men and women.
    • N/um can refer to:
      • Witchcraft practices of African neighbors
      • Disease theories and medicine of Europeans
      • Healing dances, medicine, energy, power, special skills, menstrual blood, African sorcery, herbal remedies, vapor trails of jet planes, tape recorders, high speed travel by motor vehicle.
  • Culture, Religion, World View Belief Systems
    • Culture = a system of beliefs
    • Religion = a system of beliefs
    • Culture refers to sacred and secular beliefs
    • Religion refers to sacred beliefs (about death, God, morality, etc.)
    • “ World View” is commonly used in the same way as “Culture”
  • What is the difference between: Society and Culture Social and Cultural ?
  • The Thought & Behavior Problem
    • Some anthropologists (like Cronk) argue for a distinction* between:
      • Culture/Culture: as cognitive and symbolic
      • Society/Social: as behavior and practice
    • Others use culture to mean both symbolic and behavioral systems (“that complex whole”).
    *This distinction has a long history in anthropology; most prominently in the writings of Boas’ student Albert Kroeber; and also writings of Clifford Geertz.
  • Dr. Eric’s definitions of Cultural and Social
    • Culture refers to our signaling systems (which, among other things, coordinate our actions)
      • Culture is learned, shared knowledge
      • Cultural systems are systems of meaning
    • Social refers to our behavioral systems , specifically those behaviors through which we relate to other people (e.g. exchanges)
      • Social Systems are systems of interaction, relationship and exchange.
  • How Social Systems & Cultural Systems Work A Comparison of Cities as Social Systems to Countries as Cultural Systems
  • Example 1: The Social Dynamics of Cities (Urban Systems)
  • A B C D E F G H I Imagine a Society of independent farmers. Each farmer makes her/his own tools for farming (hoes) and grows and consumes her/his own crops.
  • A B C D E F G H I Suppose, for whatever reason, B is good at making hoes. (For purposes of this example, it doesn’t really matter why.)
  • A B C D E F G H I Let’s Trade! So, C says to B, “tell you what, I don’t like making hoes. If you make hoes for me, I’ll give you my extra grain ( agricultural surplus ).”
  • A B C D E F G H I B makes extra hoes for C. C gives extra grain to B in exchange for the hoes. Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I B is spending time making the hoes, so doesn’t have as much time for farming. But that’s ok because B is getting surplus food from C. Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I Hmmm… Hmmm… A and F see this, and think, “That’s a pretty good idea, B makes really good hoes, and I don’t really like making hoes.” Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I Grain Hoes Hoes Grain So A and F start trading with B, exchanging agricultural surplus (grain) for hoes as well. Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I Grain Hoes Hoes Grain B quits farming altogether, and specializes in hoe production. Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I Grain Hoes Hoes Grain G and H see this, and think, “I really don’t like farming. I want to get into this hoe business.” Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I Grain Hoes Hoes Grain In order to get involved in the hoe business, they move to where the action is. Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I Grain Hoes Hoes Grain There are several reasons for this, all of which have to do with the dynamics of exchange. Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I Grain Hoes Hoes Grain One is that B happens to be centrally located, which facilitates trade with many customers. H and G can take advantage of that location. Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I Grain Hoes Hoes Grain Also, B, G, and H can all reside close to each other; it does not take a lot of space to produce hoes (in contrast to agriculture). Hoes Grain
  • A B C D E F G H I Grain Hoes Hoes Grain Hoes Grain Grain Grain Hoes Hoes Grain Hoes In extremely simplified form, this is a classic example of how urban systems arise.
  • First Urban Revolution
    • From 5,500 – 2,500 yrs ago
    • Urban Centers appear independently in:
    • Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus Valley (5,500-4,500 y.a.)
    • China (3,800 y.a.), Central & South America (2,500 y.a.)
    Mesopotamia Egypt Indus Valley + + +
  • Example 2: The Cultural Dynamics of Countries (“Territorial Nation-States”)
  • Say we have an island, or continent, with people living on it.
  • A few of the people on the island are particularly prominent, wealthy, or otherwise powerful.
  • In order to avoid conflict amongst themselves, they get together and decide to specify which territory each of them will control. You stay on your side, I’ll stay on mine, ok? Ok! Sure
  • Together, they draw a map of the island with borders so that they all know where one territory ends and the other begins. I thought YOU were bringing that! Oops! Any one have paper and a pen?
  • Map of ISLANDIA West Islandia East Islandia Lower Islandia
  • Next, the people who drew the borders and the map have to let everyone else know about this.
  • So, they make copies of the map they’ve drawn and pass them around for everyone to see.
  • To make sure that everyone knows to which territory they belong, passports (identity cards, birth certificates) are issued to each person. Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass L Pass L Pass L Pass L
  • In very simplified form, this is how the system of countries (territorial nation-states) came into existence and how it operates. Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass L Pass L Pass L Pass L
  • Borders Maps, Place Names Pass W Pass L Pass E Passports, Identity Cards, Birth Certificates Countries are produced through cultural processes. Borders, maps, place names, identity cards, etc. are all ways to symbolically represent the existence of countries. They are images . Countries are ideas.
  • Countries exist because people imagine them to exist; because people are able to share and communicate these ideas. This is a cultural process and countries are cultural constructs. Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass W Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass E Pass L Pass L Pass L Pass L
  • Countries (unlike urban systems) do not exist in the absence of such representations.
  • Social & Cultural Systems The Comparison of Cities as Social Systems and Countries as Cultural Systems illustrates the distinction between the two. But neither exists without the other. We always live our lives in social systems (of relationship and exchange) and cultural systems (of beliefs and ideas).
  • We will refer back to these theoretical frameworks as we examine specific cultural systems in the coming weeks; Such as… *Families and Kinship *Gender & Sexuality *Economic Organization & Exchange *Ethnicity, Race, Nationalism…
  • Summing Up…
    • Culture is a general capacity.
    • “ Culture” can refer to that general capacity and “cultures” to its products.
    • Human cultures and societies have changed, evolved, diversified and become generally more complex over the past 10,000 years.
    • Culture refers to systems of meaning, belief, and knowledge; society refers to systems of interaction, relationship and exchange.