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Anthropological Research and Theory


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Describes Anthropological Research Techniques, then covers basics of scientific method, including inductive and deductive approaches, hypothesis and theory, and testing hypotheses

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Anthropological Research and Theory

  1. 1. Anthropological Theory and Research Analyzing Sociocultural Systems
  2. 2. Two Competing Approaches <ul><li>Scientific: Search for hidden but universal and unchanging principles </li></ul><ul><li>Experiential or Humanities: Experiencing another culture from a personal view </li></ul><ul><li>Can the two complement each other? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Overview of This Lecture <ul><li>Basic methods and techniques in anthropology </li></ul><ul><li>Basic terms in research and theory </li></ul><ul><li>Basic principles of science </li></ul><ul><li>A sixfold test for assessing propositions </li></ul><ul><li>Reconciliation between the scientific and the experiential </li></ul>
  4. 4. Anthropological Method I: Fundamental Principles <ul><li>Holism: All aspects of a culture must be considered, especially their interconnections </li></ul><ul><li>Cross-Cultural Comparison : Comparison of similar cultural traits </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural Relativism: Two Interpretations </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific detachment: observe what is out there—even cannibalism. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Anthropological Method II: Cultural Relativism <ul><li>Cultural Relativism: Acceptance of culture according to own standards </li></ul><ul><li>Ethnocentrism: Belief in superiority of one’s own culture (reflected in this neo-Nazi rally) </li></ul><ul><li>Ethical Relativism: Do we accept all cultural practices (like this Chinese prison camp in the name of “right to development”) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Anthropological Method III: Interpretations of Cultural Relativism <ul><li>Cultural Relativism as Scientific Detachment: To understand people’s behavior </li></ul><ul><li>Such as Dani warfare </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural Boundedness: How our mental structure is culturally derived , often unconsciously </li></ul><ul><li>Muslims interpret Burger King’s lid image of a spinning ice cream cone in Britain (left) </li></ul><ul><li>As an Arabic inscription for Allah (right ) (Source: The Scotsman 9/17/05) </li></ul><ul><li>Plaintiff Quote: “How can you say it is a spinning swirl? If you spin it one way to the right you are offending Muslims .&quot; </li></ul>
  7. 7. Anthropological Method IV: Universalism <ul><li>Definition: Practices that occur worldwide </li></ul><ul><li>Incest tabu (Egyptian brother-sister marriage) </li></ul><ul><li>Etiquette </li></ul><ul><li>Reciprocity (gift exchange) red necklace (suspended) and white armshells (on floor) in kula ring , Trobriand Islands </li></ul>
  8. 8. Anthropological Techniques <ul><li>Observation </li></ul><ul><li>Participant Observation (horn blowing in an African Obo royal court) </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews (with a market woman in Ghana) </li></ul><ul><li>Other techniques according to : </li></ul><ul><li>The topic of research </li></ul><ul><li>Audiovisual technology </li></ul><ul><li>Informant participation or lack thereof </li></ul>
  9. 9. Some Basic Terms of Science <ul><li>Hypothesis : An educated guess explaining some thing or event </li></ul><ul><li>Observed in the lab or field </li></ul><ul><li>Theory: A confirmed hypothesis </li></ul><ul><li>Induction: Building a hypothesis from observations or lab experiments </li></ul><ul><li>Deduction: Predicting what should occur based on confirmed body of facts, principles, or beliefs </li></ul>
  10. 10. Some Basic Terms of Research I <ul><li>Sample : Part of a population selected for research </li></ul><ul><li>Random sample: One in which everyone has a chance of being included </li></ul><ul><li>Representative sample : One in which all groups are included. </li></ul><ul><li>Universe: Total population from which sample is drawn </li></ul>
  11. 11. Some Basic Terms of Research II <ul><li>Bias: Use of any technique that fails to elicit a random/representative sample </li></ul><ul><li>Techniques: Instruments used to gather information (observations, interviews, video, tape recording, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Method: Justification for selection of a technique </li></ul><ul><li>Methodology: Overall plan that forms a coherent relation among the methods </li></ul>
  12. 12. How to Develop a Hypothesis: Induction and Deduction
  13. 13. How to Test a Hypothesis
  14. 14. The Phases of Scientific Method <ul><li>Phase 1: Observe Things/Events in Field </li></ul><ul><li>Phase 2: Develop an explanation (hypothesis) </li></ul><ul><li>Phase 3: Gather relevant data </li></ul><ul><li>Phase 4: Evaluate hypothesis with data. </li></ul><ul><li>Phase 5: Repeat procedure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accept confirmed hypotheses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reject or modify disconfirmed hypotheses </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Scientific Method as Probabilistic <ul><li>Any theory can be tossed as new information come in </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, all theories are probabilistic and none can be stated with finality </li></ul>
  16. 16. A Six-Way Test <ul><li>Background: James Lett, CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) and anthropologist. </li></ul><ul><li>The six-way test goes by the acronym FiLCHeRS, or </li></ul><ul><li>Falsifiability; Logic, Comprehensiveness, Honesty, Replication, and Sufficiency </li></ul>
  17. 17. Falsifiability <ul><li>Does not mean to cook or fudge the data </li></ul><ul><li>The hypothesis must be so stated that if unsupported it is rejected (or falsified) </li></ul><ul><li>Thus, it must specify the conditions under which it is rejected. </li></ul><ul><li>Opposite 1: Broadly stated propositions </li></ul><ul><li>Opposite 2: Use of the multiple out, or what do you say to the Instant Creator? </li></ul>
  18. 18. Logic <ul><li>There are two basic kinds of logic: inductive and deductive </li></ul><ul><li>Inductive: gathering enough facts to lead to a conclusion. </li></ul><ul><li>Deductive: Starting at a major premise and reasoning down to a minor premise then a conclusion. </li></ul><ul><li>Lett argues from the deductive. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Logic (Continued) <ul><li>Basic statement: Any argument offered as evidence in support of any claim must be both: </li></ul><ul><li>Valid: follow from accepted proposition </li></ul><ul><li>Of real life </li></ul><ul><li>Of math: e.g. straight line postulate </li></ul><ul><li>Sound: that is, be true </li></ul>
  20. 20. Comprehensiveness <ul><li>Evidence offered in support of any claim must be exhaustive </li></ul><ul><li>All relevant evidence must be considered </li></ul><ul><li>Opposite: Selective presentation of evidence that supports the claim </li></ul><ul><li>Example: politicians, courtroom tactics </li></ul>
  21. 21. Honesty <ul><li>Evidence must be evaluated without either self-deception or intent to deceive </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of temptations toward dishonesty </li></ul><ul><li>Strong incentives such as funding to support pet theories </li></ul><ul><li>Basic fault of advocacy groups, politicians, and lawyers </li></ul><ul><li>Honesty could only lead to better hypotheses--i.e. to better explain facts </li></ul>
  22. 22. Replicability <ul><li>To verify positive results </li></ul><ul><li>the experiment or field research must </li></ul><ul><li>be repeated </li></ul><ul><li>under identical conditions. </li></ul><ul><li>Controlled experiments can be replicated </li></ul><ul><li>Anthropology: Restudies are less controlled </li></ul><ul><li>Restudies haven’t done well </li></ul><ul><li>Lewis v. Redfiield in Tepoztl á n, Mexico </li></ul><ul><li>Freeman v. Mead in Samoa </li></ul>
  23. 23. Sufficiency <ul><li>Evidence must be adequate to support any claim </li></ul><ul><li>Burden of proof is on claimant </li></ul><ul><li>Expert testimony is never adequate (Would you buy Nike because Michael Jordan says to? Or Hanes?) </li></ul><ul><li>Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Welcome Back to the Real World <ul><li>The tests demand a perfect world </li></ul><ul><li>Real world: the field is not a lab </li></ul><ul><li>Homo sapiens have the same hardware </li></ul><ul><li>But individuals and cultures vary </li></ul><ul><li>The compromise </li></ul><ul><li>Careful preparation </li></ul><ul><li>Flexibility in the field </li></ul>
  25. 25. Conclusion <ul><li>First aim: to develop generalizations that apply to all societies </li></ul><ul><li>Second aim: to explain the diversity of cultures </li></ul><ul><li>Research must therefore meet rigorous standards, such as Lett’s Six-Way Test </li></ul>