Sc2218 Lecture 4 (2008a)

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Lecture 4: CULTURE, cultures and the Human Condition

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Sc2218 Lecture 4 (2008a)

  1. 1. SC2218: Anthropology and the Human Condition Lecture 4: CULTURE, cultures, and the Human Condition Eric C. Thompson Semester 1, 2008/2009
  2. 2. Where Are We Going? <ul><li>Part 1: Anthropological Frameworks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Strangers Abroad; Evolution & Diversity; The Concept of Culture </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Part 2: Social-Cultural Systems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Kinship, Gender, Economy, Community </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Part 3: Revising Our Frameworks & Moving into the Future </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Problem of Representation, History and Change, the Poetry of Culture, Anthropology in the 21 st Century </li></ul></ul>YOU ARE HERE
  3. 3. Outline of Today’s Lecture <ul><li>Strange Beliefs (Evans-Pritchard) </li></ul><ul><li>What is Culture? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Definitions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Culture/cultures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Distinguishing the Cultural from the Social </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Theoretical Frameworks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Functionalism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Structuralism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Structural-Functionalism </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cultural Systems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Processes and Patterns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tradition and Change </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. “ Strange Beliefs” <ul><li>How did Evans-Pritchard’s view of magic and witchcraft differ from some of his predecessors? </li></ul><ul><li>Why might we argue that Evans-Pritchard’s approach is a “structural-functional” approach? </li></ul><ul><li>How were Azande granaries important in Evans-Pritchard’s research? </li></ul><ul><li>What does it mean to say that Azande thinking has a “different point of departure”? </li></ul><ul><li>Why was Evans-Pritchard interested in Nuer cattle? </li></ul>
  5. 5. What is…. <ul><li>CULTURE? </li></ul>
  6. 6. E.B. Tylor’s definition . . . <ul><li>“ 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 </li></ul><ul><li>*Ummmm…. and woman. </li></ul>E.B. Tylor
  7. 7. Clifford Geertz’s definition . . . <ul><li>“ 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 </li></ul><ul><li>*Again . . . to include woman! </li></ul>Clifford Geertz
  8. 8. Franz Boas . . . Culture as cultivation <ul><li>“ 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 </li></ul>Franz Boas
  9. 9. Culture & cultures <ul><li>“ Culture”: A general capacity & process. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The cultural process is both public (Geertz) and “in people’s heads” (Cronk) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ cultures”: Observable patterns of thought (and behavior?), which are produced through the processes of “Culture”. </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Thought & Behavior Problem <ul><li>Some anthropologists (like Cronk) argue for a distinction between: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Culture/Culture: as cognitive and symbolic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Society/Social: as behavior and practice </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Others use culture to mean both symbolic and behavioral systems (“that complex whole”) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Dr. Eric’s definitions of Cultural and Social <ul><li>Culture refers to our signaling systems (which, among other things, coordinate our actions) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Culture is learned, shared knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cultural systems are systems of meaning </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social refers to our behavioral systems , specifically those behaviors through which we relate to other people (e.g. exchanges) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Systems are systems of relationship and exchange. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Why distinguish between Culture and Society? <ul><li>Signals / Systems of Meaning & Behaviors / Systems of Relationship and Exchange have different properties; so sometimes we want to study them as different kinds of systems . </li></ul><ul><li>But in everyday life, signals and behaviors are inseparable – as socio-cultural systems . </li></ul><ul><li>Many anthropologies call the “whole thing” (social & cultural) simply “Culture” </li></ul>
  13. 13. How Social Systems & Cultural Systems Work A Comparison of Cities as Social Systems to Countries as Cultural Systems (See Additional Slides)
  14. 14. 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).
  15. 15. Three Theoretical Frameworks: Functionalism Structuralism Structural-Functionalism These are only three among many other * theoretical frameworks in Anthropology. We will be referring back to these three throughout the course. *You are not expected to know all of these. But we will refer to some in the course. The linked webpage gives a good overview.
  16. 16. Bronislaw Malinowski (seated second from right) Functionalism Cultural systems serve to meet basic human needs… Such as reproduction, food, shelter, health, etc.
  17. 17. Structuralism A structure is a model of (social and cultural) relationships, which “exhibits the characteristics of a system. It is made up of several elements, none of which can undergo a change without effecting changes in all other elements.” (Levi-Strauss, 1963, p.279) The structure of a social system remains constant even as individuals move in, through, and out of society, through birth, marriage, and death. Claude Levi-Strauss (1949: Elementary Structures of Kinship ) (1963: Structural Anthropology ) Claude Levi-Strauss
  18. 18. Structural-functionalism: Society is an organic whole – a social organism – whose structures and components function together to ensure the efficiency, equilibrium, and the continuity of society. Prominent anthropologists who promoted structural- functionalist models of society include E. E. Evans-Pritchard and A. R. Radcliffe-Brown . E.E. Evans-Pritchard
  19. 19. How to sort all that out?!? Functionalism… Structuralism… Structural-Functionalism… My brain hurts! Try thinking about these theories if you used them to explain “what is a car?”…
  20. 20. Functionalism <ul><li>A functionalist explanation for cars is that they move people around. </li></ul><ul><li>Notice how this doesn’t tell you much about the car itself – this is its “function”; external to the car as a “system” </li></ul>
  21. 21. Structuralism <ul><li>A structuralist explanation would focus on how different parts of the car fit together… the tires are connected to the rims, etc. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Structural-Functionalism <ul><li>Structural-functionalism focuses on how the parts work together… The light switch turns on the lights; the fuse and circuit breaker protect the system from overloading… etc. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Now, consider how we might discuss cars as a socio-cultural system . . .
  24. 24. Functionalism: Meeting Needs/Desires <ul><li>Cars are a technological innovation that allows for greater mobility and access to resources . . . </li></ul><ul><li>For men, cars enhance reproductive opportunities by attracting potential mates… </li></ul><ul><li>(According to advertisers… not necessarily to be believed!) </li></ul>
  25. 25. Structuralism: Placing the Item with a System <ul><li>Cars are a part of a larger system of roads and transportation. </li></ul><ul><li>Symbolically, they are coded as masculine (in contrast to feminine) items in most cultural systems. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Structural-Functionalism: Functions of an Item within a System <ul><li>Cars are a vital part of advanced industrial systems of production and consumption. </li></ul><ul><li>Symbolically, cars operate within a system of class hierarchies. </li></ul>
  27. 27. 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…
  28. 28. Culture: Processes of Being, Becoming, and Interacting All human beings have a capacity for “Culture”* Our lives are an ongoing process of learning and changing through symbolic interaction with others. *Refer to the readings by both Handwerker & Cronk.
  29. 29. “ Cultures” as Product <ul><li>Cultural Processes produce Patterns </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural Patterns shape Processes </li></ul><ul><li>Culture ≠ Tradition </li></ul><ul><li>Tradition is one mode of cultural transmission (among others) </li></ul>
  30. 30. Cultural Systems <ul><li>Cultural Patterns are Systematic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Elements related in Systematic Ways </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relationships are Essential to Meaning </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tradition refers to transmission of the system of meanings unchanged, one generation to the next. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Culture as an Evolving System <ul><li>Systematic ≠ Static, Unchanging </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural Systems change through: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Substitution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Displacement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ambiguity </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. “ It’s a mistake to name a process after a product . . . You can still go fishing if you never catch a fish” - From the Film “Sight Unseen” It is important to remember that: “ Culture” as a general capacity for conceptualization and process of symbolic interaction & interpretation Is distinct from… “ cultures” as a patterned outcome of processes of “Culture”

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