ant_2_early_lectures - Ant 2, first three lectures. James...

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Ant 2, first three lectures. James Smith General starting points In more depth tomorrow: Anthropology is a branch of Western philosophy that deals with epistemology and with the problem of particularism and universalism that emerges as a by-product of the Enlightenment “discovery” of a universal humanity guided by reason (i.e., how to conceptualize the endless diversity of the species). Anthropologists derive universal truths from examining particular cases. This gives a sense of the arbitrary nature of one’s own taken for granted assumptions (Anthropology implies making the strange familiar and the familiar strange). Anth as the study of the everyday, bottom-up approach. While there are empirical facts that I can and will test you on, these facts are actually the derivative waste that is thrown up in the process of my communicating the anthropological perspective to you, which power point cannot capture, and which you may not like. The following info, on Star Trek, was to help introduce anthropology, and will not be the exam. (introductory, not to be memorized): Star Trek as anthropology and the anthropology of Star Trek (example) How the Star Trek of the 1960s resembles the anthropology of that era (can be read as an exaggerated fictional representation of cultural anthropology, epitomizing the ambitions of an erstwhile anthropology that was already in the throes of change at that time): 1) The “final frontier” and going where no one has gone before. Relates to: Salvage anthropology, which is changing in the 1960s. (situate in the context of the 1960s: decolonization, the Cold War, Vietnam, etc.). 2) Anthropology as the study of cultures. Culture: provide text book definition (Tylor). All humans have capacity for, and so any human can study or learn any culture, and embody its values, even if these values are very different. Give examples from reading (Shakespeare and Tiv kinship). As when one ventures to another planet, anthropologists learn, through mistakes and practice, what is thinkable and not thinkable in a given context: “That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard”. 3) Cultural relativism and the Prime Directive. Brief story of Margaret Mead. Ethical problems arising from. Notions of equilibrium and functionalism. 1
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Assumptions that society should be based on equilibrium are false, but this is easily dealt with in Star Trek. 4) Liberal cultural relativism in conflict with ethnocentric cultural evolutionism and teleology (a tension in anthropology and in Star Trek). Give example of Lee’s Eating Christmas in the Kalahari. Do people in different places exist in different times? Contemporary anthropology struggles against this assumption, epitomized by: Development theory and practice, modernization theory 5) Anthropology’s (and Star Trek’s) habitual reification of other cultures (depicted as bounded and either unchanging or changing in a predictable way, internally). Custom-based. Metaphor of the text (anthropology of religion, religion and pre-modern
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2008 for the course ANT 2 taught by Professor Smith during the Winter '07 term at UC Davis.

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ant_2_early_lectures - Ant 2, first three lectures. James...

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