What is Cultural Anthropology

What is Cultural Anthropology - What is Cultural...

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What is Cultural Anthropology? What do Cultural Anthropologists do to study culture? Ethnography: A detailed description of cultural processes; Based on a long-term, on-location fieldwork. Fieldwork: Experience-based, participation in community being studied; Process of participant observation. What kinds of things do cultural anthropologists study? Traditionally: - Anthropologists studied cultural “Others” in “far-off” places: Small-scale; Non-Western; Pre-industrial; Subsistence-oriented economies. Contemporarily: - Ethnography of diverse subjects: Doctors and research clinics; Fraternities; Indigenous activists; Family life in Silicon Valley; Religion in rural Appalachian towns. As a result of globalization: Multi-sited ethnographies; For example, some anthropologists follow immigrants from their home to host countries. Anthropology’s Approaches to Culture Culture is: “the complex whole which includes, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” – Edward Taylor, 1871 Contemporary Distinction: Actual behavior vs. Abstract ideas that inform behavior. It is Shared - Makes individual actions intelligible to others. - Enables predictions and expectations of behavior. - (But not shared uniformly). It is variable. - Differences in gender norms, expectations; - Differences in age. - Cultural variation among subgroups within a society. It is learned. - Culture is not biologically inherited. - Culture is learned by growing up in a certain culture.
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- Intergenerational – it is passed on from one generation to the next. - Enculturation: The process of transmitting culture from one generation to the next. It is dynamic - Systems that change and adapt. - Not fixed in a certain time or period. Ways of Studying Culture Holistic Approach - Single aspects human culture only understood in relation to all other aspects. - Must consider part within whole, emphasis on connections within a culture. Comparative Approach: - Broad ideas about culture must be informed by information from a diversity of cultures. - Comparison is the only way of finding out if something is unique to one culture, or universal to all humans. Relativistic Approach - No culture is inherently superior to another. - Cannot approach other cultures from an ethnocentric view. (Ethnocentrism – the idea that your culture is better than other cultures) - No universal categories for judging cultures. Culture, Power and Myth
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This note was uploaded on 03/30/2008 for the course ANTHRO 201 taught by Professor Viatori during the Spring '08 term at Iowa State.

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What is Cultural Anthropology - What is Cultural...

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