Functionalism - knowledge, practices, and material goods....

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Unformatted text preview: knowledge, practices, and material goods. Groups in contact along frontiers are able to be somewhat selective in those elements they take from each other. In southern South America, the frontier membrane was especially permeable to criminals and peas— ants avoiding conscription. Finally, frontiers are zones where exter- nal forces shape local events (see COLO- _ NIALISM, WORID-SYSTEh-l THEORY). These forces are modified by local conditions and the efi'orts of local actors. Local resistance to colonial efforts, often originating in frontier areas, can overtax state resources and contribute to unrest in the “home,” colonizing country. The actions and inter- actions of frontier peoples often lead to ethnogenesis (formation of an ethnic group) or transformations of ethnicity (Chase-Dunn 8: Hall 1997; see ETHNIC GROUPS). Most of these writers, save Turner, have pointed out that some frontier groups use and manipulate official state boundaries to their own advantage. For example, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Apache and Comanche bands raided deep into New Spain, while simultaneously maintaining peaceful relations in New Mexico. Later in the nineteenth century Apache bands used newly annexed US ter- ritory as a base to raid across the border into Mexico. More generally, when states attempt to monopolize trade, smuggling flourishes as a specialty for one or more frontier groups. Many writers also note that frontiers are not permanent, but move. Indeed, Turner :noted the “closing” of the American fron- tier in 1892 when the counties with less flan two people per square mile no longer :formed a clear line of westward expansion. However, according to the 1990 US census 100 western counties retain such low M ulation densities (D. Duncan 1993). The crossing of the horse frontier, ' ' g northeast from New Mexico, and " ' gun fi‘ontier, moving southeast from bee and New England, was the catalyst FUNCTIONALISM 209 Frontiers are zones of mixture and change at some distance from state author- ity. They are the homes of many groups Studied by cultural anthropologiSts. While frontier residents often try to maintain some degree of isolation, typically their lives are impacted by external social, politi~ cal, and cultural forces. This is why the study of frontiers is at once fascinating and frustrating. TH See also HISTORY AND ANTHROPOLOGY further reading Baretta & Markoff 1978; R. Bartlett 8: McKay 1989; Dunaway 1996; Lamar 8: Thompson 1981; Slatta 1990 functionalisrn is (1) an ethnographic methodology distinctive of anthropology within the social sciences and humanities; (2) a historical school of anthropology also known as “British social anthropology"; (3) a school of sociology and social relations that attempted to integrate sociology. psychology, and anthropology; and (4) a “philosophy of the social sciences” within Anglo-American analytic philoso- phy. “Functionalism” is no longer a label much used by anthropologists; but this is in part because the legacies of functionalism are now everyday anthropological common sense. Ethnographic approach Functionalism asks how any particular in- stitution or belief is interrelated with other institutions and to what extent it contrib- utes to the persistence either of the socio— cultural system as a whole or its parts. It is the sociological equivalent of the basic rule of ecology: that you cannot change only one thing. Functionalism emerged in the 1920s as a sharp methodological break with over-1y facile and decontextualized comparisons (“among the so—and-so’s”) manifested by much nineteenth—century evolutionary anthropology: museum dis— plays organized as linear sequences of progress (sharply critiqued earlier by E. B. Tva (1889) ); diffusionist maps of cul- tural traits or limited cultural complexes; or grand narratives illustrating the progress of reason, such as James FRAZER’s The golden bong}! (1890). Functionalism required a more sophisti- cated comparative method, interested in 2 10 FUNCTIONALISM what institutions and beliefs meant to participants of a society, as well as social correlations and interconnections. Such correlations could not be established by studying single societies, but required comparison among societies, focusing, for example, on the relationship among matrilineal kinship systems, shifting culti- vation, witchcraft, and high divorce rates. Functionalists liked to show how kinship or religion structured ostensibly economic in— stitutions, how the ritual system stimulated economic production and organized poli- tics, or how myths (previously dismissed as idle stories or speculations) served as charters that codified and regulated social relations. This early fianctionalism of British social anthropology was informed by Dutkheimian sociological theory, particu— larly the notion that the social was a level of organization sm' generis that could not be reduced in any simple way to the motives and intentions of individuals. It exerted a moral force upon individuals through “col— lective representations” or the “conscience collective” (both socially structured in- ternalized “conscience” and semiotically public cognitive “consciousness”). Func— tionalism thus sustained a productive ten— sion between a commitment to context (“holism”) and problem-oriented compari- son. It also sustained a productive tension between focusing attention on the beliefs, motivations, and meanings of actors (out of which iN’I‘ERPRETIvE ANTHROPOLOGY evolved) while simultaneously arguing that “social facts” could not be reduced to individual will, desire, or cognition (out of which STRUCTURALISM and “antihumanist” poststtucturalism evolved). Anthropology today continues its dis~ tinctivc commitment to ethnographic THICK DESCRIPTION of interconnections amoug different institutional and discursive parts of society. This can be seen in new arenas of research by anthropologists of science (Traweek 1988, 1992, E. Martin 1994) who refuse to restrict themselves to the walls of the laboratory, the ethno— methodoiogy of a procedure, a dispute, or genre of communication. A second feature of functionalism’s legacy to anthropology is a continuing commitment to sociologically contextualized cross—cultural comparison, and refusal to allow the theoretical catego- ries of North America and Europe to pass as unexamined universal parameters. Again, although the challenges of compari- son in the late twentieth century are con- siderably different from what they were in the earlier part of the century (see poeronssmsm), this too remains a commonsense legacy of functionalism. School of anthropology “Functionalism” was the name adopted by Bronislaw MALINOWSKJ, A. R. Rsncurrs—Baow, and their students. Also known as “British social anthropol- ogy,” in its formative period this small group of anthropologists powerfully influ- enced the social sciences, the wider acad- emy, and public-policy debates. Based on intensive studies of some 30 societies, it created a kind of canon for continual re-- analysis and comparison. Malinowski’s cthnographies became new textual models with their realist style that unpacked the “native point of view“ and involved the reader in an experience of “be- ing there.” Their authority rested on ere tended fieldwork and, more importantly, on the claims of methodological functional— ism to unravel the structure of a society and culture better than had resident missionar- ies or colonial administrators. Their textual strategy represented the whole by the part through analysis of key institutions (Trobriand KUM, Azande \WITCHCRAFI‘), emblematic cultural performances (latmui haven, Balinese cockfights), or privileged structures {kinship systems, ritual and belief complexes, political factions). The fOcus also included “the native point of view,” which Malinowski presented through a tripartite strategy of TRANSLA‘ TION: supplying the transcript of the native text, providing a wordwby-word translation and explication, and then producing a gloss in fluent English. By translating the exotic into the familiar, he attempted to show that other cultural formations had both a cognie tive and social logic. His wide-ranging dee scriptions and native texts provided his ethnographies with much more material'— than he could analyze himself. Conse quently his monographs on the Trobtiandi Islands (1922, 1927, 1935, 1948) have en among the most reanalyzed cultural .d sociological accounts in anthropology, nth by students in training and by scholars uplying new theoretical approaches. Al— ough some of Malinowski’s theoretical rmulations were naive (particularly his :er theory of culture based on biological :eds), he made enduring contributions in change theory, the analysis of MYTH as cial charters, and the anthropological tallenge to the universality of the Oedipus omplex. He was also a proponent of ap ying anthropology as practical knowledge 1: development and social reform and was [trepreneurially successful in raising nds for anthropological training on these ounds from the Rockefeller and Carnegie )undations and the British Colonial flice. Functionalism’s emphasis on indig- tous incentive and motivational struc~ res, legal systems, land tenure and :rarian systems, trade and exchange, so- al welfare and healing systems, fitted par- :ularly well with Britain’s colonial policy ‘indirect rule in which a relatively few ficials were expected to oversee a vast npire by working through local economic id political structures. Radcliffe-Brown was the other “father” ' British social anthropology. Usually edited with being the more influential rmulator of functionalist theory, he bor- twed much from Durkheimian sociology 1d saw anthropology as a global, cross- ilrural comparative sociology. He argued .at social structure (composed of roles, ral obligations, and moral norms) was the :y framework for comparative analysis 952). With its attention to the tensions 1d conflicts betWeen the purposes of indi- duals and the functions of social institu- ans, his notion of social structure bore aces of an older legacy of the language of torphology and pathology of organic sys— ms (195?). His own fieldwork mono— ‘aph on the Andaman Islands (1922) toyed a textual struggle for him to com- .ete, reflecting his early attempts to clarify .5 functional approach. It was never as fluential as his teaching, in which be ex— :lled, setting up important training pro- .‘arns in South Africa, Australia, and the hired States (Chicago). His influence was articularly clear in functionalist studies FUNCTIONALISM 21 I based on the comparative social-structural approach to kinship and politics (Radcliffe- Brown 8:: Forde 1950; Fortes & Evans- Pritchard 1940b; Schneider 3: Gough 1961). E. E. EVANS-PRITCHARD, a senior mem- ber of the second generation, is usually credited with providing the classic form of the ethnography in the Durkheimian, social-structure-hased, mode. His series of monographs on the Nuer (1940, 1951, 1956) provided the second most popular canonical set for teaching students the arts of reanalysis. And his monograph on Azande witchcraft (1937) has proved a perennial favorite, in part for its compara- tive argument that shows how systems of argumentation protect themselves from falsification (science is the epistemological target here), and how technical-pragmatic explanations cannot resolve existential, moral, and social questions (“why me?”). Too often, sibling rivalries by American anthropologists have caricatured function- alism as a Panglossian theory that every- thing is ideally integrated or functional, arguing that functionalism could not deal with change or that it was only a hand— maiden of COLONIAIJSM. This ignores the important contributions of the functionalist Manchester school, established by Max GLUCKMAN, which brought together the case-method presentation of conflicts from legal studies and Evans-Pritchard’s Durk- heimian concern with conflicts between in- dividual interests and social forces. One of its major projects was an attempt to build up a mosaic regional analysis through a series of studies conducted in Northern Rhodesia (modern Zambia) through the Rhodes—Livingstone Institute (Gluckman & Colson 1951), one of the Social and Economic Research Institutes scattered across the British Empire that brought to— gether agrarian and anthropological re— search. Motivated by his concern over the destruction of tribal economies caused by drawing male labor into the copper mines, its first director, Godfrey Wilson, proposed doing a study of labor in the mines. The colonial government rejected the proposal as subversive and barred him from the mines; it did not help that he was a com- munist (as was Gluckman). The govern— 21 2 FURER-HAIMNDORF ment was concerned enough by the dete- rioration of tribal economies, however, to hire Audrey RICHARDS, who wrote a classic study of the Bemba (1939), who were among the leaders of strikes in the mines. Victor TURNER (1957, 1967, 1969) marked the high point of this style of func- tionalist monograph with his study of Ndembu ritual, where a case-method an- alysis of social dramas (taken from Arnold van GENNEP’S model of ritual form) is embedded into a neo-Freudian framework. Turner’s analyses of ritual process and the con—fusion (literally fusing together) of emotional and cognitive poles of meaning in ritually powerful symbols, for both indi— viduals and their society, became an influ- ential component of the Chicago school of symbolic anthropology in the 1970s. Although this is not the place to cite all the key figures of functionalist British social anthropology — Abner Cohen, Elizabeth Colson, Mary Douglas, Raymond Firth, Meyer Fortes, Ernest Gellner, Jack and Esther Goody, Edmund Leach, Godfrey and Peter Lienhardt, Rodney Needham, S. F, Nadel, Emrys Peters, Julian Pitt-Rivers, Isaac Schapera, M. N. Srinivas, and Peter Worsley are some others — it is important to indicate at least through the above several, some of the range of concerns, methods, and political contexts in which functional— ism evolved. Structural-functionalism At times Radcliffe-Brown’s version of funcfionalism was tagged “structural- furictionalism” because of his stress on so- cial structure, but this name is more widely used for the sociological approach of the American sociologist Talcott Parsons (1937, 1951a, 1954) with its interdiscipli- nary vision combining anthropology, soci- ology, and psychology into a “layer cake,” known as a quasi-cybernetic or SYSTEMS- THEORY analytic model. Psychological, so- cial, and cultural systems, he suggested, can be analytically distinguished as differ- ent emergent levels of organization, each with its own logic of integration, but with feedback among the levels. Out of the Social Relatious Department founded at Harvard on this idea came two key anthro- pologists of what would become the Chi- cago school of symbolic anthropology of the 19605 and 1970s. Social systems, Clifford Gssa‘rz (1973) would later sug- gest, are causally integrated, whereas cul- tural systems are logicomeaningfully integrated, and psychological systems are psychodynamically integrated. Norms as statistical regularities, David Schneider (1968) would suggest, belong to the realm of the social system; norms as moral “ought statements" or as analytic principles under- lying cultural conceptual forms belong to the cultural or symbolic system. Social or- ganization and social structure were parts of the social system; values, norms, prin- ciples, symbols, and conceptual schemes were part of the cultural system. Philosophical functionalism Philosophers have examined the logical status of different variants of functional analysis (mathematical, organicist, teleo- logical, cybernetic) and their relationship to causal and historical modes of explanation (Hempel 1959; Gardiner 1964). Method- ologically, Aberle et al. (1950) pointed out that functionalism could not consist of specifying lists of human needs and the various functional equivalent institutions that could satisfy those needs because there was no way of delimiting either the defini- tion of needs or the possible functional equivalents. Similarly Blake and Davis (1964) pointed out the circularity of deriv- ing norms and values from behavioral regu- larities, while at the same time claiming that the latter structure the former. Ernest German (1959b, 1970), writing as an- thropologist—philosopher, is perhaps the clearest in pointing out that functionalism for anthropology was primarily a method- ological obligation to probe for intercon- nections, rather than a theory of society. In philosophically less rigorous forms, Malinowski’s students attempted to show how functionalist methods had been ap- plied to different substantive areas of eth- nographic research [Firth 1956a, 1957). On the various efforts by Parsonians and other American sociologists to clarify struc» tural—functionalism as a set of models and variables, see the surveys by M. Levy (1968) and Cancian (1968). MP Ffirer—Haimendorf, Christoph von (1909—95) Christoph von Fiirer- ...
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Functionalism - knowledge, practices, and material goods....

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