a203-11f-05-RaceEthnicity - Introduction to Cultural...

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Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: Class 5 Race and ethnicity Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - Humans categorize and name things - including ourselves and each other - we divide up our perceptions of the world into kinds of things that we can identify and name - we divide a spectrum of colors into named categories: red, orange, yellow, green, blue… - we divide furniture to sit on into categories like chair, stool, bench, rocker, throne, armchair, recliner, sofa… - This is useful, because we can then talk about and think about things as members of a general category - rather than treating every thing as a unique, special case - some categories are really “out there” in the physical world - there are dogs and cats, but nothing in between - but many, even most things in the world really fall along continuous ranges of variation - like colors - or kinds of furniture to sit on - or breeds of dogs - for many things, there are no natural, real divisions - how we divide up these continuous ranges of variation into named categories is just a matter of convenience - where do we draw the line between different colors? - or between different breeds of dogs? - or between a chair, stool, bench, rocker, throne…? - these categories are arbitrary cultural constructs - where we draw the lines is arbitrary - which things we lump together and consider to be “the same” is arbitrary - what I classified as a Stingray bike, others classified as a scraper bike - these categories do not perfectly overlap - A bike is a Stingray based on the shape of the handlebars, seat, and other features - Scraper bikes are categorized more by decoration, especially by the wheels - while many scraper bikes are also Stingray bikes, not all are - both are equally arbitrary ways of categorizing bicycles - an outsider faced with a bunch of bicycles would probably classify them differently - yet despite being arbitrary, artificial, and invented… - these categories carry real meanings that really affect how people think about things and behave - so categories can be arbitrary,,, - in that they have no reality in the physical world… - yet still be real in the social world - in that they affect people’s thinking and behavior - Two common ways of categorizing people are by ethnicity and race
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Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Race and ethnicity p. 2 - Ethnicity: - ethnicity , or ethnic group : a category of people thought to be similar to each other and different from other ethnicities, based on - language, and/or - customs, beliefs, values. .. and/or - religion, and/or - history (migration, slavery, warfare, etc.), and/or - geographic origin, and/or - physical features (skin color, hair color, eye shape, etc.) - Each ethnicity is defined by its own mix of cultural, historical, and/or physical characteristics - These are clearly arbitrary ways of lumping people into categories - They depend on people agreeing that in one case, language is important; in another, religion; in another, history; and so on
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This note was uploaded on 03/02/2012 for the course ANTHRO 203.1 taught by Professor Owen during the Fall '11 term at Sonoma.

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a203-11f-05-RaceEthnicity - Introduction to Cultural...

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