a203-11f-10-CulturalMaterialismAndText

a203-11f-10-CulturalMaterialismAndText - Introduction to...

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Explaining culture: Cultural materialism and culture as text Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - Today’s material should seem familiar after the previous readings and class - Marvin Harris’s “cultural materialism” is a classic example of what Middleton means by explaining culture as adaptation - Clifford Geertz’s analysis of Balinese cockfights (and other things) as “texts” is a classic example of what Middleton means by explaining culture in terms of a system of meanings - each is extreme and explicit in promoting their approach - in doing so, they make these theoretical approaches very clear - Cultural materialism (Marvin Harris) - Why do Indian Hindus consider cows sacred, and thus polluting to eat? - pollution : in this use, means the taint one gets from committing a wrong (a sin) - may cause people to despise or shun you - may affect your afterlife (or next life) - examples: becoming a teenage single mother, cheating on your spouse (Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, with his Argentine mistress) - Harris: because this belief serves a practical, material purpose - Concepts: - Infrastructure : systems of “production and reproduction” - the basic practices that provide for survival and continuation of the society - especially subsistence (food production practices) and technology - but also other basics such as how people survive the weather (housing, clothing, heating, moving seasonally, etc.) - how they move around (walking, horseback, cars, etc.) - trade: how they exchange these necessary goods - and so on - Structure : how social relations are arranged - social organization, kinship, distribution of wealth and status (such as social classes), organization of power (politics) - Superstructure : systems of meanings - religion, symbols, philosophy, ideology, worldview, aesthetics (art, design, music, dance) - Cultural materialism : the view that infrastructure shapes or determines structure, which in turn shapes or determines superstructure - aspects of culture can be ultimately explained in terms of survival and reproduction - these explanations usually involve subsistence, ecology, and/or economics - that is, the material realities of life largely determine the rest of culture - Classic example of cultural materialism, suggested by Harris: - Why do Indian Hindus consider cows too sacred to eat? -
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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-10-CulturalMaterialismAndText - Introduction to...

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