a203-11f-16-NaturalizingInequality - Introduction to...

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Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: Class 16 Naturalizing inequality: Social race and gender Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - Last time we started looking at how inequality and hierarchies are constructed - that is, how people come to accept inequality and hierarchies of wealth, power, status, etc. and consider them natural and normal - Marx suggested that the capitalist class consciously, intentionally tries to convince people that inequality of socioeconomic classes are natural and necessary - but what about other kinds of inequality, such as inequality by gender or ethnicity? - Inequality and hierarchies must be constructed in people’s minds - we have to learn what the categories are - man, woman, gay man, and etc. - white, black, Asian, Latino, etc. - these categories are arbitrary - members of other cultures might learn to categorize people differently - like the Ju/’hoansi, who categorized African-Americans as “whites” - but as we learn how to categorize people and practice using the categories… - we come to think that the categories are real - that is, we naturalize them - we also have to learn what qualities are associated with each category, and how they rank relative to each other - men are strong, aggressive, control their emotions, etc. - men are more likely to be in positions of power than are women at work, in politics, etc. - men grill the steak; women do the shopping, complicated cooking, and cleanup - in general, men are in the privileged, dominant, higher-ranked position relative to women, gay men, and others - this process of constructing ideas in people’s minds is both cultural and social - social: in that we learn the categories, their features, and their relative ranking from the people around us - cultural: in that we end up sharing these ideas with the other members of our culture - Systems of inequality and hierarchy not only must be constructed, but also must be naturalized - made to seem natural, normal, necessary, acceptable, and right… part of the natural order of the world - Naturalizing inequality may involve… - learning theories or arguments that explain or justify the inequality - such as “men are physically stronger and are more aggressive leaders, so naturally they tend to hold the dominant positions” - or “African-American families tend to be dysfunctional, so naturally their kids tend to fail in school and later life” - I am NOT saying these are correct, only that such beliefs tend to naturalize hierarchies - the first helps to naturalize a hierarchy by gender
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Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Naturalizing inequality… p. 2 - the second helps to naturalize a hierarchy by social race - learning ways of speaking and thinking - that lead us to unconsciously assume that that a hierarchy is natural - that lead us to unconsciously assume that certain categories have certain positions in the hierarchy - like we might if we frequently use certain metaphors in speaking and thinking, like:
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a203-11f-16-NaturalizingInequality - Introduction to...

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