a340-11f-101-16-SteckleyCh5 - Living in our Globalized...

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Living in our Globalized World: Notes 16 Mistakes in constructing knowledge, and anthropological authority: Steckley Ch. 5 Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - Steckly: White Lies About the Inuit: Chapter 5, Elders on Ice, pp. 103-130 - about claims of elder abandonment and elder altruistic suicide - Wonderful imaginary example of “cultural relativism” in an Inuit classroom, using people of Toronto as the example (p. 103) - What is wrong with this? - It is an example of some common errors in constructing knowledge - relevant in this class because… - we are concerned here with the construction of knowledge of the Other, - which plays a big role in interactions of people of different cultures - which is a primary feature and outcome of globalization - One common error: mistaking cultural constructs for cultural norms - cultural construct : an idea or category developed and shared by members of a culture - cultural norm : a practice that is… - common: people normally, routinely, often do it - this is the statistical sense of “norm” as that which is common - acceptable: it complies with the rules of the culture; it is not abnormal (deviant) - this is the sociological, prescriptive sense - We have a cultural construct (or category) of “murder-suicide” - other cultures may not - we recognize murder-suicide as a kind of behavior that recurs, has a name, and has typical characteristics - presumably the existence of the construct makes the it easier for an individual to think of doing it - but murder-suicide is not a cultural norm in either sense - it is not commonly practiced - it is not acceptable - so even deviance may be culturally defined, or at least culturally influenced - this notion that deviance is culturally defined is a theme of sociology, which often analyzes societies in terms of norms and deviance - hence SSU’s department of “sociology and criminal justice” - can you imagine a department of “anthropology and criminal justice”? - In the case of supposed Inuit elder abandonment or altruistic suicide: - Abandoning elders and altruistic suicide were Inuit cultural constructs - they even had myths about elder abandonment - But they were not cultural norms - in the myths, people who abandoned elders died awful deaths - Steckley’s point: - Sure, Inuit know of elder abandonment and altruistic suicide
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Anth 340.101: Living in our Globalized World F 2011 / Owen: Steckley Ch. 5 p. 2 - they are Inuit cultural constructs - but that does not mean that they approve of them, much less routinely expect them - they are not cultural norms
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a340-11f-101-16-SteckleyCh5 - Living in our Globalized...

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