a203-11f-09-AdaptationMeaningSystem

As peoples individual fortunes shifted they shifted

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as peoples’ individual fortunes shifted, they shifted between pastoralism and foraging - the San were essentially stranded permanently in the bush in the late 1800s when incoming Blacks and Whites in the early days of colonialism took their herds and the good land - cutting off the option of returning to pastoralism, - and leaving them in permanent poverty, with no alternative but foraging - Lee argues that this story is incorrect - but true or not, this is an explanation in terms of system - because it emphasizes the impact of the larger social, political, and economic system in which the Ju/’hoansi were embedded - Middleton gives more examples of explanation in terms of culture as a system, but I will only refer to them briefly here - example: how can we explain why women and men have relatively equal status in some societies, while women have lower status in others? - The culture-as-system approach says we should consider how the status of both genders is affected by the economic, social, and political systems of their societies: - the mode of subsistence (hunting, farming, factory work, professional work…), and the family arrangements that result from that - the economy and labor market - amount and nature of warfare - relative income contributed by each gender - degree of separation between public and domestic spheres of activity, etc. - we will look more at gender roles and these influences on them later in this course - example: how can we explain why people sometimes separate themselves into ethnic groups with sharp divisions and tense relationships, and other times do not? - the culture-as-system approach says we should consider how ethnic divisions are involved in the larger systems of economics and power (politics) - this subject comes from Fredrick Barth’s book, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries - ethnic boundaries often become more clearly marked in times of hardship and competition, and fade away in good times - that is, ethnic groupings and identity can be explained in part by looking at the larger systems of economics and politics - example: anti-immigrant feelings, laws, etc. often rise when unemployment rises - as is happening now in this country - this approach sees ethnicity as negotiated, historical, dynamic, responding to changes in other aspects of the social system - it does NOT see ethnicity and relations between ethnic groups as an essential, almost unchanging feature of people (“ancient rivalries between the X and Y…”) - These three approaches are just different ways of looking at a problem - for any given issue, one, two, or all three might help us understand how it works - it usually helps to look at things from a variety of angles - no one way is generally more correct or useful, they are just different
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