roles like husband and wife, parent and child, mother-in-law and son-in-law -these involve inherent tensions, conflicts, differing viewpoints -simply by virtue of the roles themselves -example: parents will always want to control their children more than the children want to be controlled -many cultural beliefs and practices can be seen as serving to deflect those tensions or otherwise protect the smooth, continued functioning of the social structure -example: beliefs about respect for elders help to smooth the inherently difficult relationship between parents and children -example: Radcliffe-Brown noticed that many cultures require certain kinds of behavior between people in certain family relationships, such as between in-laws -many cultures require either “avoidance relationships” or “joking relationships” between people in certain kinds of relationships -“joking” relationships require -standardized, acceptable expression of conflict or sexuality -while limiting how far they can go -and requiring that no offense be taken -“avoidance” relationships require -efforts to avoid contact -so conflicts do not arise and no offense is taken -He suggested that this is because the structural relationship between in-laws inherently tends to create tension -such as mother-in-law and son-in-law
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Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Explaining culture in terms of adaptation, meaning, system p. 4 -both are competing for attention, time, love of the daughter/wife -mother-in-law sees the son-in-law drawing her daughter away from her -son-in-law sees the mother-in-law as exerting power and making demands of his wife and him -or brother-in-law and sister-in-law -the man has a sexual relationship with his wife -but cannot with his sister-in-law -even though she is similar to his wife in many ways -and he is placed in a fairly close, familiar relationship with her -these stereotyped behavioral roles channel or avoid tension in acceptable ways -they are not just random or weird behaviors -rather, they make sense as responses to specific, recurring structural situations -they serve a function in dealing with tensions inherent in the social structure, helping to preserve it -hence “structural functionalism” -Both variants of functionalism are no longer popular in their original, overstated forms -each offers only a partial explanation of why a culture includes a given idea or practice -but that partial explanation is still useful -the basic ideas are sound, and functionalist explanations are included in most modern anthropological work -even though few anthropologists call themselves functionalists anymore -2. culture as (a system of)meaning -culture is a set of meanings assigned to things, and responses appropriate to those meanings -I have been emphasizing this view in many of the past class sessions -So, to explain something about a culture, this approach explains -how it makes sense in terms of the culture’s system of meanings -Looks at interpretations of events and things; beliefs, values, attitudes -
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