Roles like husband and wife parent and child mother

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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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