Professor Li Zhang
Midterm Date: October 30, 2012
What is the scope of cultural anthropology? Discuss its focus of inquiry, approach, and major changes over time.
●Cultural anthropology is concerned with the nature and extent of social and cultural differences among different societies.
Focus on Inquiry: Why there are different cultures and how they came about and are affected or changing.
Focus on Approach: Approaches could be urban, political, legal, medical, psychological, environmental, feminist, etc.
●Understanding how differences among societies are shaped. ●Understanding the unequal power relations between societies produced by colonialism, imperialism and contemporary global practices. ●To compare the perspectives of different societies and how each of them interprets the world. Changes in cultural anthropology over time:
●Used to be a way to proves inferiority of others and justify oppression and ethnocentrism. Now its mostly about being critical of inequality, ●We also do fieldwork in western, ‘developed’ countries. ●There is more globalization now.
●Early anthropology focused on studying isolated, tribal societies. ●Over time they began to study large urban industrial societies. ●Today the scope of cultural anthropology has expanded into various subdivisions, such as urban political, and medical.
Compare the two major schools of early anthropological thought: British social anthropology and French structuralism in terms of their primary concern and focus.
British Social Anthropology:
●Emerged in early 20th century. Main founding figure was Malinowski. ●Radcliffe-Brown, Evans-Pritchard, Gluckman, and Leach also were important figures. ●Two theoretical foundations were functionalism and structural functionalism: ○Functionalism - Explanation of why certain social institutions exist. ○Explains the cultural responses to basic individual needs that are biological and/or physiological. ○Example: cannibalism may be explained through a survivalist function
●Structural Functionalism - Concerned less with individual needs and actions and more with the place of the individuals in the social order. ●Figures out the relationship of individuals to the larger social body. ●Example: Cannibal Tours – colonists arrived and stripped villages of sacred objects and introduced European monetary system to make the villagers subordinate
During these early years, social anthropology was deeply intertwined with the British colonial government that provided the financial support for research and teaching in anthropology. The primary interest was in Africa – to study their languages and generate knowledge about their political and legal systems.
●Primary figure in school of thought is Levi Strauss.
●Focused on the elementary structures of kinship, mythology, and language. ●Some concerns include the patterns or underlying structures and how seemingly unrelated things may actually be from a complex system of interrelated parts. ●Form is emphasized over content.
●The internal logic of a culture and its relationship to the structures of human society and human mind.
●Both schools of thought are concerned with studying the structure and layout of the society. ●British social anthropology is concerned more with the relation of the individual to society while French structuralism is concerned with how individuals are connected to one another to form the society (mythologies, language, human mind).
How does Edward Taylor define “culture”? Discuss the four key aspects of culture by providing one example for each aspect. (Examples can be drawn from the readings, films, or other sources including your own observation.
British anthropologist Edward Taylor defines culture as: “a complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, customs, and any...