Functionalism and Structuralism

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  • Topic: Trobriand Islands, Anthropology, Bronisław Malinowski
  • Pages : 3 (933 words )
  • Download(s) : 238
  • Published : February 26, 2013
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In this essay I will be using Malinowski’s Functionalist approach and Levi-Strauss’s Structuralism, whilst analyzing the Trobrianders society and way of life.

Bronislaw Malinowski initially created the Anthropological school of Functionalism. Malinowski’s version of Functionalism is more psychologically linked, and focuses on his idea that people have psychological and physical needs, and hence social institutions develop in order to meet these needs. Malinowski divides these needs into seven categories, nutrition, reproduction, bodily comforts, safety, relaxation, movement and growth. Through his fieldwork and ethnography Malinowski demonstrates how each of these needs are met through certain functions in society. Malinowski is best known for the fieldwork that he conducted among the Trobrianders of the Trobriand Islands. Malinowski was among the Trobrianders from 1915 till 1918. Though the ethnographies that Malinowski published, the functionalist analyst approach is clearly presented.

French structuralism is another approach, which concerns itself with the psychological aspect; this is because it also deals with the cognitive processes. Levi-Strauss essentially led the way for French structuralism, however he was not the first to come up with it. Structuralism in reference to Levi-Strauss is different to that which is associated with Radcliffe-Brown. As Levi-Strauss uses structuralism, he does not limit it to anthropology. Levi-Strauss searched for in depth structures of psychobiological nature, which is consistent for all human beings. These structures are very hidden within a society and are only apparent when observing very slight surface behavior, which, in turn, changes from culture to culture. . He claimed the structure of human thought to be underlined by binary oppositions (e.g. black/white), which exists in all within all cultural contexts, meaning it is universal.

The Trobrianders live in sub-clans that are referred to as ‘Dala’, and since...
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