Anthropology Essay 1 Terms

adaptation
a change in the biological structure or lifeways of an individual or population by which it becomes better fitted to survive and reproduce in its environment

NOTE: unlike animals, humans have to develop forms of knowledge & technologies that enable us to survive (animals have biological adaptations; we lack offensive biological weapons); learning culture=survival; culture must be able to change

anthropological theory
a set of propositions about which aspects of culture are critical, how they should be studied, and what the goal of studying them should be

NOTE: suggests theoretical perspectives are like different windows to view culture; just as the view changes as one moves from one window of a building to antoher, so does the athro’s understanding of society change as he/she changes focus from one aspect of culture to another; these windows may overlap or reveal different aspects

cognitive anthropology
a theoretical position in anthropology that focuses on the relationship between the mind and society

NOTE: concerned with what people from different groups know and how that implicit knowledge changes the way people perceive and relate to the world around them

culture and personality
a theoretical position in anthropology that held that cultures could best be understood by examining the patterns of child rearing and considering their effect on adult lives and social institutions

NOTE: example would be how child rearing in Inuit affects how the culture continues and survives; Inuit elders stress to children the importance of strength (physically and mentally), indurance, alertness, and quick problem solving or they could very well die in the environment they live in (Arctic)

cultural ecology
a theoretical position in anthropology that focuses on the adaptive aspect of culture

NOTE: anthros investigate the ways in which cultures adapt to specific environments and the ways in which cultures have changed in response to new physical and social conditions

cultural relativism
the notion that cultures should be analyzed with reference to their own histories and values rather than according to the values of another culture

NOTE: Boas stressed that one must maintain this in order to completely understand a culture and how it functions; anthros cannot be judgemental; hardest thing for an anthro to maintain

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culture shock
feelings of alienation and helplessness that result from rapid immersion in a new and different culture

NOTE: anthros arriving in new cultures are in many ways like children

diffusion
the spread of cultural elements from one culture to another

NOTE: can happen by trade, travel, warfare, etc.; results in cultural change; must be accepted before it can occur; because of it, no “pure” cultures (free from outside influences) have never existed

dominant culture
the culture with the greatest wealth and power in a society that consists of many subcultures

NOTE: the culture that controls greater wealth and power is more able to impose its understanding of the world on subcultures than the reverse; these cultures retain their power partly through control of institutions (like legal system), criminalizing practices that conflict with thier own

ecological functionalism
a theoretical position in anthropology that focuses on the relationship between society and environment

NOTE: anthros who study this are concerned with ways in which cultural practices both alter and are altered by the ecosystem in which they occur

enculturation
the process of learning to be a member of a particular cultural group

NOTE: this ties to how culture is a learned behavior (not biological); one is not born knowing their culture

ethnobotany
a focus within anthropology that examines the relationship between humans and plants in different cultures

NOTE: think – how do different cultures use plants? could be for food, shelter, medicine, transportation (boats), supplies

ethnocentrism
the belief that one’s own culture is better than any other; judging other cultures from the perspective of one’s own culture

NOTE: most people in all cultures are like this; American think they are the best and believe other countries should be a democracy

ethnography
the major research tool of cultural anthropology; includes both fieldwork among people in a society and the written results of such fieldwork

NOTE: Alfred Cort Haddon and Malinwoski both gathered and interpreted information based on intensive firsthand study in the fields they were interested in; Malinwoski used this when he studied the Trobriand Islands

ethnomedicine
a focus within anthropology that examines the ways in which people in different cultures understand health and sickness as well as the ways they attempt to cure disease

NOTE: think of how most americans go visit doctors to discuss health and sickness vs people of lesser developed countries do (like how Trobriands use magic to cure disease)

ethnoscience
a theoretical position in anthropology that focuses on recording and examining the way in which members of a culture use language to classify and organize their cognitive world

NOTE: anthros are interested in describing the systems of organization and classification used by different cultures; the study of the systems of knowledge and classification of material objects and concepts in different cultures throughout the world

fieldwork
where anthropolgoists go out into the natural enviornment among a group of people to conduct research about that group’s society for the purpose of learning about their culture

NOTE: involves participant observation; in contrast to “armchair anthropologists” who conduct research in labortorys or offices

functionalism
the anthropological theory that specific cultural institutions function to support the structure of a society or serve the needs of its people
(in order to satisfy biological needs, people develop things to satisfy them, which in turn creates new needs that require new developments)

NOTE: Malinowski had searched for mutually supportive relationships among many aspects of a culture; example would be how magic had a purpose and function among the Trobiands

historical particularism
a theoretical position in anthropology associated with american anthropologists of the early 20th century that focuses on providing objective descriptions of culture within their historical and environmental context

NOTE: their emphasis on norms and values was desiged to show that, although other cultures were very different from our own, they were coherent, rational, and indeed often beautiful

innovation
an object or a way of thinking or behaving that is new because it is qualitatively different from existing forms

NOTE: can affect cultural change; anthros consider new practices, tools, or principles as the primary ones; based on building blocks provided by culture (Alexander Flemming accidental discovery of penicillin; did not create something totally new because he realized the critical importance of new combos of things that already existed)

interpretive anthropology
a theoretical position in anthropology that focuses on using humanistic methods, such as those found in the analysis of literature, to analyze culture and discover the meaning of culture to its participants
the study of cultural symbols and how those symbols can be interpreted to better understand a particular society

NOTE: Clifford Geertz said culture is like an “ensemble of texts . . . which anthros strain to read over the shoulders of those to whom they properly belong” (meant that culture is a story people tell themselves about themselves; find “texts” in public events, celebrations, & rituals

norms
shared ideas about the way things ought to be done; rules of behavior that reflect and enforce culture; (generally accepted practices, behaviors, and expectations)

NOTE: culture must share ways of thinking & behaving; can be influenced by wealth, power, & status; can cause conflict if constantly changing or being negociated

organic analogy
the comparison of societies to living organisms

NOTE: society composed of different elements which affect one another; societies, like bodies are integrated systems (its elements work together to create a properly functioning whole); think about how body organs work together to keep you alive

participant observation
the fieldwork technique that involves gathering culture data by observing peoples behavior and participating in their lives

NOTE: this was Boas’ style of fieldwork; he stressed that anthros must live among people they study, both observing their activities and participating in them when possible

racism
the belief that some human populations are superior to others because of inherited, genetically transmitted characteristics

NOTE: beliefs, actions, & patterns of social organization that exclude individuals & groups from the equal exercise of human rights & fundamental freedoms; enthocentrism is a short step from racism on account that it can lead members of one culture to force their ways of life on another