HSP3M Grade 11 Anthropology – More on Anthropology

Section 4.2—Anthropology and Behaviour

Physical Environment and Culture

  • physical anthropologists study how humans have adapted to the environment—they focus on the study of physiological response (evolution) to environmental stresses, and how populations have adapted genetically
  • cultural anthropologists look at how weather is understood in different cultures
    • ex: rain in Judeo-Christian tradition means Goad is angry; for the Anasazi (a Navajo culture), rain is sacred since it is necessary for survival
    • cultural anthropologists look at how the climate creates elements of culture and provides practical tools for survival
  • culture helps people adapt to their physical environments much more quickly than evolution does

 

Cold Climate Adaptation

  • the Canadian Arctic is an example of an extreme environment where it would be difficult to survive without strategies in place for housing and clothing
    • instead of a heavy coat of fur, Inuit people have sealskin clothing that are warm and waterproof to adapt to the climate
    • they have snow houses (igluit) to survive the extreme cold
  • the knowledge of survival is learned and passed on to children
  • as the Inuit came into contact with Europeans, their cultural ways of survival changed
    • the Inuit today have different cultural products to adapt to their environment—snowmobiles, nylon parkas, and central heating
  • cultural change can be destructive, but mist Inuit consider snowmobiles and central heating to be helpful to their survival and not destructive to their culture

 

Hot Climate Adaptation

  • the Bedouin are nomadic people (they move constantly from one place to another) who live in the deserts of the Middle East in an intensely hot environment
  • the cultural adaptations of the Bedouin people include loose and light clothing to protect them from the sun and sand in the daytime, and the cold at night
  • prior to the 20th century, Bedouins moved frequently to find new pastures for their sheep, goats, and camels, and to collect plant for medicines and food
    • by not staying in an area for too long, they didn’t overtax any resources
  • as governments forced them to settle in one placed, the nomadic lifestyle began disappearing
    • their culture was forced to adapt
      • Bedouin females once used to roam widely and visit other women when their main job was herding the sheep and goats; women now are living in larger settlements with running water, and no reason to leave and wander
      • the women are therefore now being scrutinized for the every movement in the village, and accused of having secret relationships with men just for walking alone

 

Technology and Culture

  • since the first stone tools and fur clothing, humans have been using technology to adapt to their environments
  • most human societies today have incredibly complex technologies (planes, water purification systems, cell phones)
  • when a society adopts a new technology, the ideas, language, social structures, and ultimately culture also changes
  • technological diffusion is the adoption by one culture of a technology invented by another culture
    • to be adopted into the culture, the innovation must become known, be accepted by many people, and fit into an existing system of knowledge
    • other factors that influence how quickly or whether an innovation will be accepted are whether an authority endorses it, when it is introduced, whether it meets a perceived need, and if it appeals to people’s sense of prestige, and how well it fits with local customs

 

Air Conditioning and the End of the Front Porch in North America

  • air conditioning revolutionized how people live
  • the ability to control indoor climates has changed the way buildings are built, where people live, and how the interact with one another
  • in particular, air conditioning has changed the culture of the front porch, particularly for women in North America
    • before air conditioning, the front porch was not just a decoration on the front of the home; it was a social place where women talked to neighbours, catch up on news, and do work (knitting)
    • the porch provided a cooler place to sit on hot summer evenings, and allowed women to talk with one another and with other people
  • today, people are still cooling off, catching up on news, and doing work, but technology has changed how these things are done
    • North Americans have become more isolated from their physical neighbours, while the internet has created new virtual communities that aren’t depended on physical proximity
    • in many online communities, neighbours are connecting through neighbourhood forums, blogs, and other social networks

 

Digital Technology

  • anthropologists are currently studying digital technology’s impact on cultures and subcultures
  • some recent research includes:
    • hacker/blogger culture
    • the greater popularity of IM and texting among teens
    • the culture of online poker
    • reasons that Google is unpopular in China
    • the effect of laptops on doctor-patient interactions
    • cultures of digital immigrants (those who had to learn digital ways as adults_ and digital natives (those who grew up in a digital environment)

 

Case Study: Steel Axes among the Yir Yoront

  • Yir Yoront are an Aboriginal people of Australia
  • for centuries, they had made and used stone axes, which were necessary for almost all parts of their lives (chopping firewood, fishing, hunting etc.)
  • however, the axes belong to men
    • if a woman needed to use it (an event that occurred several times a day), she had to borrow it from a man (usually her husband)
    • children and younger men also had to borrow axes from their fathers or older brothers
    • the axes reinforced kin relationships, social status, and hierarchy of the Yir Yoront
  • when European missionaries arrived in the area in the early 20th century, they started giving out a number of goods that they felt would improve the Yir Yoront’s way of life
  • one of the things the Europeans gave, was the short handed steel axe
    • this tool allowed people to complete tasks quicker than with a stone axe
  • women and younger men gained prestige previously unavailable to them  by owning their own steel axes—no longer needed to borrow from older men
  • the steel axes appeared to be an improvement, by the had destructive effects on the entire Yir Yoront culture
    • it upset the traditional relationships between men and women, old and young, trading partners, and whole groups
    • within a few years, the Yir Yoront ceased to be a self-sufficient band and became completely depended on the European Missionaries
  • some modern technologists and cultural ethnographers see the shift from stone axes to steel ones as the Yir Yoront connecting to world trading networks
    • the Yir Yoront accepted a new technology that fit with their existing views and it changed their culture
  • studies have shown that people still use older technology
    • example: an 1895 catalogue page showed that all the products are still being made new today
    • cultures accumulate and preserve knowledge

 

Economic Systems and Culture 

  • all human societies depend on economic systems to produce the resources that they need and to distribute those resources to people
  • all societies divide the labour—some along gender or kin lines, others in more complex ways

 

Foraging Societies

  • humans have spent all of their time on their hearth as foragers (hunter gatherers)
    • this is why foragers are one of the most studied groups in anthropology
  • foragers tend to be very mobile to access the resources that change with the seasons
    • ex: Canada’s Aboriginals of the subarctic (Mistassini Cree) in the 1970s would normally hunt and fish intensively in the fall, and do cash-generating activities (guiding) and gathering berries in the summer
      • they move to different camps in the summer, fall, and winter to take advantage of the resources available
  • in foraging societies, labour is usually divided along gender lines—men hunt and built; women fished and child care
  • goods are distributed by reciprocity—an economic system of formal and informal sharing among members of a society to distribute resources fairly
    • you give a gift, expecting someone else will give one back
      • since people move so frequently, goods aren’t stored or hoarded
    • personal accomplishments are devalued, and food is shared among many, and consumed as soon as it is collected
  • in foraging societies, all members of society contribute to the survival of the group, and there are few, if any, status divisions

 

Horticultural Societies

  • horticultural is a form of semi-nomadic agriculture
    • they practice agriculture but don’t irrigate or cultivate the soil
    • the people usually use up the soil in one area for a few years, and then move to a new area
  • ex: the matrilineal society of the Huron/Wyandot were horticultural—the men would clear a field and the women would burn and remove the stumps and then plant corn, beans, and squash
    • the people lived in longhouses, where they would store the corn for the winter
      • men would often be away hunting to supplement the 65% corn diet
    • every 12 years, the entire village would have to be moved when the soil was exhausted
      • when the Europeans arrived, they ended this practice with the refusal to acknowledge shared land use and built fences around the land
  • many horticultural societies use the economic system of redistribution
    • redistribution is an economic system of collecting resources centrally and handing them out among members of the society
      • the redistribution is carried out by and individual or a government motivated to gain or maintain status
    • in New Guinea, people would give many gifts away to shame their rivals and gain prestige
    • similar to the potlatch ceremony (a sacred ceremony of First Nations on the Northwest coast of North America in which property is given away to enhance status)

 

Agricultural Societies

  • when humans started doing intensive agriculture, the structure of societies changed
    • people stopped moving so much, causing them to start irrigating and fertilizing their fields (which led to surplus crops which could be stored in case of a bad harvest)
  • agricultural societies shared lass and greatly divided into social classes (ex: peasants supported the nobles, kings and princes)
  • since not everyone needed to be involved in food production, merchant and craft classes also developed
  • until the 1920s, Canada’s economy was based on agriculture and natural resources

 

Industrial Societies

  • industrial societies have the majority of the population not working in the production of foods and goods needed for subsistence
    • most people worked in wage labour—work for which wages are paid
      • people are paid for their work, not their products
      • ex: producing goods in a factory
  • the Industrial Revolution started in England in the 18th century, but Canada wasn’t an industrial nation until the 19th century (lasting to 1970s)
  • families sold their labour to earn wages to then buy their food from someone else with
  • factories and farms increasingly relied on machines, and with the increase in the efficiency of shipping (rail and sea), the specialization of labour forces became possible
  • industrial societies have a market economy, where price, supply, and demand are often more important than kin networks and individual prestige
  • industrial societies are more complex and larger—people living in close proximity often don’t even know each other

 

Postindustrial Societies

  • since the 1970w, Canada has had a postindustrial economy
    • majority of the population doesn’t work for subsistence or an industry producing things; most work in the service sector, producing information or providing a service
    • wage labour is still a big part of the system, but those jobs don’t pay as well and are often part-time (ex: retail or food service), and have little security and benefits
  • information is the product that is bought in sold
    • ex: before the postindustrial society, when you bought music, you bought a CD which included the cost of producing the physical object; in the postindustrial society, when you buy music, you buy the digital file (iTunes)—you don’t pay for any physical objects
  • the postindustrial society is a global system, with items being transported over vast distances
    • ex: a t-shirt—cotton grown in India, shirt sewn in China, t-shirt printed in Mexico, Designed and sold in Canada
      • this is called globalization—the process by which economies, societies, and cultures become integrated through a worldwide network

 

Distribution Types in Canada

  • Canadian economy largely operates on a market system (where supply and demand determine what’s produced), there are still elements of reciprocity and redistribution in modern Canadian society
    • ex: taxes are collected by a central agency (government) and redistributes wealth to pay for health care, roads, water systems and education
  • Canada’s northwest coast people hold potlatches, which is an important and sacred ceremonial feast in the winter season when all the hunting, gathering, and collecting of food has been completed
    • potlatches were held to mark an important event (honouring the dead, witnessing the inheritance of names and privileges)
    • hundreds of guests would be invited and they would sing, dance, and participate in the ceremony which lasted for several days
    • at the potlatch, the host chief would give out a vast amount of material wealth, in order to increase his prestige and status
    • the potlatch was banned from 1884 to 1951 in Canada, as an aggressive campaign by the government to assimilate Aboriginals into mainstream society (eliminate Aboriginal culture and practices)
      • today, potlatches are still enjoyed and held

 

Culture as Agent of Socialization: Kinship Systems

  • in Canadian culture, personal success is measured on our independence
    • ex: many Canadians would not be considered successful adults if they still lived with their parents
  • however, in many cultures, living harmoniously with your parents (or in-laws) is considered a sign of successful socialization
  • family relationships define how individuals see themselves and others in their society
    • the study of these relationships is the study of kinship systems
      • in all societies, kinship systems determine whom you are related to, who you show respect to, and who respects you
  • anthropologists recognize different patterns of descent, or how people trace their ancestry (ancestry determines inheritance, loyalty, obligations, who you can marry and kinship groups), and there are three main patterns:
    • matrilineal—a kinship system in which people trace their ancestry through their mothers
      • ex: historical Huron or Wyandot of Ontario
    • matrilineal—a kinship system in which people trace their ancestry through their fathers
    • bilineal—a kinship system in which people trace their ancestry through both their mothers and fathers
      • most Canadians trace their ancestry this way
      • since the number of ancestors multiplies rapidly the further back you go, bilineal societies often do not track or remember ancestors past “great-grandparents”
  • in most patrilineal and matrilineal societies, families live in extended family groups (many generations living together)

 

The Bhil of India (Patrilineal)

  • an agricultural society
  • like many patrilineal societies, the Bhil recognize lineages and clans
    • lineage—all the male relatives in a family that can be traced back to one common direct ancestor
    • clan—a group of several lineages in a patrilineal or matrilineal society in which people are related but can’t always trace exact relationships
      • the Bhil call it the arak
      • individuals may not be able to trace their exact relationships in a clan, but it is recognized that they are related and may not marry within the same arak
  • marriages among the Bhil are arranged, because the marriages are purposely organized o strengthen kin networks and reinforce social strength, security and reputation
    • when a girl is around 15, her father consults all of his male relations—they help spread the word that his daughter is available, loan him money, and provide labour for the wedding
    • each family prepares a special meal for the bride
    • the lineage also provides similar financial and labour services in matters of land obligations and funerals
    • after members of the lineage spread the word, they bring back suggestions of eligible men (their character, appearance, reputation, arak/clan) to the girl’s father
    • once a suitable candidate is found, arrangements are made for the wedding, including at least 11 days of wedding feasts and other preparations (payment of bride price—groom’s father pays bride’s father, other rituals like a mock battle between the groom and bride’s brothers)
    • once the couple is married, the bride’s family owes respect to the groom’s family, and the families will exchange mutual hospitality in the future
  • in the 1990s, wage labour came to Bhil society, and many young men left the farms to work in cities or migrated to Asia, Europe and North America
    • the new economic conditions broke down traditional kinship ties, since the ties are based on economic dependence on one another rather than on an external employer
    • kinship obligations became difficult to maintain due to long hours at work and long distances between the relations
    • however, the Bhil are still arranging marriages, as family loyalty is still considered very important
      • gifts and favours are still expected to be given freely within the lineage—Bhil send money home when they are far away
      • kinship system has not been replaced but simply stretched to far lands

 

Dube Ju/’honsai and their Three Systems of Kinship (Bilineal)

  • hunter gatherers
  • they keep track of all relative s on both their mother and father’s sides
  • there are 3 systems of kinship in their society:
    • blood/marriage—some relationships are friendly and joking, and others are respectful
      • ex: you joke with grandparents but not your parents
    • same name—anyone with the same name is related to you and your family
      • ex: anyone with the same name as your father, would be addressed to by you as faster
      • comes into conflict with first system—say your father and brother in law have the same name… can should you joke with your brother in law (blood/marriage system) or treat him with respect like your father (second system)
    • “wi”—in determining what two people should call/treat each other, the elder of the two always decides
  • the 3 systems tie the Ju/’honsai society together in the following ways:
    • the systems ensure that almost everyone in the society is linked through kinship ties and obligations
    • a person always has kin of one sort or another that they can go visit/live with temporarily or permanently
    • by allowing people to move to visit their relatives, the kin systems ensure that all members of the society have access to the available food and resources

 

Marriage, a Cultural Universal

  • almost all cultures of the world have the cultural institution of marriage
    • as with many other cultural institutions, marriage varies enormously between cultures
      • it varies so much that it’s hard to define marriage in a way that fits all cultural variations
  • anthropologists believe the functions of marriage to be:
    • defines social relationships to provide for the survival and socialization of children
    • defines the rights and obligations of the two people to each other in terms of sex, reproduction, work and social roles
    • creates new relationships between families and kin groups
  • in Canada marriage began to change in the late 1960s; before then, marriage was:
    • consisted of man supporting wife and kids
    • people married within their own social group (race, religion, socio-economic class)
    • difficult to get divorced
    • children born outside of marriage were shamed
  • changes in Canada’s marriages:
    • interracial and interfaith couples
    • same-sex couples and same-sex unions—recent legal changes allowed same-sex marriage to occur, because of the societal shift in the acceptance of homosexuality
      • fewer same sex marriages choose to have children; however, children can be adopted, created via reproductive technology, or come from previous marriages
    • many couples today choose not to have kids (big change from before)
      • this means only 2 of the 3 functions of marriage applies
    • how people meet and date has also changed—many use online dating sites

 

Na Society—No Marriage

  • there are no formal marriages in this society
  • the Na are an ethnic minority of Tibetan-style Buddhists in the Yunnan province in China
  • their language has words for mother and children, but no words for father or marriage
  • women live with their brothers and other maternal relations
    • the men help to raise their sister’s children
  • at night, the men visit women at their homes for sexual relations—there are no words for illegitimate, infidelity, promiscuity, or incest
    • however, there are rules forbidding sex with anyone living in the same household
    • there’s no jealousy among partners, and both men and women are free to ask or refuse a partner
      • couples often set up their “dates” during the day by exchanging belts or going to the movies
  • the Han Chinese have been trying to get the Na to change their sexual behaviours since 1665, but without much success
    • Communist China tried to for the Na to marry in 1974, by passing laws and threatening grain rations
      • these measures worked to some degree
    • in 1980s and 1990s, the education system allowed the Na feel ashamed of their culture and wanted to become more like the Han Chinese

 

Arranged Marriage

  • the relative importance of the 3 functions of marriage varies from one society to the next
    • in Canada, the couple’s obligations to each other are the focus, rather than having children or family ties
      • this is reflected in the care that couples put into writing their vows, the fact that marriage is usually arranged by the couple themselves (families come into the picture later), and the decisions of having kids to be decided until after the marriage
  • arranged marriages are set up by someone other than the people getting married
    • arranged marriages have a 5-7% divorce rate, while love marriages in the USA have a 50% divorce rate and in Canada it’s 33%
  • in many societies, the child-rearing, economic, and kinship functions are much more important than a couple’s personal desires
    • ex: Bhil of India—the marriage is arranged by the parents/adults because the Bhil feel that the joining of two kin groups through marriage is much too important to leave to the whims of romantic love
  • arranged marriages are based on the presumption that love will grow afterward upon marriage
  • marriages in many cultures are still arranged today, but there are many changes to the traditional arranged marriage
    • the prospective bride and groom often get the chance to meet a few times in a chaperoned setting
    • a prospective partner can often be refused
    • Indo-Canadian marriages—western ideals of love are meshing with traditional Indian ones
      • negotiating both arranged and love marriages, and find common ground between the two (often don’t date until after education compete; consider an arranged marriage if they themselves can’t find a partner)

 

Indo-Canadian Arranged Marriage

  • many Indo-Canadians value arranged marriages because they see the success of their parent’s arranged marriage
  • in North America today, Indian families use a modified version of the traditional arranged marriage
    • no long called arranging… is now suggesting
      • when their child is ready to be married, they spread the word (through relatives and friends, even through ads on newspapers and websites)
      • the search is usually limited to Indians of the same religion, caste, and mother tongue
      • suggestions with photographs and resumes soon arrive—parents and youth select the most promising candidates for further examination
      • detailed background checks are done to rule out financial or personal scandals, mental illness/suicide, drug abuse
  • if a prospect looks promising, a formal introduction takes place between the boy and girl, usually with both sets of parents present
    • after a group conversation and tea drinking, the two young people are allowed to go somewhere else together alone
    • if the two feel no romantic spark during this meeting, negotiations will terminate
  • not only do the two individuals have to be attracted to each other, a family-to-family bond must exist as well
  • once the two young people agree to consider the match, they usually have a long period of time to get to know each other
    • they can go out with each other, but they don’t date
    • their meetings would be filled with questions (like an interview)—where they would live, previous relationships, consent to HIV test

 

Types of Marriage

  • in Canada the only legal type of marriage is monogamous—between two partners
  • there are two types of marriage:
    • monogamy—a relationship where an individual has one partner
      • in North America, we have a high divorce and remarriage rate, and we are frequently described as being serial monogamists (having one partner at a time, but being able to change partners through our life time)
    • polygamy—a form of marriage that involves multiple partners
  • there are two types of polygamy:
    • polygyny—a form of marriage between one husband and multiple wives
      • permitted in about 80% of world’s cultures
    • polyandry—a form of marriage with one wife and  multiple husbands
      • practiced is less than 1% of world’s cultures
  • many monogamists believe polygamous marriages are about having multiple sexual partners, but there are many other social and economic reasons for these marriages

 

Polygyny

  • polygyny is permitted in most of the world’s cultures, but most men in polygynous societies have only one wife
    • ex: in Islam, a man may have up to 4 wives, but few Muslims do so, because Mohammed said that men must treat all their wives equally and justly (this is emotionally and financially difficult to do)
  • in many cultures, extra wives are both a symbol of wealth and a means of acquiring wealth
    • in some cultures there’s a bridewealth system (where the groom/groom’s family pays a father in order to marry his daughter)
      • by having many wives, you’re rich because you can pay for them
    • in many herding and farming societies, wives and children provide the labour to work the fields, thus increasing the man’s wealth
  • polygynous marriages create many children and grandchildren to take care of the man as he ages
  • in some societies where men engage frequently in warfare, there is a surplus of women and polygyny is one way to ensure that all women are married and cared for by husbands
  • there are many advantages of being in a polygynous relationship for women:
    • ensures women are married and therefore can bear children
    • many wives enjoy the company of their co-wives
  • some studies show the polygyny causes low self-esteem, depression and psychological distress in women

 

Canada’s Polygamous Community: Bountiful, B.C.

  • Bountiful is a small town of 1000 people, and has been polygamous since the 1950s
  • founded and formed by the breakaway members of the Mormon church (the Fundamentalist Chirch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
    • believed that a man needed at least 3 wives to get into heaven
      • believe polygamy is a tenet of their faith
  • in the 1990s, a number of women had fled Bountiful and demanded an investigation
    • in 2004, an investigation led to the discovery of child abuse, forcible marriage, and sexual exploitation, but no charges were laid
    • in 2004-2008, RCMP investigated the community for sexual exploitation, but still couldn’t lay charges
    • in 2006, two studies were done
      • one concluded polygamy should be legalized in order to better protect women and children living in polygamous unions
      • the other study urged B,C, to pursue charges immediately, and B.C. did
  • in Canada, polygamy has been illegal since the 1950s
  • Winston Blackmore and James Older (the leaders of the church in Bountiful) were brought to court on charges of polygamy in September 2009, but the judge dismissed the case, stating that the provincial government didn’t have the authority to pursue charges (as religion is involved)
  • in 2010, the B.C. government opened a hearing in the B.C. Supreme Court to determine if the law is constitutional before opening the case
    • issues relate to conflict between freedom of religion and equality of the sexes
    • the ruling of 2011 is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada
    • lawyers for the provincial and federal governments have argues that polygamy has created a long list of problems including child brides, teenage pregnancy, trafficking of young girls to meet the demand for wives, subjugation of women, expulsion of boys to reduce competition for brides
      • lawyers for the defendant argue that the actions of the BC government amount to religious persecution

 

Polyandry

  • practiced in some places like India, Nepal, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan
  • some societies practice fraternal polyandry (a woman marries a man and his brothers)
  • all partners in the marriage have their own separate residences, and the men work together to support their wife and children
    • there is no distinction of paternity, and any sons will inherit the land that the brothers already own
    • the eldest brother is the authority of the household, and the younger brothers and wife must respect his decisions
  • the wife has an increased workload, since she must look after all the husbands and all the children
  • women don’t increase their status by having multiple husbands as men do in polygynous unions
  • some types of polyandry exist because of lack of cultivable land
    • polyandry limits population growth and keeps the land from being divided up
      • ex: in the Himalayas, there is very little land suitable for agriculture, and if it were divided up among brothers and their sons who inherit it, it would take only a few generations before the land was divided into too small of pieces
      • having only one wife for 3 brothers puts a cap on the population and ensures that there is enough land to support the entire population
  • all the parties involved in a polyandry relationship have sexual rights and economic responsibilities toward one another and toward any children that may result from the union
  • polyandry has been practiced mainly between hunter gatherers and horticulturalists and pastoralists
  • polyandry is a means by which societies, and individuals respond to different environmental and social constraints