HSP3M Grade 11 Anthropology – Introduction to Anthropology

Anthropology

  • two types of anthropology and the fields regarding each one:
  • the Yanomamo
      • Napoleon Chagnon went to study the Yanomamo people (hunter-agtherers) in South America in 1969
      • offered the people goods (weapons, tools, vaccines etc.)
      • saw the Yanomamo to be violent people and believed aggression to be part of their culture

 

      • Patrick Tierney studied Yanomamo in 2000
      • saw that they weren’t violent—believed Chagnon manipulated data by causing the aggression of the people
    • Changnon incited violence and conflict he observed by providing (bribing) the people with goods, thus creating competition between them and neighbouring tribes (source of aggression)

 

      • Tierney and Changnon studied the Yanomamo decades apart—the time could’ve allowed change in their society and culture—missionaries, industrialization, missionaries etc.
      • this case study showed the important of ethics in anthropological studies—anthropologists should always consider and respect the dignity, privacy, and safety of their subjects

 

Cultural Anthropology

  • culture is the total system of ideas, values, behaviours, and attitudes of a society commonly shared by most of its members
        • includes rituals (e.g.: washing dishes) and abstract concepts (e.g.: meaning of time)
  • cultural anthropologists study both past and present cultures
  • there are 3 fields are ethnology, linguistic anthropology and archaeology

Research Tools

    • informants: a reliable and knowledgeable person who provides specific info to an anthropologist on the culture that are studying
        • there has to be a certain level of trust in researcher-informant relationship, as informants can hold back or provide false info
    • interviews
        • unstructured interview is when there is no specific direction or questions for the interview, thus for use by an anthropologist with little knowledge on topic (only used if researcher there for long time; no questions can be pre-established, therefore researched her little control over a respondent’s answers
        • Semi-structured interviews are used by researchers who stay in communities for a few weeks, allowing the researcher to prepare some questions in advance (the researcher will have an outline of what type of info they want, but not a strict list of questions).  The interview is flexible, allowing new leads to be followed and personal opinions expressed (but can be easy to get off topic).
        • Structured interviews are interviews that use a set list of questions which don’t change.  This method is only used when the researcher is very clear on the topic, but has very specific questions.  The interview can be done by non-experts, as long as they follow out the instructions of the researcher.  No relationship needs to be developed, and the data can be compared to other respondents.  Usually composed of closed questions (yes/no).
    • at beginning of research, researchers often count all people they are studying, and map their locations
        • this kind of info can be compared to data which was received from interviews to check for accuracy
      • this kind of info more accurate—quantitative data

 

Ethnology

  • ethnology is the study of origins and cultures of different races and people
  • they study a culture through participant observation
    • method pioneered by Bronislaw Malinowski
    • the careful watching of a group, in some cases living with its members and participating in their culture
    • purpose of participant observation is for the researcher to get the native’s perspective on everything in life
    • detailed notes are taken, to write an ethnography (the written account of a culture)
    • many sacrifices for researcher—new climate, new food, new language, new customs etc.
  • problems with participant observation
    • highly subjective—conclusions which are shaped bu a person’s cultural and personal perspective, feelings, and beliefs
      • to make data more reliable, researchers should also use objective data (conclusions based on facts and data and uninfluenced by personal bias) along with the subjective participant observation note
    • important for researchers to use reflexivity—the practice of reflecting on their own world view, biases, and impact on the culture they are studying
    • researchers should share work with their subjects, to see if data and conclusions are accurate
  • Margaret Mead and Derek Freeman
    • Margaret Mead studied the Samoa people in 1925, to see if stress of adolescence is caused by biology (adolescence itself) or by society.  Mead studied Samoan girls through participant observation, and concluded Samoan girls were less stressed because they had more sexual freedom.  Also concluded that sex roles are determined by culture, and not biology.
    • in the 1960s, Derek Freeman studied in Western Samoa, criticizing Mead’s work.  He believed that Samoans had very restrictive sexual practices, and believed Mead had a contradicting study because she was tricked by her informants, as Mead asked very personal questions (virginity).
    • in 2009, Paul Shankman re-examined both Mead and Freeman’s studies.  He concluded that they were both right.  Mead, working in American Samoa, discovered that Samoans had premarital sex, which in the 1920s was shamed upon by Americans.  in 1960s, when Freeman was doing fieldwork in Western Samoa (different part of country), attitudes around premarital sex had changed.  Researchers were coming from different contexts (generations) and had different experiences in Samoa.  Samoa also greatly changed in-between the time Mead and Freeman visited, as WWII, colonization, and Christianity missionaries began.

 

  • Ruth Benedict: “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”
    • Ruth Benedict hired by US government to research Japan in order to help Americans understand and defeat the Japanese army
    • because of war, Ruth couldn’t live in Japan, so she used cultural materials available to her (newspaper, films, literature etc.) and interviews Japanese-Americans to complete research abroad
    • her research and book have been criticized
  • Dobe Ju/’honsai
    • Richard Lee a Canadian studied them for 40 years.  Began as a hunter-gatherer group, but eventually becoame farmers due to globalization and commercialization
    • Richard Lee studied them because he wanted to know how our ancestors of hunter-gatherers behaved

Schools of Thought 

  • cultural relativism
    • belief that anthropologists can’t compare two cultures because each culture has it’s own internal rules taht must be accepted
    • the response to cultural evolutionism (belief that cultures evolve from savage, to barbarian, to civilized) which assumed an ethnocentric view (belief that one’s own culture is superior to all others) of Europe in 19th century
  • functional theory
    • belief that every belief, action or relationship in culture functions to meet the needs of individuals
    • stresses importance of independence among all things within a social system to ensure long term survival
    • meeting the needs of individuals makes the who culture successful
    • rejected cultural evolutionism, but believed cultures should be compared (comparison to cultural relativism)
  • cultural materialism
    • belief that materials or conditions in environment (climate, food supply) influence how a culture develops, creating the ideas and ideology of culture
    • believe that society develops on a trial-error basis—if something is not of value to society’s ability to produce and reproduce, then it will disappear from society altogether
      • institutions (law, religion) must be beneficial to society or they will no longer exist
    • the stages of culture development:
        1. the infrastructure: society’s material resources (technology, population, land etc.)
        2. the structure: a society’s familial, political, and economic social systems
        3. the superstructure: a society’s ideas, values, symbols, and religions
  • idea of Hindu sacred cow—can’t be eaten because of its important role in agriculture
  • material conditions change before ideas change
  • feminist anthropology
    • ensured feminine voices were heard and included in anthropology and its research and works
    • studied how cultures determine gender roles
      • gender and status in family and society was based how which gender could bring more food to table at the end of the day
    • debunk gender myths and show our ideas about gender are culturally constructed (created or shaped by culture—not biology)
  • postmodernism
    • belief that it’s impossible to have any true knowledge about the world
  • what we know about the world is our own construction, created by society
    • they believe anthropologists can’t study their subjects in a detached way—relationship between informant and researcher will always exist
      • Dunn and heavy metal—reflexivity must be practiced

Linguistic Anthropology

  • study human languages and how language affects and expressed culture
  • linguistic anthropologists are employed by large corporations to train employees to work effectively in other cultures so that they aren’t misunderstood
  • there are 3 areas of linguistic anthropology: historical, structural, and sociolinguistics
  • historical linguistics
    • compare the similarities and differences of language structures so they can understand how languages are related and how people migrated in the past
    • Roma people are all over the world.  They have migrated lots, as they’ve been expelled from cities and countries all over the world.  Linguistics have been able to identify aspects of the Roma language, and trace its origin to India.
  • structural linguistics
    • the study of how sounds are put together to make meaning
    • Noam Chomsky developed the theory of universal grammar—all human children are born with internal, universal rules for grammar and that they apply these rules as they learn their mother tongue.  The reason children easily master languages are due to the predisposition of language structure in our brains.  However, evolutionary biologists disagree believing language ins’t encoded in the brain, but a learned skill.  Chomsky does have some truth in theory, as in the 5000+ languages in the world, there are common rules and characteristics.
    • dialects—may not be perfect grammar, but individuals understand them (I ain’t got no shoes… I ain’t got none either)
  • sociolinguistics
    • the study of how people use language within their own culture to express social status and context
      • a teen would talk to friend and teacher differently
    • also study unspoken language—body language
      • rude to llok teacher in eye for Aboriginals; rude to show teeth in public (Japan)

 

Archaeology 

  • the cultural anthropology of the past
  • excavate physical remains of past cultures to understand and reconstruct them
  • archaeologists can study cultures with no written record (prehistory) or study sites with a written history
  • prehistoric archaeology
    • for civilizations with no written record, archaeology is the only way to find out how people lived
    • spread of tobacco by taking dirt samples and searching for tobacco seeds—trade routes, people contact
  • historic archaeology
    • archaeology can supplement an existing historic record by telling us about life of people who may not be included in written history
    • unusual landfill archaeology: meat consumption went up during meat shortage, junk food consumed more than a person said they did, plastic had very little component in landfill (despite the belief of plastic harm)

 

Physical Anthropology

  • physical anthropologists want to know where humans as a species come from, how our bodies evolved, and what makes humans unique
  • there are 3 fields are:
    • paleoanthropology: the study of bone and stone remains of our ancient ancestors
    • primatology: study of primates
    • human variation: the study of the physical differences and similarities of existing human populations
  • paleoanthropology
    • study of human ancestors based on evidence from distant evolutionary past
    • hominin is a human or human ancestor
    • much evidence is in the form of preserved remains or impressions of biological matter (fossils)
    • Australopithecus africanus
      • Donald Johanson found 40% of a skeleton in Africa (Australopithecus africanus) and named it Lucy.
      • in 2006, another skeleton was found of a 3 year old female.
      • walked on 2 feet, but swung and climbed on trees
    • Charles Darwin
      • spent 4 years aboard HMS Beagle where he made observations on the wildlife and fossils he collected from Galapagos Islands
      • proposed idea that species were forced to evolve or they would become extinct.  Those that were able to adapt lived and passed down the characteristics that allowed them to survive to offspring.  This theory was published in the Origin of Species in 1859.
      • believed humans first evolved from Africa, but faced much opposition as common belief was Asia.  In 1924, Raymond Dart found a skull in Africa, and it turned out to be human.  Named it “Australopithecus africanus.”  First person to provide African origin evidence.
      • Louis and Mary Leakey found proof of more Australopithecus africanus skeletons in Africa.  Found other species (other than Australopithecus africanus) in Africa, proving the African origin, and starting the school of primatology.
  • bipedalism
    • bipedalism is the trait of habitually walking on 2 feet (the difference between humans and primates)
    • when anthropologists find fossils, they look for traits of bipedalism (s-shaped spine, wide pelvis, arched feet), which prove the skeleton to be of a hominin
    • bipedalism began more than 3.5 million years ago—Mary Leakey’s discovery of Laetoli footprints preserved in volcanic ash
  • Neanderthals
    • Neanderthals interbred with homo sapiens—all humans today except Africans have Neanderthal genes
    • a Neanderthal bury site was found in Iraq—a large amount o pollen found around a body indicating intentional burial and placing of flowers
    • lived in Europe, Middle East and Asia at the end of the last ice age
    • were short, heavy, and more muscular
    • had larger brains (100cm3)
    • skull structure—protruding nose, large teeth, small chin
  • ancient stones
    • anthropologists study ancient stones to accurately date a site and discover about the hominins that used them, by looking at how they used the stone
      • analyze the things the stone cut, microscopic analysis of tool for striations to match to purpose

 

Forensic Anthropology

  • help law enforcement identify human remains (after mass disasters, wars, homicides, suicides etc.)
  • usually paleoanthropologists who have spent years studying human remains
  • forensic anthropologists who go to war torn countries need a good understanding of cultural anthropology to understand norms surrounding death in the culture
    • helps in identifying whether or not death is suspicious
    • religious ceremonies and beliefs—cremation vs. burial
  • in Argentina, have been locating thousands of dead bodies since 1984, by ruthless military regime that slaughtered and hid many dead bodies
  • help identify the identity of a body

 

Primatology

  • study the anatomy and behaviours of living primates and what makes humans similar and different to primates
  • primatologists observe primates in their natural habitats and in labs
  • Jane Goodall went to Tanzania to observe chimpanzees (cannibalistic and violent—waged war on other troops, made and used tools—peeling off leaves from branch and stabbing insects)
  • Diane Fossey went to Rwanda to observe gorillas (anti-poaching)
  • living in the primate habitat is difficult—eat their food, sleep with them, learn animal calls/gestures in order to get trust from primate
  • similarities between all primates:
    • bond between mother and infant is important for survival in all primate species
    • primates have longest infant dependency periods
    • communicate through facial expressions, touch, body language, vocalizations
    • all primates have rotating forearms and forward facing eyes
  • differences between humans and primates:
    • humans are the only bipedalism
    • humans are only primates with a symbolic, spoken language and physical ability to speak
  • in lab settings, primatologists can understand specific behaviour or anatomical traits in more detail than in the wild
  • Sue Savage-Rumbaugh studied bonobo communication and has taught a primate to communicate with symbols
    • doesn’t prove other primates can talk, but proves they can learn (to communicate with symbols)

 

Human Variation

  • the study of genetic differences between people and populations to understand the differences between people
  • Why are humans different?
    • humans evolved overtime to survive in different conditions
    • Charles Darwin’s Natural selection theory:
      • variation
      • heritability (traits passed to offspring).  however, many people migrate, thus causing heritability to be hard to trace.
      • environmental fitness (adapt to environment better, better offspring)
  • blood types are connected to certain parts of the world, but don’t effect physical characteristics