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Summary - Anthropological theory : an introductory history
What is evolutionism?
Darwinism (the development by natural selection) was a very powerful idea. (Actually the now rejected idea of Lamarckian biological evolution –animals change their behavior during their lifetime and pass on these acquired new traits to a new generation- is a more useful methaphor of societal evolution). Herbert Spencer Formulated the idea of survival of the fittest, the metaphor of society as an organism, and the notion evolutionism as a progress from simple to compex organisations.
critique on evolutionismthe ethnocentrism, strong focus on change (neglecting the way societies achieved a degree of stability), the way each known society was forced to fit into prefabricated evolution schemes (in other words, evolutionists of operated from a weak empirical basis). the way constitutive elements of a society (kinship, economy, politics, religion) werestudied in isolation from each other (e.g. kinship systems were compared betweendifferent societies, but kinship was not studied together with the political, economic,and ecological factors within one particular society)
What did Morgan and Tylor and other anthropological evolutionists thought?
Lewis Henry Morgan, Edward Burnett Tylor and other anthropological evolutionist thought of change as a process of societies going from one stage of development to the next.
theoretical approaches as critique for evolutionistshistorical particularism, diffusionism, andfunctionalism
What do societies go to according evolutionism?
Societeies go to a number of successive stages. It is a process of unilinear (based on the general idea that all societies evolved through the same stages and were progressing towards civilization and it was rooted in the comparative method) change.
o Morgan: Savagery à barbarism à civilization
o Tylor: animism à polytheism à monotheism
Change is seen as...... in evolutionism?
What was the highest state in evolutionism?
- The highest stage, invariably, was Victorian England or nineteenth-century USA.
- This approach was therefore clearly ethnocentric.
What were strong points with evolutionism?
A strong point was to integrate all societies into one whole. Another strong point was that despite the differences in development of various societies, all humans belonged to one species and were essentially the same. Precisely because of the difference between cultures and the unilineal development path, all human societies had to have an equal amount of human skills (intelligence etc).
1.1 Additional theory
synchronical paradigma synchronic analysis is one that views a phenomena only at a given time- historical particularism, relativism- functionalism and structural-functionalism,- structuralism, cognitive and interpretative approaches
diachronicalregards a phenomenon in terms of developments through time- Evolutionism- Diffusionism- Marxism
interactiveintegration of various phenomena and arenas of society- social and political anthropology- transactionalism, psychological approaches- gender, postmodernism
characteristics of a paradigmo a nameo some core theoretical ideaso usually a particular world view (e.g. the fundamental equality of all humanpopulations, or the universal march towards progress)o a leading figure, or leading figures that are generally associated with thatparadigm (e.g. Claude Lévi-Strauss ‘belongs’ to structuralism)o a clique of supporters of this paradigm (who often refer to each others’ work and are sometimes called a mutual admiration society)o a number of seminal texts that have helped to shape or formulate the coretheoretical ideas and that have formed a source of inspiration foranthropologists working according to that paradigmo usually a common enemy in the form of an older paradigm that is rejected or declared obsolete and imperfect by the new paradigmNote that some paradigms were self-declared by their own leaders, while other paradigms were only been recognized and named by others after they started to exist.
what is a paradigm?When a certain theory has a relatively broad applicability and many followers, it is useful to speak of a theoretical school of thought or a theoretical paradigm
definition of a paradigm by kuhnParadigms are ‘universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners’ (Thomas Kuhn)
characteristics of a good paradigm• Accurate and precise statements• Internally consistent• Large span• Simple, bringing order in the chaos• Fruitful, stimulating new ideas
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The grammatical and lexical categories of the language a person speaks organize the way they think and shape their behavior.
1. Linguistic determinism: the manner in which the structure of a language affects cognition.
2. Linguistic relativism: is the idea that the grammatical and lexical categories are unique tot that language and thus speakers of different languages inhabit separate conceptual words.
Whorf claims: one must see important interconnections between language, culture and psychology as Sapir did.
The language we use for things can affect our actions because it influences the way we thing about things. Whorf is saying that is very difficult to understand the effects of language on culture because we perceive all cultures through our own language, which is filled with fundamental assumptions about the nature of the world. A way around this problem is to study exotic languages to give us a new perspective on our own language.
Best known for studying linguistics of the Boasian era. He worked with Sapir. Inspired research on the relationship between language and culture.
Kroeber believed you can’t reduce culture to individual psychology; culture was in his view a pattern that transcends and controls individuals and plays a powerful role individual behavior.
1. Kroeber rejected the idea of Boas that anthropology was ultimately a discipline devoted to the study of humankind’s origin and
2. Kroeber didn’t agree on the idea of Boas that indiviuals played a significant role in a culture’s and change.
Student of Boas. Also a anti-evolutionist. Believed in integrating the 4 field perspective. (prehistory, linguistics, physical anthropology and observation of culture)
A german respons to evolutionism was that similarities between societies across the globe were not caused by following and unilinear evolutionary path, but by diffusion of cultural elements from one society to another. Diffusion (verspreiding) could not be traced by comparing functional cultural forms (e.g. sharpened point to an arrow), but only by forms that were not required by function.
o Diffusionisme benadrukte studie van de verspreiding van culturele kenmerken. Terwijl evolutionisten aannamen dat elke gemeenschap de bouwstenen voor haar eigen ontwikkeling bevat gaan diffusionisten er vanuit dat verandering vooral plaatsvindt d.m.v. contact met anderen en het “lenen” van hun ideeën.
Intensive study of specific cultures through long periods of fieldwork (learning the language).
Societies might show similarities since they find solutions to problems and there is a best solution that might be used by several societies.