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Characteristics of Anthropoly

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Anthropology
Wordcount: 2119 words Published: 7th Dec 2020

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How do anthropologists define culture?

Culture is a core concept in anthropology, it is a complex whole which was proposed by Sir Edmund Taylor and seemed to be the most durable, including knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other abilities  and habits acquired by people as members of society. (Tylor1871). In the 1950's they collected 164 different definitions. (Kroeber and Kluckhohn 1952-81). The word culture was also defined as one of the most complicated words in the English language. (Williams 1981.p.87). Culture implies to basic similarities and systematic differences between humans. It is a symbolic system. Culture includes actions, thoughts, it is also shared, social, dialectical,  is an integrated whole.

What position does Anthropology take in the long-standing intellectual debate between those who advocate 'nature" (biology, etc) as the primary source of human behaviour and those who argue that "nurture" (culture, etc. is a more important influence on the way human beings conduct themselves? Why does Anthropology adopt such a strong position in this debate?

Almost all modern anthropologists advocates nurture over nature.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an English naturalist, geologist, and biologist, who specialized in the theory of evolution. His theory and his work created the basic concept of nature vs. nurture which was argued by many theorists since. (Anon., n.d.) they believe is no concept of human nature, we were born in a blank slate and the environment shapes us how we grow up. (Anon., n.d.)

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Franz Boas (1858-1942) was a German-born anthropologist. Boas's research focused on to disprove not a proven statement of racist thinkers. He was convinced the human behaviour was learned rather than inherent in our biology. It was the central feature of his anthropological legacy, was made explicit in the work of his students, specifically Margaret Mead who went to Samoa in 1924, and researched adolescents. Her big question was if disturbances which vex our adolescents are due to the nature of adolescence itself or civilization. 'Coming of Age in Samoa" (1928) caused a sensation and criticized previous theories of adolescence advanced by scientists and accepted by professionals and a framework for rethinking the theories and changing practices. (Boas, 1928) (Mead, 1928)

Before the 20th century, anthropologists leaned towards the nature side of the Nature vs. Nurture debate. Social Darwinists believed the weak were diminished and their cultures delimited while the strong grew in power and cultural influence over the weak. British philosopher and scientist Herbert Spencer proposed the phrase ‘survival of the fittest” (Anon., n.d.) Social Darwinist theories led and stimulated scientific racism which classifies the human population into physically discrete races, that might be said to be superior or inferior. Many scientific racists argued that different races evolved along different lines and that the theory of evolution explained that Africans and other non-white people were less human than Europeans. (Stocking, 1968)

However, anthropologists advocate nurture over nature, today most academics recognize that both nature and nurture affect the human being and their culture.

Name an anthropologist who has had a significant impact on the development of the     discipline of Anthropology and briefly outline his/her contribution to the subject

Bronislaw Kaspar Malinowski (1884-1942)

Malinowski was a Polish -British anthropologist, born in Krakow to an aristocratic family. They were an upper-middle-class family. He received his PhD in philosophy physics and mathematics in1908 from the Jagellonian University. Spent two years at Leipzig University, where he was influenced by Wilhelm Wundt and his theories of folk psychology. Wundt similarly influenced others, such as the French sociologist, Emile Durkheim.

Malinowski saw the function of culture as serving the needs of individuals. Reasoned that when the needs of individual members of a society who comprise are met, then the needs of the whole society are met. The feelings of people and their motivations were crucial knowledge to understand the way society functioned. Previous anthropologists had conducted fieldwork through structured interviews and did not mix with their research subjects in day-to-day life. He believed participant observation is very important.

He is known as the Father of Social Anthropology, a pioneer in developing the field of Cultural Anthropology. He saw himself as effecting a revolution in Anthropology introducing Functionalism. (Holdsworth, n.d.)

His lasting legacy is methodological rather than theoretical. He gave up his comfortable position and went to live and work with people he studied, that he affected his real innovation: fieldwork. He lived with people he studied, he got to know them personally, participated in their activities. Although not the first to conduct fieldwork, the length he stayed among the Trobriand Islanders during World War I, it was the first.

His book ‘Argonauts of the Western Pacific, published in 1922 is one of the first ethnographies. He wrote about some important and controversial topics of his day: religion, economics, sex, family, psychology, colonialism, and war. His observations are considered foundational to the field of ethnography. He compared their lifestyle to Western civilization and unlike other anthropologists, he didn't generalize and made a detailed and focused examination of the system of trade” Kula”. (Eriksen, 2001)He noted that they used shells and jewellery as social currencies as a way to increase the holder's capital. They also used tokens of goodwill between tribes. Stated that their social system was complex even though it was seen as a primitive society. His work drifted away from the idea of the superiority of the White Man. (The White Man's Burden). (Malinowski, 1972)

What does this term "ethnocentrism" mean?

Ethnocentrism is a cultural or ethnic bias in which an individual or certain group seeing other groups in comparison to their own as the ideal which results from an inability to understand cultures that are different from one's own. Some would call cultural ignorance. (Seymour-Smith, 1986)

For those who are not experienced other cultures in depth can be said ethnocentric if they feel their lives are the most natural way of living. In extreme cases, a group of individuals may see another culture's way of life and consider it wrong, because of this they may try to convert the other group to their ways of living. The result could be a war or genocide if the other group is unwilling to change their ways of living. Colonialism is another example of ethnocentrism, which is cultural domination with enforced social change (Anon., n.d.)

Hard ethnocentrism is the end of racist behaviour, believing a certain group of people whose culture differs from ours is below you. An example would be the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 during the Rwandan Civil War, which started between two groups with a different background, Tutsi and Hutu, resulting death of thousands of people.

 Soft ethnocentrism means when people think their norms are the correct ones. An example of soft ethnocentrism would be the ethnocentrism when certain songs, movies, or Tv shows revolve around a certain culture. (Anon., n.d.)

Analyze the significance of cultural relativism to Anthropology

In Anthropology, cultural relativism is traditionally traced back to American Anthropologist Franz Boas. He published his work in the early 20th century. He mobilized the concept of culture against the racist views of 19th-century scholars and their evolutionist representations of primitive peoples, so-called. Rather than rank them ethnocentrically concerning modern societies he conceived of cultures as bounded wholes. The analytic concept of culture and the philosophical perspective of cultural relativism constituted a powerful political strategy against all forms of racism. (Anon., n.d.)

Cultural relativism states that cultures vary in what they regard as right and wrong. Standards vary from place to place and is a mistake to criticize practices of another. Female genital mutilation is a classic example of a practice which is not accepted in some cultures but political and economic control the preindustrial non-Western.

Permitted in others. According to cultural relativism FMG is neither wrong nor right. It is unacceptable according to western standards but maybe permissible according to the values of other societies. It can be argued the cultural value against ethics. According to cultural relativism, both factors are the same important, but it is a question of how much weight a culture puts on tradition compared with the rights of women for example. (Hernlund, 2000)

Why was Anthropology been described as The child of Imperialism?

According to Kathleen Gough Anthropology is a child of imperialism. The last decades of the 19th and early 20th centuries were the periods where Western nations aimed to bring under their


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