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Anthropology Midterm Exam Review Essay

Culture: The system of meanings about the nature of experience that are shared by a people and passed on from one generation to another, including the meanings that people give to things, events, activities, and people. Ethnocentrism: The tendency to judge the beliefs and behaviours of others from the perspective of one’s own culture. Ethnocentric Fallacy: The mistaken notion that the beliefs and behaviours of other cultures can be judged from the perspective of one’s own culture. Relativism: The attempt to understand the beliefs and behaviours of other cultures in terms of the culture in which they are found. Relativistic Fallacy: The idea that it is impossible to make moral judgements about the beliefs and behaviours of members of other cultures. Armchair Anthropology: An approach to the study of various societies that dominated anthropology in the late 1800s. It involved the collection, study, and analysis of the writings of missionaries, explorers, and colonists who had sustained contact with non-Western peoples.

Armchair anthropologists used these documents to make comparisons and generalisations about the ways of life of various groups. Participant Observation: An element of fieldwork that can involve participating in daily tasks, and observing daily interactions among a particular group. Fieldwork: Anthropologists engage in long-term interactions (usually a year or more) with various groups of people. This often involves living with people, observing and contributing to daily chores and tasks (participant observation), and conducting interviews. Most fieldwork in anthropology has historically been qualitative in nature. Ethnographic Method: The immersion of researchers in the lives and cultures of peoples they are trying to understand in order to comprehend the meanings these people ascribe to their existence, introduced by Bronislaw Malinowski.

Sociocultural Anthropology: An anthropological approach that retains the British focus on social anthropology at the same time as it adds the American focus on culture to produce something slightly different from either one. Applied Anthropology: An anthropological branch that specializes in putting anthropological knowledge into practice outside of academia. Identity: Learned personal and social types of affiliation, including gender, sexuality, race, class, nationalism, and ethnicity, for example. Enculturation: The process through which individuals learn an identity. This can encompass parental socialization, the influence of peers, the mass media, government, or other forces.

Egocentric Society: A view of the self that defines the person as a replica of all humanity, as the location of motivations and drives, and as capable of acting independently from others. Sociocentric Society: A context-dependent view of self. The self exists as an entity only within the concrete situations or roles occupied by the person.

Gender: Culturally constructed ideals of behaviour, dress, occupations, roles, and comportment for particular sexes. Third Sex/ Gender: A gender role given to someone who does not fit within strictly masculine or feminine gender roles in a given society.

Gender Hierarchy: Ranking certain gender traits above others as part of a cultural norm; for example, in language, body image, and race. Rite of Passage: Rituals that accompany changes in status, such as transition from boyhood to manhood, living to dead, or student to graduate, introduced by Arnold Van Gennep.

World View: An encompassing picture of reality based on shared cultural assumptions about how the world works. Metaphor: A figure of speech in which linguistic expressions are taken from one area of experience and applied to another.

Ritual: A dramatic rendering or social portrayal of meanings shared by a specific body of people in a way that makes them seem correct and proper.

Myth: A story or narrative that portrays the meanings people give to their experience. Revitalization Moments: Attempts by people to construct a more satisfying culture, introduced by Anthony F.C. Wallace. Syncretisation: The combination of old beliefs or religions and new ones that are often introduced during colonization. Creole: The formation of slave societies in the Caribbean in which elements of African and European cultures were merged, blended, or combined into something uniquely Caribbean. Ethnography: A written description and analysis of a particular group of people, usually based upon anthropological fieldwork.

Nation-State: A political community that has clearly defined territorial borders and centralized authority. Nationalism: Pride in one’s nation; the collection of people who share a common language, world view, and ancestry. Multiculturalism: A Canadian policy in which all hyphenated cultures, such as African-Canadians and French-Canadians, are described and celebrated as part of a “cultural mosaic.” Contrasted with the “cultural melting pot” image that is used in the United States, as introduced by Eva Mackey.

Exam Review: SHORT ANSWER

What do naming practices in different societies reveal about their views of self? The naming practices of different societies reveal how people conceive themselves and their relations to others. What name the individual gives demonstrates the important aspects of the self as viewed by that culture; North American businesspeople include personal and last names, as well as business titles. Moroccans from different towns exchange family names and hometowns, showing their view of the self as embedded in family and place of origin.

What is the difference between the egocentric and sociocentric self? While the egocentric self is capable of acting independently from others, the sociocentric self is context-dependent. The egocentric self takes on the idea that each individual, as an aware and distinct person, is responsible for their actions. As such, the individual possesses intrinsic qualities such as generosity, integrity, or beauty. However, for the sociocentric self, no individual possesses the intrinsic qualities; generosity, integrity, or beauty can only apply to social situations (i.e. rather than “the man is generous,” for the egocentric self, the sociocentric self would see “he gives money to his friends”).

Provide one reason why anthropologists prefer to use the ethnographic method. To avoid bias that can emerge from an armchair approach, anthropologists can conduct their own research through the ethnographic method and collect vital information through surveys and questionnaires themselves in the ethnographic method. Participant observation allows for in-depth immersion in the lives of the particular group to understand the meanings these people ascribe to their existence, allowing the anthropologist to see others from their point of view.

Identify and briefly explain two challenges in doing fieldwork. Fieldwork requires funding and permission; anthropologists require sponsorship from the government or other external benefactors. The application process to receive funding from the government is also highly competitive, meaning that anthropologists without the funds are unable to conduct their research. The
receptivity and honesty of the population being studied is important. As was the case for Geertz and the cockfights, without acceptance by the community, it is difficult to immerse in participant observation.

Identify and briefly explain two steps in the fieldwork process. Fieldwork, being the conducting of first-hand, long-term, qualitative research with a group of people, requires developing a research topic for the culture of study. Then, through observing and participating in their daily tasks, as well as learning their language, the anthropologist is able to understand the other culture from the perspective of that culture. After taking field notes, the anthropologist is able to document experiences and observations to create ethnography. This dual ended approach allows anthropologists to participate and observe activities, as well as create detailed reports to understand the culture.

Identify and briefly define two sub-disciplines of anthropology. Biological anthropology focuses on human beings as one of the great multitude of organisms that inhabit the earth. Biological anthropologists can specialize into areas including primatology, paleoanthropology, and forensic anthropology. Linguistic anthropology examines the relationship between language and culture. They are interested in how people use language, both in a physical sense with regard to how communication is structured, and in a historical sense with regard to how different languages have developed and spread throughout history.

Identify and briefly define two sub-branches of socio-cultural anthropology. Political anthropology, studying law and society, inquires into the context of enforceable norms: social, political, economic, and intellectual. The “socio-legal” includes formal juridical institutions and their social surroundings, it also encompasses law-like activities and the processes of establishing order in many other domains, formal and informal, official and unofficial, in our own society and in others. Medical anthropology draws upon social, culture, biological, and linguistic anthropology to better understand those factors which influence health and well-being, the distribution of illness, the prevention and treatment of sickness, healing processes, the social relations of therapy management, and the cultural importance and utilization of pluralistic method systems.

Provide two examples of jobs that an applied anthropologist might hold and briefly explain how these demonstrate ‘applied anthropology’. An applied anthropologist might be involved in making ethnographies for companies like Netflix, Skype, VISA, and Google by bringing their unique perspective to bear on the problem and questions that they address. Anthropology, like any discipline, deals with problems and questions, which is what any career or profession does. In management, people might address the problem of structure and logistics among staff. In the public sector, like the government, people address problems in designing public policy initiatives like reducing juvenile crime.

What is the difference between a commodity and a gift?

A commodity careers no special meaning; gifts are possessions before they can career meaning. Commodities involve a transfer of value and a counter-transfer, and upon completion the transfer is finished. Unlike commodities, which are independent of the sellers, gifts are bound to the people after the presentation. Commodities are temporary; gifts establish a permanent link and are unalienable. Commodities are easy to return, destroy, or give away; it is difficult to do that with gifts.

How do North Americans transform commodities into gifts?

Through appropriation, commodities are turned into possessions and gifts. Taking an impersonal space like a dorm room or rented apartment and decorating the space appropriates the space and gives it meaning. Appropriating food from a supermarket by preparing it, and thinking of two identical objects as unique and an expression of identity is another form of appropriation. Endorsements and stamping products with a distinct identity are ways that producers help aid in the process of converting a commodity into a gift.

Identify and briefly explain two key metaphors found in Canadian English language use. War is a key metaphor in Canadian English language use, suggesting how language operates to influence people’s views of the world. Phrases including “she attacked and shot down my argument, I defended my position and think I won the argument,” or sickness terminology like “war on cancer, killer cells, destroy virus-stricken cells” shows how Canadian language borrows from the domain of conflict to give meaning to health. Economic exchange is another key metaphor in Canadian English. Phrases like “time is money, this gadget will save you hours, you need to budget your time, this project cost me an hour, is that worth your time” all show that time, in North American cultures, is a valuable commodity, a scarce resource that is quantified, invested, and spent.

Identify and briefly explain two key features or characteristics of rituals. Rituals give people a feeling of special power when they come together in celebration and in ritual. The rituals work in a way that portrays the meanings shared by the people as correct and proper. Rituals are also symbolic actions, dramatically depicting the meanings shared by the specific body of people. They play a role in organizing and making concrete a particular view of the world.

Provide one example demonstrating the difference between Dene Tha and mainstream North American world-views. For the Dene Tha, learning only comes through direct experience. Providing knowledge in the same way as mainstream North American world-views— through verbal instruction— is viewed as turning knowledge into a commodity. All Dene Tha learn through observing and imitating others; the only true knowledge is personal knowledge. Mainstream North American culture does not place as much emphasis on firsthand knowledge and it is acceptable to learn through objectified instruction.

Is Rastafarianism an example of syncretization? Why or why not? Rastafarianism is an example of syncretization. Through combining old beliefs of traditional African values— cooperative work efforts, respect for life, and the unity of all peoples of African descent— combined with the circumstances of extreme poverty brought forth by colonialism, Rasta created a new system of the rejection of Babylon (presently United States, originally Britain) values such as capitalism. These old African values and
new rejection of modern capitalist values, as a response to colonialism and oppression, serves as an example of syncretization.

Is Vodou an example of creole culture? Why or why not?

Vodou is an example of creole culture because it was created to find a way to live in conditions that are among the worst in the world. Creole was created a blend of African and European cultures in an adjustment in world view to cope with their new experiences and harsh struggles. Similarly, vodou was devised to minimize pain and strengthen survivors. The blend of African and European cultures is also seen in the religion, in which several Roman Catholic figures are given Haitian forms and are linked through African spirits.

How do some Vodou believers explain same-sex desire and/or transgendered behaviour? Vodou is a system of healing that applies to a variety of areas in the lives of its followers, including troubled social relationships, physical illness, and the pain of the past in which families were torn apart by slavery. The various deities in vodou culture contact Bondeye, the equivalent of the Christian God, and are unsaintly. The Iwa are representative of troubles that the Haitians face, and as part of the religion, some vodou believers can explain same-sex desire and/or transgendered behaviour.

What is Benedict Anderson’s definition of the nation and what are two key features or characteristics of this definition? Nations are a collection of people who share a common language, world view, and ancestry; Anderson suggests that even in the absence of face-to-face interaction, a sense of community and nationalism is culturally constructed by forces such as mass media. Through shared experiences, collective and national identities are established. The term “imagined community” suggests that nations and their identities are culturally constructed. The nation is culturally constructed and established by experiences that strengthen national identity.

Identify one category of ‘others’ in national identity narratives and briefly explain why they are important to these narratives. Others in national identity narratives include those that do not fit religion, language, or physical characteristics to accent those persons who are more legitimate. For example, pushing for Canadian official languages to be English and French undermines the sense of national identity for First Nations peoples, immigrants, and refugees. Others are important because they identify key aspects of a perceived national identity that others should follow should they wish to become a part of the national identity. Excluding others on the basis of language legitimizes the idea that Canadians should be speaking English and French.

Longer Answer Questions:

1. Is the film “Cannibal Tours” an example of cultural relativism, ethnocentrism or both? Why?

2. Why do you think Horace Miner chose to write about “the Nacirema”?

3. Explain what Nancy Scheper Hughes means when she advocates for a ‘politically committed, morally engaged and ethically grounded anthropology’?

4. How might we view Canadian hockey as a ‘cultural text’?

5. According to Clifford Geertz, how might we think of the Balinese cockfight as a cultural text?

6. What does the video “Margaret Mead and Samoa” tell us about fieldwork?

7. Identify two criticisms of applied anthropology. How might an applied anthropologist respond to these criticisms?

8. Is gender a biological fact?

9. What do the Barbadian terms ‘queen’ and ‘gay’ tell us about gender and sexuality in Barbados?

10. Are fa’afafine in Samoa an example of a society with a ‘third gender’ category? Why or why not?

11. Is Canada a society that recognizes a Third Gender? Why or Why not?

12. Is gender hierarchy universal?

13. Explain how one collective identity or social movement has been created through conflict and struggle.

14. What must anthropologists focus on when examining the formation of social movements, according to Clark’s research of CONAIE in Ecuador?

15. Why is gift-giving an important part of establishing identity?

16. Why are zombie films good to think with?

17. According to Comaroff and Comaroff, what do increased reports of witchcraft and magic tell us about post-apartheid South Africa?

18. How did the world view of Rastafarianism evolve in relation to social, economic and political conditions?

19. How are reciprocity, virtue and healing central to Vodou beliefs?

20. “Vodou altars are texts, there for the reading.” Explain.

21. Identify and briefly explain three factors that have contributed to the formation of the nation-state.

22. According to Mackey, how does the Canadian nation-state manage internal difference?

23. According to Mackey, what is the place of indigenous peoples in the national narrative of Canada?


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