Culture is Learned
Cultural learning is unique to humans.
 Cultural learning is the accumulation of knowledge
about experiences and information not perceived
directly by the organism, but transmitted to it through
symbols.



Symbols are signs that have no necessary or natural
connection with the things for which they stand.
Geertz defines culture as ideas based on cultural learning and
symbols.
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Culture is Learned
Culture is learned through both direct instruction and
through observation (both conscious and unconscious).
 Anthropologists in the 19th century argued for the
“psychic unity of man.”



This doctrine acknowledges that individuals vary in their
emotional and intellectual tendencies and capacities.
However, this doctrine asserted that all human populations
share the same capacity for culture.
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Culture is Shared
Culture is located and transmitted in groups.
 The social transmission of culture tends to unify people
by providing us with a common experience.
 The commonalty of experience in turn tends to generate
a common understanding of future events.

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Culture is Symbolic
The human ability to use symbols is the basis of culture
(a symbol is something verbal or nonverbal within a
particular language or culture that comes to stand for
something else).
 While human symbol use is overwhelmingly linguistic, a
symbol is anything that is used to represent any other
thing, when the relationship between the two is arbitrary
(e.g. a flag).
 Other primates have demonstrated rudimentary ability
to use symbols, but only humans have elaborated
cultural abilities—to learn, to communicate, to store, to
process, and to use symbols.

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Culture and Nature
Humans interact with cultural constructions of nature,
rather than directly with nature itself.
 Culture converts natural urges and acts into cultural
customs.

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Culture is All-Encompassing
The anthropological concept of culture is a model that
includes all aspects of human group behavior.
 Everyone is cultured, not just wealthy people with an
elite education.

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Culture is Integrated
A culture is a system: changes in one aspect will likely
generate changes in other aspects.
 Core values are sets of ideas, attitudes, and beliefs which
are basic in that they provide an organizational logic for
the rest of the culture.

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People Use Culture Creatively
Humans have the ability to avoid, manipulate, subvert,
and change the “rules” and patterns of their own
cultures.
 “Ideal culture” refers to normative descriptions of a
culture given by its natives.
 “Real culture” refers to “actual behavior as observed by
an anthropologist.”
 Culture is both public and individual because
individuals internalize the meanings of public (cultural)
messages.

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Culture is Adaptive and Maladaptive
Culture is an adaptive strategy employed by hominids.
 Because cultural behavior is motivated by cultural
factors, and not by environmental constraints, cultural
behavior can be maladaptive.
 Determining whether a cultural practice is adaptive or
maladaptive frequently requires viewing the results of
that practice from several perspectives (from the point of
view of a different culture, species, or time frame, for
example).

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Generalization and Laws in Social Science:
Most “Laws” in the natural sciences only apply in very
specific, limited conditions.
 Scientific Laws are Predictive not Prescriptive
 Because we can make general predictions about the way
in which people will respond under certain conditions,
we can conduct a scientific study of culture.

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Ethnocentrism & Cultural Relativism

Ethnocentrism is the use of values, ideals, and mores
from one’s own culture to judge the behavior of someone
from another culture.



Ethnocentrism is a cultural universal.
Ethnocentrism contributes to social solidarity.
Cultural Relativism asserts that cultural values are
arbitrary, and therefore the values of one culture should
not be used as standards to evaluate the behavior of
persons from outside that culture.
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Human Rights
The idea of universal, unalienable, individual human
rights challenges cultural relativism by invoking a moral
and ethical code that is superior to any country, culture,
or religion.
 Cultural rights are vested in groups and include a
group’s ability to preserve its cultural tradition.
 Manny Anthropologists argue that cultural relativism
does not preclude an anthropologist from respecting
“international standards of justice and morality.”

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Human Rights
This is an example
of the study of
ethnomedicine in
Papua New Guinea.
The notion of
Indigenous
Intellectual
Property Rights has
emerged to help
preserve each
societies cultural
base, which may
have commercial
value.
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© 2002
by Credit:
The McGraw-Hill
Companies,
Inc. All Gamma
rights reserved.
Photo
Ripoll/Association
Kutubu/
Liaison
Culture: Universal and Particular
Cultural universals are features that are found in every
culture.
 Cultural generalities include features that are common
to several, but not all human groups.
 Cultural particularities are features that are unique to
certain cultural traditions.

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Universality
Cultural universals are those traits that distinguish
Homo sapiens from other species.
 Some biological universals include: a long period of
infant dependency, year-round sexuality, and a complex
brain that enables us to use symbols, languages, and
tools.
 Some psychological universals include the common ways
in which humans think, feel, and process information.
 Some social universals include: incest taboos, life in
groups, families (of some kind), and food sharing.

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Particularity
Cultural practices that are unique to any one culture are
“cultural particulars.”
 That these particulars may be of fundamental
importance to the population is indicative of the need to
study the sources of cultural diversity.

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Diffusion
Diffusion—defined as the spread of culture traits
through borrowing from one culture to another—has
been a source of culture change throughout human
history.
 Diffusion can be direct (between to adjacent cultures) or
indirect (across one or more intervening cultures or
through some long distance medium).
 Diffusion can be forced (through warfare, colonization,
or some other kind of domination) or unforced (e.g.,
intermarriage, trade, and the like).

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Acculturation
Acculturation is the exchange of features that results
when groups come into continuous, firsthand contact.
 Acculturation may occur in any or all groups engaged in
such contact.
 A pidgin is an example of acculturation, because it is a
language form that develops by borrowing language
elements from two linguistically different populations in
order to facilitate communication between the two.

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Independent Invention
Independent invention is defined as the creative
innovation of new solutions to old and new problems.
 Cultural generalities are partly explained by the
independent invention of similar responses to similar
cultural and environmental circumstances.
 The independent invention of agriculture in both the
Middle East and Mexico is cited as an example.

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Convergent Cultural Evolution
Cultural convergence is the development of similar
traits, institutions, and behavior patterns by separate
groups as a result of adaptation to similar environments.
 Julian Steward pointed to instances of cultural
convergence to support the hypothesis that cultural
change is governed by scientific laws.

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Globalization




Globalization encompasses a series of processes that work to make
modern nations and people increasingly interlinked and mutually
dependent.
Economic and political forces take advantage of modern systems of
communication and transportation to promote globalization.
Globalization allows for the domination of local peoples by larger
economic and political systems (these may be based regionally,
nationally, and worldwide).
Recognizing the breadth and nature of changes wrought through
globalization carries the concomitant need to recognize practices of
resistance, accommodation, and survival that occur in response to
same.
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Globalization
These men in a coffee
shop in Cairo, Egypt are
using a laptop computer
and smoking traditional
hookahs (pipes).
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Inc.Credit:
All rights
reserved.
Photo
Barry
Iverson
The Relationship between Ethnological Theory and
Ethnographic Fact

Ethnography: The observational study of cultures.
Ethnographers observe, record, and interpret aspects of particular cultures.

Ethnology: The comparative study of cultures
Generality



Certain practices, beliefs, and the like may be held commonly by
more than one culture, but not be universal; these are called
“generalities.”
Diffusion and independent invention are two main sources of
cultural generalities.
The nuclear family is a cultural generality since it is present in most,
but not all societies.
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Ethnography
Ethnography is the firsthand personal study of a local
cultural setting.
 Ethnographers try to understand the whole of a particular
culture, not just fragments (e.g. the economy).
 In pursuit of this holistic goal, ethnographers usually spend
an extended period of time living with the group they are
studying and employ a series of techniques to gather
information.
 The early ethnographers conducted research almost
exclusively among small-scale, relatively isolated societies,
with simple technologies and economics.

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Participant Observation
Ethnographers are trained to be aware of and record details
from daily events, the significance of which may not be
apparent until much later.
 “Participant observation,” as practiced by ethnographers,
involves the researcher taking part in the activities being
observed.
 Unlike laboratory research, ethnographers do not isolate
variables or attempt to manipulate the outcome of events
they are observing.

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Ethnography
Here, ethnographer
Nadine Peacock
works among the
Efe of Congo.
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Companies,
Inc. All /
rights
reserved.
Photo Credit:
Irven DeVore
Anthro-Photo
Conversation and Interviewing
Ethnographic interviews range in formality from undirected
conversation, to open-ended interviews focusing on specific
topics, to formal interviews using a predetermined schedule
of questions.
 Increasingly, more than one of these methods are used to
accomplish complementary ends on a single ethnographic
research project.

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The Genealogical Method
Early anthropologists identified types of relatedness, such as
kinship, descent, and marriage, as being the fundamental
organizing principals of nonindustrial societies.
 The genealogical method of diagramming such kin relations
was developed as a formalized means of comparing kinbased societies.

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Ethnographic Techniques
Key Cultural Consultants are particularly well-informed
members of the culture being studied that can provide the
ethnographer with some of the most useful or complete
information.
 Life histories are intimate and personal collections of a
lifetime of experiences from certain members of the
community being studied.



Life histories reveal how specific people perceive, react to,
and contribute to changes that affect their lives.
Since life histories are focused on how different people
interpret and deal with similar issues, they can be used to
illustrate the diversity within a given community.
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Ethnographic Techniques
Anthropologists such as
Christie Kiefer typically
form personal
relationships with
cultural consultants,
such as this Guatemalan
weaver.
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by The
McGraw-Hill
Inc. /All
rights
reserved.
Photo
Credit:
Peggy /Companies,
Yoran Kahana
Peter
Arnold,
Inc.
Emic vs. Etic

An emic (native-oriented) approach investigates how natives
think, categorize the world, express thoughts, and interpret
stimuli.



Emic means the “native viewpoint”
Key cultural consultants are essential for understanding the
emic perspective.
An etic (science-oriented) approach emphasizes the
categories, interpretations, and features that the
anthropologist considers important.
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The Evolution of Ethnography

Bronislaw Malinowski is generally considered the father of
ethnography.



He did salvage ethnography, recording cultural diversity that
was threatened by westernization.
His ethnographies were scientific accounts of unknown people
and places.
Ethnographic realism


The writer’s goal was to produce an accurate, objective,
scientific account of the study community.
The writer’s authority was rooted in his or her personal
research experience with that community.
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Bronislaw Malinowski
Malinowski believed that all aspects of culture were linked
and intertwined, making it impossible to write about just one
cultural feature without discussing how it relates to others.
 Malinowski argued that understanding the emic perspective,
the native’s point of view, was the primary goal of
ethnography.

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Bronislaw Malinowski
Here, Bronislaw
Malinowski is
seated with villagers
of the Trobriand
Islands.
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by The
McGraw-Hill
Inc.and
AllPolitical
rights reserved.
Photo Credit: British Library of Political & Economic
Science
London
School Companies,
of Economics
Science
Interpretive Anthropology
Interpretive anthropologist believe that ethnographers
should describe and interpret that which is meaningful to the
natives.
 Geertz argues that cultures are texts that natives constantly
“read” and that ethnographers must decipher.
 Meanings in a given culture are carried by public symbolic
forms, including words, rituals, and customs.

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Experimental Anthropology
Experimental anthropologists, like Marcus and Fischer, have
begun to question the traditional goals, methods, and styles
of ethnographic realism and salvage ethnography.
 Ethnographies should be viewed as both works of art and
works of science.
 The ethnographer functions as the mediator who
communicates information from the natives to the readers.

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Ethnographic Present
The early ethnographies were often written in the
ethnographic present, a romanticized timelessness before
westernization, that gave the ethnographies an eternal,
unchanging quality.
 Today, anthropologists understand that this is an unrealistic
construct that inaccurately portrayed the natives as isolated
and cut off from the rest of the world.
 Ethnographers today recognize that cultures constantly
change and that this quality must be represented in the
ethnography.

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Problem-Oriented Ethnography
Ethnographers typically address a specific problem or set of
problems, within the context of broader depictions of
cultures.
 Variables with the most significant relationship to the
problem being addressed are given priority in the analysis.

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Longitudinal Research
Longitudinal Research is the long-term study of a
community, region, society, or culture based on a series of
repeated visits.
 Longitudinal research has become increasingly common
among ethnographic studies, as repeat visits to field sites
have become easier.
 Such studies may also encompass multiple, related sites.
 Team Research involves a series of ethnographers
conducting complimentary research in a given community,
culture, or region.

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Why is theory important in doing Ethnography?
It is impossible to describe all aspects of any cultural
event at any given moment
 Every Researcher is selective in what facts they choose to
record and what they think is important
 Our views on what we are explaining, and how, make up
our theoretical perspective

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The Special Problems of Ethnography:


Relativism (Everyone has their own perspective)
Important Points:
 All observers are biased
 Our biases should be made clear
 The objectivity of a discipline is cumulative, it does not exist in
the minds of the individual observers but in the consensus of
the community of observers.
 Human events are always historically contingent




McGraw-Hill
Social conditions change
There are a lot of conditions to consider
Some social conditions are historically unique
The patterns of human societies can change very quickly and
sometimes in radical ways.
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The Special Problems of Ethnography:

Social Issues (What people want to know vs. what we can
tell them)


Many times anthropologists find themselves being asked to
investigate phenomena that the larger society finds
important, but which anthropologists are not equipped or
prepared to investigate.
Ideology (What people don’t want to hear)


Anthropologists and scientists in general, are often
criticized for views of subjects that are at odds with the
culturally accepted norms
It is a fact that research operates within the values and
views of a culture, and that it has been shaped by those
views.
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Show Me The Money
Anthropologists need funding to support their research in
the field.
 There are a series of agencies that support anthropological
research.





National Science Foundation (NSF)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Social Science Research Council (SSRC)
Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
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Show Me The Money
In order to receive funding from any of these institutions,
anthropologists must write grant proposals that summarize
what questions are going to be addressed, where the
research will be conducted, and how it will be done.
 Why this topic/problem?



The grant writer must present the topic or problem that they
will address during the proposed research.
More importantly, the writer needs to convince the agency that
the topic is important and worthy of being funded.
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Show Me The Money



Why this place?
 The grant writer needs to demonstrate the connection between the research
topic and the location where the research will be carried out.
 Some locations address certain topics better than others.
Why this person?
 The grant writer needs to identify the special qualifications that he or she
brings to the research topic.
 Proficiency in the local language, previous research experience in the area,
and strong local contacts are important.
How will the study be done?
 The grant writer needs to discuss, as specifically as possible, how this
research will be carried out.
 This section can include a discussion of the techniques and methods as well
as the logistics of living in the study community and gaining permission
from the study community to perform the research.
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Ethics: People and Animals






The primary ethical obligation of the anthropologist is to the people,
species, or materials he or she studies.
Researchers must respect the safety, dignity, and privacy of the people,
species or materials that he or she studies.
Researchers should determine in advance whether their hosts wish to
remain anonymous or receive recognition.
Researchers should obtain the informed consent of the people to be
studied and of those whose interests may be affected by the research.
Anthropologists who develop close relationships with individuals must
adhere to the obligations of openness and informed consent.
Anthropologists may gain personally form their work, but they must not
exploit individuals, groups, animals, or cultural or biological materials.
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Ethics: Scholarship and Science








Anthropologists should expect to encounter ethical dilemmas during
their work.
Anthropologists are responsible for the integrity and reputation of their
discipline, of scholarship, and of science.
Researchers should do all they can to preserve opportunities for future
field work.
To the extent possible, researchers should disseminate their findings to
the scientific and scholarly community.
Anthropologists should consider reasonable requests for access to their
data for purposes of research.
Responsibility to the public.
Researchers should make their results available to sponsors, students,
decision makers, and other non-anthropologists.
Anthropologists may move beyond disseminating research results to a
position of advocacy.
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Ethics: Teaching





Anthropologists should conduct their programs in ways that preclude
discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, “race”, social class,
political convictions, disability, religion, ethnic background, national
origin, sexual orientation, and age.
Anthropologists should strive to improve their teaching and training
techniques.
Teachers should impress a concern with ethics on their students.
Teachers should properly acknowledge student assistance in their
research and in the preparation of their work.
Teachers must avoid sexual liaisons with those for whose education and
professional training they are in any way responsible.
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Ethics for Applied Anthropology
Applied anthropologists should use and disseminate their
work appropriately.
 With employers, applied anthropologists should be honest
about their qualifications, capabilities, aims, and intentions.
 Applied anthropologists should be alert to the danger of
compromising ethics as a condition for engaging in research
or practice.

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Survey Research


Anthropologists working in large-scale societies are increasingly using
survey methodologies to complement more traditional ethnographic
techniques.
 Survey involves drawing a study group or sample from the larger
study population, collecting impersonal data, and performing
statistical analyses on these data.
 By studying a properly selected and representative sample, social
scientists can make accurate inferences about the larger population.
Survey research is considerably more impersonal than ethnography.
 Survey researchers call the people who make up their study sample
respondents.
 Respondents answer a series of formally administered questions.
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Survey Research
Comparison between Ethnography and Survey Research
ETHNOGRAPHY
SURVEY RESEARCH
is the study whole, functioning
communities
is the study a small sample of a larger
community
is usually based on firsthand fieldwork
during which information is collected
after a good, friendly working
relationship, based on personal
contact, is established between
researcher and informants
is generally interested in studying all
aspects of a the informants’ lives
(holistic)
is often conducted with little to no
personal contact between study
subjects and researchers as interviews
are frequently conducted by assistants
over the phone or in printed form
McGraw-Hill
usually focused on a small number of
variables, such as ones that influence
voting, rather than on the totality of
people’s lives
© 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
Survey Research
Comparison between Ethnography and Survey Research (continued)
ETHNOGRAPHY
SURVEY RESEARCH
tends to be conducted outside the First
(industrial) World, among
communities that do not read or write
is normally carried out in modern
nations , where most people are
literate, permitting respondents to fill
in their own questionnaire
makes little use of statistics since the
societies being investigated tend to be
smaller and less diverse
is heavily dependent upon statistical
analyses in order to make inferences
regarding a large and diverse study
community, based on data collected
from a small subset of that community
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Anthropology in Complex Societies
Anthropologists rely increasingly on a variety of different
field methodologies to accommodate a demand for greater
breadth of applicability of results.
 Kottak argues that the core contribution of ethnology
remains the qualitative data that result from close, longterm, in-depth contact between ethnographer and subjects.

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