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Anth 310 Midterm 1 Essay Q’s

question

Describe the significant differences between the 19th century evolutionist’s approach to the concept of culture and that of Franz Boas and his students.
answer

The 19th century evolutionists believed that culture should be defined in terms of which cultures were superior in civility to others, that Western cultures were the pinnacle of civilization, emphasized (to an over-extent) diffusionism, and that all cultures follow the same evolutionary stages towards civilization. They took in mostly accounts from explorers and other travelers to come up with these conclusions. On the other hand, Franz Boas and his students believed that cultures should not be graded on how civil they were, that all cultures are unique (while containing cultural universals), and that culture as a whole evolves as the amount of energy at the human species disposal increases. They believed that the main device for discovering and analyzing culture was participation observation, as opposed to the ethnocentric “armchair anthropologist” ways of the 19th century evolutionists.
question

Utilizing examples from the reading, discuss some of the potential practical, social, and psychological problems involved in doing anthropological fieldwork.
answer

Practical problems of anthropological fieldwork include learning a new language, acquiring necessary equipment for your study, and taking care of ones responsibilities back home such as finding someone to care for your home, car, bills, and maybe pets. An example of a practical problem would be also from the “AIDS” article in that the anthropologist had to find ways to gain access to the prostitution community, such as crack houses.Social problems can include trying to fit into a new community without committing social faux pas’ and acquiring informants or even just friendly acquaintances. An example of a social problem would be in the article “Nice Girls don’t Talk to Rastas” where a student of anthropology grew out of favor with the local community and her caretaker due to her conversing with the local Rastas who were not liked by the local community. She did not understand that social class was more important to the people she was studying in the barbados then where she was from. Psychological problems can include culture shock, ethical dilemmas or dangerous situations causing stress, and feelings of guilt.. An example of a psychological problem would be from the article “Fieldwork on Prostitution in the Era of AIDS” where the anthropologist felt guilt and was crying in her car on the way home because she felt privileged to have a car with a heater while the prostitutes that she had come to befriend had to spend the night outside on the streets in the cold.
question

How would you explain the concepts ethnocentrism and cultural relativism from an anthropological perspective? Use examples from the reading to help illustrate your answer.
answer

-Ethnocentrism from the anthropological perspective can be defined as believing one’s own culture is superior to another. It is present in all cultures and is fundamental to enculturation. -Cultural Relativism can be defined as looking at a culture through the perspective of the culture being studied. -An example of ethnocentrism can be seen in the works of the 19th century evolutionists, who felt that Western civilization was more advanced or civilized than other parts of the world because their view on what civilization should look like was coming from the view of a Western civilian. The antithesis to this would come from the works of Franz Boas and his students who preferred to look at things with a culturally relativistic view, where they defined cultures not on a scale of civility, but rather as unique entities. -Another example could be in the case of one of the “cross-cultural miscues” from the text, where two men, one from America while the other was from Taiwan, were having dinner together. At the dinner The man from America could not understand why the Taiwanese man had to wait to get a proper telephone number, and mistook the situation for the Taiwanese man being fearful of taking a risk in a new business. Where American failed to understand and was “successful” in being ethnocentric was the fact that there is a traditional Taiwanese belief in unlucky numbers. If the man from America had looked at things from a cultural relativist’s view and had been aware of this Taiwanese superstition, he would not have committed this mistake. -Yet, another example comes from an article from the reader titled “Eating Christmas in Kalahari” where the anthropologist fails to see that the !Kung people were giving him a hard time over an ox that the anthropologist had bought for the !Kung to eat on Christmas. Where the anthropologist committed ethnocentrism is in the fact that he could not understand why the !Kung treated him with what he considered rude behavior instead of them being grateful for him acquiring a large ox for them, when he should have looked at things as a cultural relativist to see that it is !Kung custom to give people grief who hunt well, for they feel that people become arrogant for being a good hunter.