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Introduction To Anthropology (Anth 101) Lecture Notes

Sandra Watson
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MacEwan University

Introduction to Anthropology (Anth 101)

(1) What is Anthropology?
 Anthropology = the study of humans*
(All varieties of people, cultures and all time periods)
 Anthropologists use a holistic approach: The 4 Fields
 Archaeology: Study of past material culture (ex. fossil fuels, artifacts, etc.)
 Biological: Study of human biology + evolution (study “races”, biological variation)
 Linguistic: Study of language – broader cultural, historical and biological context (includes ape
language studies, unique to humans)
 Cultural: Human diversity (ex. sets of learned behaviours, culture in all forms)
 Applied anthropology: “action anthropology” – anthro as a social action/critique, includes all 4
fields, applying it to the real world, brings attention to discrimination
(2) What is the Anthropological Perspective? What is Culture?
 Explanations of the Human Condition
o Dualism: human nature made up of different but equal sources
o Idealism: “cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am), ideas that the mind creates
o Materialism: activities of our physical bodies make us in the material world
o Determinism: human nature determined by our mind or determined by the material world –
determined by the causal force of physical matter
What is the Anthropological Perspective?
 Anthropological Perspective
I. Cultural Relativism
 Ideas or beliefs that people learn in a society determines their behaviours
 Argues AGAINST reductionism* / determinism
(To a single point culture, ex. Canada = hockey. Nothing more)
 How does it improve our understanding of cultural practices?
(Ex. genital cutting, rituals) Does culture force us to do things?
 Rights of passages: legal age, graduating, birthday, license, etc.
Cultural Relativism vs. Ethnocentrism
 Viewing other society’s ideas within the context of society’s problems and opportunities
– relativism
 Judging other societies ideas in context with one’s own culture (reductionist) –
ethnocentrism – try to avoid it



Introduction To Anthropology (Anth 101) Lecture Notes

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