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1.3: Anthropology Today

  • Page ID
    5283
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    Ethnography

    The word Ethnography comes from these two Greek words:"Ethnos," meaning people and "Graphein," meaning writing. Wolcott (1999) defines ethnography as a description of “the customary social behaviors of an identifiable group of people”. Ethnography is often referred to as "culture writing," and is a type of documentation often employed by Anthropologists in their field work. This genre of writing uses detailed first-hand written descriptions of a culture based on the researcher's immersion in the field.

    Ethnographies often reflect the anthropological desire for holism, the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. In the case of ethnography, holism refers to the fact that a culture can be best understood through the understanding of as many aspects of the cultural context as possible.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): This image shows participants in Diana Leafe Christian's 'Heart of a Healthy Community' seminar circle during an afternoon session at an O.U.R. Ecovillage

    Cultural anthropologists who write ethnographies are called ethnographers and they often use a research method known as participant-observation. Participant Observation is a technique of field research used in anthropology by which an anthropologist studies the life of a group by sharing and participating in its activities.

    Ethnographic information can take many different forms. Articles, journals, recordings, statistical data, and documentaries are just a few of the many forms that ethnographic information can be conveyed. A very common form is a book written by the person participating in the research or observation. A great example of a book would be "Waiting For An Ordinary Day" by Farnaz Fassihi because as a journalist traveling to Iraq during the Iraq war, she participates in Iraqi daily life and documents her description of it. Although Fassihi may not consider herself an anthropologist, because of her methods and style of writing, her book Waiting for an Ordinary Day is ethnographic. Eventually, she turns all of her journalistic notes into a book which describes certain events that help her define the Iraqi culture. She uses the participant-observation method and also uses the concept of holism to explain the whole of Iraqi culture, rather than just small aspects of it.

    Anthropologists, scientists, philosophers, historians and most social scientists have been reexamining assumptions about what science is and how it works. They have challenged the traditional distinction between hard sciences (such as physics, chemistry, and biology) and soft sciences (psychology, sociology, and anthropology). They think they have more in common than previously believed. Anthropologists aid in the effort to study and reconsider what science is all about through gathering information about diverse cultural views on the process of explanation gained during participant-observation-based fieldwork.

    Ethnology

    Ethnology is the comparative study of two or more cultures and often compares and contrasts various cultures. It utilizes the data taken from ethnographic research and applies it to a single, cross-cultural topic. The Ethnology approach can be used to identify and attempt to explain cross-cultural variation in elements such as marriage, religion, subsistence practices, political organization, and parenting. Anthropologists who focus on one culture are often called ethnographers while those who focus on several cultures are often called ethnologists. The term ethnology is credited to Adam Franz Kollár who used and defined it in his Historiae ivrisqve pvblici Regni Vngariae amoenitates published in Vienna in 1783.[11]

    Deconstructing Race and Racism

    The concept of race was produced long ago by the process of racialization in order to separate humans from different areas on the globe to justify enslaving and belittling certain groups. Since its creation, there has been a slow but steady attempt to deconstruct it. Of course, there have been many speed bumps along the way.

    Deconstructing the social concept of race has been a major interest of Cultural Anthropology at least since Franz Boas's work on race and immigration in the early 1900's. The concept of race is important in many different areas of the discipline including cross-cultural studies, the way we look at ourselves vs. people we feel are different from us and many other areas. Race is not biological but it's supposed to be a way to classify biological differences by grouping people according to different characteristics that they have.[12] However it's important to remember that race is not based on genetic features. There is no biological part of race, it is strictly a concept created by humans to try to better understand differences between other people. The history of the relationship between anthropology and the concept of race is long and interesting (see Race in Science web resources for more information).

    Race has often been used in societies as a factor of ascribed status, the status given at birth and assigned rather than earned. In many cases it has affected individual's access to wealth, power and certain resources in their society as the concept has generated issues such as discrimination, prejudice and unearned privilege.

    Technology

    Technology is an important aspect of Cultural Anthropology. Anthropologists have studied the examples of material life established in different human civilizations. Some examples of these universal differences are in the shelter, attire, tools and methods for acquiring food and producing material goods. Some anthropologists focus their main concern on studying technology in diverse societies or the progression of technology. Individuals concerned with material life also illustrate the primary environment for which technologies have been revolutionized. In Anthropology, technology is often studied in relationship to the natural environment that it was developed in.

    One of the technological advancements that is commonly used by the generation today is a computer.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    Some anthropologists analyze the ways in which technologies and settings shape each other, and others analyze the way non-Western civilizations have reacted in regards to political and economic strife of colonialism and capitalist industrialized technology. With globalization, all people increasingly consume material goods and technologies manufactured beyond their own culture. Anthropologists have proven that non-Western inhabitants do not mindlessly imitate Western customs for the use of technology; instead they utilize Western technologies in creative ways, which are often unforeseen and can be adaptive or maladaptive. A cargo cult could be considered an example of the creative use of new technology.

    Technology in todays culture, has tons of effect on our daily and social lives. It affects us in a way that the methods that were used to interact with one another are not seen as frequent as they used to be before. It has become less physical than it was before where nowadays it can all be done online via multimedia and other methods of technology. Constant communication through use of technology is changing the way people think of themselves and how they communicate. They can get attention, always be heard, and never have to be alone. With technology evolving day after day, we do not know what is to come in the future from flying cars to robots, all we know is that our future will never be the same.


    This page titled 1.3: Anthropology Today is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Wikibooks - Cultural Anthropology (Wikibooks) .

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