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anthropology: 7.8

what is ethnography?

up-close and personal study of others' culture

James Spradley (1980) : "the work of describing a culture"

participant observation involves:
establishing rapport in a new community
learn to act so that people go about their as usual when you show up
removing yourself from everyday cultural immersion so you intellectualize what you've learned, put it into perspective, and write about it convincingly (not become nativized)
direct first-hand observation of daily behavior
(ex. ritual cannibalism - human sacrifice, offerings to deities never wasted)
key informant/consultant
in-depth interview (life history)
discover people's beliefs
emic (try to understand anything and everything from participant perspective, simple questioning, no cross-checking, non-scientific) and etic (cross-checking, in-depth) approaches
learning local language
open-ended and closed questions
"What is your favorite Taylor Swift song?"

language and culture

semantic universality
characteristic that distinguishes the human use of speech from animal communication
fundamental features of human languages that make semantic universality a thing:
-productivity : competency within a given language enable a speaker to generate an infinite number of messages about an unlimited range of subjects, create ever-new messages and to infinitely elaborate on the details of previous utterances
-displacement : capacity of language to refer beyond the immediate situation of the speaker and to communicate information about displaced domains such as the distant past, imaginary events, hypothetical occurrences, future events, etc - animal vocalization remains strictly tied to immediate environmental stimuli
-arbitrariness : connection between sounds and their meanings are nearly always an arbitrary relationship

branch of linguistics is concerned with how people use language in real-life interaction
the ways in which people speak to each other can reveal underlying attitudes and beliefs about identity, gender relations, social status and class position
dialects may be used to create and maintain social boundaries between social groups and regions
use in stratified societies
all elements (including language) are subject to change and evolution
all languages develop and change historically

code switching (between languages)


Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)
founder of demography, science of population study

level of population is determined by the amount of food produced

predicted that population would rise much faster than any increase in productivity/food supply, therefore humanity would be doomed to hunger and misery {Malthusian theory} (erroneous)
-failed to understand the relationship between population growth and the intensification and diversification of food production
the issue is distribution, not production
-population pressure provides motivation to overcome limits by adopting new modes of production through technological innovation and intensification
-many preindustrial societies maintain their level of production well below carrying capacity (def. upper limit of energy production)
-colonialism is main reason for poverty

mode of food production is a basic part of any society's infrastructure

five major modes of production:
hunting and gathering/foraging (only mode used by humans until about 12k years ago, supports small band societies (25-40) but not large groups) | horticulture | pastoralism | agriculture with irrigation and use use of plow | industrial agriculture // (can support increasingly high populations)

"the point of diminishing returns"

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April 2019

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