There are five questions on this exam, you must answer two only.
- Explain the theoretical foundations of British Social Anthropology
- Clifford Geertz argued for a “Thick Description” in ethnography writing, explain what this is and analyse the pros and cons of such an approach.
- Culture anthropologists began to address colonization and decolonization in the 1970’s, what were the salient features of such a reappraisal?
- In what way did the French theorists Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu impact anthropology theory (you may discuss one or both)?
- What is ecological anthropology and how does it aid in contemporary interpretations of specific cultures?
Definition of Ecological Anthropology
This paper answers the questions that relate to cultural anthropology. It is a branch of anthropology that deals with the study of beliefs, cultures, values, practices, technologies, economies, as well as other domains of a cognitive and social organization. This paper contains two set of questions. The first part offers a clear definition of ecological anthropology, and it also states the application of ecological anthropology in the contemporary interpretation of cultures. The second part deals with the French theorists who have a significant impact on anthropology theory.
Ecological Anthropology is the study of relations among social organization, population dynamic, the culture of humans as well as the environments in which the human population live (Armstrong et.al, 2017). The process involves comparative research and analyses of a particular population from both diachronic and synchronic perspective. It deals with cultural adaptations of human to their environments. It also refers to the study of the role played by culture in the interaction of humans with the ecosystem. Ecological anthropology studies the relationships between humans’ population and their environments. The main focus of its research is to show how cultural practices and beliefs assisted humans to acclimatize to their environment, and how the general population used components of their culture to preserve their ecosystems. The notion is that human being shapes the outward environment that they are living in; humans also shape the culture of that same population (Szabó, 2015). The general population may fail to interact with the whole environment; there are particular aspects of the space that it will live in as a habitat. The example is that humans who practice hunting and gathering would differ from those who practice farming as a form of their life. The hunter and gatherers would be nomadic, moving from one place to another, developing modern technologies for hunting, as well as building temporary homes. On the other hand, a farming population would depend on a rural area; their land would be used for raising livestock and cultivating crops. The two groups of people would establish suitable methods of survival depending on their environment.
Ecological anthropology help in the contemporary interpretation of cultures in that it is linked to the science of human evolution, therefore regarding ecology, it will involve everything such as food web, different environment cycles, as well as how they influence each other. So if you can understand them fully then the interpretation of culture will be more straightforward. It also allows for sharing of beliefs and behavior of a particular ethnic, social, or age group. It will then provide a materialist examination of human activities which are an essential aspect of people cultures (Rademacher, Cadenasso & Pickett, 2018). Through ecology, there will be the study of the interaction of humans and their surrounding environment. It will attempt to describe differences and similarities in the culture of different people about the environment. Ecological anthropology also allows for comparison of different cultures to find out factors that affect similar cultural development. Because it deals with the study of customs, ideas, as well as social behavior of society and a particular people, it helps in the provision of added information on people culture (Bernstein et.al, 2018).
How Ecological Anthropology Helps in Contemporary Interpretation of Specific Cultures
Ecological anthropology enables the examination of the role of cultural beliefs and practices. Through this study, the interpretation of the Cultures would be made easier as it will shows how humans adapt to their environments (Yamagiwa, 2010). It also studies the economic activities of the people and religion belief thereby enabling the interpretation of cultures. Ecological anthropology also enables the analysis of different culture from this analysis there will be a description of how people interact in the ecosystem. It also aids in the interpretation of culture by elaborating the relationships between humans and their environments. It explains in detail how humans used different aspects of culture to preserve their ecosystem (Dean, 2017).
Ecological approaches provide advance knowledge to Anthropologist. Through the use of the anthropological knowledge, interpretation of culture becomes easier and very first. Ecological anthropology also leads to the establishment of suitable model of humankind. Through study of indigenous people and research in an ecological framework, many people especially anthropologist will learn more about relationships between human populations as well as their environment. Ecological anthropologist mainly focused on studying the aspects of cultural behavior of humans. They will therefore provide more information about people cultures.
Ecological anthropology aid in the interpretation of cultures through the use of different approach such as:
Cultural relativism is an essential methodological tool that helps in studying local life world on their terms. The view of this is that societies have their inner logic that is unique and the communities are qualitatively diverse from one another (Pretty, 2011). Cultural relativist framework attempts to classify societies in neutral terms. Therefore, this approach enables people to understand other people without sharing their appearance or outlook.
The power of ethnography also allows for the collection of data relating to culture. This tool can be used in the collection of data relating to other people culture. It enables people to develop a proper understanding and sound knowledge of the sociocultural world. The method used in a collection of data is through interviewing and participant observation.
Pierre Bourdieu is one of the major figures who participated in the study of culture. He became the world best sociologies theorist (Ortner, 2016). The theoretical concepts used by Bourdieu include practice, habitus, field, as well as different types of capital. Bourdieu was mainly concerned with power dynamic in society, as well as especially the subtle and diverse ways in which power is passed as well as social order sustained across generations. Bourdieu recognized the time which was being wasted in the social sciences. Too much time being spent on theorizing and thinking. He forbade this form of inductive sociology. Bourdieu promotes practice over theory as the most suitable empirical epistemological necessary for the understanding of the social world. He proved this idea through the use of detailed ethnographic research. He inspired the work of many anthropologists. Many analysts echoed that Pierre is one of the leading cultural theorists in the World. Pierre argued that culture is an essential element of any society. And it cannot be formulated. Pierre emphasized the need for incorporating culture to the anthropological theory of culture. He also found out that religion can be objectified. And can exist as books, works, theories, articles, and concepts. He used cultural theory to offer explanation on the importance of culture to the people. Many researchers state that Pierre approach to culture establishes a political economy of symbolic power and practices that include a theory of capital, a theory of symbolic interest, as well as a theory of symbolic capital and symbolic violence. Pierre devoted himself in promoting sociology and anthropology theory, defending their intellectual autonomy as well as the distinctiveness of their methods. He also participated in the debate that deals with anthropology theory. His work inspired most of the anthropologist and a wide range of scholars. Example of his work that influenced anthropology theory is called Distinction, which uniquely provided common ground for most of the anthropology theory. The extensive empirical research of Pierre in the fields of literature and art enabled people to understand things that relate to cultures. His contribution to cultural activities brought changes in anthropology theory as most of the anthropologist used his work in developing the theories (Ulin, 2017).
The Impact of Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault to Anthropology Theory
Through all of the writings and concepts of Bourdieu, domination by elites is an essential factor. He applies his theoretical tools to illustrate why inequalities and power structure does not change even with the use of the policy. Bourdieu was also interested in the role played by a researcher in their research work; he views this dynamic as essential as the subject of the research. Bourdieu contributed to anthropology theory in that he disagrees to some of the approach and concept being used by different researchers. He gave the alternative method that should be used instead of the initial approach. Lastly, it is true that theorist and social researchers have effectively employed most of the theories of Bourdieu.
Michel Foucault had a significant impact on political and social theory; he also had the impact on anthropology theory in that his ideas of power structures are essential when analyzing society from the perspective of structuralism as well as post-structural movements (Bueger & Gadinger, 2015). Michael has offered theoretical inspiration across many different disciplines including anthropology theory. The work of Foucault influences anthropology theory as it helps in explanation of important aspects of culture as used in the theory of culture thereby enables any person to understand the way in which power works in our social life, Specifically about how different ideas and practices structure personal sense and experiences of the people. He also published different books such as Madness and Civilization (1961). The books published by Michael have great contribution to the anthropology theory. Michael Foucault mainly addresses the correlation between knowledge and power, as well as how they are being used as a component of social control in the society (Foucault, Simon & Elden, 2017). Some of the anthropologists borrowed the ideas which Foucault used in his work. His work has been groundbreaking in anthropology theory and in other field such as sociology, psychology, philosophy, gender studies as well as gay and lesbian studies. He used to provide lectures in different institution and interact with several anthropologists on issues that relate to theories. Nowadays the work of Michel Pierre acts as the basis for the teaching of anthropology theory in most of the institutions (Dean, 2017).
It is true that both Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault made impact on anthropology theory with their intensive research on issues that deal with cultures. Their research on culture enables other anthropologies to borrow their ideas and apply them in their work. Lastly, the paper discusses how ecological anthropology can be used in the interpretation of cultures.
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Yamagiwa, J. (2010). Ecological anthropology and primatology: Fieldwork practices and mutual benefits. Centralizing Fieldwork: Critical Perspectives from Biological and Social Anthropology, 84-103.
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