Anthropology Key Concepts

  1. Belief and knowledge
    A set of convictions, values and viewpoints regarded as "the truth" and shared by members of a social group. These are underpinned and supported by known cultural experience.
  2. Change
    The alteration or modification of cultural or social elements in a society. Change may be due to internal dynamics within a society, or the result of contact with another culture, or a consequence of globalization.
  3. Culture
    • Organized systems of symbols, ideas, explanations, beliefs and material production that humans create and manipulate in the course of their daily lives.
    • Culture includes the customs by which humans organize their physical world and maintain their social structure. More recent approaches to culture recognize that cultures are not static, homogenous or bounded but dynamic and fluid.
    • Culture refers to the shared social construction of meanings, but simultaneously culture is often also a site of contested meanings. 
    • Recent formulations of the concept recognize culture may be the subject of disagreement and conflict within and among societies and this disagreement may include the definition of culture itself.
  4. Identity
    • Refers either to the individual's private and personal view of the self or to how an individual is viewed from the perspective of a social group.
    • May also refer to group identity, which may take the form of religious identity, ethnic identity or national identity, for example.
  5. Materiality
    Objects, resources and belongings have cultural meaning, described by Arjun Appadurai as "the social life of things". They are embedded in all kinds of social relations and practices. Some anthropologists seek to understand human experience through the study of material objects. This occurs, for example, in contemporary approaches that focus on the materiality of the body.
  6. Power
    • An essential feature of social relations and can be considered as a person's or group's capacity to influence, manipulate or control others and resources.
    • In its broadest sense, power can be understood as involving distinctions and inequalities between members of a social group.
    • Some approaches to power focus on structural power and understand power to be everywhere and to contribute in the production of reality.
  7. Social relations
    • Any relationship between two or more individuals in a network of relationships.
    • Social relations involve an element of individual agency as well as group expectations and form the basis of social organization and social structure.
    • They pervade every aspect of human life and are extensive, complex, and diverse.
  8. Society
    • The way in which humans organize themselves in groups and networks.
    • Society is created and sustained by social relationships and institutions.
    • The term "society" can also be used to refer to a human group that exhibits some internal coherence and distinguishes itself from other such groups.
  9. Symbolism
    The study of significance that people attach to objects, actions, and processes, creating networks of symbols through which they construct a culture's web of meaning.
  10. intersectionality
    • A framework for recognizing the dynamic between multiple co-existing identities which shape an individuals experience in the world.
    • Developed in response to the feminist movement to understand how factors such as race and class “intersect” with gender, thereby highlighting the diverse range of women's lived experiences, preventing further marginalization of certain identity groups within the feminist movement.
  11. matriarchy
    two main meanings: (1) domination by female members of society and (2)women-centeredness in society
  12. patriarchy
    • a theory about social organization that refers to a system of male authority that is seen to oppress women through its social, political, and economic institutions
    • power rests in the hands of men, who have a greater access to, and control of, resources and rewards both in the domestic and non-domestic spheres
    • Wives and children depend on the men and inheritance is through the male line
  13. gender
    • a social and cultural categorization defined by the meanings given to biological differences between the sexes.
    • Gender roles are the social skills, abilities, and ways of acting thought appropriate to members of a society depending upon their sex.
  14. Class
    the exploitative self-differentiation of society into functionally interrelated and hierarchically organized sociocultural groupings
  15. Role
    A combination of expected behaviors in a socially understood situation
  16. Status
    Social position that people occupy in relation to others
  17. Assigned Status
    assigned to an individual or group, usually on the basis of birth, with age and sex being key markers
  18. Achieved status
    Attained through the behavior of the individual, in terms of occupation and skill
  19. Rite of Passage
    • A type of ritual that typically progresses through three stages at a both physical and psychological level for participants 
    • Rites of Separation - pre-liminal rites
    • Rites of Margin - liminal rites
    • Rites of Aggregation - post-liminal rites
  20. Rituals
    • A religious ritual is a prescribed, routinized, and ceremonial action or set of actions, the function of which is symbolic and has specific significance to the performer and the performer's community
    • range from greeting rituals to elaborate and highly complex governmental and national rituals
    • rituals serve as vehicles to create or enhance the proximity of the rituals' beneficiaries to the realm of the divine, to influence the divine or supernatural, or to facilitate the attainment of power associated with the spirit being who is propitiated
  21. Syncretism
    • Refers to the blending together of two or more separate traditions, at times which can be disparate or even clashing
    • Enables the retention of cultural practice in sometimes unfavorable or oppressive contexts
    • can suggest the loss of culture, implying impurity or contamination
  22. agency-centred
    • structure limits agency (the capacity of humans to determine and dictate their lives) but people can utilize their personal choice to overcome their structure
    • people utilize their agency to further their interests
    • concerned with meaning and symbolism of societies and cultures, the role of individual in this
    • culture and personality, historical particulatism, interpretivism, phenomenology, symbolic theories, transactionalism
  23. structure centered
    • social life is determined by structures which are beyond human control
    • structures: institutions, belief systems, taboos
    • it is in contrast to agency
    • concerned with how societies and cultures are organized, work and function, focusing on structures within societies and cultures
    • cultural materialism, functionalism, globalization theories, marxism, structuralism, world system theory
  24. beyond structure and agency
    • concerned with integrating both the structural and agency perspectives
    • focus on how societies and cultures are experienced
    • actor-network theory, cognitive anthropology, globalization theories, performance theory, perspectivism, post-colonial theories, post-structuralism, practice theory
  25. polytheism
  26. etic
    descriptions and explanations of human beliefs and behaviors that are presented in terms relevant to an outside analyst or observer but not necessarily meaningful or relevant to the native practitioners of the culture in question
  27. communitas
    • relatively undifferentiated community, or even communion of equal individuals
    • involved feeling of immediate community and synchronicity, may involve the sharing of special knowledge and understanding
    • grounded in experience
    • three forms: spontaneous, ideological, normative
    • spontaneous: individuals interrelate free of any expectations of role, status, reputation, class, caste, gender etc -
    • interaction is characterized by personal
    • honesty, openness unpretentiousness
    • occurs between members of fixed social
    • categories (under specific ritual conditions), those on the edges of structured social life (in marginality),  those at the bottom of the social structure
    • normative: resources mobilized, rulers and judicial structures established to organize commuitas into perduring social system
    • ideological: reformative process applied to utopian models inspired by spontaneous communitas
    • communitas = social experience including liberation from conformity, norms, rules
    • can transpire if structure is exaggerated, can result in despotism, over-bureaucratization, can replicate aridity it wants to transcend - must be revived
  28. slavery
    condition in which one human being is owned and exploited by another
  29. emic
    descriptions and explanations of human beliefs and behaviors in terms relevant to the native practitioners of the culture in question.
  30. positionality
    The occupation or adoption of a particular position in relation to others, usually with reference to issues of culture, ethnicity, or gender
  31. reflexivity
    • circular relationships between cause and effect, especially as embedded in human belief structures
    • reflexive relationship is bidirectional with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a relationship in which neither can be assigned as causes or effects
  32. liminal
    a transitional or initial stage of a process
  33. determinism
    philosophic theory about general interdependence and interconditionality of phenomena and processes
  34. rank
    • the social position of people in societies recognizing social hierarchies
    • societies are organized according to principles determining the relative value of certain groups or individuals over others
    • has implications for people's relative access to resources, opportunity, positions of power, and authority within the political or religious sectors
    • societies recognizing hereditary rank have more formalized means of attributing value, affording individuals with relative status
    • ascribed rank: individuals and groups find themselves in relative positions of rank by virtue of being born into socially established positions of hierarchy
  35. kinship
    • social relationships that usually coincide with biological ones
    • pseudokinship - social relationships simulate the ones arising through real kinship
    • ritual kinship - necessitates a ritual for its creation, rituals such as godparenthood, adoption, or fraternization
  36. descent
    • relationship that bonds the child to its mother or father, through which the elements that constitute the main characteristics of their status are transmitted (name, surname)
    • descent is more of a social convention than a biological relationship
    • bilateral or cognatic when the characteristics of our status are transmitted through both parents and we belong to both parents' kinship groups
    • unilineal orunilateral when the elements of an individual's status are
    • transmitted through only one parent and the individual belongs to only one parent's kinship group
    • patrilineal - elements of an individual's status are transmitted through men
    • matrilineal - elements of status have been transmitted by women
  37. lineage
    wider group of individuals beyond the family who are interconnected through consanguineal kinship
  38. clan
    even wider social group in which members acknowledge a common ancestry and whose relationships are ruled by solidarity
  39. enculturation
    the process by which children are socialized to the standard modes of thinking, feeling, and behaving considered appropriate for an adult in a given society
  40. taboo
    the avoidance of a specific behavior for fear of harm by a dangerous power, or of dangerous pollution caused by the intermixing of incompatible powers
  41. cultural relativism
    • idea that beliefs are affected by and best understood within the context of culture
    • developed by boas
Card Set
Anthropology Key Concepts
key concepts for p1