Saturday, September 17, 2011
The amazing endurance and adaptability of the human being is something I think we can learn from people who still live by foraging. Even in the harshest conditions on Earth, humans have been able to survive by developing their hunting skills, studying animal behavior, using their limited resources wisely, and migrating seasonally to food-rich areas. People like this truly understand what the essentials of life are; and the practice of ningiqtuq (sharing) is an amazing outcome of close cooperation and dependency among each other’s family groups.
webs of knowledge. Taken as a whole,
this composed a vast intellectual legacy,
born of intimacy with the natural world."
This is my favorite line from any of the readings, and it really portrays how I feel about foraging societies, especially compared to our own. It also connects to why anthropologists study these people. For as long as people have existed (until the boom of agriculture) we have been foragers, hunters, people that must know and love the land in order to survive. These people, even though they worked incredibly hard and were put in danger often, they were healthy and happy. If they could see our culture/society they might just feel bad for us. Even though we have all of these wonderful technological gadgets designed to make our lives easier, many of us are miserable. Depression, obesity, suicide, and little to no connection with the world we live in are just a few things that plague our so called advanced society. Also I don't mean everyone in our society, just generally speaking. I believe this is why it is so important for anthropologists to study these people, so we can attempt to use some of their ideas about life and harness them.
The book talks about human adaption, through which we have the technologies to feed and sustain ourselves without hunting and gathering. However, our population has outgrown the number of crops we can produce to feed all the people of the world. We continue to make more and more farmland to cultivate more food for the growing number of people on earth, but we won't catch up unless some kind of large global catastrophe occurs. The article by Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins mentions the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and its use for cultivation of rice fields. I just recently watched a documentary on this beautiful environment and what the agriculture had done to the surrounding wildlife. The Mekong Delta has incredibly diverse wildlife, which has been slowly fading, partly due to the use of the surrounding lands for rice patties. Basically, we need to take a lesson from the people who knew what was up, foragers.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Anthropologists are aware that this is only credit of the thousands and thousands of years of practice- trial and error, rinse and repeat- and that we can study the ways of modern foraging societies in order to gather a decent amount of information about their previous ancestors' societies and cultures.
Language is also an important social marker. We will talk more about this in the section on social stratification. However, a few points can be made here. Language, along with the clothes we wear, our hairstyles, the music we listen to, the car we drive, etc., are indicators of the social groups that we belong to. As we change groups – temporarily or permanently – we change those markers. Teens dress a certain way to demonstrate their differences from older generations. Their language operates in the same way. However, most young people learn that as they grow up and take on more responsibility – job and family – they must leave many of their teen markers behind them. When they go on a job interview they speak differently than they do with their friends and they dress differently (or they are unlikely to get that job).
In the same way, our dialects demonstrate our membership in certain cultural groups. All languages have many dialects. And, as your text explained, all dialects are correct in grammatical terms. I know that your English teachers have drilled into you that you must speak and write “correct” English. Linguistically, there is no such thing as correct English. There is only the dialect that our society has chosen to be the standard. And that standard changes. The standard dialect is connected to power and influence. The more powerful and influential group, the more their language, and other aspects of their culture are likely to be the standard for the society. We hold various groups up as “better” and hence their behavior and language are perceived of as “better.” Southern culture, particularly Appalachian culture has been viewed as less than by large portions of our society. Therefore, the dialects spoken there have been perceived of as less than. And, many judge people who speak those dialects as less than. One student mentioned that Ebonics was "acceptable." I think we need to make it clear that what is "correct" is not always "acceptable." Ebonics is not considered acceptable in the larger society, but it is correct. Even though the various dialects in our country are grammatically correct, they are not all "acceptable."
A study was conducted using different dialects when calling to inquire about an apartment. The person renting the apartment judged the person on the other end of the call by the way they talked. This is ethnocentrism. That doesn’t mean that we should not learn Standard English. We must if we are to be successful in our society. However, it is important for us to understand, and our teachers to teach, that Standard English is important in many contexts, but does not necessarily need to replace one’s own dialect. I think we do a disservice to minority groups by portraying their dialects as “incorrect.” Basically, by doing that we are telling them that their culture is “incorrect.” Asking people to change their language is asking them to change their identity. Yet, altering our language and other social markers in specific contexts, is important for success in our culture. These issues of language and our understanding of language have important implications for policy, particularly in how we teach our young people.
I want you to think back to the discussion about ethnocentrism and cultural relativism. Is one of these ways of speaking – Navajo or English speaking American – better than the other? I think the more important question is, “Why do these languages have such different vocabularies?” Are they adaptations to a particular environment – physical, political, social?
The danger of examining one’s own culture is that our initial tendency is to be critical of what we see. While we may be confrontational and argumentative, there are reasons for that. The important question is what are those reasons? To truly understand a culture – anothers or our own – these are the questions we need to ask ourselves. We can reserve judgment for later. Understanding must come first.
We will continue to discuss various aspects of culture that will force you to look at your own culture. One of my goals for this class is for the students to examine other cultures, as well as their own, and begin to understand why cultural diversity exists. Try to refrain from judgment and focus more on why those differences exist, what function do they serve for that particular society, and are those differences adaptive.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Anthropologists can learn so much from these groups, especially what factors led to Revolution and innovation. Also, we learn about evolution of a species, and how it affected the surrounding environment, or how the environment affected evolution. When the tools and artifacts associated with foraging were found centuries later, anthropologists discovered even more about an individual foraging society. For example, with the discovery of a spear, an anthropologist learns: (1) the society relied on hunting for survival, (2) what kinds of materials were needed to make the spear and where they were found, and (3) what types of animals could be huntied during that time. By compiling all of this information together across all of the continents, except Antartica, anthropologists get a better idea if how our original foraging society compares to those all over the world.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Understanding Eskimo Science
The Inuit Paradox
Why Can't People Feed Themselves
Why do anthropologists study foraging societies? What can we learn from these groups?
Respond to at least two of your classmates.
This assignment should be completed by midnight, September 17.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Drawing on this module's readings discuss the ways in which language shapes a people's concept of reality. Does the language that we use affect the way we see the world, or does the way we see the world affect the language that we use?
We are symbol makers because we can conceptualize. A symbol is an empty sound until we associate a meaning with that sound, until we fill the symbol with an idea, a notion, a concept. We look at nature and we name things, categorize items, classify types, and define the properties of objects. The symbols become numinous, take on lives of themselves, then spread like viruses from person to person, from generation to generation, from age to age.
Without symbols, humans would never have left the caves, would never have learned to speak, to write, to create abstract mathematical formulae for the creation of engineering and architecture; without symbols, humans would never have created music or art or poetry, or publish progressive magazines.
But words also have the power to destroy, to hurt, to spread hatred because preconceived notions are passed from person to person, from generation to generation, from age to age. What you can imagine about a place, an object, or a person depends upon the knowledge you were given by your parents, by your prophets, by your teachers, and your peers.
Language shapes reality because we create symbols that represent objects and abstract concepts. In our minds the symbol becomes the thing. Language users manipulate those symbols in order to shape reality to fit their own agendas. These manipulators of language know our needs, our values, and our desires. These manipulators understand how we emotionally react to symbols, and most importantly understand that most of their audience either can't decipher the argument or they are too complacent to bother.
People who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human