Being Human

Read Chapter 8 of Anthropology: What Does It Mean to Be Human?   Overview: Culture is the key concept unifying the sub-disciplines of anthropology. The culture concept helps anthropologists challenge notions of biological determinism. As you will see, you and all other human beings acquire culture—patterns of learned behavior and ideas—as a member of your own society. Material artifacts and structures created and used by humans help shape your acquisition of culture, and your culture builds on the heritage of earlier generations. As you will learn, no other living organism relies on culture as much as human beings do, and culture is our principle means of navigating the world. We will also explore the methods used by cultural anthropologists, primarily fieldwork and participant-observation, to understand culture.   Points to Consider: According to Ivan Karp, on p. 239, “reading ethnographies trains us to question the received wisdom of our society and makes us receptive to change.” Do you agree with this statement? Are we to believe then that ethnographies are inherently good? How do classical ethnographies problematize Karp’s point of view? Given what you have read in the text thus far, what are some of the pros and cons of doing ethnographic research? Is ethnographic research objective? How might this kind of research affect the researched group’s perspective of themselves? Is this a significant concern?   In-Class/or ZOOM Exercise 8: Culture Shock Students list the last time that they experienced the feeling of not belonging because they were in a cultural setting different from their own. Discuss specifically what factors made them feel out of place: sights, smells, other people, sound, and so forth.   Discussion Questions 8: On Chapter 8 of Anthropology: What Does It Mean to Be Human? Are all cultures equal, no matter how different they are, or are some cultures simply superior to other cultures? If all members follow and cherish a cultural tradition, but outsiders object to the practices associated with that tradition, should the culture be forced to stop their ancient practices? Should genital cutting be allowed, if it is an accepted cultural practice by the members of a society? Do people have a complete right to images associated with their culture, such as design on a T-shirt or tattoo? Watch Videos & Movies Before Class: 2008   Doing Anthropology. MIT Anthropology Department.

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