Theoretical Approaches to Cultural Anthropology

Theoretical Approaches to Cultural Anthropology
19th Century Unilineal Cultural Evolution
culture develops in a uniform and progressive manner from Savagery-BarbarismCivilization.
first systematic theory
Points of Reaction:
Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881)
First to do ethnographic fieldwork
Historical Particularism
each culture own history that shaped its cultural pattern.
Franz Boas (1858-1942)
detailed ethnographic data
Point of Reaction:
Recent Theoretical Orientations
 Recent Theoretical Orientations
 Materialist Perspective: Explanations of cultural differences that emphasize
environmental adaptation, technologies and methods of acquiring or producing
 Marvin Harris
 Structuralist Perspectives: cultural differences can be explained by differences
in forms or conceptual categories rather than in meanings.
 Claude Lévi-Strauss
 Interpretive Perspectives: Cultural differences can be understood as complex
webs of meaning rather than through forms.
 Clifford Geertz
 Conflict Perspectives: Understanding cultural differences as consequence of
conflict in the interests and goals of various groups within a society and focusing
on issues of power and resistance.
 Eric Wolf