Spring only code: SC277 Lecture 1

Week 2
Social Anthropology:
Session 1: Introduction
Introduction to the course
Anthropology and Sociology
Malinowski - the ‘Founding Father’ of British Social Anthropology
Participant Observation and the Ethnographic Method
Birth and Sex and Death: Introduction
Alfred Gell:
“Anthropology is the study of the differences between cultures and the differences these
differences make.”
The social in social anthropology
Birth and procreation and death
That’s what it comes down to when you get to brass tacks.
Birth and procreation and death.
T.S. Elliot
Anthropology and Sociology
Bronislaw Malinowksi
Functionalism - customs exist for a reason they have a social function.
This is very different from an evolutionary approach to culture which supposes that much of what
people do is simply inherited from a more primitive past.
Malinowski’s functionalism is anti-evolutionary: some societies may be of a smaller scale or
organisationally simple but there are no primitive societies as such.
Malinowksi ‘off the verandah’ : participant observation and the ethnographic method
Film: Strangers Abroad - ‘Off the Verandah’
How did Malinowski’s method of understanding society differ from the classical sociologists
such as Durkheim and Weber?
To what extent do you think it is possible to participate in the lives of people from a very
different culture? What skills and qualities as a person would you need?
Can you think of any disadvantages in Malinowski’s method?
Readings for Next Week
Read two articles from:
Don Kulick and Margaret Willson (eds.) 1995 Taboo: sex, identity, and erotic subjectivity in anthropological
fieldwork. London: Routledge
Diane Bell, Pat Caplan and Wazir Jahan Karim (eds) 1993 Gendered Fields: Women, Men and Ethnography