Lesson 1 Intro

The study of cultural legacies, including art, history,
anthropology (physical, archeology, cultural,
linguistics), architecture, philosophy, music etc.
Anthropology is the comparative study of human
societies and cultures in order to describe, analyze
and explain how groups have adapted to their
environment and given meaning to their lives.
Culture is human behavior that is learned, rather
than genetically transmitted, and is typical of a
particular society. It includes values, beliefs,
philosophies, works of art, books, etc.
Ethnocentrism is the notion that one’s own culture is
superior to any other, the idea that other cultures
should be measured by the degree to which they are
similar to ours.
A clear example was the conquerors of the new
world. When the Spanish came to America they
recorded what they saw and concluded that the
natives were in a state of savagery.
Is the notion that people’s values and customs must
be understood in terms of the culture of which they
are a part. Anthropologists must suspend judgment
in order to understand the logic and dynamics of
other cultures.
Andocentric Bias
In the past, much fieldwork was and continues to be
done by men who have limited or no personal
access to women’s lives. This is particularly true in
cultures where men and women lead very separate
lives and are often hostile to each other.
The description of whole cultures based on male
activities grew out of a largely unconscious
assumption that men dominated the most important
cultural activities.
The Cultural Construction of Race
A particular aspect of culture in the U.S. is the salient
idea that we are divided biologically into different
Over a century of work by ethnographers has not been
able to produce a consistent system of racial
classification; furthermore, it has been learned that
other cultures construct racial categories differently
from Americans.
Race, as a biological characteristic of humans does not
High Culture – considered to be elitist and tends to reinforce the
position of oppressed people. They are thought to appeal to an
educated and sophisticated audience that have refined tastes and
highly developed aesthetic sensibilities.
Low Culture - are created to appeal to a broad consumer base.
Audiences whose tastes and sensibilities they consider not to be
sophisticated or refined – soap operas, rock and roll concerts.
Folk Culture - practices of small groups within a larger society. For
example, Mexico has numerous indigenous regional cultures.
Some scholars often refer to it as mass culture produced by
culture industries, advertising for mass consumers with the
idea that people will buy more.
Other scholars consider popular culture as a form of what
they call the dominant ideology through which the dominant
classes control the other social classes.
Cultural populists argue that popular culture is produced by
and for subordinated people themselves, and that the
masses sometimes develop oppositional meanings to the
original intent.
Fieldwork – the goal of fieldwork is to gather as much
information on a particular cultural group. The data are
written to present as authentic and coherent a picture of the
culture as possible with the objective of discovering cultural
patterns and meanings.
Participant observation – The fieldwork technique that
involves gathering cultural data by observing people’s
behavior and participating in their lives.
Historical analysis – focuses in understanding the
development of cultural forms as a product of conflict
inherent in the relationships among groups through time.
Interviews – To learn about different cultural groups, anthropologists
rely on the tool of asking questions. Often include individual life
Cultural Geography. According to Kathryn Davis, “Cultural
Geography is the geography of the world’s people, their places,
their regions, and how people and societies connect with each other
in social, religious, economic, and political systems that both build
communities and span the world.” Ex: globalization, westernization,
cultural imperialism, colonialism, immigration, eco-tourism.
Archival records – Records from libraries, archives, courthouses, etc.
In Class Discussion
Mass Culture
Popular culture is
imposed on consumers
from above.
Evidence to support
this position?
Cultural Populism
Popular culture arises
from the people &
may express values
oppositional to the
social elite.
Evidence to support
this position?
Discussion Question
Do you agree that there is a legitimate distinction
between high and low culture?
The separation between high and low culture
suggests that high culture is “purer” ore superior
because it is not mass-produced. Do you believe
mass production devalues culture?
Do you believe that popular culture might serve
different purposes among subordinate minority
groups than it does in the dominant society?