Anthropology for Me Is Synonymous With Assuming Essay

Pages: 8 (2497 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Anthropology

Anthropology for me is synonymous with assuming a different perspective or worldview to understand societies, cultures, and groups that exist from the world over. Generally considered as the study of humanity or humankind, it centers on studying and understanding the elements that make up a society or culture, such as traditions, lifestyle, language and even humanity's biological evolution.

Anthropology for me is also a study wherein perspective-taking takes place. This means that the individual or anthropologist must be able to take into consideration the point-of-view of the group, society or culture under study in order to truly understand the prevalence and perpetuation of its customs/traditions, lifestyle and language. Perspective-taking is especially critical to the anthropologist, since studying a culture or society inevitably requires the anthropologist to compare this society against other known, established societies. Particularly for the anthropologist who is exposed and acculturated to American culture, understanding cultures in the Asian or Middle Eastern regions would inevitably lead him/her to describe and study their cultures in the context of their differences against American culture. Perspective-taking becomes useful when the anthropologist is able to objectively understand and evaluate these foreign cultures distinctly or separately from the culture s/he has grown up knowing and recognizing as his/her own (culture). The process of perspective-taking is also an exercise in critical thinking, which as a thinking being, would be advantageous to the anthropologist and would guide him/her not only in his/her chosen field (anthropology), but also in his/her everyday life.

2. Why many scholars feel that anthropology is the fundamental discipline studying humans?

As discussed earlier, anthropology includes studying human culture and its elements, such as language, traditions / customs and lifestyle. Because of these elements, which are very much the core of a society's or culture's existence in a particular place at a particular time, it is not surprising then, that anthropology would become known as the fundamental discipline in studying humans. Anthropology does not only take into account the social environment the society/culture has; as a discipline, anthropology also studies social environments and social actors or individuals and groups living and interacting in it, as well as the physical environment and biological make-up of these social actors. Ultimately, anthropology studies all aspects of human life, any element that could have contributed to the creation and development of a culture/society.

3. Social Darwinism became one of the most dominant and dangerous ideas of the modern world. Explain.

Social Darwinism is one of the most dominant ideas of the modern world because it provided a succinct yet insightful description of the evolution and history of humanity. Adapted mainly from Charles Darwin's theory of human evolution and Herbert Spencer's concept of "survival of the fittest," the premise of Social Darwinism is that the stronger and prevailing culture and society would eventually result to the disintegration of weaker societies / cultures. Thus it is just a natural result and progression that the stronger culture or society will prevail throughout time and history, until such time that a new society/culture will emerge and prove to be stronger than the prevailing culture/society of a particular time. Determining the stronger society/culture helped propel social Darwinism to dominance in 19th-20th centuries because it helped us understand what makes a society/culture emerge stronger and more 'superior,' and what makes a society/culture 'inferior' in comparison. Ultimately, social Darwinism is deterministic, attempting to identify in clear-cut terms, what are the elements or conditions that make up a superior or inferior society/culture.

Social Darwinism is also one of the most dangerous ideas of the modern world because it is too deterministic to a fault, identifying in very specific criteria elements that make a superior or inferior society/culture. One of the criticisms against social Darwinism is that societies/cultures, given their differences in nature and dynamics, would be too difficult to just simplify according to specific criteria or characteristics of its elements. It is in fact, dangerous to label and consider a society/culture as superior or inferior based on a set criteria, as societies and cultures are bound to change over time, therefore labeling its superiority or inferiority would not be responsive to the realities that these societies/cultures experience. Further, identifying a culture as superior or inferior defies the purpose of anthropology as a study, since an anthropologist would not label a culture as superior or inferior because cultures are distinctly different from each other. Also, through perspective-taking, the anthropologist is able to understand that a culture is not only distinct, but is also non-hierarchical, whatever point in time or history this culture emerged, flourished and developed.

4. What is gender? Will female-male personality differences disappear in a society with the total gender equality in the workplace?

Gender is the socio-cultural assignation of male and female roles in society, and is commonly described by a set of characteristics that are primarily and distinctly associated to males or females. In the past centuries, gender has been strongly ingrained in people's minds as distinctly male or female, with corresponding social roles that limits more than expands the role that males and females must assume in their societies. Males have assumed the role of family provider and head throughout centuries, with females acting only as the "support" to the family head and were mostly relegated to roles related to domestic or household management. Over the years, more societies have witnessed a blurring of the gender lines, as more women have joined the workforce and in effect, assumed greater responsibilities and roles in the family and society, leveling the social roles between males and females.

Given this trend in history, it will not be surprising if the gender line will not only be blurred, but will eventually disappear in society. As individuals are becoming more exposed and open to the possibilities that males and females can assume roles and can do tasks that have been traditionally considered to be for a specific gender only, people will then be able to accomplish these roles and tasks -- physical, social, emotional or mental -- regardless of their gender and social roles. This is especially true in the case of males and females in the workplace, wherein individuals capabilities are discovered and "tested," validating that indeed, female roles can be assumed by males, and conversely, male roles can be assumed by females.

5. Explain the terms ethnocentrism and cultural relativism and give examples.

Ethnocentrism is the line of thinking that the individual will strongly subsist to a specific society or culture, and that other societies / cultures are understood and assessed based on their characteristics against this particular society or culture. Cultural relativism, meanwhile, takes into account that a society or culture is important based on specific characteristics or elements against other societies or cultures. It does not, however, prescribe subsisting to a specific society or culture only, and considers cultures' innate differences as relative and can be equally compared and determined against each other.

6. What are the major and basic components and characteristics of culture?

Earlier discussions on anthropology mentioned that cultures are studied according to the following elements: social actors and their interaction with each other, lifestyle, customs / traditions, and language. These elements help create the socio-cultural environment, becoming the venue for interactions among people (social actors). Traditions/customs and language are utilized during these social exchanges or interactions. Incorporating these elements in one social environment for a specific point in time creates the culture of these people for that particular period or time.

7. Why is the family universal? Describe some of its various forms. What are the major patterns in which married couples live with or near kins?

The family is universal because as the most basic social unit in the society, it becomes the "venue" in which the individual is first exposed and acculturated to the language, traditions and lifestyle of its society/culture. Its traditional form is the family comprising of the mother, father and children. However, over time, more variations have developed as a result of changes in the family dynamics and members' roles within this social unit. One phenomenon and form of the family is the nuclear family, which includes relatives up to the second degree (grandparents, cousins, and aunts/uncles) live together as one family. There is also the emergence of the family composing of a single parent and child/children, a phenomenon occurring most often in Western societies.

8. What aspects of psychological development did Margaret Mead study?

As one of the pioneer anthropologists of her time (20th century), Margaret Mead became controversial because of her study of Samoan adolescents, including their traditions and lifestyle as they pass through adolescence and adulthood. Her findings became controversial because of the seemingly taboo practices that characterized Samoan adolescents' practices and beliefs, particularly about sexual and family relations. Mead's study on Samoan rites to adolescence highlights the cultural relativism between Western (American) and Samoan cultures: traditions that might seem taboo or unacceptable to one culture can be considered "normal" and socially accepted in another culture.

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