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Anthropology:A Student'S Guide

Anthropology:A Student'S Guide

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    Anthropology:A Student'S Guide
    Book Description:

    Barrett shows that, in recent decades, a serious gap has emerged between theory and method - a gap that will untilately have to be addressed by today's students.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9736-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Stanley R. Barrett
  4. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. xiii-2)
    Stanley R. Barrett
  5. 1 Unleashing the Anthropologist: A Historical Overview
    (pp. 3-46)

    Anthropologists were ʹunleashedʹ at a particular period in history: the age of exploration, when Europeans began to encounter ʹthe primitive.ʹ This momentous point of contact pushed to the forefront a fundamental intellectual problem: were human beings everywhere essentially the same, or did widespread cultural and physical diversity mean that there was no such thing as the unity of humankind (see Jarvie 1986)? Anthropology led the search for an answer to this problem, but under circumstances in which the balance of power between fieldworker and ʹnativeʹ was very much one-sided. Anthropologists were armed with a sense of moral, intellectual, cultural, and...


    • 2 Theory
      (pp. 49-70)

      The early decades of professional anthropology witnessed the disciplineʹs transformation from the armchair to the field. The dominant intellectual perspective in the middle of the nineteenth century was evolutionism, and the fledgling discipline of anthropology did not escape its grip. Eventually evolutionism was overwhelmed by two other orientations, historical particularism and structural functionalism, which derived part of their power from their promotion of first-hand, original field research. Together, evolutionism, historical particularism, and structural functionalism were the most significant theoretical orientations in the discipline for almost a hundred years – indeed, right up to the Second World War.

      Evolutionism removed two...

    • 3 Method
      (pp. 71-82)

      My aim in this book is to sketch out the history of theory and methodology in anthropology, and to examine the changing relationship between them over time. This task, however, is not quite as simple as it might appear. One reason is that it involves not two but three distinct components: the theoretical literature, the methods literature, and the fieldwork situation – what anthropologists have actually been doing. Another reason is that a theoretical orientation includes a lot of things. It contains an explanatory system such as the functions of institutions and the interdependence of subsystems in structural functionalism. It...


    • 4 Theory
      (pp. 85-110)

      Historical particularism in America and structural functionalism in Britain proved to be remarkably robust theoretical approaches, dominating the discipline up to the Second World War. By the 1950s and 1960s, however, it was clear that anthropologyʹs theoretical landscape had changed. In this chapter I shall focus on three orientations: cultural ecology, conflict theory, and social action. The first was primarily associated with American anthropology, the other two with British anthropology.¹ Each orientation, in quite different ways, attempted to keep the dream of a scientific study of society alive by patching the cracks that had begun to weaken historical particularism and...

    • 5 Method
      (pp. 111-142)

      Although cultural ecology, social action theory, and conflict theory were all regarded by the writers who created them as models that kept scientific anthropology alive, the last two, by introducing a greater degree of complexity than had characterized structural functionalism, unintentionally made the goal of science more difficult to achieve. Conflict theoreticians rejected the tidy assumption of a unified central value system, and social action writers promoted the image of the choice-making, manipulative actor, and the porous, shifting social structure. Ironically, when all of this was going on, there emerged a concerted effort to create a qualitative methods literature that...


    • 6 Theory
      (pp. 145-182)

      By the 1970s and 1980s it was evident that something strikingly different was taking place in anthropology. For the previous hundred years the discipline had swung back and forth between hard and soft versions of science, emphasizing objective conditions such as technology and environment at one point and subjective conditions at another, portraying people as robots controlled by a rigid social structure, or active, manipulating agents in an ever-changing universe. Yet throughout these various shifts in perspective the goal of a scientific study of society persisted.

      With the emergence of three new theoretical orientations – structuralism, postmodernism, and feminist anthropology...

    • 7 Method
      (pp. 183-232)

      With the emergence of postmodernism and feminist methodology, science took a pounding. It was either pronounced dead or dismissed as an incomplete, biased story that propped up privilege. Yet in the methods literature the hope remained that qualitative research could be rendered as rigorous and explicit as quantitative research. In phase three it was not simply the theoretical and methods literature that were out of tune. The same held true for the fieldwork situation. In fact, a great deal of current ethnography simply ignores both the theoretical and methodological literature. The explanation, I assume, is that many ethnographers cannot stomach...


    • 8 The Last Frontier: How to Analyse Qualitative Data
      (pp. 235-263)

      Given the massive literature on qualitative methods that now exists, plus the literature on feminist methodology and postmodernism, it is fair to say that the techniques of fieldwork and related issues such as stress, ethics, literary devices, appropriation, and epistemology have been thoroughly examined. Yet there remains a missing link: theanalysisof qualitative data. This is what I call the last frontier, the one part of ethnography still cloaked in mystery – a state of affairs, let it be clear, that very much applies to the type of conventional, positivistic anthropology that preceded postmodernism and feminist anthropology. In this...

    • 9 Taming the Anthropologist: The World Ahead
      (pp. 264-268)

      The imagery in the titles of the first and final chapters of this book – unleashing and taming the anthropologist – is meant to tell a story. The early anthropologists were set loose among the natives, armed with a sense of moral, cultural, and intellectual superiority, plus the authority of the Colonial Office. No doubt kind and compassionate feeling towards the natives often existed, not all of it paternalistic, but at the same time there were few constraints on the anthropologistʹs inquiries except for her or his own ethnocentrism and sense of decency. The world of the primitive, in other...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-294)
  11. Index
    (pp. 295-301)