1 Outlining an anthropological perspective and the theories that will be discussed Dr. Zubeeda Quraishy Department of Informatics, University of Oslo,

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  • Slide 1
  • 1 Outlining an anthropological perspective and the theories that will be discussed Dr. Zubeeda Quraishy Department of Informatics, University of Oslo, Norway
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  • 2 What is Anthropology? Are you as interested as I am in knowing how, when, and where human life arose, what the first human societies and languages were like, why cultures have evolved along diverse but often remarkably convergent pathways, why distinctions of rank came into being, and how small bands and villages gave way to chiefdoms and chiefdoms to mighty states and empires? --Marvin Harris, Our Kind,1990.
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  • 3 What is Social Anthropology? Social Anthropology is the comparative study of human conduct and thought in their social context. Societies around the world vary enormously in their social, cultural and political forms, and their individual members display an initially overwhelming diversity of ideas and behaviour. The study of these variations lies at the heart of Social Anthropology.
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  • 4 Definition of Anthropology The word anthropology itself tells the basic story- -from the Greek anthropos ("human") and logia ("study) It is the study of humankind, from its beginnings millions of years ago to the present day. Nothing human is alien to anthropology. Indeed, of the many disciplines that study our species, Homo sapiens, only anthropology seeks to understand the whole panorama--in geographic space and evolutionary time--of human existence.
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  • 5 Various Sub-disciplines of Anthropology 1. Social and Cultural Anthropology 2. Physical Anthropology 3. Ethnology and Ethnography 4. Archeological Anthropology 5. Psychological Anthropology 6. Political Anthropology 7. Economic Anthropology 8. Visual Anthropology
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  • 6 (Cont) Sub-disciplines of Anthropology 9. Applied Anthropology 10. Linguistic Anthropology 11. Medical Anthropology 12. Nutrition Anthropology 13. Development Anthropology 14. Molecular Anthropology and the list continues
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  • 7 While it is easy to define, anthropology is difficult to describe....as its subject matter is both exotic (e.g., star lore of the Australian aborigines) and common place (food habits and customs of eating). Its focus is both sweeping (the evolution of language) and microscopic (the use-wear of ancestral tools). Anthropologists may study ancient Mayan hieroglyphics, the music of African Pygmies, and the corporate culture of a U.S. car manufacturer.
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  • 8 Why anthropologists are interested in studying cultures? Curiosity We all "do" anthropology because curiosity is a universal human trait. We are curious about ourselves and about other people, the living as well as the dead, here and around the globe
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  • 9 Anthropological questions asked by all Do all societies have marriage customs? Do all cultures have different ways of greetings and food habits? As a species, are human beings innately violent or peaceful? Did the earliest humans have light or dark skins? When did people first begin speaking a language? How related are humans, monkeys and chimpanzees? Is Homo sapiens' brain still evolving?
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  • 10 If such questions are part of folk anthropology practiced in school yards, office buildings and neighborhood cafes.. How does the science of anthropology differ from ordinary opinion sharing and "common sense"?
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  • 11 Comparative Method Anthropology begins with a simple yet powerful idea: any detail of our behavior can be understood better when it is seen against the backdrop of the full range of human behavior. attempts to explain similarities and differences among people holistically, in the context of humanity as a whole.
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  • 12 Comparative method (cont) Anthropology seeks to uncover principles of behavior that apply to all human communities. To an anthropologist, diversity itself (seen in body shapes and sizes, customs, clothing, speech, religion, and worldview) provides a frame of reference for understanding any single aspect of life in any given community. It is essential to study in the context and compare against the different panorama
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  • 13 We [anthropologists] have been the first to insist on a number of things: that the world does not divide into the pious and the superstitious; that political order is possible without centralized power and principled justice without codified rules; that the norms of reason were not fixed in Greece, the evolution of morality not consummated in England. Most important, we were the first to insist that we see the lives of others through lenses of our own grinding and that they look back on ours through ones of their own. --Clifford Geertz
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  • 14 History of anthropological conceptions on culture Culture is descriptive, inclusive, and relativistic --John H. Bodley,1994 I use the term culture to refer collectively to a society and its way of life or in reference to human culture as a whole.
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  • 15 Culture: a modern technical definition socially patterned human thought and behavior, originally proposed by the nineteenth- century British anthropologist Edward Tylor. Created exhaustive universal lists of the content of culture, usually as guides for further research. Others have listed and mapped all the culture traits of particular geographic areas. {(Food habits, way of dressing, marriage customs, ways of greeting, working pattern, life style, values (family, work place, place of worship, at the house of relatives, strangers, men to men, women women, men women, elders towards children and vice versa according to age and relationship), etc.}.
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  • 16 Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, published a list of 160 different definitions of culture in 1952. the list indicates the diversity of the anthropological concept of culture. The specific culture concept that particular anthropologists work with is an important matter because it may influence the research problems they investigate, their methods and interpretations, and the positions they take on public policy issues.
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  • 17 Diverse Definitions of Culture Topical: Culture consists of everything on a list of topics, or categories, such as social organization, religion, or economy Historical: Culture is social heritage, or tradition, that is passed on to future generations Behavioral: Culture is shared, learned human behavior, a way of life Normative: Culture comprises ideals, values, or rules for living
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  • 18 Cont Functional: Culture is the way humans solve problems of adapting to the environment or living together Psychological: Culture is a complex of ideas, or learned habits, that inhibit impulses and distinguish people from animals Structural: Culture consists of patterned and interrelated ideas, symbols, or behaviors Symbolic: Culture is based on arbitrarily assigned meanings that are shared by a society
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  • 19 Culture involves at least four components: What people think What they do The material products they produce. Beliefs, knowledge, and values are parts of culture.
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  • 20 Important principles of culture Process of learning, teaching and reproducing are essential characteristics of culture. Culture exists in a constant state of change. Culture consists of systems of meaning -- members of a human society must agree to relationships between a word and behavior (e.g., if I request that you eat food, then I should not take away the food rudely from you) or other symbol and its corresponding significance or meaning. Culture is described in a relativistic way as different human societies will inevitably agree upon different relationships and meanings.
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  • 21 Properties of culture: Culture has several properties: shared (it is a social phenomenon) learned (culture is learned not biologically inherited); how culture is taught & reproduced is also crucial symbolic (speech is a symbolic element of human language) transmitted cross-generationally (Kroeber 1917 and Leslie White 1949 treat culture as a superorganic entity. adaptive, and integrated.
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  • 22 Different interpretations of culture From the different definitions it is known that there is much disagreement about the word and concept of culture. So, an ongoing negotiation and conversation about what culture should mean is continuing.
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  • 23 Clifford Geertz (1926- present) Clifford Geertz, best known for his ethnographic studies, emphasizes the importance of the symbolic of systems of meaning as it relates to culture, cultural change and the study of culture. The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973 best known for his ethnographic studies of Javanese culture
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  • 24 What cultural anthropologists are doing at Intel & Microsoft? Understanding alien cultures and finding out whats important in those cultures, for international marketing & software design. To find out: What people are doing in their daily lives? What people are doing with technology? How digital home differs from culture to culture?
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  • 25 What is society? A society is any group of people living together in a group and constituting a single related, interdependent community. This word is frequently taken to include entire national communities; for instance, comment upon some aspect of U.S. or Indian society. Society can also be used to refer to smaller groups of people, as when we refer to "rural societies" or "academic society," etc. Society is distinguished from culture in that society generally refers to the community of people while culture generally refers to the systems of meaning -- what Geertz calls "webs of significance" which govern the conduct and understanding of people's lives. (*no clear diff between culture and society)
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  • 26 Four main branches comprise anthropology as a whole Cultural Linguistic Archaeology Biological anthropology
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  • 27 Anthropological perspectives Evolutionary Perspective: Anthropology brings an explicit, evolutionary approach to the study of human behavior. Each of anthropology's four main subfields-socio cultural, biological, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology--acknowledges that Homo sapiens has a long evolutionary history that must be studied if one is to know what it means to be a human being.
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  • 28 Cultural Anthropology Applies comparative method and evolutionary perspective to human culture. Culture represents the entire database of knowledge, values, and ways of viewing the world, which have been transmitted from one generation ahead to the nextnongenetically through words, concepts, and symbols. Cultural anthropologists study humans through a descriptive lens called the ethnographic method, based on participant observation, in tandem with face-to-face interviews, normally conducted in the native tongue.
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  • 29 Cultural Anthropology (cont) Ethnographers compare what they see and hear themselves with the observations and findings of studies conducted in other societies. Originally, anthropologists pieced together a complete way of life for a culture, viewed as a whole that is, in a holistic perspective.
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  • 30 Cultural anthropology today Recently, more focus is on a narrower aspect of cultural life, such as economics, politics, religion or art. Cultural anthropologists seek to understand the internal logic of another society. It helps outsiders make sense of behaviors that, like face painting or scarification, fire walking among a section of Indian Muslims during a particular ritual may seem bizarre or senseless.
  • Slide 31
  • 31 Cultural anthropology Anthropology helps us to see our own culture more clearly by understanding the differences between cultures.
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  • 32 Linguistic Anthropology "As you commanded me, I, Spider Woman, have created these First People. They are fully and firmly formed; they have movement. But they cannot talk. That is the proper thing they lack. So I want you to give them speech." So, Sotuknang gave them speech, a different language to each color, with respect for each other's difference. He gave them also the wisdom and the power to reproduce and multiply. --Hopi Indian Emergence Myth
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  • 33 Language. Hallmark of the human species holds a special fascination for most anthropologists Has enabled Homo sapiens to transcend the limits of individual memory. It is upon language that culture itself depends--and within language that humanity's knowledge resides.
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  • 34 Archaeological anthropology Human record is written not only in alphabets and books, but preserved in other kinds of material remains -- cave paintings, pictographs, discarded stone tools, earthenware vessels, religious figurines, abandoned baskets found in tattered shreds and patches of ancient societies. Fragmentary records are interpreted to reassemble long-ago cultures and forgotten ways of life. Studies have been extended in two directions -- backward some 3 million years to the bones and stone tools of our proto human ancestors, and forward to the reconstruction of life ways and communities of 19th-century America.
  • Slide 35
  • 35 Biological Anthropology Also known as Physical Anthropology Looks at Homo sapiens as a genus and species, tracing their biological origins, evolutionary development, and genetic diversity. Studies the bio cultural prehistory of Homo to understand human nature and, ultimately, the evolution of the brain and nervous system itself.
  • Slide 36
  • 36 Bringing together Anthropological Perspectives Studying perspectives in anthropology brings together information about many diverse attributes of human being in an attempt to understand in its entirety.
  • Slide 37
  • 37 Anthropological Perspectives on Palliative Care (medical & cultural anthropology) Palliation is unique in different cultures. (For ex, Sepik Society). Complex negotiations between biomedicine and culture frequently take place. (Navajo, Ethiopian, Sepik, Hindus and Islamic cultures) Cultural anthropology helps us see dying as a social process. It provides us with a number of important tools with which to understand this universal yet culture-specific process.
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  • 38 Palliative care (cont.) Anthropology asks us to look at the way in which the process of dying is organized in time and space as well as at the web of social relations in which the process takes place. -- Gregory Pappas, Concepts to Reality, Anthropological Perspectives on Palliative Care
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  • 39 Comparative method & Ethnocentrism Comparative method helps an anthropologist to avoid "ethnocentrism," the tendency to interpret strange customs on the basis of preconceptions derived from one's own cultural background. Cultural anthropologists not only study rain forest tribes in Brazil but growing numbers now study U.S. groups instead, applying anthropological perspectives to their own culture and society.
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  • 40 Anthropological perspectives on Health Care: Global issues in midwifery A distressing cross-cultural trend is showing up in the growing body of anthropological literature about midwifery and birth in the developing world. Many instances can be quoted from different countries and cultures about how midwives and pregnant women are treated. -- Robbie Davis-Floyd, Ph.D.,(Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas) Austin, Midwifery Today E-News, Vol 2(18), May 5, 2000
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  • 41 Female Reproductive Health: A Medical Anthropological Perspective Reproduction follows many patterns in different societies with varying consequences for health. Anthropological research on optimal reproductive strategies from the cross cultural and evolutionary perspective. By exploring the anthropology of variables such as trauma, abuse and infanticide By comparative understandings of modern day return to "alternative" reproductive health practices such as midwifery, physical therapies, and traditional nutrition
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  • 42 Anthropological perspectives on migration and migration history Migration is a key social phenomenon Migration has considerably contributed to changing perceptions of immigrants and as well the host cultures. Mass character of immigrants and their complexity has affected the adaptation processes and social interaction. Important to conduct the historical and anthropological/ethnographical case studies on migrant movements, migrant incorporation/exclusion and migrant representation etc. in both sending and receiving countries.
  • Slide 43
  • 43 Ethnicity and Nationalism Anthropological Perspectives Anthropology has the advantage of generating first-hand knowledge of social life at the level of everyday interaction. To a great extent, this is the locus where ethnicity is created and re-created. Ethnicity emerges and is made relevant through ongoing social situations and encounters, and through people's ways of coping with the demands and challenges of life. From its vantage-point right at the centre of local life, social anthropology is in a unique position to investigate these processes.
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  • 44 Ethnicity and nationalism (Cont) Anthropological approaches also enable us to explore the ways in which ethnic relations are being defined and perceived by people; how they talk and think about their own group as well as other groups, and how particular world-views are being maintained or contested. The significance of ethnic membership to people can best be investigated through that detailed on-the- ground research which is the hallmark of anthropology. Social anthropology, being a comparative discipline, studies both differences and similarities between ethnic phenomena & provides a nuanced and complex vision of ethnicity in the contemporary world.
  • Slide 45
  • 45 Anthropological Perspectives on Gender Examines the cultural constructions of femininities and masculinities from a cross- cultural perspective. For discussion: how individuals and societies imagine, negotiate, perform and contest dominant gender ideologies, roles, relations and identities. (share our own experiences & personal backgrounds)
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  • 46 Information Systems from Anthropology & Social Sciences While technological determinism can be applicable and useful in situations that are characterized by high degree of control and short time frames, it has limited value in dynamic and complex situations that unfold over longer periods of time... Technological determinism cannot adequately account for the interactions between ICT, the people who design, implement and use them, and the social and organisational contexts in which the technologies and people are embedded. -- Kling et al. 2000, Relation-ship between technical and social factors in working processes (pp. 49-50)
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  • 47 IS & Anthropology (cont) Bansler (1987) describes Hyers theory in these terms: It is insufficient to look at an enterprise as a technical system, as humans play a key role in the enterprises function, and because humans have certain needs and behaviour, that must be taken into account The system engineer has to consider these needs when he designs and implements a computer system. -- Bansler 1987 (p. 90, translated from Norwegian by Ole and Johan)
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  • 48 IS & Anthropology: Walsham explains the concept of Web Models .. draw broad boundaries around the focal computer system and examine how its use depends upon a social context of complex social actions. The models define this social context by taking into account the social relations between the information system, the infrastructure available for its support, and the previous history within the organisation of commitments made in developing and operating related computer-based technologies. -- Walsham 1993 (p.55)
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  • 49 IS & Anthropology: Walsham (cont) With respect to the social relations as considered in web models, it is important to note that participants include users, system developers, the senior management of the company, and any other individuals or groups who are affected by the computer-based information system. -- Walsham 1993 (p.55).
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  • 50 Information Systems & Anthropology The social systems perspective helps to understand the importance of the context and particularly IS in developing countries must be context sensitive, for example, participation, may not be regarded the same in a developing country context as in a developed country. In India, participation needs to be approached more critically and more strategically.
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  • 51 Case studies that will be discussed in the course Case studies of HISP in India and Mozambique: Process, Challenges, Implications -- Zubeeda Theorizing Information Infrastructure & Case Study Managing the Gradual Transition from Paper to Electronic Patient Record (Nina Boulous MSC. Thesis) --Zubeeda An Extended Ethnographic study of Electronic Health Record Prototyping: Methods, Theory & Interpretation -- Judith
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  • 52 What does it mean to be human? While the question may never be fully answered, the study of anthropology titled as "immense journey" by Loren Eiseley has attracted some of the world's greatest thinkers, whose discoveries forever changed our understanding of ourselves.

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