Ruth Benedict | Anthropology Theory Project | …
Stocking, George W. “Matthew Arnold, E. B. Tylor, and the Uses of Invention.” Race, Culture and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology. New York: Free Press, 1968. 69-90. Print.
CRITICAL APPROACHES TO LITERATURE
Nevertheless, anthropologists differ greatly in how they might refine their own definition of the culture concept. Anthropologists also differ in how they approach the study of culture. Some anthropologists begin with the observation that since culture is an abstraction that exists only in the minds of people in a particular society, which we cannot directly observe, culture must be studied through human behavior, which we can observe. Such an approach is often termed an objective, empiricist, or scientific approach and sometimes called an etic perspective. By etic, anthropologists mean that our understanding of culture is based upon the perspective of the observer, not those who are actually being studied.
Cultural anthropology is the study of human patterns of thought and behavior, and how and why these patterns differ, in contemporary societies. Cultural anthropology is sometimes called social anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, or ethnology. Cultural anthropology also includes pursuits such as ethnography, ethnohistory, and cross-cultural research.
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Other anthropologists, while recognizing that culture is an abstraction and is difficult to measure, nevertheless hold that a worthy goal of anthropologists is to understand the structure of ideas and meanings as they exist in the minds of members of a particular culture. Such an approach is often labeled subjective, rationalist, or humanistic, and sometimes called an emic approach. By emic, anthropologists mean that the central goal of the anthropologist is to understand how culture is lived and experienced by its members.
Grid-group cultural theory: an introduction | SpringerLink
Although these two approaches have quite different emphases, cultural anthropologists have traditionally recognized the importance of both styles of investigation as critical to the study of culture, although most anthropologists work only within one style.
The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory
Franz Boas was responsible for moving anthropology away from a leisure pursuit to a full-time academic endeavor. A German immigrant to the United States, Boas was trained as a geographer, having written his dissertation about the color of seawater. In 1883, he traveled to Baffin Island, in the Eastern Canadian Arctic, to further these studies. Fortunately for anthropology, Boas found the local Eskimos much more interesting, and he subsequently shifted his studies to that of the customs of the Central Eskimo. His experience impressed upon him the importance of lengthy, highly detailed data collection in the field as critical to undertaking good ethnology, and he quickly realized how a limited understanding of another culture is begging the observer to misinterpret that data based on the observer’s inherent biases.
C P Snow’s epochal essay published online for the first time.
The symbolic and interpretive approaches have been criticized by other anthropologists for being more literary criticism than anthropology, which underscores a growing debate in the subdiscipline: Is cultural anthropology a science or a humanity? The issue is critical: Geertz and other interpretive anthropologists were criticized because their research was impossible to replicate, making it difficult to verify whether a subjective symbolic interpretation of cultural behavior is an accurate representation of reality as it exists on the ground.