Archive for November 19th, 2010
Following this week’s session on the blogs, I think I probably need to focus more on the discipline, rather than the issue whilst summarising my reading. I have continued reading through Small Places, Large Issues to help further my understanding of Anthropology, although the chapters I am covering now are all relevant to my chosen issue of Identity.
The book describes a slight change in Anthropological research in recent times, with the majority of material collected in the past coming from in-depth ethnographical studies of local communities. However it has become common now that additional sources other than fieldwork now contribute to the research, including historical sources and the media. The main focus of the study remains on the “interrelationships between different aspects of social and symbolic systems through participant observation”, although there has been a movement away from the traditional focus on isolated villages in remote parts of the world. Local communities are said to have traditionally been the focus of studies due to them being “methodologically manageable units”, where participant observation is easy, and the anthropologist can become familiar with each individual and their relationships with each other. However, there is an increase in focus on larger social systems with unclear boundaries, but the techniques and theories used to study these are generally similar, supplemented by more methods other than participant observation.
My last post covered a section of the book focusing on people as individuals and their statuses and roles within particular contexts. My latest reading has covered the social life from the perspective of society. Socialisation – “the process whereby one becomes a fully competent member of society” is something that seems interesting, with many anthropological studies showing that child-raising is linked to the shaping of behaviour and thoughts in a society’s members. The concept of Anomie (Durkheim) where one becomes alienated by an inability to match the values of society has been shown to exist in many societies, even where the society is tightly integrated. Anthropological studies can also examine the traditions associated with how one’s identity changes over time, with members of a society transitioning from one stage of their life to the next through a rite of passage. The book suggest that the question of whether we are ‘the same person’ throughout our lives is a philosophical issue, with anthropology seeming to suggest that this is not so. It will be interesting to see the psychological perspective on this issue.