A. Bortle- Week 2- Systems of Difference

People like to create boundaries, it’s in our nature. We construct things that we are “not,” such as differences with language and dress which we can use to identify as a group. And people like to project our ideas on others creating fractal divisions. If we see one difference we will assume there are other differences. Cultures all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Chinese cast out members that did not participate in the common culture established.
While there are many differences between different groups of people, some are real differences while others are a social construct. Since the 16th century with colonial encounters, there has been a creation of difference using a religious ideological stance. These missionaries and travelers thought that there was a social chain with God at the top, angels next, man, then beast and plants. If a society they encountered did not fit into their linear chain of man then they must be beast. Religion played a large part in what anthropologists thought of a group. Bronislaw Malinowski and others assumed that religion was a precursor to science. This was later seen to be completely false. Religious belief does not lead into scientific thoughts and advancements. It is not a precursor, science and religion coexist to make a balanced system.
A linear progression model was common with many anthropologists. Lewis Henry Morgan studied the Iroquois and had while he had respect for them he thought of them as different from Anglo Americans. He developed a framework with three stages of human development and equated cultural practices with levels on an evolutionary scale. The stages were savagery, barbarism, and civilization. The main feature of the civilized stage being that the group had an alphabet and writing. Edward Taylor also believed in a similar progression. That everyone was evolving to be like white Europeans and he felt the some could adapt still while others would be crushed because they didn’t have the tools to survive. The way of European life seemed to be thought of as a goal for some anthropologists as they measured how civilized a group was by how far away from our advancements they were.
A few anthropologists tried to explain the economic and technological difference between societies using an evolutionary theory. They thought that the gap would never be attainable with the reasoning that different groups differed in genetic inheritance and that this genetic inheritance had an impact on morals and intellectual capacity. Anthropologists have long argued against this, knowing that the evolution of the human species is not a product of biological evolution. However, they have found that differences can be explained by biological evolution being affected by human evolution such as geography. If a culture exists in a certain region long enough variations can occur with random mutations, natural selection, and genetic drift causing a group to have darker skin in an area with more sun or a higher heat or cold tolerance. As history has shown, societies have liked to categorize people based on skin tone and ignore other features such as body type that were equally caused by chance and random mutations/natural selection.
In the U.S., there is an emphasis on “blood” lineage to try and restrict certain populations. There is a rule of hypo-descent, where mixed children get assigned to a subordinate group, as well as dilution of blood, the idea that Native American blood becomes diluted as generations pass and a person will lose their identity of being part of that culture. Brazil also has racial categories, all of which restrict certain populations.
There are always going to be differences in people, cultures, and beliefs. Difference is good. The human race is multicultural and is part of the human condition. Our focus should be on collaborating while keeping the differences.
In U.S. history we are taught that Japan was a feudal system and that they were in isolation for more than a century. The articles state that this is false information, Japan was an industrial nation trading with China and there social system was not like Europe’s feudal system. Why is this false information typically taught in our society?
Why is race such a big separation factor when other factors are equally as noticeable and just as likely to have occurred in natural evolution?

One thought on “A. Bortle- Week 2- Systems of Difference

  1. There are so many systematic factors playing a role in society today, that I know are way more important than race, so when I think about why that is the case… I become confused. Because why is something so simple as the color of someone’s skin dictated by so many people. Race is such a big separation factor because its unconsciously observed. As people we naturally believe what we see and hear until proven otherwise and there are so many stereotypes and images associated with difference races that we want to believe whatever we perceive. I strongly am convinced that media is partially responsible for how we portray one another. From the reality television shows to the celebrities we watch and listen to. You never know who your audience is and what’s being viewed at home about a group of people is considered reality. The generation we live today is all about entertainment.

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