K.Kosmider-Week 2- Systems of Difference

It astounds me that anthropologists used to think that they could study groups of people by reading things that others had written about them.  A thing cannot truly be understood until it is experienced.  Although Edward Taylor had, in fact visited another culture he still did not truly understand it.  He created the evolutionary line of the human race based on his current line of thinking that Europeans were superior and had topped the human evolutionary scale.  Though I would like to point out that this theory had nothing to do with finding shelter, the general culture of the people, or any other aspect of life than food and tools. The three stages of human development were what largely set different cultures apart in his view of the world.  The first stage were those people who really had not figured out ways, or kept ways that could allow them to live in one area for long periods of time.  The first and lowest category was that of Savagery.  Savagery was a stage in which people were hunter/gatherers constantly moving to find food.  If the group only feasted on vegetation then they were the bottom of the bottom.  This did not take into account important factors of the culture, or maybe the fact that this was much more feasible than trying to go after animals, nor the fact that maybe this group had some dietary restrictions or perhaps just did not believe in killing or domesticating animals.  The middle category of Savagery was the ability to fish and use fire.   Though it does take skill and knowledge to discover and use fire, it should not be something to mark a group of people’s progression by.   Sometimes it may be smarter to not use fire–for example in very hot or dry climates.  The top tier of savagery was whether the people used bows and arrows.  Again, taking culture or practical matters into consideration-this may not have been the best way for a culture to adapt to their environment or maybe it went against their moral code.

The second section was that of Barbarism.  This was all about being able to make a home in one place and not having to travel to get food, and the markings of agriculture.  The lowest tier was if they had pottery.  Some of the first modern humans made pottery which tells me that it is not something that specially marks a unique level of human evolution, though it does require a decent amount of know-how.  The next tier was that of domesticating animals.   This step does admittedly take a lot of work (speaking as a farmer’s daughter)  and does show some higher level thinking and lots of planning as well as a concept of time and future, however these are all qualities that are present in every human that does not have a severe mental impairment.  The last tier of Barbarism is that they made iron tools, which again, does show that the group has riddled out how to do so, and found the resources for it, but not stumbling across iron, and also not having an idea of turning it into something else  is something that many people could fall prey to, even in today’s society.

The last tier was all about reading and writing.  Again-not about shelter or any other aspect of human existence, but simply whether or not people had put something down on paper.  This trait alone does not speak for intelligence, or the ability to live successfully.  Instead, I think one should look to see how successfully a group is living to judge the quality of life.  But even if a group is doing poorly, it does not make them any different of a human than anyone else living on this planet.

One question I had was I wonder, with all of the research out there now, how people still don’t understand that race only goes skin deep.  You cannot look at a skeleton or other genetic markers and see clear racial lines across it.

My second question is how could people possibly think that race is a good enough indicator of a person’s behavior to think that they should die or receive different treatment because of it.

4 thoughts on “K.Kosmider-Week 2- Systems of Difference

  1. Referring to your first question, the term race is often perceived as a skin color and because of this a lot of people will not be able to see anything past that. What really needs to happen is for people to start looking specifically at cultures and ignore the skin color. In the Levi-Strauss article he says, “cultures are comparable to the irregular mixes of genetic traits that were formerly designated by the word ‘race'” (99). This is the root of most of the issues because instead of looking at their practices, all people were seeing was the skin color and then they would compare the two and assume that that skin color was the reason they were acting different. Due to this assumption, looking at your second question, people see the ethnicity of someone and assume they are apart of a culture that is completely different then their own and they are frightened or worried and they take these feeling and put them into hate.

  2. I also thought it was astounding that early anthropologists thought they could make real conclusions on others observations. As you said, you cannot understand something you have not experienced firsthand. Clearly, going off of others observations creates a potential for so much bias that you cannot simply use it as your only basis for making conclusions on another culture. I also thought the three stages of development that were used to categorize cultures was not an adequate method of comparing cultures. Simply going off of how they collect food and if they can read and write is not a good measurement of civilization. In regards to your first question, I think that people still use race to justify putting others down because over hundreds of years people were conditioned to think people who weren’t white Europeans were inferior, and those beliefs lasted for far too long. People used false science to justify those ideas and over time they were disproven but still people believe it because those ideas existed for so long.

  3. Like you stated first, anthropologists that relied on information on cultures from other people really limited the field of anthropology. But once anthropologists started traveling to the cultures they were studying, like Edward Tylor had, anthropology really took off, even if some were under the impression of superiority. It is true that evolutionary theory has nothing to do with culture, as it has a historical origin, such that there is a single correct path to take, and some societies followed while others did not (Levi-Strauss 89). This of course is false as “superiority” is not a correct way to compare groups of people. Although the Europeans weren’t the only ones to have a superiority complex, ancient Greek and Japanese commonly held this belief. To your second question, I agree, that race should not matter at all in deciding information about a person. But I believe that throughout time, people have learned to associate race with behavior which is never good for a society.

  4. This blog looks like a literature review in regards with the anthropologists on the basis of the literature from Edward Taylor and Barbarism, but added with the writer’s own opinions. The blog has made a comprehensive analysis of literature study, sums up and made the material more refined and at more logical levels. For example, the writer reviewed that even though Edward Taylor experienced another culture but still did not truly understand it, and mentioned that he created the evolutionary line of the human race based on his current line of thinking. When it comes to Barbarism, the writer analyzed logically with several tiers, which means the writer has thoroughly read the article combined his own critical thinking. However, it is advised to think about the topic based on the overall understanding of both articles from Edward Taylor and Barbarism and reference them as example to support the arguments. Besides, more materials related to the topic would be also highly appreciated.

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