Answer and evaluate the three questions:
1. How do anthropologists define culture?
2. What position does anthropology take in the long standing intellectual debate between those who advocate “nature” as the primary source of human behaviour and those who argue that “nurture” is a more important influence on the way human beings conduct themselves?
3. Name an anthropologist who has a had a significant impact on the development of the discipline of anthropology and briefly outline his/her contribution to the subject?
– Talk about ethnocentrism
Anthropologists deal with the study of human, past, and present. They study culture and have a reliance on its concept by taking it as a preliminary point for comprehending the skill of being regardless of sub-discipline area. They describe culture in a different way from the common practice and have expanded its implication and applicability away from some simple term to a general hypothetical model. According to anthropologists, culture is a complex whole that includes knowledge, beliefs, morals and any other capability and habits attained by a man as an associate of community. To others, it is a gathering of social mores, beliefs, accomplishment, principles and establishment that tend to describe a group of populace and the way they live.
Most define it as the communal set of inherent and explicit principles, concepts and behavior rules that permit functioning of a communal group and bring about itself. Culture is comprehended as the lively and evolving generally constructed a reality that lives in the social group minds rather than merely the presence or absence of an individual attribute (Bodley, 2011). Anthropologist uses a qualitative approach to studying culture, and they emphasize on context and the way features of a given situation or setting affects upon the phenomena.
Culture is a multi-faceted concept which is complex and requires models of conceptual and methods of research so as to replicate this complexity and it concede the subsistence of multiple views and voices.
Anthropology on Nurture
The nature versus the nurture debate is about the relative influence of innate attributes of an individual as opposed to the environmental experiences one is brought up in distinguishing the differences in people in physical and behavioral traits. Recently, both factors have been recognized to be playing an interacting role in the development. Based on anthropologists they take a position in the nurture and to them there is nothing like human nature. “Human capacities are not genetically specified but emerge within processes of ontogenetic development. Moreover, the circumstances of development are continually shaped by human activity” (Gottliech, 2014). They firmly stand on the side of “nurture” and most experts agree that both nature and nurture influence the behavior of human. However, there is a consensus among the anthropologists who tend to say that patterns of human behavior are determined by environment reaction in which they live and thus nurture being the primary influence.
Though scientific research seems to disapprove anthropologists, Franz Boas who was a great anthropologist believes and convinces the world that the environment is the sole contributor to the behavior of humans. He claims that environmental factors are the real origin of actions. John Watson, a great psychologist, uses conditioning to stimulate a new behavior to kids or change unlikely behavior shown by the baby. He claimed that he could make any child anything regardless of their potentials or talents. All believe that nurturing has a significant in the behavior of individuals.
Anthropologists believe that genes do not directly interact with the human environment as well as the actions of a person. They believe that genes are important in regulating protein formation processes. “Genes are in a cell, in a context of other cells, in a structured tissue and in a person who interacts with other people and other organisms in the world” (Sarah, 2012). Genes also do not interrelate with culture and therefore anthropologists do not see the human nature influencing the behaviors of people.
When it comes to human being aggression, anthropologists believes that evolution did not shape us to be that way, but rather it formed us to be flexible, adaptive to various circumstances and risk violence. It is not the nature of human that makes them violent rather it is the exposure of a person to a certain environment. The social environment surrounding us is nurturing people to be more violent. For instance, if there are limiting necessary resources such as food and water, then the environment and the social drivers of violence may be more and become difficult for us to control.
Anthropologists argue that if the behaviors of human will be based on nature, then it will create a desire in man to exonerate himself of the blame for his conduct. For instance, predisposition for drinking or smoking is connected to genetics; then one won’t be blamed for his conduct. This is not by the anthropologist who claims that the way we nurture our children have a great impact on their practices. Nature argues that genes provide the basis for our behavior and these predispositions can remain untouched even when there is no environmental impact. They argue that without genes, one wouldn’t be able to adapt to situations or even enable the environment to affect him.
A known anthropologist
Franz Boaz is one of the great anthropologists who had a significant impact on the development of the anthropology discipline. He is both the originator of current anthropology and as a father of American Anthropology. He brought to the ground the methods of natural science and a belief that one can devise theories and conclusions after rigorous collection and assessment of hard facts. His significant contribution to the anthropology was his denial of race as a biological construct (Colon & Hobes, 2015). Anthropologists in the late 19th century used features of biology to justify the division of racial. However, Boas disagreed and consented that physical features are a result of evolution in individual’s surroundings and not on the human species. His idea opened up the possibility of social change permitting that every race was uniformly capable of development of culture.
He later created cultural relativism ideology based on equality of racial which stated that no culture could be labeled as better or worse. Cultural relativism is a system of rejection of ethnocentrism, especially when learning other societies and it tends to suspend value judgments so as to understand particular phenomena (Glazer, 2011). Boas believed that anthropologist should comprehend every culture via its lens and be judged according to its social standards. Moral relativism had less to do with the cultural relativism of Boas rather he held sturdy views on the morality of racism and rights of a human. His cultural relativism was an endeavor to apply objective of scientific to the study of the culture of a person.
Boas also contributed on anthropology by encouraging the four-field approach of anthropologist wanting a whole picture and not a holistic medicine when it comes to understanding what it means to be human.
Anthropologist defines culture based on some values and beliefs of groups of people. Though there is a continuous debate on what influences behavior, anthropologists firmly believe that the behavior of individuals gets usually influenced by the “nurture” and not nature.
Bodley, J.H., 2011. Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the global system. Rowman Altamira.
Colόn, G.A.T. and Hobbs, C.A., 2015. The Intertwining of Culture and Nature: Franz Boas, John Dewey, and Deweyan Strands of American Anthropology.Journal of the History of Ideas, 76(1), pp.139-162.
Glazer, M., 2011. Cultural Relativism. Available via www. up. edu/faculty/glazer/theory/cultural_relativism. HTML last accessed on 17th June.
Gottlieb, G., 2014. Synthesizing nature-nurture: Prenatal roots of instinctive behavior. Psychology Press.
Sarah Mae Sincero 2012. Nature and Nurture Debate. Retrieved Oct 14, 2016, from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/nature-vs-nurture-debate