Sunday, May 22, 2022

Cultural Anthropology 2: “Us” vs “Them” distinctions, 1:2

Welcome back to cultural anthropology so let's talk about the us versus them distinction picking right up from where we left off in the last video so this appears to be a fairly common if not universal theme to human cultures and it probably is wrapped up not only in notions of group identity but also with the idea of .

Survival so we're going to get into human societal organization in a couple other videos but for now i think it would be useful to say that many of the various names that we have what we would understand in the modern day to be like you know tribes whether they're native american or otherwise and even historically tested groups which are no .

Longer in existence all of these names or most of them anyway just means something like them or the people or friends or allies or enemies if you were to literally translate what those words mean and literally understand the names of all of these groups like lakota for example as in the lakota sioux a native american .

Tribe just means something like friends in their language so the europea as another example just referred to themselves as the inupiat the people while those not of their group call them eskimo a descriptive term derived from some neighbors of the interpeat meaning those who eat it raw .

So they eat you know raw meat and a term which was adopted readily by newcomers to the inupiaq's native territory of alaska the tanique the other the white people in terms of group identity like this there are also usually strong associations usually religious and otherwise spiritual but not always .

Between the group of people being discussed and the land they occupy so for example people who live in agricultural societies and by the way before i keep going let me just get sidetracked for a minute because i do have a point here those of you watching this video are doing so through some sort of device a .

Laptop a phone a tablet etc we get these things through industrialized production so all of you watching this then by extension thus live in an industrialized world and one of the major criticisms of that world is that we've become disassociated from nature we've tamed it right we can cut down huge swaths of .

Forests whenever we need to we strip the earth of its metals and resources to fuel our economy in short nature is no longer terrifying it's subservient to us usually anyway we can't stop hurricanes but my point is that many of us are alienated from our food production and really from the earth outside of a .

Nice suburban pleasantry like your flower garden and if you live in a massive urban setting like new york city you're almost completely alienated from it and that is a valid criticism but in anthropology broad criticisms or generalizations like this often are problematic because even though we live in an industrialized .

Society we still have farmers we still have people who hunt um and even though we live in an industrialized society those of you watching this who do those things probably will have some idea of what i'm about to say next so in many mythologies and many folklores whether they are decentralized or .

Centralized enough that we can really call it a religion and that's a term we'll get into in later videos the earth and its contents are often associated with human life and human vitality and societies that are agriculturally based often ascribe deep feeling and deep power to the earth and sometimes it takes on the form of a .

Deity like a mother goddess mother earth and those who work the land because you're out there all the time working with it you typically feel a strong connection to it and the same thing applies to hunting and to hurting animals you might not love your flock as you love your dog or as you love your child .

But there is still a strong feeling that's often attested and if you go camping for an extended period and you really try to get back into nature you'll sometimes feel a sensation of inner peace or rejuvenation anthropologists really are not entirely sure what this is um but it's been attested enough that they do really .

Think something is there so human groups identify themselves with their surroundings often very strongly in somewhat spiritual terms we don't say things like this is my land where this is your land for nothing but animals also work too in this regard so for example in papua new guinea there's a ritual called the mocha exchange which .

We'll talk about in more detail in a different video it gets fairly complex but for the purposes of this intro the point is that members of tribes although sometimes these people are not explicitly members of those tribes called big men keep large groups of pigs so these pigs represent wealth and in .

The moca exchange people will give gifts to the big men and thus they put the big men into a form of social debt which they have to repay with their animals and then some extra that extra what we would even though this really is not like a perfect example what we would understand um in like modern western financial .

Institutions to basically like be interest that bit of extra is the moca and the more pigs you have the more powerful you are and the easier it is to build coalitions now we'll talk more about this when we cover different forms of economic systems specifically gift based economies but my point is that the .

Animal is crucial for the identity of the big man here it works the same way with nomads like with the uh narrower people of sudan for example they're dependent on their herds and in their society a man's status is known from the quality of his cattle and the amount he owed how big his flock is so all of this is about the notion of us but .

What about the notion of them the other well to put it simply it represents outsiders who may or may not represent a danger to the us group and with whom the us group may or may not have to compete for resources therefore survival comes into play and from this most basic distinction us versus them .

Comes many of the more interesting aspects of societal organization and politics like diplomacy now because i want to keep these videos short i'm going to close this one here and when we pick back up we'll get more into a specific example the aborigines of australia so like always guys thank you for watching take care .

And i'll see you all next time


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