Sunday, May 22, 2022

Cultural Anthropology 3: “Us” vs “Them” Distinctions 2:2

Hello everybody and welcome back to cultural anthropology so what we're going to do in this video is go a little deeper into one of the basic distinctions that all human societies make the us and them dichotomy and to do that we're going to focus on the aborigines the natives of australia and by doing so we're going to start dealing .

With some concepts that are going to come up again and again in these videos so there are over 100 of these population groups and while the majority live in australia they also live in the surrounding islands so as of right now in 2021 the experts have dna and archaeological evidence um strongly suggesting that humans first came to .

Australia at least 40 000 years ago but that stuff is always being tweaked it's always being pushed around as we make new discoveries so the dates aren't overly important except to say that human habitation has been continuous in australia for an extremely long time and probably what i just told you .

Next year or maybe in the next five years will be completely thrown out the window so defining aboriginal identity is to a degree actually fairly difficult the most basic way of doing this is by linguistics and there are at least 200 languages although some would place that number higher maybe around 350 .

Or maybe 400 depending on how language is defined but basically all of these linguistic groups share a mutually intelligible language and through that they share a common belief system the one system that is common to all of these aboriginal groups is this thing called the dreaming or the dream time however that's probably a mistranslation .

The aboriginal term um is something like algiera and although some have argued this represents some kind of conception of a primordial deity other anthropologists have done the same research and they said well no equating it to a god probably is a misconception that comes when christian missionaries arrive and they .

Attempt to convert the native populations what algeria probably more accurately refers to is this uh semi-mythical cultural memory of a period before time a time immemorial type of thing which imparts knowledge on how to properly live with nature with other humans etc now if that sounds like a really weak or a bad explanation .

There's a reason for that because it is a weak explanation in anthropology we have two main points of view we have the edict view which refers to the perspective on a culture that one has because they live in that culture and then we have the emic view which refers to the perspective on a culture .

That one has because you're actually living in it you're actually part of it you're born and raised now this gets connected um to language so once again you know anthropology is holistic so we're going from cultural anthropology to uh linguistic anthropology here it gets connected to this thing in linguistics called the superior warf .

Hypothesis which argues that how language is structured and what words we use okay it influences how we conceive of the world around us and oftentimes words have subtleties that are clearer to native speakers than they are to non-native speakers um and they carry connotations with it so for something like the altajira here it's difficult .

For people with the edict view to accurately fully comprehend it and likewise it's difficult for those with the emic view the aborigines to adequately explain it now if we keep breaking down how these societies are organized we get to political allegiance and political alliances which are structured through .

Kinship groups broadly organized into clans so a linked family of families which trace their origins to some ancestor and in the case of the aborigines as in many other cases especially with what we would consider to be like non-modern cultures non-modern cases which is a term which will come up again and again in these .

Videos the clans trace the origins to what are typically called in anthropology uh sacred or divine ancestors beings which are either human with some sort of power or semi-human or even animals like snakes like bears like wolves anything like that and .

In the case of the aborigines often times those sacred ancestors are represented in the clans as a totem and it's believed that not only does that sacred ancestor help protect the clan but that the animal in question if it's something that can be hunted something that can be taken down and eaten it can only be .

Hunted at certain times of the year and it must always be shown respect now caught up with this as well um is the sacredness of water amongst aborigines of all different clans so australia generally speaking uh is an arid continent accepting some regions which are plain to forests uh so aboriginal mythology is strongly associated with .

Wells watering holes rivers creeks and this actually bleeds into the native art of australia which influenced the western movement called pointillism symbolizes watering holes as concentric circles so not only do these pieces represent artistic expressions but oftentimes okay they .

Also function as maps so some groups actually place their totems in the water believing that this is where the totem spirit lives and once again you know we see the sacredness of water to these people now these water holes or wells or rivers whichever one it is these are central to conception of territory and each clan .

Has a foundation myth so here i'm using myth in the anthropological sense to signify a story that is sacred to a culture and not something that's not real in the sense that we kind of you know colloquially use the word myth so .

This tells us these myths tell us how each clan comes to be and how they came to be in possession of this particular or that particular piece of land and the interesting thing about this because all of these aboriginal clans have these sacred stories and the .

Sacredness of the land is somewhat held in common amongst all aboriginal groups although the groups might fight each other the aborigines don't really or didn't really seize territory from one another if one group was defeated because it was believed that that was their land so .

It's through all of these factors shared belief in common ancestors religious beliefs kinship structures like marriage patterns notions of friendship knowledge of water resources and the sacredness of certain animals that different clans are able to distinguish between each other and how they're able .

To know friend from enemy which brings us full circle back to the main point of this video distinguishing between the us versus them but given the correct circumstances these distinctions can either break down completely or they can be reworked into a greater units now .

How those cultural boundaries are altered is going to be the topic of the next video so guys as always thanks for watching take care i'll see you all next time you


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