Anti-Structure: Alternative patterns of social relationships, symbols and cultural matrixes which are derived from and, to some extent, dependant on the cultural mainstream for legitimacy and psycho-cultural impact.
Anthropology of Experience: A model of anthropological analysis developed by Victor Turner which attempts to examine the emotive and cultural impact of rituals, social dramas, cultural artefacts and social structure so as to gain a deeper understanding of the experience of the members of a society rather than an analytical interpretation which looks primarily at the structural, economic and hierarchical aspects of a society.
Arenas: A term used by Anthropologist Victor Turner to describe the places where social dramas occur. They are the places in which alternatives patterns of relationships, social values, ideals and social structure are implemented in a community.
Cathartic Experience: An emotionally, and often spiritually, overwhelming experience of purification and change which is often both life changing and socially transforming.
Collateral Kin: From Lateral meaning to the side. Collateral kin are the brother’s sisters and their descendants and ancestors.
Commodification: Derived predominantly from the work of anthropologist Dick Hebdige, this describes process by which a culture’s symbols, artefacts and identity is absorbed and reconstructed by the process of market exchange and popularisation. It is typically used to analyse the changes wrought by the introduction of market exchange, popularisation and loss of control experienced by indigenous communities and sub-cultures when their forms of cultural expression are adopted by mainstream western culture as a fashion.
Communitas: A sense of spontaneous sociability, love for each other, a sense of solidarity and equality and heightened emotional, cathartic or spiritual experience. Typically it originates in liminal or liminoid situations outside the normal day to day life of social interaction whereby people are free to socially and culturally express themselves outside of the normal constraints of social structure. Victor Turner writes of communitas that,
“People have a real need to doff the masks, cloaks and apparel and insignia of status from time to time even if only to don the liberating masks of a liminal masquerade.”
Cross Cousins: Your Mother’s brother’s children or your father’s sister’s children. The distinction between cross and parallel cousins is often an extremely important one in traditional societies. See also parallel cousins.
Culture: In anthropology culture is used very broadly to refer to all aspects of social life, identity and expression which is learnt through social interaction with other members of the community and then passed on to future generations.
Cultural Artefacts: These are the forms of cultural and artistic expression of a community and the members who participate within it.
Cyclical or Calendrical Rites: Those rituals which mark changes in the flow of daily life marked by regular changes in the year. Most commonly these rites are held annually and mark changes in the yearly cycle of economic, cultural and social activity of a community.
Emic: Insider’s or native’s perspective on culture and their interpretation or reasons behind their behaviour, rituals and activities. ie. what do things mean to a member of a society from their own experience and point of view. (opposite to Etic) An anthropologist should attempt to take both the etic and emic perspective into account in their analysis of a society.
Erfahrung: The passive and literal observation of facts and events as a source of knowledge. Derived from the philosopher Dilthey and is used by anthropologist Victor Turner as a means of evaluating different kinds of knowledge that can be obtained by both a researcher and a member of a community. (see Erlebnis)
Ergotropic: A sense of heightened emotion, activity and increased self awareness. It is commonly associated with profound life changing experience, meditation and some forms of narcotics.
Erlebnis: The fact of being consciously the subject of a state or condition or of being consciously and emotively affected by an event. This describes the awareness one has of witnessing an event and being aware of how it affects oneself emotively, intellectually and spiritually and the significance of an event for those it effects. Derived from the philosopher Dilthey and is used by anthropologist Victor Turner as a means of evaluating different kinds of knowledge that can be obtained by both a researcher and a member of a community. (see Erfahrung)
Etic: Outsider’s perspective on a community’s culture and their interpretation of custom, behaviour and belief. It is also often used to refer to what things mean from an external analytical, anthropological perspective. (opposite to Emic) An anthropologist should attempt to take both the etic and emic perspective into account in their analysis of a society.
Functionalism: This approach to the social sciences looks at society and community as if they are biological organisms of interconnected interdependent parts which function as a whole to fulfil their physical and social needs and keep the social structure of the community together. In anthropology its major proponents have been Bronislaw Malinowski and A.R Radcliffe Brown of the structural functionalist school. Essentially functionalists argue that individuals have physiological needs and that social institutions develop to meet these needs. There are also culturally derived needs and four basic "instrumental needs" (economics, social control, education, and political organization), that require institutional devices. Each institution has personnel, a charter, a set of norms or rules, activities, material apparatus (technology), and a function. Thus for functionalists the key to understanding a society or a community is to find the central function played by any given social activity, ritual or social interaction in terms of its ability to fulfil the physical, social, political or educational necessity.
Hermeneutic: This term describes the interpretive process by which a person attempts to interpret and find meaning. In an anthropological sense it refers to the idea that one is engaged in an interpretive enterprise to find meaning and significance in the rituals, social interaction and activities of a community.
Identity: In terms of anthropology this refers to the way in which people construct who they are and how they see themselves within the community and social structure in which they live.
Interstitial: Breaks in the ordinary social structure and day-to-day life of a community or society. It typically refers to places which are outside of the normal patterns which are shaped and defined by social interaction, hierarchy and social values. It can also refer to those times in which the normal structure of a society breaks down and alternative patterns of social interaction, values and identity are allowed to break forth such as liminal or Liminoid areas, social dramas in periods of communitas.
Kinship: This describes the process by social relationships derived from real and supposed blood and familial ties lead people to identify with each other and who is perceived to be part of that family or community grouping. It also defines the hierarchical and social structural relations between members of that community and a person’s cultural identity and social status within that community. In anthropology it is typically analysed and presented through a kinship diagram. Hyperlink here which tracks out the names relationships between individuals within an extended family grouping.
Lineal kin: The direct line of ancestors or descendants of a particular individual.
Life Crisis Rituals: Rituals used to mark major rites of passage in human social and biological development such as birth, marriage, puberty, coming of age or death.
Liminoid: Isolated expressions of liminality that occur in large scale events where norms can be relaxed, such as carnivals, sports events, theatre, music festivals etc and are consumed by individuals as a matter of individual choice. Typically the liminoid is perceived to be a product of contemporary consumer culture and its influence on cultural development. Because it occurs outside the normal social structure of mainstream social land cultural life and is not part of an integrated transitional phase, as in liminality, the liminoid is often associated with major social disruption and the creation of new forms of socio-cultural expression and values. Typically liminoid space is often linked to feelings of communitas.
Liminal: Derived from the Latin word for threshold (limin) liminal space refers to the period in which a person or community is between two distinct phases of life. eg. a honeymoon is a liminal period between a person’s ending their life as a single person and rejoining it in their new role as a married couple. A liminal period is typically marked by a person being introduced to and coming to terms with their new responsibilities and social roles. It is also often identified as a period of freedom in which the normal rules of society no longer apply whilst in this transitional phase. Unlike liminoid space the liminal typically reaffirms the social order through its marking and coming to terms with new phases of life and social activity. Liminal space is always marked by the pre-liminal and post-liminal phases which mark the break and reintegration of the old and new social structures. See also pre-liminal and post-liminal.
Moral Panic: This describes the process by which a group of individuals are labelled collectively as “deviant” or a threat to the established social and moral order by established figures of cultural and social authority, they are then presented in a hyperbolic and stereotypical fashion by the media and the group is then marginalised and persecuted by government, press and the general public. Typically an event will be attributed collective to an entire group of people, characteristics linked with hyperbolic representations of that event will be associated to the group labelled as deviant and public outcry and media representation (usually based on anecdotal and hyperbolic reporting) will enable government and other institutions of authority to crack down on the group collectively as part of their perceived identity as deviant, dangerous or disruptive.
Parallel Cousins: A person’s mother’s sister’s children or their father’s brother’s children. The distinction between cross and parallel cousins is often an extremely important one in traditional societies. See also cross cousins.
Participatory Observation: The primary method of research utilised by an anthropologist. It is a research strategy which aims to gain a close and intimate familiarity with a given area of study (such as a tribal society, immigrant community or sub-culture) through an intensive involvement with people in their natural environment. Participant observation requires an anthropologist spend time with a community learning and experiencing their aspects of life within the community attempting gain an emic perspective of their behaviour, social interaction, symbols and rituals. Observation consists of taking field notes on the participants, the setting, the purpose, the social behaviour, and the frequency and duration of phenomena and rituals engaged in by members of the community. Other sources of data may include archival records, private records, anecdotes, symbolic analysis and historical research. There are several levels of participatory observation ranging from passive whereby the research is almost entirely through observation with little interaction with members of the society under scrutiny, to partial whereby many activities are shared with a community but a certain objective distance is maintained between the researcher and the community to full participatory observation whereby the researcher attempts to completely become integrated with the community under study. One critical issue to take into consideration here is the extent to which an anthropologist can lose their objectivity through becoming to deeply enmeshed in a community and the extent to which intervention by an anthropologist to a community can be both damaging to a society or can lead to corrupted research and analysis.
|Level of participatory Observation||Example|
|Passive||Observer||An anthropologist observes social interaction through operating a video camera placed on the street.|
|Observer as participant||An anthropologist watches a festival or ritual by siting and taking notes.|
|Moderate||Participant observer||An anthropologist visits and participates at alternative festivals in an attempt to gain an understanding of a community.|
|Participant as observer||An anthropologist lives with a community watching and observing their behaviour and daily life as a partial participant.|
|High||Participant actor observer||An anthropologist fully lives and participates as an actor and member of a society taking full part in ritual, social and economic life.|
Pre-liminal: The marking of social or cultural transition. The pre-liminal is the stage which marks the break and end of the old order and status before the individual or group come to terms with the new phase during the liminal period. It is typically a time for reflection upon the old social order before coming to terms with the new. A pre-liminal ritual for example could be a high school valedictory dinner in which a person’s previous status of a student is reflected up before they leave and need to come to terms with their new status as adults. See also liminal and post-liminal.
Post-liminal: This marks the end of the liminal phase and the reintegration of the people involved to their new social roles and identity. An example of a post-liminal ritual could be a homecoming party of a newly married couple designed to welcome them back to mainstream society in their new role as a married couple rather than two individual single people.
Reciprocity: The patterns of economic exchange and gift giving within a community. This can range from simple purchases and monetary exchange at a market or shop to that of Christmas and birthday gifts. It also includes favours and informal exchange such as helping out with work around the house, loaning items to friends or sharing food. The nature of our economic exchange and the kinds of gifts and assistance people share with one another is one of the most important and significant aspects of research for an anthropologist and holds a wealth of information regarding people’s relationships and social roles within a community. A key researcher into the social meaning of reciprocity is Marcel Mauss. See also Total Prestation.
Rites of Passage: Theorised in depth by the anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep, these are the rituals people engage in to mark changes of status, time and geographical space. Typically rites of passage mark significant events in people’s development (such as the transition to adult hood), major events in the passage of time (such as a millennial celebration or a harvest ritual) or when a new geographical area has been entered into or left (such as a sacred building, a person’s home, the border of another community or country’s space. Almost invariably a rite of passage will follow the three phases of pre-liminal, liminal and post-liminal phases.
Social Dramas: Used by anthropologist Victor Turner to describe the conflicts and processes of social interaction created by the attempt to implement alternative patterns of social interaction between both individuals and across a community.
Social Fields: These are the spaces where alternative patterns of relationships, social values and ideals are developed within a society. Victor Turner describes social fields as abstract cultural domains where paradigms for social interaction, values and symbolic representations are formulated, established and come into conflict with existing social and symbolic structures.
Structural Functionalism: An approach to anthropology which looked to find the underlying political and economic structure of a society to see how it functioned as an integrated whole to meet that society’s physical needs. This approach to anthropology deliberately eschews the individual and the emotive as a means of finding out the underlying mechanisms by which a society holds together, maintains social control and obtains the resources the society needs to survive. See functionalism.
Subculture: A group of people within a society who can be differentiated as a separate sub-category of a society and who also share networks of communication, identify with each other as sharing a common ideology/aesthetic/ethos and are identified as having a collective identity by mainstream society.
Subsociety: a group of people with shared characteristics that warrant research as a distinct sub-category of society.
Symbolic or Cultural Anthropology: An approach to anthropology which focuses of the meaning of rituals, aesthetics and activities in terms of its symbolic and historical meaning to those participating within that community. Clifford Geertz and Victor Turner are particularly prominent anthropologists who advocate symbolic anthropology. This approach integrates archaeology, folklore, mythological studies, linguistics and related fields to focus on the question of meaning and experience on behalf of those people within a society.
Thick Description: Developed by anthropologist Clifford Geertz as an alternative method for analysing rituals, social behaviour and symbols to that utilised by structural functionalists thick description attempts to unearth all the layers of meaning and social significance of social interaction, symbols and rituals in order to weave a wholistic understanding of what various aspects of society mean to those who participate within it. It is a method of analysis borrowed from literary criticism. One of the most pertinent examples used by Clifford Geertz as an example of thick description is his analysis of a wink in which a simple deliberate twitching of a muscle can have vast array of meanings and indicate a wide variety of social relationships depending on context, background relationship between individuals, personal history and analysis which coalesce to form a integrated network of communication and interpretation.
Total Prestation: This refers
to situations in which a gift exchanged or shared is much more significant than
its economic value. For example the gift of an engagement ring is much more
socially significant than its economic value and its refusal means a rejection
or restatement of social relationship. Similarly, a gift commonly refers to
a statement of connection or relationship to a person and thus its quality and
acceptance can mean much more than economic exchange. See Mauss.