In the 19th century, anthropology also attained clear identity as a discipline.
Symbolic anthropology studies the way people understand their surroundings, as well as the actions and utterances of the other members of their society. These interpretations form a shared cultural system of meaning--i.
Symbolic anthropology studies symbols and the processes,such as myth and ritual, by which humans assign meanings to these symbols to address fundamental questions about human social life Spencer According to Geertz, man is in need of symbolic "sources of illumination" to orient himself with respect to the system of meaning that is any particular culture a: Turner states that symbols initiate social action and are "determinable influences inclining persons and groups to action" Symbolic anthropology views culture as an independent system of meaning deciphered by interpreting key symbols and rituals Spencer There are two major premises governing symbolic anthropology.
The first is that "beliefs, however unintelligible, become comprehensible when understood as part of a cultural system of meaning" Des Chene The second major premise is that actions are guided by interpretation, allowing symbolism to aid in interpreting ideal as well as material activities.
Geertz presents interpretive anthropology as a possible response to the positivism of anthropology. In this volume Geertz proposes the term “thick description” and presents the essay on the Balinese cockfight. Geertz argument suggest that interpretive anthropology is a science. One would agree with Geertz point of view and dispute that the analysis interactive, human phenomena can provide the basis for understanding and problem solving and this anthropology's role as a research is in development. Clifford Geertz has focused more on the symbolic power of religion. He has talked about the fact that it is the symbolic power of religion that has a strong influence on the people. It is the religion, in accordance to Clifford that helps the people in understanding the place that the people have in the world.
Traditionally, symbolic anthropology has focused on religion, cosmology, ritual activity, and expressive customs such as mythology and the performing arts Des Chene Symbolic anthropologists have also study other forms of social organization such as kinship and political organization. Studying these types of social forms allows researchers to study the role of symbols in the everyday life of a group of people Des Chene Symbolic anthropology can be divided into two major approaches.
David Schneider was also a major figure in the development of symbolic anthropology, however he does not fall entirely within either of the above schools of thought. Interestingly, however,Turner, Geertz, and Schneider were all at the University of Chicago briefly in the s. The major difference between the two schools lies in their respective influences.
This group links medical anthropology, science and technology studies, postcolonial anthropology, disability studies, critical development and humanitarianism studies, psychological and psychoanalytic anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. Symbolic/Interpretive Anthropology is? Symbolic and interpretive approaches defines culture as a network of symbols with “webs of meaning” to be understood through interpretive analysis – as . Anthropologists employ a humanistic-interpretive approach in many circumstances. James Peacock uses another type of analogy to discuss the difference between the scientific and the humanistic-interpretive approaches in anthropology ().
Geertz was influenced largely by the sociologist Max Weber, and was concerned with the operations of "culture" rather than the ways in which symbols operate in the social process.
Turner, influenced by Emile Durkheim, was concerned with the operations of "society" and the ways in which symbols operate within it. Turner, reflecting his English roots, was much more interested in investigating whether symbols actually functioned within the social process the way symbolic anthropologists believed they did.
Geertz focused much more on the ways in which symbols operate within culture, like how individuals "see, feel, and think about the world" Ortner Structuralists also saw actions as being separate from the actors, whereassymbolic anthropologists believed in "actor-centric" actions Ortner Further, structuralism utilized symbols only with respect to their place in the "system" and not as an integral part of understanding the system Prattis This split between the idealism of the symbolic anthropologists and the materialism of the structuralists dominated the s into the s.
Symbolic anthropology was also a reaction against materialism and Marxism.
Materialists define culture in terms of observable behavior patternswhere technoenvironmental factors are primary and causal" Langness Symbolic anthropologists, instead, view culture in terms of symbols and mental terms. The primary reaction against Marxism was its basis on historically specific Western assumptions about material and economic needs which cannot be properly applied to non-Western societies Sahlins ; see also discussion in Spencer Clifford Geertz studied at Harvard University in the s.
He was strongly influenced by the writings of philosophers such as Langer, Ryle, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Ricouer, as well as by Weber, adopting various aspects of their thinking as key elements in his interpretive anthropology Handler ; Tongsthe results of which can be found in his compilation of essays entitled "The Interpretation of Cultures" c.
He believed that an analysis of culture should "not [be] an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning" Geertz d: He defined culture as "an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and their attitudes toward life" Geertz e: Societies use these symbols to express their "worldview, value-orientation, ethos, [and other aspects of their culture]" Ortner Throughout his writings, Geertz characterized culture as a social phenomenonand a shared system of intersubjective symbols and meanings Parker Victor Witter Turner was the major figure in the other branch of symbolic anthropology.
Born in Scotland, Turner was influenced early on by the structional-functionalist approach of British social anthropology Turner Turner was not interested in symbols as vehicles of "culture" as Geertz was but instead investigated symbols as "operators in the social process" Ortner Symbols "instigate social action" and exert "determinable influences inclining persons and groups to action" Turner David Schneider was another important figure in the "Chicago school" of symbolic anthropology.
Schneider defined culture as a system of symbols and meanings Keesing According to Schneider A category can be made for an observable act, or can be created through inference. Therefore, things that cannot be seen, such as spirits, can embody a cultural category Keesing Schneider was interested in the connections between the cultural symbols and observable events and strove to identify the symbols and meanings that governed the rules of a society Keesing Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology is the study of symbols in their social and cultural context, which was brought about in the s and progressed through the s.
These symbols are generally publically shared and recognized by many and could be words, customs, or rituals. Three main influences led to this shift: One was the morphing of symbolic anthropology into interpretive anthropology under the influence of Clifford Geertz, who distanced himself from science and likened anthropology to literary criticism.
Anthropologists employ a humanistic-interpretive approach in many circumstances. James Peacock uses another type of analogy to discuss the difference between the scientific and the humanistic-interpretive approaches in anthropology ().
Geertz's position illustrates the interpretive approach to symbolic anthropology, while Turner's illustrates the symbolic approach. Symbolic anthropology views culture as an independent system of meaning deciphered by interpreting key symbols and rituals (Spencer ).
Anthropology: Anthropology, ‘the science of humanity,’ which studies human beings in aspects ranging from the biology and evolutionary history of Homo sapiens to the features of society and culture that decisively distinguish humans from other animal species.
Learn more about the history and branches of anthropology in this article. Geertz presents interpretive anthropology as a possible response to the positivism of anthropology. In this volume Geertz proposes the term “thick description” and presents the essay on the Balinese cockfight.