Cultural Anthropology: What Has Shaped My Identity

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Cultural Anthropology: What Has Shaped My Identity



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Graduate Programs. Department of Anthropology Discover Your Focus. Martin-Hill received the prize in recognition of her commitment to improving water security for the people of the Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest Native reserve in Canada. As the University plans for select in-person opportunities in the Fall term, we want to provide you with information specific to the Faculty of Social Sciences and to courses in Anthropology. Read more about his road to convocation. The article is based on 94 phone and Zoom interviews in with long-term care staff and families of residents. Professor Emeritus Dr.

Richard Preston began research on the James Bay Cree in and is continuing to this day. His other work is on violence reduction and peace building, focussed on creating peace in families, communities, nations and the world - understanding peace in its broad context - a much more complex idea than just the absence of war. Learn about our Programs. For example, "36—29—38" in imperial units would mean a 36 in 91 cm bust, 29 in 74 cm waist and 38 in 97 cm hips. A woman's bust measure is a combination of her rib cage and breast size. For convenience, a woman's bra measurements are used. For example, though the measurements are not consistently applied, a woman with a bra size of 36B has a rib cage of 36 inches 91 cm in circumference and a bust measure of 38 inches 97 cm ; a woman with a bra size 34C has a rib cage of 34 inches 86 cm around, but a smaller bust measure of 37 inches 94 cm.

Height will also affect the appearance of the figure. A woman who is 36—24—36 91—61—91 cm at 5 ft 2 in 1. Since the taller woman's figure has greater distance between measuring points, she will likely appear thinner or less curvaceous than her shorter counterpart, again, even though they both have the same Bust-Waist-Hip BWH ratio. This is because the taller woman is actually thinner as expressed by her height to size ratio. The use of BWH measurements for anything other than garment fitting is thus misleading. BWH is an indicator of fat distribution, not fat percentage. According to Camille Paglia , the ideal body type as envisioned by members of society has changed throughout history.

She states that Stone Age Venus figurines show the earliest body type preference, dramatic steatopygia ; and that the emphasis on protruding belly, breasts, and buttocks is likely a result of both the aesthetic of being well fed and aesthetic of being fertile, traits that were more difficult to achieve at the time. In sculptures from Classical Greece and Ancient Rome the female bodies are more tubular and regularly proportioned. Moving forward there is more evidence that fashion somewhat dictated what people believed were the proper female body proportions. This is the case because the body is primarily seen through clothing, which always changes the way the underlying structures are conceived.

This is most easily visible in paintings of nudes from the time. When looking at clothed images, the belly is often visible through a mass of otherwise concealing, billowing, loose robes. Since the stomach was the only visible anatomical feature, it became exaggerated in nude depictions while the rest of the body remained minimal. Though the classical aesthetic was being revived and very closely studied, the art produced in the time period was influenced by both factors.

This resulted in a beauty standard that reconciled the two aesthetics by using classically proportioned figures who had non-classical amounts of flesh and soft, padded skin. In the nude paintings of the 17th century, such as those by Rubens , the naked women appear quite fat. Upon closer inspection however, most of the women have fairly normal statures, Rubens has simply painted their flesh with rolls and ripples that otherwise would not be there. This may be a reflection of the female style of the day : a long, cylindrical, gown with rippling satin accents, tailored over a figure in stays. Thus Rubens' women have a tubular body with rippling embellishments. It also lifted and separated the breasts as opposed to the 17th century corsets which compressed and minimized the breasts.

Consequently, depictions of nude women in the 18th century tend to have a very narrow waist and high, distinct breasts, almost as if they were wearing an invisible corset. The 19th century maintained the general figure of the 18th century. Examples can be seen in the works of many contemporary artists, both academic artists, such as Cabanel , Ingres , and Bouguereau , and Impressionists , such as Degas , Renoir , and Toulouse-Lautrec.

As the 20th century began, the rise of athletics resulted in a drastic slimming of the female figure. This culminated in the s flapper look, which has informed modern fashion ever since. The last years envelop the time period in which that overall body type has been seen as attractive, though there have been small changes within the period as well. The s was the time in which the overall silhouette of the ideal body slimmed down.

There was dramatic flattening of the entire body resulting in a more youthful aesthetic. From the s to that trend continued with the interesting twist of cone shaped breasts as a result of the popularity of the bullet bra. In the s , the invention of the miniskirt as well as the increased acceptability of pants for women, prompted the idealization of the long leg that has lasted to this day. In the past 20 years the average American bra size has increased from 34B to 34DD, [32] although this may be due to the increase in obesity within the United States in recent years.

Additionally, the ideal figure has favored an ever-lower waist-hip ratio , especially with the advent and progression of digital editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. Each society develops a general perception of what an ideal female body shape would be like. These ideals are generally reflected in the art and literature produced by or for a society, as well as in popular media such as films and magazines. The ideal or preferred female body size and shape has varied over time and continues to vary among cultures; [33] [34] but a preference for a small waist has remained fairly constant throughout history.

A low waist—hip ratio has also often been regarded as an indicator of attractiveness of a woman, but recent research suggests that attractiveness is more correlated to body mass index than waist—hip ratio, contrary to previous belief. Devendra Singh of the University of Texas, who studied the representations of women, historically found there was a trend for slightly overweight women in the 17th and 18th centuries, as typified by the paintings of Rubens , but that in general there has been a preference for a slimmer waist in Western culture. He notes that "The finding that the writers describe a small waist as beautiful suggests instead that this body part — a known marker of health and fertility — is a core feature of feminine beauty that transcends ethnic differences and cultures.

New research suggests that apple-shaped women have the highest risk of developing heart disease, while hourglass-shaped women have the lowest. This is because body fat buildup around the waist the apple shape poses a higher health risk than a fat buildup at the hips the pear shape. Compared to males, females generally have relatively narrow waists and large buttocks, [41] and this along with wide hips make for a wider hip section and a lower waist—hip ratio. Many studies indicate that WHR correlates with female fertility, leading some to speculate that its use as a sexual selection cue by men has an evolutionary basis.

That, in turn, may account for the cross-cultural variation observed in actual average waist-hip-ratios and culturally preferred waist-to-hip ratios for women. WHR has been found to be a more efficient predictor of mortality in older people than waist circumference or body mass index BMI. Over the past several hundred years, there has been a shift towards viewing the body as part of one's identity — not in a purely physical way, but as a means of deeper self-expression. David Gauntlett, in his book, recognizes the importance of malleability in physical identity, stating, "the body is the outer expression of our self, to be improved and worked upon".

During the s, the fashion model and celebrity were two separate entities, allowing the body image of the time to be shaped more by television and film rather than high fashion advertisements. While the fashion model of the s, such as Jean Patchett and Dovima , were very thin, the ideal image of beauty was still a larger one. As the fashion houses in the early s still catered to a specific, elite clientele, the image of the fashion model at that time was not as sought after or looked up to as was the image of the celebrity.

While the models that graced the covers of Vogue Magazine and Harper's Bazaar in the s were in line with the thin ideal of the day, the most prominent female icon was Marilyn Monroe. Monroe, who was more curvaceous, fell on the opposite end of the feminine ideal spectrum in comparison to high fashion models. Regardless of their sizes, however, both fashion of the time and depictions of Monroe emphasize a smaller waist and fuller bottom half.

The late s, however, brought about the rise of ready-to-wear fashion, which implemented a standardized sizing system for all mass-produced clothing. While fashion houses, such as Dior and Chanel , remained true to their couture, tailor-made garments, the rise of these rapidly-produced, standardized garments led to a shift in location from Europe to America as the epicenter of fashion. Along with that shift came the standardization of sizes, in which garments weren't made to fit the body anymore, but instead the body must be altered to fit the garment.

During the s, the popularity of the model Twiggy meant that women favoured a thinner body, with long, slender limbs. These shifts in what was seen to be the "fashionable body" at the time followed no logical pattern, and the changes occurred so quickly that one shape was never in vogue for more than a decade. As is the case with fashion itself in the post-modern world, the premise of the ever-evolving "ideal" shape relies on the fact that it will soon become obsolete, and thus must continue changing to prevent itself from becoming uninteresting.

An early example of the body used as an identity marker occurred in the Victorian era , when women wore corsets to help themselves attain the body they wished to possess. More recently, magazines and other popular media have been criticized for promoting an unrealistic trend of thinness. David Gauntlett states that the media's "repetitive celebration of a beauty 'ideal' which most women will not be able to match … will eat up readers' time and money—and perhaps good health—if they try". The importance of "the body as a work zone", as Myra MacDonald asserts, further perpetuates the link between fashion and identity, with the body being used as a means of creating a visible and unavoidable image for oneself.

A study at Brigham Young University using MRI technology suggested that women experience more anxiety about weight gain than do men, [70] while aggregated research has been used to claim that images of thin women in popular media may induce psychological stress. Various strategies are sometimes employed to temporarily or permanently alter the shape of a body.

The most common include dieting and exercise. At times artificial devices are used or surgery is employed. Falsies , breast prostheses or padded bras may be used to increase the apparent size of a woman's breasts , while minimiser bras may be used to reduce the apparent size. Breasts can be surgically enlarged using breast implants or reduced by the systematic removal of parts of the breasts. Hormonal breast enhancement may be another option. Historically, boned corsets have been used to reduce waist sizes. The corset reached its climax during the Victorian era. Where corsets are used for waist reduction, they may cause temporary reduction through occasional use or permanent reduction through constant and continuous use.

Those who use corsets for permanent reduction are often referred to as tightlacers. Liposuction and liposculpture are common surgical methods for reducing the waist line. Padded control briefs or hip and buttock padding may be used to increase the apparent size of hips and buttocks. Buttock augmentation surgery may be used to increase the size of hips and buttocks to make them look more rounded. Two social experiments were performed in , which provided information on a female's ideal body and argued that the ideal body is an unattainable social construct meant to keep women striving to please men's sexual desires. The first experiment, performed by researcher Lon Kilgore, involved measuring multiple people and comparing those measurements to Leonardo da Vinci 's representation of the ideal human body, The Vitruvian Man.

Kilgore used the conclusions of this experiment to prove that there is no such ideal body for females because the human body is ever changing to adapt to its environment. Critical writer Kovie Biakolo uses this to state that society has embedded into us this idea that the ideal woman looks a certain way. Created in , the Vitruvian Man is famously known to be the portrayal of the perfect human, depicting all the perfect proportions and measurements between limbs and features.

Because it is so perfect, comparing a person, male or female, to it has been "one of the most familiar and easiest methods of determining if an individual deviates from 'normal' anthropometry. Participant observation is also fraught with problems. Finding the balance between detached observation and engaged participation can be extremely difficult. How does one balance the two at the funeral of a person who is both key informant and friend, for example? For these reasons, the fieldwork experience is an intense rite of passage for anthropologists starting out in the discipline.

Not surprisingly, the intense nature of the fieldwork experience has generated a large literature about the nature of fieldwork itself. Part of the reason for lengthy fieldwork stays was due to a number of factors, including the difficulty of reaching a field site and the need to acquire competence in the local language. However, as it has become possible to travel to the remotest corners of the globe with relative ease, and as anthropologists pursue opportunities to study obscure languages increasingly taught in large universities, and as it is more difficult to secure research funding, field experiences have generally become shorter. A second research strategy that separates cultural anthropology from other disciplines is holism.

Holism is the search for systematic relationships between two or more phenomena. One of the advantages of lengthy periods of fieldwork and participant observation is that the anthropologist can begin to see interrelationships between different aspects of culture. One example might be the discovery of a relationship between ecological conditions, subsistence patterns, and social organization. The holistic approach allows for the documentation of systematic relationships between these variables, thus allowing for the eventual unraveling of the importance of various relationships within the system, and, ultimately, toward an understanding of general principles and the construction of theory.

In practical terms, holism also refers to a kind of multifaceted approach to the study of culture. Anthropologists working in a specific cultural setting typically acquire information about topics not necessarily of immediate importance, or even interest, for the research project at hand. Nevertheless, anthropologists, when describing the culture they are working with, will often include discussions of culture history, linguistics, political and economic systems, settlement patterns, and religious ideology. Just as anthropologists become proficient at balancing emic and etic approaches in their work, they also become experts about a particular theoretical problem, for which the culture provides a good testing ground, and they become experts about the cultural area, having been immersed in the politics, history, and social science of the region itself.

The earliest historical roots of cultural anthropology are in the writings of Herodotus fifth century BCE , Marco Polo c. More recent contributions come from writers of the French Enlightenment, such as eighteenth century French philosopher Charles Montesquieu His book, Spirit of the Laws, published in , discussed the temperament, appearance, and government of non-European people around the world. It explained differences in terms of the varying climates in which people lived. The mid- and late nineteenth century was an important time for science in general. The three men supported a concept of cultural evolution, or cumulative change in culture over time leading to improvement, as the explanation for cultural differences around the world. This distinction is maintained today in how many North American museums place European art and artifacts in mainstream art museums, while the art and artifacts of non-Western peoples are placed in museums of natural history.

The cultural evolutionists generated models of progressive stages for various aspects of culture. These models of cultural evolution were unilinear following one path , simplistic, often based on little evidence, and ethnocentric in that they always placed European culture at the apex. Influenced by Darwinian thinking, the three men believed that later forms of culture are inevitably superior and that early forms either evolve into later forms or else disappear.

On the basis of readings, the armchair anthropologist wrote books that compiled findings on particular topics, such as religion. Thus, they wrote about faraway cultures without the benefit of personal experience with the people living in those cultures. Morgan stands out, in his era, for diverging from the armchair approach. Morgan spent substantial amounts of time with the Iroquois people of central New York. He established a theoretical approach called functionalism, the view that a culture is similar to a biological organism wherein various parts work to support the operation and maintenance of the whole. In this view a kinship system or religious system contributes to the functioning of the whole culture of which it is a part.

Functionalism is linked to the concept of holism, the perspective that one must study all aspects of a culture in order to understand the whole culture. Born in Germany and educated in physics and geography, Boas came to the United States in Boas, in contrast to the cultural evolutionists, recognized the equal value of different cultures and said that no culture is superior to any other. He introduced the concept of cultural relativism: the view that each culture must be understood in terms of the values and ideas of that culture and must not be judged by the standards of another.

Boas promoted the detailed study of individual cultures within their own historical contexts, an approach called historical particularism. Boas contributed to the growth and professionalization of anthropology in North America. As a professor at Columbia University, he hired faculty and built the department. Boas trained many students who became prominent anthropologists, including Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. He founded several professional associations in cultural anthropology and archaeology. He supported the development of anthropology museums. Boas was involved in public advocacy and his socially progressive philosophy embroiled him in controversy.

He published articles in newspapers and popular magazines opposing the U. He and his research team measured height, weight, head size and other features of over 17, people and their children who had migrated to the United States. Results showed substantial differences in measurements between the older and younger generations. Both Mead and Benedict, along with several other U. Mead likewise, offered advice about the cultures of the South Pacific to the U. Along with these increases came more theoretical and topical diversity. Cultural ecology emerged during the s and s. Anthropologists working in this area developed theories to explain cultural similarity and variation based on environmental factors.

These anthopologists said that similar environments e. Because this approach sought to formulate cross-cultural predictions and generalizations, it stood in clear contrast to Boasian historical particularism. At the same time, French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss b. Structuralism is an analytical method based on the belief that the best way to learn about a culture is by analyzing its myths and stories to discover the themes, or basic units of meaning, embedded in them. The themes typically are binary opposites such as life and death, dark and light, male and female. In the view of French structuralism these oppositions constitute an unconsciously understood, underlying structure of the culture itself.

Levi-Strauss collected hundreds of myths from native peoples of South America as sources for learning about their cultures. He also used structural analysis in the interpretation of kinship systems and art forms such as the masks of Northwest Coast Indians. In the s and s French structuralism began to attract attention of anthropologists in the United States and has had a lasting influence on anthropologists of a more humanistic bent.

Descended loosely from these two contrasting theoretical perspectives—cultural ecology and French structuralism—are two important approaches in contemporary cultural anthropology. One approach, descended from cultural ecology, is cultural materialism. Cultural materialism, as defined by its leading theorist Marvin Harris , takes a Marxist-inspired position that understanding a culture should be pursued first by examining the material conditions in which people live: the natural environment and how people make a living within particular environments.

Harris demonstrates the many material benefits of cows, from their plowing roles to the use of their dried dung as cooking fuel and their utility as street-cleaning scavengers, underlay and are ideologically supported by the religious ban on cow slaughter and protection of even old and disabled cows. The second approach in cultural anthropology, descended from French structuralism and symbolic anthropology, is interpretive anthropology or intepretivism. This perspective, championed by Clifford Geertz , says that understanding culture is first and foremost about learning what people think about, their ideas, and the symbols and meanings important to them. Starting in the s, several additional theoretical perspectives and research domains emerged in cultural anthropology.

Feminist anthropology arose in reaction to the lack of anthropological research on female roles. In its formative stage, feminist anthropology focused on culturally embedded discrimination against women and girls. As feminist anthropology evolved, it looked at how attention to human agency and resistance within contexts of hierarchy and discrimination sheds light on complexity and change. Members of other minority groups voice parallel concerns. African American anthropologists have critiqued mainstream cultural anthropology as suffering from embedded racism in the topics it studies, how it is taught to students, and its exclusion of minorities from positions of power and influence.

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