World view world View: The mental and emotional structure about Life and the Universe that provides a internal coherence about existence "Meanings" a group's philosophy of life a separate reality

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Barger, A104: World View, Page


Dr. Ken Barger

IUPUI, Anthropology

© 2003
A104 Cultural Anthropology

Class Notes on
1. World View
World View: The mental and emotional structure about Life and the Universe that provides a internal coherence about existence

A group's philosophy of life - a separate reality (Don Juan)

Cultures are?
The basis of ethnocentrism
2. Cognition
How people think about Life and the Universe
Views of Life and the Universe involve two levels:

! Categories of life experience

Groupings and subgroupings of phenomena

And contrasts with other goupings

! Meanings of categories

Humor and insults are often built on miscategorizing

Language is often an excellent way to learn such conceptions
a. Ideology
Ideology: Beliefs about Life and the Universe

What a group thinks life is like

Perceptions imposed on "reality"
Ideology includes:

! Cosmology - ideas about origin, structure, and destiny of Univ.

Includes perceived categories and assumed meanings

! Knowledge - information considered "factual"

! Logic - analysis of how things in life are related/cause-effects

Given world view/ideology

re "Intelligence"

Part of the basis of ethnocentrism: "Ignorant", "irrational"

b. Perceptions
Perception: mental organization of life experience

Cultures literally see life differently

Perceptual styles:

Analytical to global - imbedded figures test, etc.

Describe room in 3-5 words

Temne/Eskimo/Europeans, M/F

How people perceive life tells us how they experience life

Often reflected in language - ethnolinguistics

Cognitive styles reflect a separate reality

3. Values
Values: Ideas about the desirability of things

How things "should" be

Includes "norms" (re Social Control)
Kinds of Values:

• Apply to settings

• Apply to people
Value systems

Values form an integrated hierarchy of ideals

Values do not stand alone - operate in conjunction with each other

But responsibility to the group can be a higher value

Relationship between values and expressed behavior:

Values are not always compatible with actual behavior

The "ideal" does not always occur in the "real"

The range of human behavior includes brutality, genocide, etc.

Ideas about the relationship between values and expressed behavior

" Values predominate

But values can also be products of actions

" Interactive

Cognitive dissonance: values conform to actual behavior

Relative deprivation: an increase in ideal-real gap stimulates drastic reorganization of realities towards achieving a new ideal

Revolutionary movements often occur when reform movements are blocked

Value conflicts can sometimes be a major force in motivating behavior and social change

4. Religion

a. Religion
Religion: A system of beliefs and activities involving people's relationship with the supernatural
A universal in all human cultures

A basic part of the human experience

Culture is an ?

Cultures are ?

Indicates something unique about human nature

Complexity of abstract awareness

Religion usually involves core meanings about Life and the Universe

Also reflects important patterns of psychological character

Have been the focus of much Anthropological inquiry
b. The Supernatural
Supernatural: The spiritual realm beyond human existence that is thought to control the natural world
"super"natural - above/beyond the natural realm, but seen as influencing daily natural events in people's lives

Can be concurrent and/or separate

What is considered the "natural" may vary

NOTE: Cannot prove or disprove the supernatural

By definition, not subject to Natural Laws... and therefore scientific proof
Concepts of the supernatural include:

(1) Spiritual power - an intangible supernatural force/energy

A universal concept that underlies all religious beliefs and practices - with variations

"Animatism" - "mana", "manitou"/"wakan"/"medicine"

Is usually amoral - can be used for good/evil

Spiritual power exists on own or as a part of phenomena

Can be invested in supernatural beings and objects

Can be innate or acquired

Growth with person

(2) Spiritual beings - beings with distinct character and/or powers

Different kinds of spiritual beings - gods, spirits, ghosts

Spiritual beings are usually seen as anthropopsyhcic

Perceived as having human-like personalities, feelings, etc.

Studies indicate characters of beings much like cultural character

Dealings with the supernatural varies with cultural character

Supplications - asking/begging for consideration from "unworthy"

Bargaining - vows, sacrifices

Appeasement - offerings

(3) Soul - the life/character essence of a person

Ideas about the soul can vary

Generally have some supernatural power - freed from mortal constraints

Usual infers ideas about an afterlife - domain of the deads' souls

c. Myth
Myths: sacred stories that explain events and phenomena
Emphasize symbolic meanings at common level

Generally validate a moral/norm - positive and negative

All groups have such myths
d. Magic
Magic: Acts to control of the supernatural for natural ends

For positive and negative ends

Concept of spiritual power
Some distinguish between "magic" and "religion"

We will consider magic as a part of religion

(1) Types of magic:

How is supernatural power transferred to affect the natural

! Contagious: transmission of power effects through physical contact

! Imitative: mechanistic reproduction of forces in universe

Spiritually acting out compels nature to follow suit

! Sympathetic: symbolic direction of an individual's power to certain effects

Person's power so strong that can have impact by "wishing" or "willing"

May be purposeful or not

All may be involved in particular rituals
(2) Uses of magic
! Divination: acquisition of knowledge through supernatural means

Knowing the unknown - past, future, events in another location

! Health and fortune: enhance individual/group health and well-being

Prevention - protect from illness/harm

Curing - restoration of health/well-being

! Witchcraft: supernatural infliction of harm

Witching (my term): Exercise of personal power for harm

"Witchcraft" proper

Sympathetic magic - often unintentional

Sorcery: A deliberate act of malevolent magic

" Meanings: What accept as "factual" or "truth" - can be very logical

" Functions: Witchcraft is associated with an opportunity for social control

Witchcraft accusations may also be a sign of social distress

Belief in supernatural magic can have very powerful impacts

Indicates that our biological medical models need development

e. Ritual
Ritual (rite, ceremony): organized religious activity

Involves significant symbols and activities for group commitment

Primary purpose to commune with and influence the supernatural
Types of rituals:

! Rites of Passage: celebrate stages in individual's life



Transition - instruction/reflection on new place in society


! Cyclic rites: celebrate important events in group's existence

Regular cycle of rituals - each with significance

! Rites of Intensification: reinforcement of social identity/values

Rituals recall, restate, and sanctify group norms

Strengthen identity, illustrate norms, sanction disruptions

! Rites of Reversal: emphasis of ideal by contrast with temporary [controlled] abnormal/deviant behavior

Focuses on attention on opposites, but as "undesirable"

Some overlaps

Other special rites occur irregularly as needed
f. Organization of Religious Practices
(1) Religious Specialists

Religious specialists exist in every society

Act as intermediaries between group and the supernatural

Guide religious ideas/experience and conduct rituals

Types of religious practitioners:

! Shaman: ability based on individual spiritual power ("medicine man")

Powers often derived from special spirit protectors

Usually a part-time specialist

! Priest: ability based on expert knowledge of sacred materials

Exact enactment of codicils compels nature to respond

Usually a full-time and professional religious specialist

(2) Levels of Religious Organization

! Individual: Personal but socially patterned activities

! Communal: Organized group religious activities

Occasional or cyclic rites, usually led by a religious leader

! Ecclesiastical: Socially institutionalized religious organizations

Social institutions based on organized membership, clergy, and cyclic rituals

Sometimes may be the predominant political institution as well - Vatican state, Tibet, Pharonic Egypt

5. Psychological Orientations
a. Ethnic Character
"Culture and personality" an early focus in cross-cultural studies

Attempts to explain broad range of human behavior

Heavily psychoanalytic - intuitive inferences (pros and cons as an approach)
Ethnic Character: The core behaviors shared by members of an ethnic group

Configuration of covert psychological processes and manifest behavior

Can see variations within pluralistic societies

Similar behavioral styles across social boundaries

Different ways of experiencing life

Are clearly patterns within groups

Social surveys based on 1,000 - can indicate the range of behavior

Have to be careful about stereotypes (ethnocentrism - simplification)

Individual variations exist within ethnic range


b. Socialization

Socialization: The whole process by which an individual develops socially patterned behavior

How people learn their cultures has been much studied in Anthropology

Efforts to explain the wide variations in human behavior (Mead)


re "socializing"

Goal: To prepare the individual to be a functional member of the group

Internalized - so functional behavior comes from within (re Social Control)

The process of socialization involves two major factors:

! The individual's character

Biological constitution, primary needs, learned needs

People come to the socialization process with a large capacity - a large "blank check"

Humans are adapted for ?

! The individual's total environment

Physical - climate, home size/shape, etc.

Sociocultural - views about ideal behavior, roles, norms, beliefs

Individual experiences - birth order, accidents, etc.

re Adaptation - nature and nuturance

Children are active partners in this process

Many techniques of child rearing

Positive and negative reinforcement

Minimally, socialization involves imitation and experience

Message: Adult models and "lessons" of life

Standards of norms and values - internalize
Socialization implies parenting

Interest in the child's physical/emotional development varies

Care-givers (socialization agents) can also vary widely

Universally includes the mother - but can also include elder siblings, aunts/cousins, and others

The more care-givers the more constant and responsive the care
Play is also a universal in the development of functional behavior

Important in physical and social skills, roles, values

Also in other primates and mammals

See Text
Schooling - formal education is a more recent development in human history


Meanings ?

Functions ?

See Text

c. Mental Health

Psychopathology another major focus in Anthropology

Attempt to explain human nature from abnormal

Another premise in psychoanalytic models
As "normal" varies along ethnic lines, "abnormal" varies from the ethnic "normal"

What can be "normal" in one group can be "abnormal" in another

Each culture has its own set of problems

Differences in levels of stresses minimal

Except in cases of unusual changes - wars, ecological collapse and disasters, etc.

Each culture also provides most members with means for coping with its stresses

Culturally patterned ways of psychopathology

Different cultures have different stresses and expressions

Basis is ethnic character patterns

"Abnormal" varies from "normal"

Probably some universals

re interactive model of adaptation

Universal agreements?

Presumably a point where any "normal" person can break
Psychotherapy has also been a strong interest

Both individual and society are responsible for disorders

Goal: To effectively reintegrate individual into group

Treatments contrast widely


Are basic psychic process the same or different?

Cross-cultural validity of diagnostic categories/standards?
d. Aesthetics and Arts
We do not have time to discuss all aspects of culture

! Visual artistic styles

! Music - melody vs. harmony

! Drama - plays on social themes and issues

Usually not art for art's sake
See Text for discussions

6. Functions of World View

World View involves the basic meanings in cultural experience (and ethnocentrism)
In looking at others' ways, we often do not think to ask about functions

Types of functions?

Like other aspects of culture, world view helps people adapt to life challenges

What are some of the important functions of World View:
Biological ?
Ecological ?
Economic ?
Social ?
Psychological ?
Every culture faces the adaptive challenges of motivating and directing life experience

For the individual

For the group

Views and emotions are structured to provide for a meaningful life experience

As integrated with other aspects of culture

The whole system is adaptive

SUMMARY of World View
World view






Value system

Value conflicts



Impacts on daily existence




Types ?



Organization of Religious Practices

Psychological Orientations

Ethnic character

Mental health

"Abnormal" varies from "normal"

Aesthetics and arts

Functions of World View
Culture is an ?

Adapt by ?

There is a tremendous range for being human - potentials great

The cultural context selects and molds certain behaviors

From among all those possible

Many valid ways of being human

Awareness of others can help us better understand ourselves

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