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Idealists vs. materialists

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  1. Introduction
  2. The theme of knowledge
  3. The theoretical perspective known as symbolic/interpretivist anthropology
  4. How conflicts developed work themselves out
  5. Considering cultural materialism
  6. To cultural materialist science
  7. Conclusion

The 1960's were a productive era for developing contemporary anthropological theories. Several theorists emerged following the original Boasian framework and developed ethno science and cognitive paradigms. Around the same time theorists interested in exploring systems of meaning and significance developed a cultural constructionist/interpretive paradigm. Developing in complete opposition was the cultural materialist paradigm that focused mainly on the causes and similarities between cultures related to their environments and socio-cultural systems. Finally, postmodernist theories developed doing away with western knowledge and the basic definitions of anthropology, as we know it.

[...] People formulate their realities this way and create norms. It is not the whether the realities that these people hold stand up to the scientific Western knowledge, ?that which is thought to be real, is treated as real? (307). This idea is revisited later of in my paper when looking at the postmodernist perspective regarding Western science and knowledge. One of the main points is that there are multiple in societies and it is the people of that culture that make those ?truths.? There is not a specific founder of the symbolic/inteprevitist approach, but there are major players. [...]


[...] First is that all knowledge is socially and culturally constructed and that no system of knowledge can claim truth or superior as a generator of truth because each system of knowledge is different. Second is that there is as much true of Western knowledge as there is anywhere else. Postmodernists believe that Western knowledge is not superior. The third theme is that all forms of knowledge can be hegemonic, or used to support oppression. The fourth theme states that science is subject to the same critiques as other parts of the culture and that it is also socially constructed and has a history. [...]


[...] This is in stark contrast to the materialist perspective that looks at material causality and how the world is based on the physical not the mental. When considering cultural materialism, we need to consider Marvin Harris as one of the leading developers because he coined the term. Cultural materialism, according to the text is an explicitly scientific and deliberately practical research strategy for discovering the causes of similarities and differences in socio-cultural form (335). Harris strongly believes in the outsider's point of view, the etic and the material. [...]

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