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Introduction to Anthropology

15.2 Putting Culture into Media Studies

Introduction to Anthropology15.2 Putting Culture into Media Studies

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Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. 1 What Is Anthropology?
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 The Study of Humanity, or "Anthropology Is Vast"
    3. 1.2 The Four-Field Approach: Four Approaches within the Guiding Narrative
    4. 1.3 Overcoming Ethnocentrism
    5. 1.4 Western Bias in Our Assumptions about Humanity
    6. 1.5 Holism, Anthropology’s Distinctive Approach
    7. 1.6 Cross-Cultural Comparison and Cultural Relativism
    8. 1.7 Reaching for an Insider’s Point of View
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Bibliography
  3. 2 Methods: Cultural and Archaeological
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 Archaeological Research Methods
    3. 2.2 Conservation and Naturalism
    4. 2.3 Ethnography and Ethnology
    5. 2.4 Participant Observation and Interviewing
    6. 2.5 Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis
    7. 2.6 Collections
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Bibliography
  4. 3 Culture Concept Theory: Theories of Cultural Change
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 The Homeyness of Culture
    3. 3.2 The Winkiness of Culture
    4. 3.3 The Elements of Culture
    5. 3.4 The Aggregates of Culture
    6. 3.5 Modes of Cultural Analysis
    7. 3.6 The Paradoxes of Culture
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Bibliography
  5. 4 Biological Evolution and Early Human Evidence
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 What Is Biological Anthropology?
    3. 4.2 What’s in a Name? The Science of Taxonomy
    4. 4.3 It’s All in the Genes! The Foundation of Evolution
    5. 4.4 Evolution in Action: Past and Present
    6. 4.5 What Is a Primate?
    7. 4.6 Origin of and Classification of Primates
    8. 4.7 Our Ancient Past: The Earliest Hominins
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Bibliography
  6. 5 The Genus Homo and the Emergence of Us
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Defining the Genus Homo
    3. 5.2 Tools and Brains: Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, and Homo erectus
    4. 5.3 The Emergence of Us: The Archaic Homo
    5. 5.4 Tracking Genomes: Our Human Story Unfolds
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  7. 6 Language and Communication
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 The Emergence and Development of Language
    3. 6.2 Language and the Mind
    4. 6.3 Language, Community, and Culture
    5. 6.4 Performativity and Ritual
    6. 6.5 Language and Power
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Bibliography
  8. 7 Work, Life, and Value: Economic Anthropology
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 Economies: Two Ways to Study Them
    3. 7.2 Modes of Subsistence
    4. 7.3 Gathering and Hunting
    5. 7.4 Pastoralism
    6. 7.5 Plant Cultivation: Horticulture and Agriculture
    7. 7.6 Exchange, Value, and Consumption
    8. 7.7 Industrialism and Postmodernity
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Bibliography
  9. 8 Authority, Decisions, and Power: Political Anthropology
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 Colonialism and the Categorization of Political Systems
    3. 8.2 Acephalous Societies: Bands and Tribes
    4. 8.3 Centralized Societies: Chiefdoms and States
    5. 8.4 Modern Nation-States
    6. 8.5 Resistance, Revolution, and Social Movements
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Bibliography
  10. 9 Social Inequalities
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 Theories of Inequity and Inequality
    3. 9.2 Systems of Inequality
    4. 9.3 Intersections of Inequality
    5. 9.4 Studying In: Addressing Inequities within Anthropology
    6. Key Terms
    7. Critical Thinking Questions
    8. Bibliography
  11. 10 The Global Impact of Human Migration
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 Peopling of the World
    3. 10.2 Early Global Movements and Cultural Hybridity
    4. 10.3 Peasantry and Urbanization
    5. 10.4 Inequality along the Margins
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  12. 11 Forming Family through Kinship
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 What Is Kinship?
    3. 11.2 Defining Family and Household
    4. 11.3 Reckoning Kinship across Cultures
    5. 11.4 Marriage and Families across Cultures
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  13. 12 Gender and Sexuality
    1. Introduction
    2. 12.1 Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Anthropology
    3. 12.2 Performing Gender Categories
    4. 12.3 The Power of Gender: Patriarchy and Matriarchy
    5. 12.4 Sexuality and Queer Anthropology
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  14. 13 Religion and Culture
    1. Introduction
    2. 13.1 What Is Religion?
    3. 13.2 Symbolic and Sacred Space
    4. 13.3 Myth and Religious Doctrine
    5. 13.4 Rituals of Transition and Conformity
    6. 13.5 Other Forms of Religious Practice
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Bibliography
  15. 14 Anthropology of Food
    1. Introduction
    2. 14.1 Food as a Material Artifact
    3. 14.2 A Biocultural Approach to Food
    4. 14.3 Food and Cultural Identity
    5. 14.4 The Globalization of Food
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  16. 15 Anthropology of Media
    1. Introduction
    2. 15.1 Putting the Mass into Media
    3. 15.2 Putting Culture into Media Studies
    4. 15.3 Visual Anthropology and Ethnographic Film
    5. 15.4 Photography, Representation, and Memory
    6. 15.5 News Media, the Public Sphere, and Nationalism
    7. 15.6 Community, Development, and Broadcast Media
    8. 15.7 Broadcasting Modernity and National Identity
    9. 15.8 Digital Media, New Socialities
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary
    12. Critical Thinking Questions
    13. Bibliography
  17. 16 Art, Music, and Sport
    1. Introduction
    2. 16.1 Anthropology of the Arts
    3. 16.2 Anthropology of Music
    4. 16.3 An Anthropological View of Sport throughout Time
    5. 16.4 Anthropology, Representation, and Performance
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  18. 17 Medical Anthropology
    1. Introduction
    2. 17.1 What Is Medical Anthropology?
    3. 17.2 Ethnomedicine
    4. 17.3 Theories and Methods
    5. 17.4 Applied Medical Anthropology
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  19. 18 Human-Animal Relationship
    1. Introduction
    2. 18.1 Humans and Animals
    3. 18.2 Animals and Subsistence
    4. 18.3 Symbolism and Meaning of Animals
    5. 18.4 Pet-Keeping
    6. 18.5 Animal Industries and the Animal Trade
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Bibliography
  20. 19 Indigenous Anthropology
    1. Introduction
    2. 19.1 Indigenous Peoples
    3. 19.2 Colonization and Anthropology
    4. 19.3 Indigenous Agency and Rights
    5. 19.4 Applied and Public Anthropology and Indigenous Peoples
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  21. 20 Anthropology on the Ground
    1. Introduction
    2. 20.1 Our Challenging World Today
    3. 20.2 Why Anthropology Matters
    4. 20.3 What Anthropologists Can Do
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary
    7. Critical Thinking Questions
    8. Bibliography
  22. Index

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe how an anthropologist might use participant observation to study media.
  • Explain the relationship between modernity and media.
  • Give an example illustrating the complex relationship between media and culture.
  • Define the concept of cosmopolitanism.

In this section, the author of this chapter, Jennifer Hasty, describes her own experience using participant observation.

In the early 1990s, I went to the West African county of Ghana to study media and politics. I was specifically interested in the role of newspapers in the great wave of democratization across many African countries in that decade (Hasty 2005). Because I had some undergraduate training in journalism, I decided to volunteer as an intern at several newspapers and learn how news is produced in Ghana. I wound up working as a journalist for five different news organizations in the Ghanaian capital city of Accra over a period of several years. Through these experiences, I learned a great deal about how culture and history shape local news production, texts, and reception.

When people outside of anthropology ask me about my fieldwork, I tell them (maybe too much) about working as a journalist in Ghana. They often respond with a perplexed look, saying, “Wait, I thought you said you were an anthropologist.” When most people think about anthropological fieldwork, they think of quaint villages and rural locations, seemingly disconnected from the rest of the world. When they think of the topics anthropologists typically pursue, they think of religious rituals, political pageantry, complex kinship systems, and folk arts. That is, they think of the realm of “tradition.”

In fact, the contexts in which anthropologists work are not cut off from the rest of the world at all—and they never have been. People all over the world, in both rural and urban communities, are hooked up to global flows of information, images, ideas, commodities, and people. Newspapers, photography, radio, television, and the Internet are woven into daily life nearly everywhere one might go in the world.

Recall the discussions of modernity in previous chapters. Historically speaking, modernity is the whole way of life associated with industrial and postindustrial societies—that is to say, the institutions and features of modernity emerged alongside industrialization and mass production. However, the features of modernity have spread across the globe to societies that are not primarily industrial or postindustrial. Features of modernity such as mass media, wage labor, and the nation-state shape the everyday lives of people in primarily agrarian, pastoral societies and gatherer-hunter societies. Anthropologists have abandoned the idea that some people live traditional lifestyles while others live modern ones. Rather, all people are modern in distinctive ways, shaped by local historical and cultural forces.

Since the early 1990s, anthropologists have been increasingly interested in the various forms of modernity that have emerged in non-European and non-American contexts. As a key tool of modernity, mass media have become the object of growing fascination in anthropology over the last three decades. My own first fieldwork was part of an early wave of media studies in anthropology, culminating in the establishment of an entire subdiscipline, media anthropology (Spitulnik 1993; Askew and Wilk 2002; Ginsburg, Abu-Lughod, and Larkin 2002).

By examining the use of media in contemporary sociocultural life, media anthropologists have learned that nearly all forms of culture are shaped by various genres of media. People take photographs and videos to commemorate cultural events and share their memories with others. They report on cultural topics in print media, radio, and television and discuss those issues on talk shows and social media. In fact, it’s fair to say that mass media have become primary tools for defining, reinforcing, and reproducing local cultures. Rather than being opposed to tradition, mass media are key instruments for preserving and transmitting traditional cultures as well as modernity.

A few months ago, a Ghanaian journalist friend of mine, George Sydney Abugri, emailed me to ask if I could help him self-publish several books on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Now retired, Abugri wanted to share his essays, poetry, and memoirs with Ghanaians, journalists, and scholars all over the world. In order to publish on KDP, you need a bank account from the United States or another “approved” country, and Ghana was not on that list. After a bit of textual wrangling, I was able to set up an account for him and get his books online so that he could find his global audience.

Anthropologists have a term for the kind of worldly orientation evident in Abugri’s desire to speak to a global audience about global issues: cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitanism refers to a type of worldly knowledge and sophistication. Contemporary anthropologists, working in rural, village, and urban contexts, find that people in all settings have remarkable awareness of current world issues such as climate change, the Arab Spring, and the Me Too movement. One of Abugri’s poems describes an incident on the German airline Lufthansa in which a White flight attendant claimed she could not understand Abugri’s request for a glass of water. Cosmopolitan writers such as Abugri link their personal experiences to global issues such as race, environmentalism, and gender equality. Global issues and modern media forms are tightly integrated in the lives of both rural and urban peoples in cultures all over the world.

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