The Difference Between Interpretive Anthropology And Structural Functionalism

762 Words Dec 7th, 2015 4 Pages
The Balinese cockfight is steeped in status rivalry and high stakes betting however it doesn’t have a real impact and leaves the Balinese cultural world unaltered. It is with this understanding of the Balinese cockfight which we use to understand and examine the difference between interpretive anthropology and structural functionalism. These two paradigms reflect different understandings of how to approach the cultural systems which anthropologists study. The structuralist paradigm in anthropology focuses on the idea that the structure of the human thought process is the same in all cultures. Not only are these processes present in the mental superstructure, but also they exist in the form of binary oppositions which include things like male-female, culture-nature, and raw-cooked. Structural functionalism seeks to understand the underlying meaning involved in human thought as expressed in cultural acts. We see this in the writings of Malinowski, Mauss and Evans-Pritchard. These anthropologists as well as others such as Martin, Ortner and Levi- Strauss have analyzed anthropology from a structuralist viewpoint. Structural functionalism can be better explained by contrasting it to interpretive anthropology. Interpretive anthropology (also known as symbolic anthropology) is the study of cultural symbols and how these symbol can be interpreted to better understand a particular society. Culture, as understood in interpretive anthropology, is what man has created and…

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