How Ethnography Facilitates Cultural Sustainability

By Caroline Coary Taylor.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Teaching Anthropology is a primary form of applied anthropology. Historically, Anthropology has been defined as: ‘ology - study of’ and ‘anthro - man’. In the post-Feminist age this definition was glossed as ‘the study of human beings’. And today, in popular parlance anthropology is understood to be ‘the study of culture’. In studying Anthropology, university students learn about culture(s) by reading ethnography. As a text in tertiary classrooms ethnogaphy is a resource for teaching in that it is, for example, (i) a lens onto ‘other’ worlds, (ii) what counts as evidence for anthropological argument, and (iii) models the anthropologtist’s emic-etic fieldwork approach to explicating other people’s culture. This paper examines ethnography as a genre enabling Anthropology students to understand (i) large human and socio-cutural issues as these are illuminated in the minutiae of micro-level ethnographic detail, (ii) grasp the problematic of ethnocentric and Western-centric perspectives and thus counteract prejudicial misconceptions, and (iii) question the contemporary impact on cultural diversity of globalisation. Student evaluations of Anthropology courses taught at The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa - indicate a 100% commitment to cultural sensitivity as an educational consequence of taking courses about other Cultures. This paper traces the pedagogic process integral to teaching ethnography as a medium for facilitating cultural sustainability through promoting cross-cultural knowledge and understanding.

Keywords: Culture(s), Anthropological-Pedagogy, Ethnography, Cultural Knowledge and Understanding Cultural Sustainability

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp.43-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 595.548KB).

Caroline Coary Taylor

Deputy Head & Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Caroline Coary Taylor is Deputy Head of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Her research interests are Cognitive Anthropology, Anthropology and Education, and Ethnography as a psychological tool in teaching and learning anthropology.


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