Anthro 33: Culture 
and Communication



Study Questions for Winter 2007 Lectures

[last updated March 1, 2007]

Theory and theoretical attitude

  1. What is a theory according to Hawking?
  2. What are the main properties of theories according to Hawking?
  3. What is a model? What are the examples provided in lecture?
  4. What is a theoretical attitude?
  5. How can the observation of ordinary actions like a girl opening a door illustrate the 'theoretical attitude'?
  6. What did we learn from looking at the brief exchange between Hillary Clinton and Walter Capps (and members of his family) during the 1995-96 political campaign for the US Congress?
  7. Why is it important to look both at what participants do with language and what they do with other types of communicative resources?
  8. Why is it important both what people do and what people do NOT do?
  9. How can ethnography help us widen the range of questions we can ask and answer in examining human interactions?
  10. What can we learn from trying to write down what people have said in a given encounter?

Theory, data, methods

  1. Describe the differences among the following ways of doing analysis in anthropology: 1. the descriptive+inductive, 2. the critical, 3. the deductive, and 4. The critical-theoretical.
  2. What is a common confusion about theory?
  3. What is the difference between "our" theory and "their" theory?
  4. Can you think of examples to support the claim that theory, methods and data are interdependent?
  5. What does it mean to look at culture in terms of "knowledge" vs. in terms of "praxis"?
  6. What did we learn about ethnography, participant observation, and culture from observing the interaction inside a Samoan house (fale) where a meeting (fono) was about to start?
  7. How did the transcript help us understand what was going on or at least to come up with some hypotheses about what the people were doing?
  8. What does it mean to say that in doing ethnography we are trying to understand what "people are up to?"

Fieldwork and participant observation

  1. How is fieldwork related to the history of anthropology?
  2. Do anthropologists still do fieldwork? Has fieldwork changed over time? How?
  3. What is the goal of fieldwork?
  4. What is the "Familiar-Strange Dichotomy" and what role does it play in ethnographic work?
  5. What is the participant-observer's paradox?
  6. What is the etic/emic dichotomy about? Can you find some examples from class discussion?
  7. Why does fieldwork always involve ethical issues?
  8. What are some of the anthropological methods illustrated in lectures?
  9. What did we learn from looking at the brief exchange between Hillary Clinton and Walter Capps (and members of his family)?
  10. Why is it important to look both at what participants do with language and what they do with other types of communicative resources?
  11. Why is it important both what people do and what people do NOT do?
  12. How does ethnography inform our understanding of a given situation, event, type of participation?
  13. What are binary oppositions and how are they used in Fonarow's book?

The study of conversational interactions

  1. Define the differences among Chomsky's formal linguistics (e.g. Generative Grammar), Hymes' ethnographic approach and conversation analysis in terms of their respective "object of study."
  2. How did the discussion of the rehearsal of the song Mood Indigo help us clarify what conversational interaction accomplishes?
  3. How can we use the concept of participation to distinguish among the different speakers in the rehearsal video?
  4. What is an adjacency pair? Provide some examples from the transcripts found in the handouts.
  5. Why did some students felt that the video of the interaction and the transcript provided evidence of a hierarchical relationship among the participants?

Verbal art and performance

  1. What did we learn from examining the different versions of Barbara Morrison's story about Louis Armstrong (starting with the "story", then enlarging its textual context and then watching the video, including the part where the question that prompts the story can be heard)?
  2. What did we learn about verbal art from the text of MLK, Jr's "I have a dream" speech?
  3. What else did we learn about verbal art from the same text in its audio-visual version?
  4. What do the two different transcripts of the same speech reveal?

Baby Talk

  1. What is the definition of Baby Talk given by Ferguson?
  2. What are some of the features of Baby Talk identified by Ferguson?
  3. What are the functions of Baby Talk according to Ferguson?
  4. What is a Simplified Register according to Ferguson?
  5. What is different between the study of baby talk by Ferguson and the study of baby talk by Ochs and Schieffelin?

Languages in contact

  1. What are the three situations that may arise when speakers of different languages come in contact?
  2. Provide a definition of code switching.
  3. What is "conversational code switching"?
  4. Can we distinguish between code switching and borrowing and, if so, how?
  5. Provide some examples of code switching.
  6. Provide some examples of borrowings.
  7. What do all borrowings have in common?
  8. Provide a definition and one example of syntactic convergence.
  9. What is the difference between "early" borrowings from English in Samoan and the more recent borrowings?

Misunderstanding and Crosstalk

  1. What is "crosstalk"?
  2. Can you give some examples of "crosstalk" from the BBC program shown in lecture? (The Office of Instructional Development owns a copy and should be available for those who missed it)
  3. Provide a definition and some examples of contextualization cues and distinguish between different types (e.g. linguistic vs. paralinguistic types).

Narrative in Everyday Life

  1. What are the four types of narrative analysis mentioned in lecture?
  2. What is Labov's definition of 'narrative'?)
  3. What is the difference between stories of personal experience and report.
  4. Can you distinguish among the following narrative roles: (i) elicitor, (ii) initial teller, (iii) co-teller, (iv) primary recipient, (v) problematizer, and (vi) problematizee?
  5. For more study questions on narrative, see the study questions for the Companion



  1. What is anthropological about the approach to art presented in lectures?
  2. What does it mean to look at art as transformation and art as connection?
  3. How was the Guatelli Museum used to discuss art as transformation?
  4. What is an example of art as transformation upon transformation?
  5. Are there some universals of artistic activities and art products?
  6. How do the recordings made by Steven Feld in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea, among Kaluli people, help us understand the relationship between noise, sound, and music?
  7. How was the Kaluli story of the muni bird used to talk about the meaning of stories?
  8. What were the different versions of the same song played during lecture meant to demonstrate? How can make sense of their differences? Are there any key concepts from the readings that can help us?
  9. What is the relationship between The Dreaming and Australian Aboriginal paintings?
  10. What does it mean to say that for the Australian aborigines the landscape is a sign system?
  11. What did you learn from the video of the interview with Prof. Fred Myers on Australian aboriginal paintings? Video and transcript of interview with Fred Myers
  12. What do the Samoan mats teach us about artistic production?
  13. How can the notion of indexicality help us understand some of the properties of aboriginal paintings?
  14. How was Samoan oratory used to discuss verbal art as performance? More specifically, what did the video of Samoan orators delivering speeches demonstrate about art in context?

Study Questions for Interview with Prof. Fred Myers (NYU, Anthropology) on Pintupi Art.

  1. What did you learn from the interview with Prof. Fred Myers (NYU)about what the paintings represent?
  2. What did you learn from the discussion of the poisonous snake Dreaming?
  3. What did have to say about changes brought about in Australian Aboriginal art by the art market?
  4. When do people start to paint and under which circumstances?
  5. In what sense does Myers say that interpretation of the painting was not an indigenous problem?
  6. What did you learn about the role of art in ceremonies and about socialization to art?
  7. Myers makes a difference between the painting as a product and painting as a process. What does that tell you about art from an anthropological perspective?
  8. From a methodological point of view, how would characterize the style of Duranti's interviewing?