Ethnosociology

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Ethnosociology is a term that has been used by Pierre Bourdieu[1], Anthony Giddens[2], and others as an [Anthropological] "approach to social dynamics over time, including cultural products which are the vectors of these dynamics and the meanings which the actors ascribed thereto."[3] Ethnosociology can be defined more generally as the study of social dynamics over time, including cultural products and meanings, the social networks that transmit meanings, actions, resources, and impacts on the formation of groups, institutions, and social change, and many other aspects. Clearly, the study of practice is important to this conception, and a strategic focus on disputation enables an enlarged conception of ethnosociology to include the approaches of the Manchester school of anthropology initiated by Max Gluckman. The combined focus on meanings, networks, practice, and disputation lend themselves to greater ethnographic realism and help to constitute methodologies for discerning cultural patterns, conflicts, and change.

McKim Marriott's[4] view of ethnosociology, less successful because it imagined a sociology within indigenous categories, and lacking concepts of personal agency, nonetheless contains some critical insights.

Footnotes

  1. Pierre Bourdieu [1] is credited with forging "an engaged ethnosociology..., alive to the complexity of the real and resistant to theoretical simplification.... [that] led him to erase the established intellectual division of labor between sociology, ethnology, and [regional] studies."
  2. Anthony Giddens [2] has stimulated "use of the term «ethnosociology» ... as a manner of giving form to [a] dual hermeneutics.... Taking as a point of departure the appraisal made by Anthony Giddens regarding the truths and errors of ethnomethodology, some of the ideas that the theory of structuration poses in respect of the role played by the knowledge that individuals share about social reality shall be stated."
  3. The Royal Museum for Central Africa defines Ethnosociology and Ethnohistory [3] as one of four sections of Cultural Anthropology. The GESIS Service Agency Eastern Europe, which transfers library listings between Eastern and Western Europe lists Ethnosociology on a par with Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology.
  4. McKim Marriott's [4] ethnosociology (1990. "Constructing an Indian Ethnosociology." In McKim Marriott, ed., India through Hindu Categories , pp. 1-39. New Delhi: Sage Publications) has stimulated sudies that "existing approaches to South Asian personhood" might be informed by "those emerging from phenomenology and ethnosociology." (more cites needed to Marriott). Here is another view: "It is interesting to note that the ideas of radial categories and metonymic clusters of multiple variables is also used extensively by McKim Marriott and his students in proposing a general ethnosociology of India.[5] While being less ambitious and much more preliminary, the work here shares some of Marriott's critical insights and wherever possible, I will borrow terms and definitions from his considerable body of work. My theoretical analysis also intersects with Lakoff's work in cognitive linguistics and in the structure of conceptual mappings (conventionalized) metaphors. I also share with Lakoff, the guiding intuition that the body is a central site in grounding interpretations of the world including those that pertain to relations of power and dominance."