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The Audible Anthropologist

The Audible Anthropologist

Anthropologists study human culture and society. They ask “what it is to be human?”. Anthropologists answer this question by analysing diverse societies to find out what all humans have in common. To undertake this study, anthropologists have a ‘kit’ full of conceptual tools. Join the Audible Anthropologist (aka La Trobe University’s Nicholas Herriman) as we describe some of these tools and put them to use.

Life and Death 2013/06/21, 05:58
Life and Death

<p>Some of the West biggest moral disputes, such as abortion, life support, and euthanasia, centre on defining life and death. Anthropology shows us that while the definition of “alive” is culturally specific, one commonality many cultures appear to share is two concepts. Biological life consists in breathing, heart beating and so on. What we could call civil life consists in having ritual status or personhood. In other words, ‘being alive’ is not simply breathing. Nor is it simply having ‘civil life’.</p><br><br><p>Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>

Mind and Matter 2013/05/31, 08:17
Mind and Matter

<p>According to a modern world view, things exist which can be measured in terms of weight, length, volume, time, temperature, etc.. A spoon or a stone has all these qualities. We call such things “matter” and we have made “science” the proper study of them. The other kind of thing that exists includes consciousness, soul, thought, and feeling. We do not think a spoon or a stone possesses these qualities. We call such thinking-things “mind”. This mind-matter distinction is not made in all cultures. Indeed, things like stones and spoons may have mind. Stones may be, as the Ojibwa see it, non-human persons—certain humans can talk with them. Among the Mardu Aborigines, Tonkinson shows us, some sacred “stones are revered as metamorphosed parts of the bodies of ancestral beings” who created the world as we know it. As such these stones may have a vital power or life essence.</p><br><br><p>Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>

Modernity 2013/05/24, 08:30
Modernity

<p>Some would argue that 'modernity' encapsulates your and my experience of being alive now, in the 21st century. So what is 'modernity'? In this episode, we cover the basics. I divide the modern era into three periods: mercantile (or early modern); modern; and late-modern (or post-modern).</p><br><br><p>Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>

Nation and Nationalism 2013/05/15, 10:48
Nation and Nationalism

<p>Many of us, whether from Macedonia or Malaysia, Mexico or Madagascar, identify strongly with our nation. Implicitly, we understand the nation as a group of citizens whose rights and responsibilities are mediated by state. This idea emerged from France and the US in the late 1700s, replacing the certainties of “King and Country” and “Christendom”. The idea is that the people of a nation possess something real which ties them together. However, anthropologists think that the nation is actually a product of the imagination.</p><br><br><p>Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>

The Unconscious Mind 2013/05/09, 07:50
The Unconscious Mind

<p>The ideas associated with Freud have impacted strongly on anthropology. The main point is that we have an unconscious mind. Further, the experiences of socialisation and especially childhood dominate this. These experiences relate mostly to trauma and unresolved conflict of our infancy. Such experiences are also often ‘sexual’ in nature. Although, by definition, we are not aware of our unconscious thoughts, they often manage to slip through into our conscious thoughts and behaviour.</p><br><br><p>Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>

Human Rights 2013/04/29, 02:17
Human Rights

<p>According to 1948 UN declaration all humans have rights to life, liberty and security, law and trial, asylum etc. This created a new kind of right. Formerly, rights used to be through contracts or arrangements. Now you could have rights without this—just by being human. How does an anthropologist think about this? The idea of Human Rights presents problems of relativism versus universalism. Nevertheless, a more fruitful line analysis focuses on how the idea is taken up in local contexts. After all anthropology is the study of big concepts in little places. So in this podcast I discuss how this new, largely Western idea of Human Rights has been adopted and appropriated in different contexts.</p><br><br><p>Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>

Patron and Client 2013/04/16, 08:43
Patron and Client

<p>In parts of Indonesia, a fishing boat owner will provide a large loan to the captain and crew of his boat. Remaining chronically indebted, the captain and crew should never repay the loan; rather they continue to provide the boat owner with a share of each catch. The boat owner gets a reliable captain and crew; the captain and crew maintain reliable employment. When anthropologists come across close intimate and hierarchical relationships of mutual obligation, we use the term “patron client”. In this case, the patron is boat owner and the clients are the captain and crew. Both patron and client typically complain that they are short-changed in the relationship. Nevertheless, it is one of the most common forms of human relationship.<br><br /> <br><br />Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>

Life Cycle 2013/04/09, 09:53
Life Cycle

<p>Life cycle is the process of change and development of a person. These are often marked by rituals (such as “baby shower” and birthday parties) or rites-of-passage (such as a stags’/bucks’ night). The experience of life stages, even the conception of what constitutes a life stage, differ. Thus, studying life cycle show us that even birth and death (the most ‘inevitable’ ‘facts’ of life) can be differently understood.<br><br /> <br><br />Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>

Community and Society 2013/03/28, 02:26
Community and Society

<p>What is the difference between England 1200 and England 1900? Tonnies’ made the most basic distinction in sociology and anthropology; between community (Gemeinschaft) and society (Gesselschaft). Community is based around traditions, mores, kinship and locality, religion, personal bonds; and, reciprocal relations. It was found predominantly in the village and the rural town. Society is based around written laws; a national community; science; legalistic bonds between citizens mediated by a state; and, capitalism. It is found in the city.<br><br /> <br><br />Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>

Social Construction 2013/03/19, 07:11
Social Construction

<p>The idea of social construction is scary. It implies you don’t own your own experience—it is determined by society/the system. We can never be fully in charge of defining who we are. For instance, most people define themselves in relation to what it is to be a mother—they have one and they might be one. But you never really own our experience of motherhood; it is rather structured in terms of discourses such as “working mum”, “soccer mum”, “super-mum”, “doting mum” etc.. All accounts of reality are marred or embedded in discourse. This implies that it is impossible to stand outside society and study it objectively. The most we can do, according to this concept is to try to unearth or dig out the underlying discourse of structure, in a process called “deconstruction”.<br><br /> <br><br />Copyright 2013 Nicholas Herriman / La Trobe University, all rights reserved. Please contact for permissions.</p>