Culture and Ethos of Kaska Society

Culture and Ethos of Kaska Society

Culture and Ethos of Kaska Society

Culture and Ethos of Kaska Society

Excerpt

The introductory material consists of four parts. First the concept of ethos is treated from the historical as well as definitive points of view. Attention is given to the methodological aspects of those studies in the field of "culture and personality" which immediately influenced the writer's thinking particularly since his initial field work. Following a definition of ethos, a theory is briefly presented on the manner in which the ethological characteristics of a society become established in the early socialization of children. A statement of methodology follows which points out the conditions which must be known in order to repeat the field work and analysis upon which the descriptions of Kaska culture and ethos are based or to duplicate the work in another society. In other words, the "conditions of the experiment" are presented with some of the thoroughness that has recently been solicited from anthropologists. The introduction concludes with an alphabetical "directory" of the principal informants arranged with cross-references to parents and other relatives whenever possible and other useful information.

PREVIOUS STUDIES OF ETHOS

Over centuries men have noted differences in the emotional aspects of behavior manifested in different societies. From the time of the Greeks travelers have reported their impressionistic pictures of the emotional character of the behavior which they have encountered in groups they visited. It is to be expected that when the task of studying preliterate societies became one of the principal tasks of the anthropologist he should have been aware of the earlier attempts to characterize emotionally the behavior of exotic peoples. The reports of early field workers are frequently marked by paragraphs referring to the "temperament" or the "moral and intellectual characteristics" of the societies which were under observation. Other ethnographers sought to rectify travelers' prejudiced views of preliterate societies as, on the one hand, idealized havens of human welfare and, on the other, barbarous survivals of an original state of savagery. Beyond these steps, however, anthropologists were slow to proceed in the qualitative characterization of the emotional aspects of the phenomena which they were studying.

An explanation can be ventured for the apparent unwillingness of anthropologists to follow travelers in the emotional characterization of social life. The field worker, no matter how keenly he might appreciate the unique qualities of the behavior which he encountered, was impressed by scientific values that demanded great reliability and rigor in his reporting. As a scientist the anthropologist realized that generalized and impressionistic characterization had to be replaced by more systematic and verifiable methods of observation and interpretation.

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