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«TOWARDS A SYNTHESIS OF ETHNOSCIENCE AND SYMBOLIC ANTHROPOLOGY: AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF SURGICAL CULTURE _ A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of California ...»

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TOWARDS A SYNTHESIS OF ETHNOSCIENCE AND SYMBOLIC

ANTHROPOLOGY: AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF SURGICAL CULTURE

___________________________

A Thesis

Presented to the

Faculty of

California State University, Fullerton

___________________________

In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree

Master of Arts

in

Anthropology

___________________________

By

Douglas William Hume

Approved by:

_____________________________________ __________________

Susan Parman, Committee Chair Date Department of Anthropology _____________________________________ __________________

Jacob Pandian, Member Date Department of Anthropology _____________________________________ __________________

Lori Sheeran, Member Date Department of Anthropology

ABSTRACT

This thesis analyzes the cultural categories of a surgical nurse using an integration of two methods, ethnoscience and symbolic anthropology.

Through the use of the developmental research sequence, developed by James P. Spradley, and thick description, popularized by Clifford Geertz, the domain of “picking a case” is examined within the culture scene of the operating room. Symbolic anthropology and ethnoscience are presented as two complementary theoretical approaches for describing culture. The developmental research sequence and thick description are developed as methods of ethnographic research. The methodological and theoretical significance of the use of these two approaches is discussed. The physical setting, kinds of surgeries, personnel, surgical timeline, and domain of "picking a case" are described and analyzed. Finally the cultural themes of the operating room culture scene are identified and discussed.

ii

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abstract

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER II: SYMBOLIC AND INTERPRETIVE ANTHROPOLOGY. 5

Symbolic Anthropology

Interpretive Anthropology

ThickDescription

CHAPTER III: ETHNOSCIENCE

The Relational Theory of Meaning

The Developmental Research Sequence

Sturtevant's Principles of Ethnoscience

Ethnographic Writing

Examples of Ethnographic Analyses

CHAPTER IV: THICK DESCRIPTION AND THE DEVELOPMENTAL

RESEARCH SEQUENCE

Summary

CHAPTER V: THE OPERATING ROOM

Surgery

Operating Room

Summary

CHAPTER VI: PICKING A CASE

Informant

Physical Setting

Kinds of Surgeries/Services/Cases

Personnel

Surgical Timeline

Picking a Case

CHAPTER VII: CULTURAL THEMES

Introduction

Cultural Inventory

Componential Analysis and Cover Terms

Universal Themes

CHAPTER VIII: CONCLUSION

APPENDICES

I. Componential Analysis

II. Operating Room Sketch

III. Interview Notes

BIBLIOGRAPHY

APPENDICES

I. Componential Analysis

II. Operating Room Sketch

III. Interview Notes

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dedicated to Nadene Clair Nelson February 24th, 1918 - May 4th, 1997 My kind-hearted and noble-minded Grandmother

CHAPTER I

–  –  –

The purpose of this thesis is to apply the theoretical frameworks of ethnoscience and the cultural analysis of Clifford Geertz to understand the cultural categories that a surgical nurse deploys as a member of the cultural scene of a hospital operating room. The developmental research sequence, as developed by James P. Spradley, is used to examine cultural data.

This thesis couples the theoretical approaches of Ethnoscience and Clifford Geertz. Although both of these approaches differ in how they intend to interpret cultural phenomena, they are both seeking the same thing; to approximate the reality of human meaning. Ethnoscience seeks to elicit cultural meaning through the use of linquistic analyses. By using these methods, ethnoscience stresses the importance of validity and reliability that can be accomplished by scientistic means. Clifford Geertz’s approach, often called interpretive anthropology, seeks to elicit cultural meaning through thick description and interpretation. By coupling these two methods, this thesis gains the systematic reliability of ethnoscience and the interpretive power of Geertz’s approach.

This thesis uses several tools to analyze the cultural data collected through ethnographic interviews. Taxonomic analyses are structural representations of different cultural terms and relationships. Thick descriptions are defined as the exhaustive descriptions of cultural data.

representations of different cultural terms and relationships. Thick descriptions are defined as the exhaustive descriptions of cultural data.

Componential analyses are in a table format that allows the representation of different cultural terms to each other across a broad range of categorical differences.

Only one informant is used for this analysis because she meets the requirements stipulated by the developmental research sequence. She has been a participant within the operating room for many years and continues to work there. She is untrained in social science research and was willing to answer any question I asked her. A more detailed discussion of the requirements and how my informant met them is discussed in Chapter IV.





Since the informant wishes to remain anonymous, she chose a fictitious name, Eleanor, which is used within this thesis to represent her.

Throughout this thesis different theoretical, methodological, and cultural terms are used. In Chapters II, III, and IV all theoretical and methodological terms are placed in quotes the first time they are presented;

thereafter they are not highlighted from the rest of the text. The cultural categories in Chapters V, VI, and VII are not placed in quotes because a cultural description is provided that would be disrupted by constant quotes.

In Chapter II, the theoretical assumptions Clifford Geertz’s view of symbolic anthropology, interpretive anthropology, and thick description as used for this ethnography are described and explained.

In Chapter III, the principles of the ethnoscientific approach are presented and discussed.

In Chapter IV, thick description and the developmental research sequence are presented as the methods used for this analysis. Here the individual steps of the developmental research sequence are outlined. Each step is thoroughly discussed and examples are given to illustrate them.

In Chapter V, a short history of the operating room is presented.

Through a discussion of the development of the culture scene of the operating room a historical context is presented.

In Chapter VI, the ethnographic analysis of the surgical nurse is presented through description of the informant, physical setting, kinds of surgeries/services/cases, personnel, surgical timeline, and domain of picking a case. During the discussion of each of the topics mentioned above, the cultural data are presented in specific references to the ethnographic interviews and through various analytical representations.

In Chapter VII, the cultural themes of the operating room are discussed. Through the use of three strategies for thematic analysis, the themes of the operating room are presented and discussed. The significance of these themes on cultural analysis are also discussed.

In Chapter VIII, I conclude the thesis and discuss the results and their significance. The impact on the informant is discussed. A general overview of the thesis is presented.

The Appendices are compiled into three sections. Appendix I contains the componential analysis that was compiled from the ethnographic data collected. Appendix II is a drawing of a standard operating room that illustrates the location of various equipment. Appendix III includes samples

–  –  –

Symbolic anthropology defines culture “as a system of symbols and meanings" (Schneider, 1977:64). Symbolic anthropology was primarily influenced by structuralism, a dominant anthropological theory during the 1960’s promoted by Claude Lévi-Strauss (Geertz, 1973:33). Structuralism and symbolic anthropology share the view that culture is a symbolic system of meanings. Both paradigms also draw upon linguistics and semiotics as structural aids in discovering symbols and their systems. Lévi-Strauss believed in the reduction of the complex to the simple, whereas symbolic anthropology tries to present a complex picture of the simple while retaining the clarity of the simple. Structuralism seeks to understand these systems in terms of their internal structure while symbolic anthropology attempts to understand how these function in concrete situations to organize perceptions (Geertz, 1973:449).

The second most influential paradigm in the development of symbolic anthropology was functionalism, which was prominent in the 1940’s and 1950’s and promoted by A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Clyde Kluckhohn, Bronslaw Malinowski, and Walter Goldschmidt. Symbolic anthropology and functionalism contest that symbolic systems provide an emotional investment in one’s society. According to Clifford Geertz, “it is through culture patterns, ordered clusters of significant symbols, that man makes sense of the events through which he lives” (C. Geertz 1973:363). Both functionalism and symbolic anthropology also view society as a functional whole where its components “are historically constructed, socially maintained and individually applied” (C. Geertz 1973:364). Functionalism stresses the function of religion or other cultural construct as maintaining a society whereas symbolic anthropology promotes a more processual approach (C.

Geertz 1973:143).

in one’s society. According to Clifford Geertz, “it is through culture patterns, ordered clusters of significant symbols, that man makes sense of the events through which he lives” (Geertz, 1973:363). Both functionalism and symbolic anthropology also view society as a functional whole where its components “are historically constructed, socially maintained and individually applied” (Geertz, 1973:364). Functionalism stresses the function of religion or other cultural construct as maintaining a society whereas symbolic anthropology promotes a more processual approach (Geertz, 1973:143).

In the 1970’s, symbolic anthropology came into prominence within anthropological theory. There are four major figures that have made the most important contributions to symbolic anthropological theory. Douglas Schneider has developed new views on kinship as a symbolic system of culture consisting of not only biological ties but of solidarity and trust among relationships. He holds that kinship symbolically teaches fundamental principles of a whole culture to an individual (Handler, 1995:1208). Kinship therefore maintains a system of culture. Mary Douglas has contributed to symbolic studies by her search for human universal symbols, following a similar research goal of identifying universals begun by Claude Lévi-Strauss.

Douglas has studied natural symbols in cosmology (1970), symbols of pollution and taboo (1966), the symbol of exclusion (1991), and the symbol of risk (Douglas and Wildavsky, 1982; Douglas, 1990a, 1990b). Another major contributor to symbolic anthropological theory is Victor Turner. In his view, “culture has to be seen as processual, because it emerges in interaction and imposes meaning on the biotic and ecological systems (also dynamic) with which it interacts” (Turner, 1985:153). Turner adds that “meaning is assigned verbally through speech and nonverbally through ritual and ceremonial action and is often stored in symbols which become indexical counters in subsequent situational contexts” (1985:154). Therefore, in Turner’s view cultural processes must be studied in context.

–  –  –

For this thesis, the views of symbolic anthropology of Clifford Geertz will be used which are commonly called interpretive anthropology. According to Geertz, “the whole point of a semiotic approach to culture is... to aid us in gaining access to the conceptual world in which our subjects live“ (Geertz, 1973:24). Ludwig Wittgenstein influenced many of Geertz’s views including culture being an acted document in a public arena (Geertz, 1973:10). This view lends itself towards an interpretive analysis of culture in the arena of the operating room. Geertz has also used Wittgenstein’s view that “human thought is consummately social: social in its origins, social in its functions, social in its forms, social in its application... thinking is a public activity” (Geertz, 1973:360). The influence of Wittgenstein’s ideas upon how symbols derive meaning from use in society is apparent when Geertz states that culture is a purely symbolic system when its elements are isolated; internal relationships are specified; and a whole system is characterized in a general way around core symbols, underlying structures of surface expressions, or ideological principles upon which it is based (Geertz, 1973:17).

Clifford Geertz has used this theory in his ethnographic work in Bali, Java, and Morocco. In his Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology (1983), Geertz investigated personhood by analyzing naming practices, time recognizing, and ceremonial conduct. According to Geertz, “the study of culture, the accumulated totality of such patterns, is thus the study of the machinery individuals and groups of individuals employ to orient themselves in a world otherwise opaque” (1983:363). The patterns of culture are huge, picking out important issues seems impossible, but the overall problems being answered are universal and the answers can all be different.

To illustrate this an example would be kinship termonologies which can be defined by ranking, age groups, occupations, names, titles, and/or castes.



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