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Psychoanalytic anthropology is an approach to anthopology based upon the insights of Sigmund Freud and other psychoanalysts as applied to social and cultural phenomena. Adherents of this approach often assumed that techniques of child-rearing shaped adult personality and that cultural symbols (including myths, dreams, and rituals) could be interpreted using psychoanalytical theories and techniques. The latter included interviewing techniques based on clinical interviewing, the use of projective tests such as the TAT and the Rorschach, and a tendency towards including case studies of individual interviewees in their ethnographies. A major example of this approach was the Six Cultures Study under John and Beatrice Whiting in Harvard's Department of Social Relations. This study examined child-rearing in six very different cultures (New England Baptist community; a Philippine barrio; an Okinawan village; an Indian village in Mexico; a northern Indian caste group; and a rural tribal group in Kenya).
Some practitioners look specifically at mental illness cross-culturally (George Devereux) or at the ways in which social processes such as the oppression of ethnic minorities affect mental health (Abram Kardiner), while others focus on the ways in which cultural symbols or social institutions provide defense mechanisms (Melford Spiro) or otherwise alleviate psychological conflicts (Gananath Obeyesekere). Some have also examined the cross-cultural applicability of psychoanalytic concepts such as the Oedipus complex (Melford Spiro).
Others who might be considered part of this school are a number of scholars who, although psychoanalysts, conducted fieldwork (Erich Fromm) or used psychoanalytic techniques to analyze materials gathered by anthropologists (Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, Géza Róheim).
Because many American social scientists during the first two-thirds of the 20th century had at least a passing familiarity with psychoanalytic theory, it is hard to determine precisely which ones should be considered primarily as psychoanalytic anthropologists. Many anthropologists who studied personality (Cora DuBois, Clyde Kluckhohn, Geoffrey Gorer) drew heavily on psychoanalysis; most members of the "culture and personality school" of psychological anthropology did so.
In recent years, psychoanalytic and more broadly psychodynamic theory continues to influence some psychological anthropologists (such as Gilbert Herdt, Douglas Hollan, and Robert LeVine) and have contributed significantly to such approaches as person-centered ethnography and clinical ethnography. It thus may make more sense to consider psychoanalytic anthropology since the latter part of the 20th century as more a style or a set of research agendas that cut across several other approaches within anthropology.
- ↑ Murray, H. A. (1943). Thematic Apperception Test. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.
- ↑ Whiting, Beatrice and John Whiting. 1975. Children of Six Cultures: a psychocultural analysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- ↑ Obeyesekere, G. (1985). Depression, Buddhism, and the work of culture in Sri Lanka. In: Culture and depression: studies in the anthropology and cross-cultural psychology of affect and disorder. A. Kleinman and B. J. Good. Berkeley / Los Angeles, University of California Press: 134-152.
- ↑ Kilborne, B. and L. L. Langness, Eds. (1987). Culture and human nature: Theoretical papers of Melford E. Spiro. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
- ↑ Levy, R. I. and D. Hollan (1998). Person-centered interviewing and observation in anthropology. Handbook of methods in cultural anthropology. H. R. Bernard. Walnut Creek, CA, Altamira Press: 333-364.
- ↑ Herdt, G. (1999). "Clinical ethnography and sexual culture." Annual Review of Sex Research 10: 100-119.