Emic

Definition


Emic and Etic are terms used by anthropologists and other social scientists referring to two different types of data collected on human behavior. Often used by cultural anthropologists, an "emic" point of view is one where the analysis of behavioral and cultural systems is defined in terms that are meaningful to the individual who is a participant within that culture, also known as an "insider's view". The emic perspective arises from the participant of the culture being observed.

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Etic vs. Emic

History


The term emic is derived from the linguistic term phonemic, a subjective study of the meaning of sound and symbol awareness. The terms emic and etic were originally introduced by anthropologist/linguist Kenneth Pike in 1967; he argued that these terms, which were initially used for linguistic studies, could also be applied to the studies of cultural and social behavior. Pike believed the emic description of language from a native speaker was important for truly understanding the meaning of sounds, while the etic perspective was a necessary scientific approach of the analysis of sounds and language. Anthropologists soon adopted the idea of approaching their work from an "emic" or "etic" perspective and use these approaches to describe or represent a wider array of the characteristics of culture instead of focusing solely on linguistics.[1]

An Anthropological Perspective


During the course of conducting ethnograpy, living amongst the people and performing daily routines is crucial for truly understanding the culture; the way you present these observations and experiences you encounter can take either an emic or etic perspective. An emic perspective presents or explains cultural patterns in a way that a participant immersed within the culture being studied understands the aspect of their culture being studied. This perspective of a participant's observation provides firsthand knowledge, details, and understanding of the culture and people which would not be possible if a detached observation method was used to study the culture. Participant observation of cultural life is an important method utilized to draw conclusions which are perceptive and insightful. A perspective is considered emic if the analysis or description of the culture being studied is presented in a way in which members of that culture agree that the cultural construct is accurately depicted based on their understanding of their own culture.
An anthropological description of ethnography presented from the perspective of a member of the culture being studied; often referred to as the "insider's" perspective

Emic vs. Etic


In a comparison, the etic perspective is used if the representations are in accord with scientific observers. The etic perspective employs a more logical, analytical and anthropological analysis of one who does not participate in the cultural that is being observed. However, despite any differences between these two perspectives, anthropologists agree that any ethnographic work ought to be represented using both the emic and etic views. To fully understand a culture, anthropologists must be able to understand the culture empathetically and scientifically. The two approaches build off one another and allow for a wider understanding of culture.




Etic statements arise from the perceptions of the culture-bearers themselves, while emic statements build on discrimination that mean something to the people watching/hearing it. This video highlights the disconnect between the health care workers and the patient. The client held the emic perspective while the nurses held the etic perspective.


Applications


The emic perspective in medical anthropology is the proposed explanation of an illness explained from folk or ethnic categories of illness rather than biomedical categories. An example of this is provided by anthropologist Carol Browner[2] : when analyzing a syndrome known as “susto” in Latin American countries, an emic understanding would be to present the symptoms and causal factors from the view of the members of that culture. The culture's belief is that susto is an illness which occurs when one's soul or spirit is separated from body after a troubling experience. The etic understanding of this illness would be to relate susto to psychiatric illnesses similar to those in the DSM-IV.

Resources


Emic and Etic Distinctions
Etic and Emic Examples
Etic WikiLink

References


Allen, John, and Wiley, Andrea. 2009 Medical Anthropology: A Biocultural Approach. New York:Oxford University Press.
Franklin, K. 1996. K.L. Pike on Etic and Emic: A review and interview. Summer Institute of Linguistics. http://www.sil.org/klp/karlintv.htm
  1. ^ Franklin, K. 1996. K.L. Pike on Etic and Emic: A review and interview. Summer Institute of Linguistics. http://www.sil.org/klp/karlintv.htm
  2. ^ Allen, John, and Wiley, Andrea. 2009 Medical Anthropology: A Biocultural Approach. New York:Oxford University Press.