Unit 1: Anthropological Perspectives
The September 11 Effect on Anthropology, Lara Deeb and Jessica Winegar, Middle East Report, 2011
The September 11, 2001 attacks have had a considerable effect on anthropological research in the Middle East and beyond. Along with the fact that job opportunities have increased in some areas and diminished in others, anthropologists have become increasingly concerned about the politics of funding and the ethics of particular kinds of projects offered. In general, pressures are mounting with respect to scholars' ability to maintain academic freedom and, perhaps, even tenure itself.
Eating Christmas in the Kalahari, Richard Borshay Lee, Natural History, 1969
Anthropologist Richard Borshay Lee gives an account of the misunderstanding and confusion that often accompany cross-cultural experience. In this case, he violated a basic principle of the Kung Bushmen's social relations—food sharing.
Tricking and Tripping: Fieldwork on Prostitution in the Era of AIDS, Claire E. Sterk, Social Change Press, 2000
As unique as Claire E. Sterk's report on prostitution may be, she discusses issues common to anthropologists wherever they conduct fieldwork: How does one build trusting relationships with informants and what are the ethical obligations of an anthropologist toward them?
The Trials of Alice Goffman, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New York Times, 2016
As a fieldworker, Alice Goffman’s foray into the mixed-income neighborhood of West Philadelphia was from its beginning a dicey enterprise. In her efforts to maintain the trust of her subjects, she had to strike a balance between what she owed to her professional community—an objective, well-documented, fact-based ethnography—with what she owed to her subjects—a personal and impressionistic account of their day-to-day experiences that only she, and they, could know was true or not. Either way, she was bound to be criticized.
Why Manners Matter, Valerie Curtis, New Scientist Magazine, 2013
A crucial factor in human evolution has to do with the problem of getting close to others without sharing pathogens. Disgustologist Valerie Curtis shows that the solution to this problem has to do with good manners.
On the Origin of Faith, Joseph Henrich, Princeton University Press, 2015
The key to the success of the human species has been not to simply rely on one’s wits alone, but upon our genetically endowed ability to selectively focus on the cultural know-how from prior generations.
Unit 2: Culture and Communication
Baby Talk, Patricia K. Kuhl, Scientific American, 2017
While it is true that human infants are natural-born linguists, it takes “parentese” with its exaggerated inflections, immersive social interaction, and even computational skills to effectively learn all the nuances and complexity of a language. And when it comes to learning a second language, the earlier the better.
War of Words, Mark Pagel, New Scientist Magazine, 2012
In taking on the task of explaining why humans communicate with thousands of mutually unintelligible languages, in direct contradiction with the principle that language is supposed to help us exchange information, the author finds that languages have diverged from each other because of migration, geographical isolation and a deeply rooted need for tribal identity.
Armor against Prejudice, Ed Yong, Scientific American, 2013
Even subtle reminders of prejudice against one's sex, race, or religion can hinder performance in school, work, and athletics. Researchers have found new ways to reverse and prevent this effect.
Strong Language Lost in Translation: You Talkin' to Me? Caroline Williams, New Scientist Magazine, 2013
Recent scientific evidence has called into question the notion that we can tell a lot about people by watching how they move their bodies. If we want to truly know what people are thinking and feeling, we are much better off listening to what they are saying.
Vanishing Languages, Russ Rymer, National Geographic, 2012
With so many of the world's 7,000 languages rapidly disappearing, linguists are making a concerted effort to understand what these losses mean in terms of the languages themselves and the cultural perspectives that will die with them, but also the invaluable knowledge of the world in general.
My Two Minds, Catherine de Lange, New Scientist Magazine, 2012
Recent research indicates that speaking a second language is beneficial in terms of learning in general, problem solving, and multitasking. Moreover, we now know that there are deep connections between language and thought, which in turn influence human social skills, the delay of brain aging, and the shaping of personality.
Unit 3: The Organization of Society and Culture
How We Hounded Out the Neanderthals, Pat Shipman, New Scientist Magazine, 2015
Many theories have been set forth as to why our direct ancestors, anatomically modern Homo sapiens, replaced the Neanderthals in Europe. Part of the answer lies in our ancestors’ more diverse hunting skills, but just as important was another unique advantage: we “invented” dogs.
From Wolf to Dog, Virginia Morell, Scientific American, 2015
Scientists are probing the enduring mystery of how a large, dangerous carnivore evolved into our best friend. While their value to humans seems to have changed over time, ranging from utilitarian to ritualistic, one thing is certain: they could not become fully accepted into hunter-gatherer camps without understanding the absolute concept of “No!”
Breastfeeding and Culture, Katherine Dettwyler, McGraw-Hill Education, 2003
Whether or not a mother breastfeeds her child, and for how long, is influenced by cultural beliefs and societal restraints. Scientific research, including cross-cultural studies, show that nursing is not just beneficial for the child, but improves the health of the mother, makes for more wholesome familial relationships, and is good for the society as a whole.
Meghalaya: Where Women Call the Shots, Subir Bhaumik, Aljazeera, 2013
In a far corner of India, a country where women usually cry out for equality, respect and protection, there's a state where women own the land, run the business and pass on their family names to their children. Meanwhile, it is the men who are asking for more rights.
The Inuit Paradox, Patricia Gadsby, Discover, 2004
The traditional diet of the Far North, with its high-protein, high-fat content, and shows that there are no essential foods—only essential nutrients.
Cell Phones, Sharing, and Social Status in an African Society, Daniel Jordan Smith, McGraw-Hill Education, 2008
Although the economic dimensions of Nigeria's emerging cell phone culture are important, much of its cell phone-related behavior requires a social rather than an economic explanation.
Unit 4: Other Families, Other Ways
The Invention of Marriage, Stephanie Coontz, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, 2005
Social institutions, marriage, and the family have taken on a variety of forms throughout the human past. Contrary to sweeping generalities, however, such as the patriarchal “protective theory” and the feminist “oppressive theory,” each of which emphasized female dependence and subjugation to men, the archaeological, historical, and anthropological evidence indicates that the way people organize their domestic lives has much more to do with the needs and contingencies of time and place.
When Brothers Share a Wife, Melvyn C. Goldstein, Natural History, 1987
While the custom of fraternal polyandry relegated many Tibetan women to spinsterhood, this unusual marriage form promoted personal security and economic well-being for its participants.
No More Angel Babies on the Alto do Cruzeiro, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Natural History, 2013
During her thirty years of fieldwork in a shantytown of Northeastern Brazil, anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes has seen profound changes take place in poverty-stricken mothers' attitudes towards rampant infant mortality. Whereas at one time these women would resign themselves to their children's fate—and even withhold tender loving care from them so as to hasten the day they became angels, today there are fewer children being born and every one of them is cherished. The greatest single factor in these changes, says Scheper-Hughes, are the Brazilian government's anti-poverty programs.
Arranging a Marriage in India, Serena Nanda, Waveland Press, 2000
Arranging a marriage in India is far too serious a business for the young and inexperienced. Instead, the parents make the decision on the basis of the families' social position, reputation, and ability to get along.
Who Needs Love! In Japan, Many Couples Don't, Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, 1996
Paradoxically, Japanese families seem to survive, not because husbands and wives love each other more than American couples do, but rather because they perhaps love each other less. And as love marriages increase, with the compatibility factor becoming more important in the decision to marry, the divorce rate is rising.
Unit 5: Gender and Status
The Berdache Tradition, Walter L. Williams, Beacon Press, 1986, 1992
Not all societies agree with the Western cultural view that all humans are either women or men. In fact, many Native American cultures recognize an alternative role called the “berdache,” a morphological male who has a non-masculine character. This is just one way for a society to recognize and assimilate some atypical individuals without imposing a change on them or stigmatizing them as deviants.
The Hijras: An Alternative Gender in India, Serena Nanda, Manushi, 1992
The transgender hijra of India form structured households and communities and, as a caste, fulfill roles that are rooted in social and religious tradition. As Serena Nanda notes, cross-cultural understandings such as this represent a challenge to binary sex/gender notions of the West.
Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part, Jenny Nordbert, The New York Times, 2010
Some Afghan families have many reasons for pretending that their girls are boys, including economic need, social pressures to have sons and even the belief that doing so can lead to the birth of a real boy. In any case, lacking a son, the parents may decide to make one up.
Rising Number of Dowry Deaths in India, Amanda Hitchcock, World Socialist Website, 2001
Traditionally, a dowry in India allowed a woman to become a member of her husband’s family with her own wealth. However, with the development of a cash economy, increased consumerism, and a status-striving society, heightened demands for dowry and the inability of many brides’ families to meet such demands have led to thousands of deaths each year.
Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, Mona Eltahawy, Naureen Chowdhury Fink, and Joanne J. Myers, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, 2015
The populist uprisings of “Arab Spring” in so many Islamic countries seemed to call for a democratic revolution. Left out of the equation in most people’s minds, however, was the simultaneous need for the elimination of what has been called the “trifecta” of women’s oppression by the state, the culture of the street, and the misogyny within the home. In other words, says Mona Eltahawy, what began as a political revolution must also include a social and sexual revolution.
Poverty Is Sexist, ONE, ONE.org
This international organization, ONE, is an advocacy group whose message is that poverty affects women disproportionately and in every aspect of their lives, including employment, living standards, and health.
Unit 6: Religion, Belief, and Ritual
The Adaptive Value of Religious Ritual, Richard Sosis, American Scientist, 2004
Rituals promote group cohesion by requiring members to engage in behavior that is too costly to fake. Groups that do so are more likely to attain their collective goals than the groups whose members are less committed.
Understanding Islam, Kenneth Jost, CQ Researcher, 2005
As the world's second largest religion after Christianity, Islam teaches piety, virtue, and tolerance. Yet, with the emphasis of some Islamist's on a strong relationship between religion and state, and with an increasing number of Islamic militants calling for violence against the West, communication and mutual understanding are becoming more important than ever.
Five Myths of Terrorism, Michael Shermer, Scientific American, 2013
Acts of terrorism educe strong emotions, a desire to explain the motives behind such awful deeds and a need to justify whatever action is taken against the perpetrators. The response to terrorism, in other words, may be just as irrational as the act itself.
Losing Our Religion, Graham Lawton, New Scientist Magazine, 2014
The world is becoming less religious in the formal sense, a trend that seems to be related to prosperity, security and democracy. Yet, most of those who no longer affiliate with a particular religious institution still subscribe to some form of spiritual belief in a continuing effort to seek the comfort that organized religion provides.
The Age of Disbelief, Joel Achenbach, National Geographic, 2016
We live in an age in which scientific knowledge has come into conflict with people’s cherished beliefs. Given the human tendency to cling to intuition and to distrust those who do not share our values, we all too often forsake the rational, scientific way of thinking in favor of our need to be accepted by our chosen community.
Body Ritual among the Nacirema, Horace Miner, American Anthropologist, 1956
The rituals, beliefs, and taboos, of the Nacirema provide us with a test case of the objectivity of ethnographic description and show us the extremes to which human behavior can go.
Unit 7: Sociocultural Change
Quiet Revolutions, Bob Holmes, New Scientist Magazine, 2015
It has long been believed that the transition from hunting to farming occurred in a very few places in the world, that it was a response to population pressures and that it happened relatively rapidly. Now, archaeologists are finding that the domestication of crops and/or animals happened at least eleven times, it grew more as a curiosity—a hobby almost—and it happened rather slowly. Even after crops were domesticated, it was sometimes thousands of years before people began to rely on them for most of their calories. It was a revolution with respect to its effect on our lives more than it was in terms of the time it took.
Ruined, Michael Marshall, New Scientist Magazine, 2012
Recent studies of the correlation between climate change and social upheavals such as wars, famines, and the collapse of civilizations indicate that temperature changes and droughts have played a significant role in human history. Perhaps the most important question now is: Will we learn from history or are we doomed to repeat it.
The Arrow of Disease, Jared Diamond, Discover, 1992
The most deadly weapon colonial Europeans carried to other continents was their germs. The most intriguing question to be answered here, is why did the flow of disease not move in the opposite direction?
The Price of Progress, John Bodley, Mayfield Publishing, 1998
As traditional cultures are sacrificed in the process of modernization, tribal peoples not only lose the security, autonomy, and quality of life they once had, but they also became powerless, second-class citizens who are discriminated against and exploited by the dominant society.
Sanctioned Theft: Tribal Land Loss in Massachusetts, Cultural Survival Quarterly, 2014
Many factors were involved in the loss of native peoples’ lands to the English colonists in North America. They included differing concepts of land tenure and an imposed guardianship system, ostensibly meant to prevent abuse of tribal peoples, but which in reality fostered fraud and corruption on the part of the colonists.
The Lost World, Alex Shoumatoff, Smithsonian, 2016
As Borneo’s epic rainforests are being cleared at a faster rate per acre than the Amazon’s, the world’s insatiable hunger for palm oil and timber are closing in on some of the last hunter-gatherers and their ancient way of life.
We Walk on Our Ancestors: The Sacredness of the Black Hills, Leonard Little Finger, Cultural Survival Quarterly, 2014
As a source of sustenance, both material and spiritual, the Black Hills of South Dakota have always been sacred to the Lakota Sioux. Having been offered $350 million in 1876 for the loss of that land and having won a Supreme Court decision acknowledging that the United States had indeed violated the treaty which originally ceded the Black Hills to the Sioux, some are afraid that the on-going assimilation of the people will lead to their taking the money.
Dambusters, Sue Branford, New Scientist Magazine, 2015
Contrary to archaeological findings, national law, and international agreements, all of which prohibit the taking of land of Amazonian peoples against their will, the Brazilian government is planning to turn much of the basin into chains of dams and reservoirs for the production of hydroelectric power. But authorities’ love affair with hydropower may be waning because ecological studies indicate that the clearing of the Amazon rainforest will result in less water available for the projects, not more, and tribal peoples are fighting back.
On Thin Ice, Katya Wassillie, Cultural Survival Quarterly, 2015
Native communities along the north coast of Alaska have always had a lifestyle involving a reciprocal relationship with the environment and the animals within it, but their practice of sustainable stewardship is now being threatened by climate change. Rather than abandon their way of life which involves hunting, they claim that a truly effective management approach must seek to protect not only the walrus, but the whole ecosystem in which it exists.
Being Indigenous in the 21st Century, Wilma Mankiller, Cultural Survival Quarterly, 2009
With a shared sense of history and a growing set of tools, the world’s indigenous people are moving into a future of their own making without losing sight of who they are and where they come from.
The Organ Detective: A Career Spent Uncovering a Hidden Global Market in Human Flesh, Ethan Watters, Pacific Standard, 2014
According to Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a new kind of anthropology is being called for, not one involving an isolated, exotic culture, but of a globalized, interconnected black market for human organs—one that crosses classes, cultures, and borders, linking impoverished paid donors to the highest-status individuals and institutions in the modern world.
The Evolution of Diet, Ann Gibbons, National Geographic, 2014
The transition from the Paleolithic way of life, in which our ancestors hunted for meat and gathered vegetables, to one with agriculture and processed foods, has had a lasting impact on human health. Questions arise, however, as to the degree to which humans have adapted to the changing circumstances or are simply going to suffer the consequences of abandoning the “paleo-diet.”
Population Seven Billion, Robert Kunzig, National Geographic, 2011
With the world's population rising by several billion from the current seven billion, inevitable questions arise as to how this will impact the quality of life as well as the condition of Planet Earth.