Applying Cultural Anthropology

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  • Edition: 7th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2006-07-17
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages
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This supplementary reader is composed of 38 classic and contemporary articles that demonstrate the significant contributions that cultural anthropologists make; the emphasis is on the applicability of cultural anthropology to understanding and improving the present day human condition. Whether debating the merits of a career in anthropology or questioning why the subject should be studied, students will grow to appreciate anthropology's widespread uses, from conducting market research to working with refugee communities.

Table of Contents

* Indicates a selection new to this edition.


1. Body Ritual Among Nacirema - Horace Miner (American Anthropologist, 1956)

The examination and analysis of the rituals of this tribe shed light on the meaning of culture and help us reflect on our own way of life.

2. Slumbers Unexplored Landscape - Bruce Bower (Science News, 1999)

Most of our scientific understanding of the biology of sleep is based on laboratory work and assumptions of what are normal patterns of sleep behavior. Collaborations of biological anthropologists show that the rules and expectations of a good night's sleep are quite different in traditional societies than our own.

3. Tricking and Tripping: Fieldwork on Prostitution in the Era of AIDS - Claire E. Sterk (2000)

An anthropologist who works at a school of public health describes the fieldwork methods she used to study women's health and sexual behavior among prostitutes in New York City and Atlanta. She describes gaining entry, creating trust, and disengaging from fieldwork.

4. Crack in Spanish Harlem - Philippe Bourgois (Anthropology Today, 1989)

Whereas some anthropologists travel long distances to find exotic cultures, others stay closer to home. During fieldwork in a New York neighborhood on the social organization of addicts and sellers and the economics of crack cocaine, the author comes face to face with a culture of terror. Underlying the violence, the drugs, and the ruined lives is a different view of the American dream.


5. Shakespeare in the Bush - Laura Bohannan (Shakespeare in the Bush, 1966)

Laura Bohannan finds great difficulty in communicating the dramatic themes (and basic story line) of Hamlet to the Tiv of Nigeria. Assumptions about human motivations, morality, and the nature of reality are embedded in a cultural context and limit the possible understanding of the story. Great art does not necessarily transcend cultural boundaries.

6. "To Give Up on Words": Silence in Western Apache Culture Keith Basso (Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 1970)

Cross-cultural communication involves more than differences in language and gesture. This sociolinguistic analysis explores the role of silence in Apache society in particular situational contexts. There are social rules that dictate when talking is appropriate, and these rules vary across cultures.

7. A Cultural Approach to Male-Female Miscommunication - Daniel N. Maltz and Ruth A. Borker (Language and Social Identity, 1982)

Misunderstandings between men and women may be due to differences in subcultural rules about speech and conversation. Sociolinguistic variation in question asking, gestures of agreement, and topic flow can cause misinterpretation of the speaker's intentions. Valuable parallels can be drawn between interethnic miscommunication and cross-class miscommunication.


8. Eating Christmas in the Kalahari - Richard Borschy Lee (Natural History, 1969)

When the !Kung San make fun of an ox that the anthropologist wants to give the group for a Christmas feast, Richard Lee learns about the important value of reciprocity in a food-foraging band.

9. Chinese Table Manners: You Are How You Eat - Eugene Cooper (Human Organization, 1986)

Knowing good manners from bad is extremely important in cross-cultural counters. The author heightens our sensitivity by describing Chinese table manners.

10. Culture and the Evolution of Obesity - Peter J. Brown (Human Nature, 1991)

Why do people get fat? Is it cultural or is it in our genes--or, as with most things, is it some of each? This selection provides a cross-cultural and evolutionary analysis of how both biological and cultural factors in obesity evolved.


11. The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race - Jared Diamond (Discover, 1987)

The agricultural revolution has long been considered one of the most important transformations in human history. But was it for better or worse?

12. The Domestication of Wood in Haiti: A Case Study in Applied Evolution - Gerald F. Murray (Anthropological Praxis, 1987)

Using his anthropological knowledge of Haitian peasants, Gerald Murray designs and administers an astoundingly successful reforestation project. Wood as a cash crop makes good economic sense to Haitian farmers; as a consequence, both production and agricultural earnings increase.

13. Two Rights Make a Wrong: Indigenous Peoples Versus Environmental Protection Agencies - Richard Reed (2000)

Combining environmental and indigenous agendas could be an important step toward advancing both struggles--unless it backfires. Richard Reed, a cultural anthropologist who works with Paraguay's indigent Guaran communities, helped create a forest reserve that would protect native peoples' rights to their traditional lands. Now these communities are denied access to the reserve.


14. Race without Color - Jared Diamond (Discover, 1994)

Race is an important and continuous topic in the United States. Contrary to common opinion, race refers not to a biological fact but rather to an arbitrary social categorization. A noted biologist explains why race is a useless idea when it comes to understanding human diversity.

15. Official Statement on Race - American Anthropological Association (Anthropology Newsletter, 1997)

Given the importance of race in current public discussion of policy and politics and given the public confusion about race after the publication of The Bell Curve, the American Anthropological Association has adopted this statement. Race is a cultural creation, not a biological fact.

16. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack - Peggy Macintosh(1988)

The author argues that there are many advantages and benefits conferred on people as members of a birth-ascribed group. Many such advantages are obvious, whereas others are not. The author helps us to see the invisible and reflect on our awareness of privilege.


17. Strings Attached - Lee Cronk (The Sciences, 1989)

Anthropologists study the universal practice of gift giving and the social expectations that such exchanges entails, as well as the social relationships the gifts maintain. These anthropological principles provide a valuable window for understanding international relations.

18. Using Cultural Skills for Cooperative Advantage in Japan Richard H. Reeves-Ellington (Human Organization, 1993)

Cultural values and ideals are implicit in day-to-day business interactions. Cross-cultural training programs allow project managers to significantly cut project completion time and increase profit--not to mention enhancing goodwill and trust between employees.

19. Family Planning Outreach and Credit Programs in Rural Bangladesh - Sidney Ruth Schuler and Syed M. Hashemi (Human Organization, 1995)

A Grameen Bank program that provides loans for poor women in rural Bangladesh empowers women by enhancing their economic role in society. One of the consequences is an increased use of contraceptives.

20. *Coming of Age in Palo Alto - Katie Hafner (New York Times, 1999)

Twenty-first century anthropologists have added the high tech industry to their long list of field sites. Today, applied anthropologists use the research tools developed in more traditional field settings to help create solutions in the technology industry.


21. Our Babies, Our Selves - Meredith F. Small (Natural History, 1997)

Cross-cultural research on parenting and child development demonstrates a wide variety of parenting styles, particularly in regard to baby care. All these variations produce culturally competent adults. Parenting variations make sense given the diversity of social contexts as well as differences in cultural values.

22. *Measuring Up to Barbie: Ideals of the Feminine Body in Culture - Jacqueline Urla and Alan C. Swedlund (1995)

Even children's toys like the Barbie Doll shape cultural ideas of women's beauty. In this selection, the authors discuss Barbie's history and use anthropometry to show just how impossible her ideal is for women to attain.


23. When Brothers Share a Wife - Melvyn C. Goldstein, (Natural History, 1987)

Fraternal polyandry, a rare form of plural marriage, has both benefits and costs for the people of Tibet. Given the economy and ecology of this area, the practice of polyandry has adaptive functions.

24. Law, Custom, and Crimes Against Women: The Problem of Dowry Death in India - John van Willigen and V. C. Channa (Human Organization, 1991)

Dowry-related violence against women in northern India is a serious and perplexing problem, difficult to explain with an anthropological functionalist approach. Economic transformations have negatively affected the status of women and have intensified economic pressures on families to provide a dowry at the marriage of daughters.

25. *How Many Fathers Are Best for a Child? - Meredith Smith (Discover, 2003)

Kinship is a central topic of anthropological research, as anthropologists examine how people use culture to create variations in understandings of human biology. This selection considers the Bari of South America, whose children have one mother and several fathers.


26. The Kpelle Moot - James L. Gibbs Jr. (Africa, 1963)

The informal moot, a method of resolving disputes among the Kpelle of Liberia, is significantly different from our court system. It emphasizes the mending of social relations between the disputing parties; the process of the hearing is therapeutic. The moot is a useful alternative model for settling disputes in our own society.

27. Contemporary Warfare in the New Guinea Highlands - Aaron Podolefsky (Ethnology, 1984)

Intertribal warfare flares up in the highlands of Papua New Guinea even after decades of relative peace. To understand why, anthropologists focus on changes in the local economic system that have, in turn, changed marriage patterns.

28. Life Stories, Disclosure, and the Law - Michelle McKinley (Polar, 1997)

Anthropologists study different cultures on their own terms; however, even anthropologists sometimes fall prey to cultural biases. An applied anthropologist's presentation of a political refugee's case in court was shaped by American cultural expectations.


29. *Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others - Lila Aub-Lughod (American Anthropology, 2002)

One of the rationales used for war in Afghanistan after September 11th, 200l, was the liberation of Afghani women from the oppression of strict Muslim orthodoxy. The Western ethnocentrism of that rationale has obscured more complex historical and political dimensions of violence in Afghanistan.

30. *The Adaptive Value of Religious Ritual - Richard Sosis (American Scientist, 2004)

Religious rituals often require a good deal of time, energy, and even pain. Are there social benefits for society of having such demanding rituals? Are rituals good or bad for us?

31. Hallucinogenic Plants and Their Use in Traditional Societies - Wade Davis (Cultural Survival, 1985)

The author, whose writing about psychoactive plants and zombis Haiti has stirred controversy, surveys the use and functions of hallucinogenic plants in other societies. Particularly in traditional South American Indian societies, hallucinogens play a central role in religion and ritual.


32. *Culture, Poverty, and HIV Transmission: The Case of Rural Haiti - Paul Farmer (Infections and Inequalities, 1999)

Diseases are sometimes blamed on their stigmatized victims. Anthropologists describe and explain patterns of transmission of HIV in the global AIDS pandemic. Social and political circumstances beyond their control put poor Haitians at high risk for HIV infection.

33. *The Viral Superhighway - George Armelagos (The Sciences, 1998)

Looking at the "big picture" of health and culture across human history, the author shows how technological changes have brought about changes in patterns of health and disease. With globalization, are we facing a future of new and uncontrollable epidemics?

34. *A Teaching Framework for Cross-Cultural Healthcare - Elois Ann Berlin and William C. Fowkes (Western Journal of Medicine, 1983)

The increased cultural diversity in our society can be an important challenge to medical practitioners. When patients and doctors do not share medical beliefs, how is effective communication possible? This is one way that medical students are taught about cross-cultural communication.


35. *Cell Phones, Sharing, and Social Status in an African Society - Daniel J. Smith (2005)

Globalization includes the rapid distribution of new technologies to distant corners of the world. Globalization is not a uniform process but must be understood in local context. Igbo Nigerians, who call the cell phone "the fire that eats money," are enraptured by the power of the cell phone. The meaning and rules of use of the cell phone are influenced by local ideas, value, customs, and practices.

36. *Just Another Job? The Commodification of Domestic Labor - Bridget Anderson (2002)

Millions of people from poor countries travel across land and sea seeking work in wealthier countries. Globalization creates challenges for transnational migrants as they try to support their own families by performing difficult and sometimes demeaning work in the homes of strangers.

37. *Circumcision, Pluralism, and Dilemmas of Cultural Relativism - Corinne A. Kratz (2002)

There are a variety of cultural practices throughout the world that involve surgical genital modification, and some of these carry risks of medical complications. Female circumcision practices in Africa have been targeted for elimination by a variety of international groups for nearly a century. Understanding how this practice is interpreted by people in different cultural contexts is the key for understanding the current controversy.

38. The Price of Progress - John H. Bodley, 1990

Economic development, sometimes called "progress," can bring about unintended social and medical consequences, especially for marginalized tribal people. New disease burdens, ecological degradation, and increased discrimination are among the hidden costs of economic change for many people.

* Indicates a selection new to this edition.

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