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Asking Questions About Cultural Anthropology A Concise Introduction

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2022-02-07
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Unlike textbooks that emphasize the memorization of facts, Asking Questions About Cultural Anthropology: A Concise Introduction, Third Edition, teaches students how to think anthropologically, helping them view cultural issues as an anthropologist might. This approach demonstrates how anthropological thinking can be used as a tool for deciphering everyday experiences. The book covers the essential concepts, terms, and history of cultural anthropology, introducing students to the widely accepted fundamentals and providing a foundation that can be enriched by the use of ethnographies, a reader, articles, lectures, field-based activities, and other kinds of supplements. It balances concise coverage of essential content with a commitment to an active, learner-centered pedagogy.

Author Biography

Robert L. Welsch is Guest Curator at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College.

Luis A. Vivanco is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Vermont.

Table of Contents

Letter From the Authors
About the Authors

1 Anthropology
Asking Questions About Humanity
How Did Anthropology Begin?
The Disruptions of Industrialization
The Theory of Evolution
Colonial Origins of Cultural Anthropology
Anthropology as a Global Discipline
What Do the Four Subfields of Anthropology Have in Common?
Cultural Relativism
Human Diversity
How Do Anthropologists Know What They Know?
The Scientific Method in Anthropology
When Anthropology Is Not a Science: Interpreting Cultures
How Do Anthropologists Put Their Knowledge to Work in the World?
Applied and Practicing Anthropology
What Ethical Obligations Do Anthropologists Have?
Do No Harm
Take Responsibility for Your Work
Share Your Findings
The Anthropological Life: Anthropologists Are Innovators
The Anthropological Life: Key Characteristics of Anthropologists in the Workplace
A World In Motion: George A. Dorsey and the Anthropology of Immigration in the Early Twentieth Century

2 Culture
Giving Meaning to Human Lives
What Is Culture?
Elements of Culture
Defining Culture in This Book
If Culture Is Always Changing, Why Does It Feel So Stable?
How Do Social Institutions Express Culture?
Culture and Social Institutions
American Culture Expressed Through Breakfast Cereals and Sexuality
Can Anybody Own Culture?
The Anthropological Life: Cultural Anthropology and Human Possibilities
Anthropologist as Problem Solver: Michael Ames and Collaborative Museum Exhibits

3 Ethnography
Studying Culture
What Distinguishes Ethnographic Fieldwork from Other Types of Social Research?
Seeing the World from "the Native's Point of View"
Avoiding Cultural "Tunnel Vision"
How Do Anthropologists Actually Do Ethnographic Fieldwork?
Participant Observation: Disciplined "Hanging Out"
Interviews: Asking and Listening
Taking Fieldnotes
What Other Methods Do Cultural Anthropologists Use?
Comparative Method
Genealogical Method
Life Histories
Rapid Appraisals
Action Research
Anthropology at a Distance
Analyzing Secondary Materials
Special Issues Facing Anthropologists Studying Their Own Societies
What Unique Ethical Dilemmas Do Ethnographers Face?
Protecting Informant Identity
Anthropology, Spying, and War
A World in Motion: Transnational Migration, Ethnographic Mobility, and Digital Fieldwork

4 Linguistic Anthropology
Relating Language and Culture
How Do Anthropologists Study Language?
Where Does Language Come From?
Evolutionary Perspectives on Language
Historical Linguistics: Studying Language Origins and Change
How Does Language Actually Work?
Descriptive Linguistics
Does Language Shape How We Experience the World?
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
Hopi Notions of Time
Ethnoscience and Color Terms
Is The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis Correct?
If Language Is Always Changing, Why Does It Seem So Stable?
Linguistic Change, Stability, and National Policy
Language Stability Parallels Cultural Stability
How Does Language Relate to Social Power and Inequality?
Language Ideology
Gendered Language Styles
Language and the Legacy of Colonialism
ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER Helping Communities Preserve Endangered Languages
A World in Motion: The Emergence of a New Language in the Northern Territory of Australia

5 Globalization and Culture
Understanding Global Interconnections
Is the World Really Getting Smaller?
Defining Globalization
The World We Live In
What Are the Outcomes of Global Integration?
Colonialism and World Systems Theory
Cultures of Migration
Resistance at the Periphery
Globalization and Localization
Doesn't Everyone Want to Be Developed?
What Is Development?
Development Anthropology
Anthropology of Development
Change on Their Own Terms
If the World Is Not Becoming Homogenized, What Is Actually Happening?
Cultural Convergence Theories
How Can Anthropologists Study Global Interconnections?
Defining an Object of Study
Multi-Sited Ethnography
A World in Motion: Instant Ramen Noodles Take Over the Globe
The Anthropological Life: Coldplay and the Global Citizen Festival

6 Sustainability
Environment and Foodways
Do All People See Nature in the Same Way?
The Human-Nature Divide?
The Cultural Landscape
How Do People Secure an Adequate, Meaningful, and Environmentally Sustainable Food Supply?
Modes of Subsistence
Food, Culture, and Meaning
How Does Non-Western Knowledge of Nature and Agriculture Relate to Science?
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
How Are Industrial Agriculture and Economic Globalization Linked to Increasing Environmental and Health Problems?
Population and Environment
Ecological Footprint
Industrial Foods, Sedentary Lives, and the Nutrition Transition
Anthropology Confronts Climate Change
Are Industrialized Western Societies the Only Ones to Conserve Nature?
Anthropogenic Landscapes
The Culture of Modern Nature Conservation
Environmentalism's Alternative Paradigms
ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER: Urban Black Food Justice with Ashanté Reese
A World in Motion: Migrant Caravans, Global Warming, and Ecological Refugees

7 Economics
Working, Sharing, and Buying
Is Money Really the Measure of All Things?
Culture, Economics, and Value
The Neoclassical Perspective
The Substantivist-Formalist Debate
The Marxist Perspective
The Cultural Economics Perspective
So, How is Value Established?
How Does Culture Shape the Value and Meaning of Money?
The Types and Cultural Dimensions of Money
Money and the Distribution of Power
Why Is Gift Exchange Such an Important Part of All Societies?
Gift Exchange and Economy: Two Classic Approaches
Gift Exchange in Market-Based Economies
What Is the Point of Owning Things?
Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Property
Appropriation and Consumption
Does Capitalism Have Distinct Cultures?
Culture and Social Relations on Wall Street
Entrepreneurial Capitalism Among Malays
The Anthropological Life: The Economics of Anthropology
ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER Jim Yong Kim's Holistic, On-the-Ground Approach to Fighting Poverty

8 Politics
Cooperation, Conflict, and Power Relations
Does Every Society Have a Government?
The Idea of "Politics" and the Problem of Order
Structural-Functionalist Models of Political Stability
Neo-Evolutionary Models of Political Organization: Bands, Tribes, Chiefdoms, and States
Challenges to Traditional Political Anthropology
What Is Political Power?
Defining Political Power
Political Power Is Action-Oriented
Political Power Is Structural
Political Power Is Gendered
Political Power in Non-State Societies
The Political Power of the Contemporary Nation-State
Why Do Some Societies Seem More Violent Than Others?
What Is Violence?
Violence and Culture
Explaining the Rise of Violence in Our Contemporary World
How Do People Avoid Aggression, Brutality, and War?
What Disputes Are "About"
How People Manage Disputes
Is Restoring Harmony Always the Best Way?
The Anthropological Life: An Anthropological Politician?
ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER Maxwell Owusu and Democracy in Ghana

9 Race, Ethnicity, and Class
Understanding Identity and Social Inequality
Is Race Biological?
The Biological Meanings (and Meaningless) of "Human Races"
Race Does Have Biological Consequences
How Is Race Culturally Constructed?
The Construction of Blackness and Whiteness in Colonial Virginia and Beyond
Racialization in Latin America
Saying "Race Is Culturally Constructed" Is Not Enough
How Are Other Social Classifications Naturalized?
Ethnicity: Common Descent
Class: Economic Hierarchy in Capitalist Societies
Caste: Moral Purity and Pollution
Are Prejudice and Discrimination Inevitable?
Understanding Prejudice
Discrimination, Explicit and Disguised
The Other Side of Discrimination: Unearned Privilege
The Anthropological Life: Talking About Race and Racism

10 Gender, Sex, and Sexuality
The Fluidity of Maleness and Femaleness
How and Why Do Males and Females Differ?
Shifting Views on Male and Female Differences
Beyond the Male-Female Dichotomy
Do Hormones Really Cause Gendered Differences in Behavior?
Why Is There Inequality Between Men and Women?
Debating "the Second Sex"
Taking Stock of the Debate
Reproducing Male-Female Inequalities
What Does It Mean to Be Neither Male Nor Female?
Navajo Nádleehé
Indian Hijras
Trans in the United States
Is Human Sexuality Just a Matter of Being Straight or Queer?
Cultural Perspectives on Same-Sex Sexuality
Controlling Sexuality

11 Kinship, Marriage, and the Family
Love, Sex, and Power
What Are Families, and How Are They Structured in Different Societies?
Families, Ideal and Real
Nuclear and Extended Families
Clans and Lineages
Kinship Terminologies
Cultural Patterns in Childrearing
How Do Families Control Power and Wealth?
Claiming a Bride
Recruiting the Kids
Dowry in India
Controlling Family Wealth Through Inheritance
Inheritance Rules in Non-Industrial Societies
Why Do People Get Married?
Why People Get Married
Forms of Marriage
Sex, Love, and the Power of Families Over Young Couples
How Are Social and Technological Changes Reshaping How People Think About Family?
International Adoptions and the Problem of Cultural Identity
In Vitro Fertilization
Surrogate Mothers and Sperm Donors
The Anthropological Life: Family-Centered Social Work and Anthropology

12 Religion
Ritual and Belief
How Should We Understand Religion and Religious Beliefs?
Understanding Religion, Version 1.0: Edward B. Tylor and Belief in Spirits
Understanding Religion, Version 2.0: Anthony F. C. Wallace on Supernatural Beings, Powers, and Forces
Understanding Religion, Version 3.0: Religion as a System of Symbols
Understanding Religion, Version 4.0: Religion as a System of Social Action
Making Sense of the 2015 Terrorist Attacks in France: Charlie Hebdo
What Forms Does Religion Take?
Clan Spirits and Clan Identities in New Guinea
Totemism in North America
Shamanism and Ecstatic Religious Experiences
Ritual Symbols That Reinforce a Hierarchical Social Order
Polytheism and Monotheism in Ancient Societies
World Religions and Universal Understandings of the World
How Does Atheism Fit in the Discussion?
How Do Rituals Work?
Magical Thought in Non-Western Cultures
Sympathetic Magic: The Law of Similarity and the Law of Contagion
Magic in Western Societies
Rites of Passage and the Ritual Process
How Is Religion Linked to Political and Social Action?
The Rise of Fundamentalism
Understanding Fundamentalism
A World in Motion: Contemporary Pilgrimage and the Camino de Santiago
The Anthropological Life: Is Anthropology Compatible with Religious Faith?

13 The Body
Biocultural Perspectives on Health and Illness
How Do Biological and Cultural Factors Shape Our Bodily Experiences?
Uniting Mind and Matter: A Biocultural Perspective
Culture and Mental Illness
What Do We Mean by Health and Illness?
The Individual Subjectivity of Illness
The "Sick Role": The Social Expectations of Illness
How and Why Do Doctors and Other Health Practitioners Gain Social Authority?
The Disease-Illness Distinction: Professional and Popular Views of Sickness
The Medicalization of the Non-Medical
How Does Healing Happen?
Clinical Therapeutic Processes
Symbolic Therapeutic Processes
Social Support
Persuasion: The Placebo Effect
How Can Anthropology Help Us Address Global Health Problems?
Understanding Global Health Problems
Anthropological Contributions to Tackling the International HIV/AIDS Crisis
ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER Nancy Scheper-Hughes on an Engaged Anthropology of Health
A World in Motion: Medical Tourism in Yemen

14 Materiality
Constructing Social Relationships and Meanings With Things
Why Is the Ownership of Artifacts From Other Cultures a Contentious Issue?
Questions of Ownership, Rights, and Protection
Cultural Resource Management: Not Just for Archaeologists Any More
How Should We Look at Objects Anthropologically?
The Many Dimensions of Objects
A Shiny New Bicycle, in Multiple Dimensions
The Power of Symbols
The Symbols of Power
How and Why Do the Meanings of Things Change Over Time?
The Social Life of Things
Three Ways Objects Change Over Time
How Do Objects Come to Represent Our Goals and Aspirations?
The Cultural Biography of Things
The Culture of Mass Consumption
How Advertisers Manipulate Our Goals and Aspirations
ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER John Terrell, Repatriation, and the Maori Meeting House at The Field Museum

Cultural Anthropology and the Future of Human Diversity

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