Asking Questions About Cultural Anthropology A Concise Introduction

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2015-11-02
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Unlike textbooks that emphasize the memorization of facts, Asking Questions About Cultural Anthropology: A Concise Introduction 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 Associate Professor of Anthropology at Franklin Pierce University.

Luis A. Vivanco is Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director of the Humanities Center at the University of Vermont.

Table of Contents

Letter from the Authors
About the Authors

Chapter 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 Are the Four Subfields of Anthropology and What Do They Share 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 Other Cultures
How Is Anthropology Put to Work in the World?
Applied and Practicing Anthropology
What Ethical Issues Does Anthropology Raise?
Do No Harm
To Whom Are Anthropologists Responsible?
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Anthropological Responsibilities to Informants and People in Authority

Chapter 2. Culture: Giving Meaning to Human Lives
What Is Culture?
Elements of Culture
Defining Culture in This Book
If Culture Is Emergent and Dynamic, Why Does It Feel So Stable?
How Is Culture Expressed Through Social Institutions?
Culture and Social Institutions
American Culture Expressed Through Breakfast Cereals and Sexuality
Can Anybody Own Culture?
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Understanding Holism

Chapter 3. Linguistic Anthropology: Relating Language and Culture
Where Does Language Come From?
Evolutionary Perspectives on Language
Historical Linguistics: Studying Language Origins and Change
How Does Language Actually Work?
Descriptive Linguistics
Phonology: Sounds of Language
Morphology: Grammatical Categories
Do People Speaking Different Languages Experience Reality Differently?
The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
Hopi Notions of Time
Ethnoscience and Color Terms
Is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis Correct?
How Can Languages Be So Dynamic and Stable at the Same Time?
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 Social Status
Language and the Legacy of Colonialism
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Exploring Relationships of Power and Status in Local American Dialects

Chapter 4. Ethnography: Studying Culture
What Is So Distinctive About Anthropological Fieldwork?
Taking Fieldnotes
Seeing the World From "the Native's Point of View"
Avoiding Cultural "Tunnel Vision"
Aside from Participant Observation and Interviews, Do Anthropologists Use Other Methods?
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 Special Ethical Dilemmas Do Ethnographers Face?
Protecting Informant Identity
Anthropology, Spying, and War
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Fieldwork in an American Mall

Chapter 5. Globalization and Culture: Understanding Global Interconnections
Is the World Really Getting Smaller?
Defining Globalization
The World We Live In
Are There Winners and Losers in Global Integration?
World Systems Theory
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 It Becoming?
Cultural Convergence Theories
Clash of Civilizations
What Strategies Can Anthropologists Use to Study Global Interconnections?
Defining an Object of Study
Multi-Sited Ethnography
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Understanding Global Integration Through Commodities

Chapter 6. Sustainability: Environment and Foodways
Do All People Conceive of 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 Is Non-Western Knowledge of Nature and Agriculture Similar to and Different From 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
Do only Western Industrialized Societies Protect and Conserve Nature?
Artifactual Landscapes
The Culture of Modern Nature Conservation
Environmentalism's Alternative Paradigms
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Identifying Hidden Costs

Chapter 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
How Does Culture Shape the Value and Meaning of Money Itself?
The Types and Cultural Dimensions of Money
Why Is Gift Exchange Such an Important Part of All Societies?
Gift Exchange and Economy: Two Classic Approaches
Gift Exchange in Market-Based Economies
Why Does Having Some Things Make You Cool?
Are There Distinct Cultures of Capitalism?
Culture and Social Relations on Wall Street
Entrepreneurial Capitalism Among Malays
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: The Role of Exchange in Managing Social Relationships

Chapter 8. Power: Politics and Social Control
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
How Is Social Inequality Constructed and Upheld?
Race, Biology, and the "Natural" Order of Things
The Cultural Construction of Race
Saying Race is Culturally-Constructed Is Not Enough
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 Cycles of Aggression, Brutality, and War?
What Disputes Are "About"
How People Manage Disputes
Is Restoring Harmony Always the Best Way?
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: The Power of Personal Connections

Chapter 9. Gender, Sex, and Sexuality: The Lives of Women and Men
In What Ways Are Males and Females Different?
Toward a Biocultural Perspective on Male and Female Differences
Rethinking the Male-Female Dichotomy
Hormones and Differences in Male and Female Behavior
In What Ways Are Men and Women Unequal?
Debating "The Second Sex"
Taking Stock of the Debate
Reproducing Gender/Sex Inequalities
What Does It Mean to Be Neither Male Nor Female?
Navajo Nádleehé
Indian Hijras
"Transgender" in the United States
Is Human Sexuality Just a Matter of Being Straight or Queer?
Cultural Perspectives on Same-Sex Sexuality
Controlling Sexuality
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: The Ethics of Research and Advocacy with Transgender People

Chapter 10. 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
How Do Families Control Power and Wealth?
Claiming a Bride
Recruiting the Kids
The Dowry in India: Providing a Financial Safety Net for a Bride
Controlling Family Wealth Through Inheritance
Inheritance Rules in Nonindustrial 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 Technological Changes Reshaping How People Think About Family?
In Vitro Fertilization
Surrogate Mothers and Sperm Donors
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Genealogical Amnesia in Bali, Indonesia, and the United States

Chapter 11. 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
Understanding Suicide Bomber Attacks
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
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Examining Rites of Passage

Chapter 12. The Body: Biocultural Perspectives on Health and Illness
How Should We Make Sense of the Biological and Cultural Factors that Jointly 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
What Can Anthropology Contribute to Addressing Global Health Problems?
Understanding Global Health Problems
Anthropological Contributions to Tackling the International HIV/AIDS Crisis
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: The Emergence of New Disease Categories

Chapter 13. The Arts: Objects, Images, and Commodities
How Should We Look at Art Objects Anthropologically?
The Many Dimensions of Objects
A Shiny New Bicycle, in Multiple Dimensions
An Anthropological Perspective on Aesthetics
Why and How Do the Meanings of Things Change Over Time?
The Social Life of Things
Three Ways Objects Change Over Time
How Do Certain Objects Come to Represent People's Goals and Aspirations?
The Cultural Biography of Things
The Culture of Mass Consumption
How Can Some People Use Objects to Manipulate Us?
How Do Images Shape the Worlds in Which People Live?
The Power of Visual Media
Manipulating Images
Films Have Social Lives, Too
--Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Looking at Objects from Multiple Perspectives


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