Cultural Anthropology Asking Questions About Humanity

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2014-11-21
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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What is cultural anthropology, and how is it relevant in today's world?

Robert L. Welsch and Luis A. Vivanco's Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity uses a questions-based approach to teach students how to think anthropologically, helping them view cultural issues and everyday experiences as an anthropologist might.

Inspired by the common observation that 99 percent of a good answer is a good question, Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity combines a question-centered pedagogy with the topics typically covered in an introductory course. It emphasizes up front what the discipline of anthropology knows and which issues are in debate, and how a cultural perspective is relevant to understanding social, political, and economic dynamics in the contemporary world. Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity also represents an effort to close the gap between the realities of the discipline today and traditional views that are taught at the introductory level by bringing classic anthropological examples, cases, and analyses to bear on contemporary questions.

Author Biography

Robert L. Welsch is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Franklin Pierce College.

Luis A. Vivanco is Associate 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: "The Fifth Subfield"?
Putting Anthropology to Work
What Ethical Issues Does Anthropology Raise?
Do Not Harm. But Is That Enough?
To Whom Are Anthropologists Responsible?
Classic Contributions: E.B. Tylor and the Culture Concept
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Anthropological Responsibilities to Informants and People in Authority
Doing Fieldwork: Conducting Holistic Research with Stanley Ulijaszek

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?
Classic Contributions: Franz Boas and the Relativity of Culture
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Understanding Holism
Anthropologist as Problem Solver: Michael Ames and Collaborative Museum Exhibits

Chapter 3: Beyond Nature and Nurture: The Individual, Biology, and Culture
What Can the Biology of Brain Development Teach Us about Culture?
The Adaptable Human Brain
The Mind and Culture
Uniting Mind and Matter: A Biocultural Perspective
How Do Anthropologists Understand Other Peoples' Psychologies?
What Is an Individual Person?
The Culture and Personality School
The Individual: Persons and Selves
Culture and Mental Illness
What Role Does Evolution Play in Human Lives?
Understanding Evolution among Human Populations
Racism and Early Evolutionary Models in Anthropology
Franz Boas and Antievolutionism
Moving Beyond Purely Biological Notions of Evolution
Is Biotechnology Changing Our Bodies?
How Genes Work: The Basics
The Dilemmas of Geneticization
Classic Contributions: Ruth Benedict, the Individual, and Culture
Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Controversies over I.Q. Testing and Mother-Infant Bonding
Anthropologist as Problem Solver: Kim Hopper, Homelessness, and the Mentally Ill in New York City

Chapter 4: 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
Classic Contributions: Edward Sapir on How Language Shapes Culture
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Exploring Relationships of Power and Status in Local American Dialects
Doing Fieldwork: Untangling Language Ideologies in Contemporary Egypt

Chapter 5: Ethnography: Studying Culture
What Is So Distinctive about Anthropological Fieldwork?
Taking Field Notes
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 History
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
Classic Contributions: Bronislaw Malinowski on the Ethnographic Method
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Fieldwork in an American Mall
Anthropologist as Problem Solver: Alcida Rita Ramos and Indigenous Rights in Brazil

Chapter 6: 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
Classic Contributions: Eric Wolf, Culture, and the World System
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Understanding Global Integration Through Commodities
Doing Fieldwork: Studying Chernobyl's Aftermath with Adriana Petryna

Chapter 7: Foodways: Finding, Making, and Eating Food
Why Is There No Universal Human Diet?
Human Dietary Adaptability and Constraints
Cultural Influences on Human Evolution: Digesting Milk
Why Do People Eat Things That Others Consider Disgusting?
Foodways and Culture
Foodways are Culturally-Constructed
Foodways Communicate Symbolic Meaning
Foodways Mark Social Boundaries and Identities
Foodways are Dynamic
How Do Different Societies Get Food?
Intensive Agriculture
Industrial Agriculture
How Are Contemporary Foodways Changing?
Growing Environmental Impacts of Industrial Agriculture
Industrial Foods, Sedentary Lives, and the Nutrition Transition
The Return of Local and Organic Foods?
The Biocultural Logic of Local Foodways
Classic Contributions: Audrey Richards and the Study of Foodways
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Food Preferences and Gender
Anthropologist as Problem-Solver: Migrant Farmworker Food Security in Vermont with Teresa Mares

Chapter 8: Environmental Anthropology: Relating to the Natural World
Do All People Conceive of Nature in the Same Way?
The Human-Nature Divide
The Cultural Landscape
How Is Non-Western Knowledge of Nature Similar to and Different from Science?
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Do Only Industrialized Western Societies Conserve Nature?
Artifactual Landscapes
The Culture of Modern Nature Conservation
Is Collaborative Conservation Possible?
How Do Social and Cultural Factors Drive Environmental Destruction?
Population and Environment
Ecological Footprint
Political Ecology
Classic Contributions: Roy Rappaport's Insider and Outsider Models
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Identifying Hidden Costs
Doing Fieldwork: James Fairhead and Melissa Leach on Misreading the African Landscape

Chapter 9: Economics: Working, Sharing, and Buying
Is Money Really the Measure of All Things?
Culture, Economics, and Value
The Neo-Classical 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 Economics
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
Classic Contributions: Marshall Sahlins on Exchange in Traditional Economies
Thinking like an Anthropologist: The Role of Exchange in Managing Social Relationships
Anthropologist as Problem Solver: Ashraf Ghani and the Reconstruction of the Afghan Economy

Chapter 10: 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 Cycles of Aggression, Brutality, and War?
What Disputes Are "About"
How People Manage Disputes
Is Restoring Harmony Always the Best Way?
Classic Contributions: E.E. Evans-Pritchard on Segmentary Lineages
Thinking like an Anthropologist: The Power of Personal Connections
Anthropologist as Problem Solver: Maxwell Owusu and Democracy in Ghana

Chapter 11: Race, Ethnicity, and Class: Understanding Identity and Social Inequality
Are Differences of Race Also Differences of Biology?
The Biological Meanings (and Meaningless) of "Human Races"
Race Does Have Biological Consequences
How Is Race Culturally Constructed?
The Absence of Race in Colonial Virginia
How Africans Became "Black" and Europeans Became "White" in Seventeenth Century Virginia
The One Drop Rule
Racialization in Latin America
Saying "Race Is Culturally Constructed" Is Not Enough
How Are Other Social Classifications Like Ethnicity, Class, and Caste 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
Classic Contributions: Hortense Powdermaker on Prejudice
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Counting and Classifying Race in the American Census
Doing Fieldwork: Tamie Tsuchiyama and Fieldwork in a Japanese-American Internment Camp

Chapter 12: 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 U.S.
Is Human Sexuality Just a Matter of Being Straight or Queer?
Cultural Perspectives on Same-Sex Sexuality
Controlling Sexuality
Classic Contributions: Margaret Mead and the Sex/Gender Distinction
Thinking like an Anthropologist: The Ethics of Research and Advocacy with Transgender People
Doing Fieldwork: Don Kulick and 'Coming Out' in the Field

Chapter 13: 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
Classic Contributions: A.L. Kroeber on Classificatory Systems of Relationship
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Genealogical Amnesia in Bali, Indonesia, and in the United States
Doing Fieldwork: Ellen Lewin on Studying Lesbian and Gay Commitment Ceremonies

Chapter 14: 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 and Clan Spirits Among the Aboriginal Australians
Totemism in North America
Shamanism and Ecstatic Religious Experiences
Ritual Symbols That Reinforce the Existing Social Order
Polythesim and Monotheism in the Social Order 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
Religion and Group Identities
Ritual Symbols and the Social Order
Classic Contributions: Sir James G. Frazer on Sympathetic Magic
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Examining Rites of Passage
Doing Fieldwork: Studying the Sikh Militants

Chapter 15: Medical Anthropology: Health, Illness, and Culture
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
Classic Contributions: Arthur Kleinman and the New Medical Anthropological Methodology
Thinking like an Anthropologist: The Emergence of New Disease Categories
Anthropologist as Problem Solver: Nancy Scheper-Hughes on an Engaged Anthropology of Health

Chapter 16: 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 Peoples' 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
Classic Contributions: Nancy Munn on Graphic Signs among the Walbiri of the Australian Desert
Thinking like an Anthropologist: Looking at Objects from Multiple Perspectives
Doing Fieldwork: Christina Kreps Studies Indigenous Indonesian Perceptions of Museums

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