Anthropology and the Study
of Culture
(Miller Chapter 1)
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
The BIG Questions
 What is anthropology?
 What are the goals of anthropology?
 What are the fields of anthropology?
 What are some key aspects of
anthropology?
 How is anthropology relevant to a
career in the “real world”?
 How can anthropology be applied?
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What is Anthropology?
 What do you know about anthropology?
 What do you think of when someone
mentions anthropology? How did you
acquire these impressions?
 What do you think anthropology is?
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What is Anthropology?
 Anthropology is…
 The study of humanity, including our
prehistoric origins and contemporary
human diversity (p. 4)
 The study of humankind in all times and
all places
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Goals of Anthropology
 What do you think are the main goals of
anthropology?
 Why is anthropology important?
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Goals of Anthropology
 Discover what makes people different from
one another
 Study diversity and preserve diversity
 Discover what all people have in common
 Study commonalities in all humanity
 Understand more about “human nature”
 Look at our own culture more objectively,
like an outsider
 Make “the strange familiar and the familiar
strange”
 Produce new knowledge and new theories
about humankind and human behavior
 Apply this knowledge in an attempt to alleviate
human challenges
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The Fields of Anthropology
 What are the fields of anthropology?
(hint: there are four of them!)
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The Fields of Anthropology
Cultural
anthropology
(or social
anthropology)
Linguistic
anthropology
Archaeology
(or prehistory)
Biological
(or physical)
anthropology
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The Fields of Anthropology
 Four fields (p. 4)
– Biological anthropology
• Also known as physical anthropology
– Archaeology
– Linguistic Anthropology
– Cultural anthropology
• Also known as social anthropology or
sociocultural anthropology
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Biological Anthropology
 The study of humans as biological
organisms, including their evolution and
contemporary variation (p. 4 – 5)
 Some subfields of biological anthropology
include…
 Paleoanthropology (Human evolution)
 Leakey family
 Primatology (Nonhuman primates)
 Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey
 Examine what we share with our primate relatives as well
as what makes humans unique
 Contemporary human variation and adaptation
 Molecular/genetic anthropology
 Forensic anthropology (application to legal
issues)
 Bones, Dr. Temperance Brennan – inspired by real-life
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs
Archaeology
 Study of past human cultures through their material remains (p. 4
– 6)
 Study of past human cultures through the recovery and analysis
of artifacts
 Some subfields of archaeology include…
– Old World archaeology
• Africa, Europe, and Asia
– New World archaeology
• North, Central, and South America
– Underwater archaeology
• Settlements now submerged by water
– Prehistorical archaeology
• Before written records
– Historical archaeology
• Have written documents
• “Garbage project” – Tucson and New York - consumption and
environmental effects
– More beers
– Paper more of a problem than initially thought
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Linguistic Anthropology
 Study of communication, mainly (but not
exclusively) among humans
 Includes the study of communication’s
origins, history, and contemporary
variation (p. 4 & 6)
 Some subfields of linguistic anthropology
include…
 Historical linguistics
 The study of language change over time and how
languages are related
 Structural (descriptive) linguistics
 The study of the formal structure of languages and their
similarities and differences
 Sociolinguistics
 The study of communication in social life (analysis of
discourse) and the variations of communication in
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different cultural contexts
Cultural Anthropology
 Study of living people and their cultures, including
variation and change (p. 4 & 6 – 7)
 Some subfields of cultural anthropology include…
 Economic anthropology
 How people in different cultures make a living
 Political anthropology
 Study of social groups, politics, power
 Psychological anthropology
 Study of interaction between culture and the human mind
 Medical anthropology
 Study of interaction between culture and health
 Development anthropology
 Making development projects more socially sensitive and
culturally appropriate
 Cultural anthropologists also study art, religion,
migration, marriage, family…and MORE
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Research Approaches in the
Four Fields
 Anthropology has been called “the most
humane of the sciences and the most
scientific of the humanities”
 Wide range of approaches that span:
 Science (hypothesis, observation, and testing)
 Humanities (more subjective, based on feeling)
 Anthropology as a social science is empirical
– based on observations rather than on
intuition or faith
 Fieldwork (being on location and fully
immersed in another way of life) is a core
methodological aspect of anthropology
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Some Key Aspects of
Anthropology
 Holistic perspective
 Holism – the view that cultures are complex
systems and one must study all their
interconnected aspects in order to understand the
whole culture (p. 10)
 Must study social, political, economic, and religious
practices and institutions in order to understand the
whole culture
 Cross-cultural, comparative perspective
 Ethnology – the study of a particular topic (such
as marriage forms, religious beliefs, etc.) in more
than one culture (p. 19)
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Some Key Aspects of
Anthropology (continued)
 Takes a long-term perspective
 Relies on extensive fieldwork
 Participant observation or ethnographic
research
 May result in an ethnography – an in-depth
description of a culture based on firsthand
(primary) research (p. 19)


Traditionally focuses on the poor, powerless,
everyday Joe versus elite people
Traditionally has studied small, remote
communities, often in rural areas
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Ethnography and Ethnology
Summary
 ETHNOGRAPHY
– means “culture
writing”
– provides a first-hand,
detailed description
of a living culture
– based on first-hand
fieldwork and
research of one
culture
 ETHNOLOGY
– the study of one
topic in more than
one culture
• marriage forms,
economic practices,
religion, etc.
– comparative and
cross-cultural
– uses ethnographic
material collected by
a number of
researchers
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Some Key Aspects of
Anthropology
 Focus on cultural relativism rather
than ethnocentrism
 Ethnocentrism is judging other cultures by
the standards of one’s own culture rather
than the standards of other cultures
 The belief that one’s own culture is the way of
life and that other ways of life are strange and
inferior
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Some Key Aspects of
Anthropology
 Focus on cultural relativism rather
than ethnocentrism
 Cultural relativism is the belief that each
culture must be understood in terms of its
own values and beliefs and not by the
standards of another culture
 Is the opposite of ethnocentrism
 The belief that no culture is better than any
other culture
 Is gained by exposure to “other” ways with a
sympathetic eye and ear to appreciating
differences
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Some Key Aspects of
Anthropology
 Absolute cultural relativism versus
critical cultural relativism
 Absolute cultural relativism says that
whatever goes on in a particular culture
must not be questioned or change because
it would be ethnocentric to question any
behavior or idea anywhere.
 Any Star Trek fans?
 What is the “Prime Directive”?
 No one shall interfere with the culture/cultural
evolution of another planet under any conditions
 What are some challenges of absolute cultural
relativism?
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Some Key Aspects of
Anthropology
 Critical cultural relativism is an
alternative to absolute cultural
relativism
 Critical cultural relativism says that some
of what goes on in a particular culture can
be questioned or changed because of an
idea of a set of universal human rights.
 Star Trek fans, was the “Prime Directive” ever
broken/bent?
 Under what conditions?
 What are some challenges of critical cultural
relativism?
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Absolute vs. Critical Cultural
Relativism
 Star Trek Prime Directive
 Prime Directive Debate - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mHL6UCCAE
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Absolute vs. Critical Cultural
Relativism
 What role does any concept of “fate” play in our
decisions?
 What role do emotions and should emotions
play in determining action within a different
culture?
 When is it acceptable for a person to interfere
or not interfere in the affairs of another culture?
Genocide? Enslavement? Disease/epidemic?
Natural disasters? Long-term war? What if
someone asks/cries out for assistance?
 Is cultural relativism a matter of degrees or an
absolute?
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Applied Anthropology
 Anthropology put to use
 Involves the use or application of
anthropological knowledge to help solve
social problems or to shape and achieve
policy goals. (p. 4 & 7)
 Is applied anthropology a separate field?
 No…
 Just like theory, application should be a valued
part of every field of anthropology
 Applied aspects integrated within each field
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
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Applied Biological Anthropology

Forensic anthropology
 Utilizing anthropological theories and techniques
to legal problems, often helping solve crimes and
identifying victims of mass fatalities and/or human
rights abuses

Primatology
 Helping with nonhuman primate conservation
 Developing ecotourism projects to help generate
funds for local human communities while
conserving nonhuman primate populations

Ergonomics and design
 Building databases on body size and shape of
soldiers to help design jet fighter cockpits
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Applied Archaeology

Cultural Resource Management (CRM)
 Assessing the presence of possible archaeological
remains (cultural resources) before governmentfunded construction projects such as roads and
buildings can proceed

Applied archaeologists may also work in…
 Museums – creating exhibits and preserving
artifacts
 Historic preservation
 Environmental management – applying ancient
techniques of environmental management to
contemporary environmental problems
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Applied Linguistic Anthropology

Applied linguistic anthropologists are involved
in…
 Preserving and documenting indigenous
languages worldwide that are rapidly becoming
extinct
 Looking at the role of information technology
(such as internet and cell phones) in
communication among various cultures
 Developing bilingual education programs
 Forensic linguistics
 A linguistic anthropologist testified at a trial that six
Shoshone women accused of defrauding the Social
Security administration were not sufficiently fluent in
English to understand government agents when the rules
were explained. The case against the women was then
dismissed and further contacts with the Shoshone
women regarding Social Security were made with
interpreters.
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Applied Cultural Anthropology

Applied cultural anthropologists work
in…








Education
Health care
Business
Conflict prevention and resolution
Advocacy and activism
Poverty reduction
Community development
International development
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So can someone with a
degree/minor/coursework in
anthropology really get a good
job?
 Yes!!
 About ½ of all anthropologists work in
academia
 ½ of all anthropologists work outside of
colleges/universities
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Those who study anthropology
learn relevant skills that
employers value
 Knowledge of qualitative and quantitative
research methods
 Detailed observation / participant observation



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Communication and writing skills
Interviewing
Systematic documentation
Holistic approach – understand complexity
and look at the larger context
 Multicultural perspective / Respect for
cultural differences / “cultural brokers”
 Social ease in strange situations
 Experience working with people of diverse
backgrounds
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Anthropology and Business
(Corporate Anthropology)
 A 1999 edition of USA Today called an
anthropology degree a “hot asset in corporate
America”
 Citicorp
 Created a vice presidency for an anthropologist who
discovered early warning signs to identify people who don’t
pay their credit card bills
 Hallmark
 Hires anthropologists to go into the homes of immigrants,
attending holidays and birthday parties in order to better
design cards they’ll want
 Because no survey can tell engineers what women
really want in a razor, marketing companies even
send anthropologists into bathrooms to watch women
shave their legs in order to design better razors!
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(product design/marketing)
Anthropology and Business
(Corporate Anthropology)
 General Motors
 Hired an anthropologist to study the “corporate culture” and
“subcultures” at GM (her Ph.D. fieldwork was studying MexicanAmerican farmworkers and Catholic nuns!)
 AT&T Labs in California
 Has an anthropologist who examines consumers’ behavior in their
homes and offices (for her postdoc research she lived with villagers in
Western Samoa trying to understand the cultural reasons that people
there have an average of eight children)
 Intel
 Has an “engineering and design ethnographer” who studies how to
better integrate technology into people’s lives
 Motorola
 Has an anthropologist who is the manager of “culture and technology
initiatives” that helps develop technology that fits into the way people
live their day-to-day lives
 General Mills
 Susan Squires, an anthropologist, helped to develop drinkable yogurt
(Go-Gurt) after observing American households’ breakfast routines
(product design) (p. 1)
 Cross-cultural training
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Liberal Arts/Sciences and
Business Careers
 CEO of Tempur-pedic majored in
biology and linguistics in college!
 Encourages individuals who want to work
for his company to study liberal arts and
sciences
 Leads to the development of great critical
thinking and communications skills
 Have a greater breadth of knowledge rather
than just purely focusing on a business major
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The BIG Questions




What is culture?
What are the characteristics of culture?
What are subcultures/microcultures?
What are some of the major
theories/debates in anthropology?
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Culture and Anthropology
 Culture is the core concept in cultural
anthropology, but…
 Anthropologists do not agree on how to
define it
 Anthropologists have proposed hundreds
of definitions of culture
 Culture is one of the most complicated
and difficult to define words in the
English language
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In Popular Culture…
 Culture is often associated with…
 “High culture” – elite activities
 The arts/fine museums
 Classical music
 Dinning at expensive restaurants with fine wine
 Often seen as something either an
individual has or doesn’t have
 City dwellers may be seen as “cultured”
whereas rural folk may be seen as
“uncultured”
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Important to Remember…
 All humans have culture!
 Anthropologically speaking, all humans
throughout the world are all “cultured”
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Earliest Definition of Culture
 Edward Tylor – 1871
 Culture “is that complex whole which
includes knowledge, belief, art, morals,
law, custom, and any other capabilities and
habits acquired by man as a member of
society.”
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
More Recent Definition of
Culture
 United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) –
2002
 Culture is the "set of distinctive spiritual,
material, intellectual and emotional
features of society or a social group and
that it encompasses, in addition to art and
literature, lifestyles, ways of living together,
value systems, traditions and beliefs."
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A Couple Simple Definitions of
Culture
 Culture is learned and shared ways of
behaving & thinking (p. 6)
 Culture is the way of life for a society
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Material and Nonmaterial
Aspects of Culture
 Culture consists of what humans have
constructed, both material and
nonmaterial
 Material culture – tangible/physical
aspects of culture (includes buildings,
monuments, art, artifacts, technology, etc.)
 Nonmaterial culture – intangible/nonphysical aspects of culture (includes
philosophy, ideas, beliefs, values, religion,
music, rituals, etc.)
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Characteristics of Culture
 Culture is learned
 Therefore, culture is not the same as
nature




Culture is symbolic / based on symbols
Culture is integrated
Culture is shared
Cultures are dynamic and change
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Culture is learned…
 All culture is learned rather than
biologically inherited
 The process through which culture is
transmitted from one generation to the
next is called enculturation
 Both conscious (learned through direct
teaching) and unconscious (learned
through observation)
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
…therefore, culture is not the
same as nature
 All humans have basic biological needs
(eating, sleeping, shelter, companionship,
sex, etc.), but the ways in which these needs
are satisfied varies from culture to culture
 Culture shapes what people eat, how they eat,
when they eat, and the meanings of food and
eating
 Hunters and gatherers would probably find frozen
dinners appalling!
 Culture shapes when to sleep, who sleeps with
whom, how much sleep a person should have
 Japan and emphasis on productivity – sleep deprivation
 Where infants and children should sleep
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Culture is Based on Symbols
 A symbol is an object, word, or action
with a culturally defined meaning (p. 14 & 15)
 A symbol is often arbitrary – it stands for
something else with which it has no
necessary or natural relationship.
 Often impossible to predict how a particular
culture will symbolize something
 Language is an important symbolic
aspect of culture.
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What is this?
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What is this?
A dog
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What is this?
Are you sure?
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What is this?
Is it a perro?
It is in the Spanish language!
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What is this?
Is it a hund?
It is in the German language!
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What is this?
What does this symbolize?
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What is this?
What does this symbolize?
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What is this?
What does this symbolize?
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What is this?
What does this symbolize?
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If you are hungry…
 Are rats jumping in your stomach?
 In Hindi (a language of India)
 Or are you so hungry you can eat a
horse?
 In English
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Culture is Based on Symbols
Which are Mainly Arbitrary
 In India, widows
wear white
clothing to mark
their status
 What do widows
usually wear in
the U.S.?
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Culture is Integrated
 Culture is holistic
 Holism – the view that cultures are
complex systems and one must study all
their interconnected aspects in order to
understand the whole culture (p. 10)
 Must study social, political, economic, and
religious practices and institutions in order
to understand the whole culture
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Culture is Shared
 Culture is shared among a group of
people
 Cannot have a culture of 1!
 Can be a group of large people making up
a culture, but it can also be a small group
of people making up a culture/subculture
 Even a family can have customs, traditions,
stories, and beliefs that bind them and give
meaning to their life together
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Culture is Shared

Although multiple individuals share a
common culture, each individual
person may see that culture from a
slightly different perspective
 Individuals rarely experience the
enculturation process in precisely the
same way, nor do they perceive their
reality in precisely identical fashion
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Cultures are Dynamic and
Change


Cultures are dynamic systems that
respond to a variety of internal and
external forces
Cultures have always changed over
time, although the speed at which they
have changed varies
 Today, globalization (the process of
intensified global interconnectedness and
movement of goods, information, and
people) is a major force of contemporary
cultural change
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Cultures are Dynamic and Change

Cultural adaptation is just as important
to human survival as biological
adaptation is.
 Adaptation is the process by which
organisms adjust to the conditions of the
locality in which they live

Making coats, building fires,
constructing shelters, developing
technology (cultural adaptations) have
allowed humans to survive and expand
into a variety of different environments
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Cultures are Dynamic and Change

While cultures must be flexible in order
to meet new challenges and survive,
not all culture change is been positive
 Some culture change can be maladaptive
and create new problems
 Can you think of any examples?
 What is adaptive in one context may be
seriously maladaptive in another context
 Behavior that is adaptive in the short run
may be maladaptive in the long run
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Cultural Universals

A cultural universal is an element,
pattern, trait, or institution that is common
to all human cultures on the planet
 Some examples of some cultural universals
include…
 communicating with a verbal language consisting
of a limited set of sounds and grammatical rules for
constructing sentences
 using age and gender to classify people (e.g.,
teenager, senior citizen, woman, man)
 classifying people based on marriage and descent
relationships and having kinship terms to refer to
them (e.g., wife, mother, uncle, cousin)
 raising children in some sort of family setting
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Cultural Universals
 having a sexual division of labor (e.g., men's work
versus women's work)
 having a concept of privacy
 having rules to regulate sexual behavior
 distinguishing between good and bad behavior
 having some sort of body ornamentation
 making jokes and playing games
 having art
 having a calendar/notion of time
 some degree of ethnocentrism
 While these cultural universals are present in
all human societies, the particular ways in
which these aspects are implemented are
unique
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Ideal Culture versus Real Culture
 Ideal culture is what a society claims as their
culture
 Real culture is the actual culture the society
has
 Can you think of any examples in your culture
of ideal culture versus real culture?
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Culture versus Society
 Culture and society are not the same thing
 Culture is learned and shared ways of behaving
& thinking
 Society is a group of interacting organisms
 People are not the only animals that have societies
 Hives of bees, a group of ants, schools of fish, flocks of
birds, and lion prides are all societies
 These animals may have complex social behaviors
and interactions, but they do not have culture
 In human societies, culture and society are
inextricably connected
 Without a society we could not have culture
 Many members of a society often share the same
culture
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Subcultures/Microcultures
 A subculture/microculture is culture within a
larger culture
 A subculture/microculture shares cultural aspects
with the larger culture of which it is a part
 Subcultures/microcultures may have different
cultural aspects…
 without a hierarchical relationship
 For example, German Americans versus Italian
Americans
 or with a hierarchical relationship
 For example, Caucasian Americans versus Native
Americans
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Microcultures
A individual may be a member of
several microcultures
Class
Indigeneity
“Race” and
Ethnicity
Institutions
Gender
Age
(hospitals, universities,
prisons)
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Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Microculture: Poverty and Social
Class
 Worldwide, rates
of poverty have
not declined in
recent times
 Disparities
between the
wealthy and the
poor have
increased – they
share very
different
subcultures
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What are some of the functions of
culture?
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What are some of the functions of
culture?
 Culture provides the knowledge and skills to be able
to effectively provide for the basic needs of a
society
 Food, shelter, etc.
 Culture facilitates social interactions
 Provides a social structure for reproduction and support
 Enables us to communicate with each other through
language
 Gives us standards for distinguishing between what is right
and wrong (norms) and what is beautiful and ugly (values)
 It makes it possible to anticipate how others in our society
are likely to respond to our actions
 Offers ways to pass on knowledge and enculturate new
members of the society
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
What are some of the functions of
culture?
 Culture provides for the psychological
and emotional needs of its members
 Through art, music, myth, religion, etc.
culture gives the members of the society a
means for self-expression and understand
one’s place in the world
 Ideally, culture functions to satisfy
the physical, social, and
psychological needs and
expectations of the people in that
society
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Three Major Theoretical Debates
in Cultural Anthropology
 Is human behavior the result of biology
or culture?
 Is human behavior the result of people’s
thoughts or the material aspects of their
lives?
 Is human behavior the result of free will
or larger forces beyond our control?
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Is human behavior the result of
biology or culture?
 Biological Determinists
 Human behavior is biologically based
 Seek to explain why people do and think what
they do by considering biological factors such as
people’s genes and hormones (p. 20)
 Freeman on Samoan youth (p. 22)
 Cultural Constructionists
 Human behavior is culturally based
 Human behavior and ideas are best explained as
products of culturally shaped learning (p. 21)
 Mead on Samoan youth (p. 22)
 Many cultural anthropologists today tend to
lean more toward the cultural constructionist
camp.
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Is human behavior the result of
people’s thoughts or the material
aspects of their lives?
 Interpretive Anthropologists (Interpretivists)
 Human behavior/culture can be understood by studying what
is in people’s minds and thoughts – what people think
about, their explanations of their lives, and the symbols that
are important to them (p. 21)
 Hindus do not eat cows because cows are sacred and it is a
sin to kill and eat them (p. 21)
 Cultural Materialists
 Human behavior/culture can be understood by studying
people’s material aspects of life – the natural environment
and how people make a living within particular environments
 Hindus do not eat cows and they are sacred because living
cows are economically important – they plow fields, their
excrement is used for fertilizer, etc. (p. 21)
 Some cultural anthropologists today are strong
interpretivists, whereas others are strong cultural
materialists. Others take a middle-of-the-road view.
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Cultural materialist view of the
world…
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Is human behavior the result of
free will or larger forces beyond
our control?
 Individual Agency
 Emphasize that human behavior and thoughts are largely
based on individuals’ free will, or agency (p. 21)
 Poverty studies – show how even in extreme instances of
poverty individuals act to change their situation as best they
can (p. 21)
 Structurism
 Argue that individual free will is an illusion and that human
behavior and thoughts are conditioned, or structured, by
larger forces such as the economy, social and political
organization, and ideological systems (p. 21)
 Poverty studies – show that the poor are trapped by large
and powerful forces that provide them little room for agency
(p. 21)
 An increasing number of cultural anthropologists
seek to blend a structural perspective with attention
to agency
 Think of the movie “The Matrix”!
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Nacerima
 What are your impressions of this article?
 If the book and I had not told you this article
was about American culture, do you think you
would have recognized this as American
culture? Why or why not?
 How does it feel to you to look at American
culture more “objectively,” as an outside
observer?
 Do you think this article is an accurate
reflection of American culture? Why or why
not?
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
Ju/’hoansi
 Summarize some of the main points of this section.
 Discuss some ways the Ju/’hoansi have adapted to their
environment and social living. What special skills or
cultural behaviors have they developed over thousands
of years to help them adapt?
 In what ways is Ju/’hoansi culture different from your
own culture?
 In what ways is Ju/’hoansi culture similar to your own
culture?
 What surprises you most about the Ju/’hoansi culture?
 What do you think life would be like as a
hunter/gatherer?
 Do you think the Ju/’hoansi will be able to integrate their
belief that no one should be denied the basic necessities
of life with the demands of their modern situation? Why
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
or why not?
Example of
indigeneity: the
Ju/’hoansi of
Namibia and
Botswana
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The Original Affluent Society
 In 1966 Marshall Sahlins challenged the
popular view of hunter-gatherers living lives
"solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," as
Thomas Hobbes had put it in 1651.
 According to Sahlins, ethnographic data
indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far
fewer hours and enjoyed more leisure than
typical members of industrial society, and they
still ate well. Their "affluence" came from the
idea that they are satisfied with very little in
the material sense.
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
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Anthropology and the Study of Culture Miller Chapter 1