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146 terms


The study of humankind in all times and places.
Holistic Perspective
A fundamental principle of anthropology: that the various parts of human culture and biology must e viewed in the broadest possible context in order to understand their interconnections and interdependence.
Theories about the world and reality based on the assumptions and values of one's own culture.
Applied Anthropology
The use of anthropological knowledge and methods to solve practical problems, often for a specific client.
Physical Anthropology
Also known as biological anthropology. the systematic study of humans as biological organisms.
Molecular Anthropology
A branch of biological anthropology that uses genetic and biochemical techniques to test hypotheses about human evolution, adaptation, and variation.
The study of the origins and predecessors of the present human species.
Focusing on the interaction of biology and culture.
Forensic Anthropology
Applied subfied of physical anthropology that specializes in the identification of human skeletal remains for legal purposes.
The study of living and fossil primates.
Cultural Anthropology
Also known as social or sociocultural anthropology. The study of customary patterns in human behavior, thought, and feelings. It focuses on humans as culture-producing and culture-reproducing creatures.
A society's shared and socially transmitted ideas, values, and perceptions, which are used to make sense of experience and which generate behavior and are reflected in that behavior.
A detailed description of a particular culture primarily based on fieldwork.
The term anthropologists use for on-location research.
Participant observation
In ethnography, the technique of learning a people's culture through social participation and personal observation within the community being studied, as well as interviews and discussion with individual members of the group over an extended period of time.
The study and analysis of different cultures from a comparative or historical point of view, utilizing ethnographic accounts and developing anthropological theories that help explain why certain important differences or similarities occur among group.
The study of human cultures through the recovery and analysis of material remains and environmental data.
Cultural Resource Management
A branch of archaeology tied to government policies for the protection of cultural resources and involving surveying and/or excavating archaeological and historical remains threatened by construction or development.
Linguistic anthropology
The study of human languages, looking at their structure, history, and/or relation to social and cultural contexts.
Based on observations of the world rather than on intuition or faith.
A tentative explanation of the relation between certain phenomena.
In science, an explanation of natural phenomena, supported by a reliable body of data.
Worldwide interconnectedness, evidenced in global movements of natural resources, trade goods, human labor, finance capital, information, and infectious diseases.
The process by which a society's culture is transmitted from one generation to the net and individuals become members of their society.
an organized group or groups of interdependent people who generally share a common territory, language, and culture and who act together for collective survival and well-being.
The cultural elaborations and meanings assigned to the biological differentiation between the sexes.
A distinctive set of standards and behavior patterns by which a group within a larger society operates, while still sharing common standards with that larger society.
Ethnic Group
People who collectively and publicly identify themselves as a distinct group based on various cultural features such as shared ancestry and common origin, language, customs, and traditional beliefs.
The term, rooted in Greek word ethnikos and related to ethnos, is the expression of the set of cultural ideas held by an ethnic group.
Pluralistic Society
A society in which two or more ethnic groups or nationalities are politically organize into one territorial state but maintain their cultural differences.
A sign, sound, emblem, or other thing that is arbitrarily linked to something else and represents it in a meaningful way.
Social Structure
The rule-governed relationships - with all their rights and obligations - that hold members of a society together. This includes households, families, associations, and power relations, including politics.
the economic foundation of a society, including its subsistence practices and the tools and other material equipment used to make a living.
A society's shared sense of identity and worldview. The collective body of ideas, beliefs, and values by which a group of people make sense of the world - its shape, challenges, and opportunities - and their place in it. This includes religion and national ideology.
The belief that the ways of one's own culture are the only proper ones.
Cultural Relativism
the idea that one must suspend judgment of other people's practices in order to understand them in their own cultural terms.
Urgent Anthropology
Ethnographic research that documents endangered cultures; also known as salvage ethnography.
Advocacy Anthropology
Research that is community-based and politically involved.
Multi-sited Ethnography
the investigation and documentation of peoples and cultures embedded in the larger structures of globalizing world, utilizing a range of methods in various locations of time and space.
Ethnographic fieldwork
extended on-location research to gather detailed and in-depth information on a society's customary ideas, values, and practices through participation in its collective social life.
Key consultant
A member of the society being studied, who provides information that helps researchers understand the meaning of what they observe; early anthropologists referred to such individuals and informants.
Quantitative data
Statistical or measurable information, such as demographic composition, the types and quantities of crops grown, or the ratio of spouses born and raised within or outside the community.
Qualitative Data
Non-statistical information such as personal life stories and customary beliefs and practices.
Informal Interview
An unstructured, open-ended conversation in everyday life.
Formal Interview
A structured question/answer session carefully notated as it occurs and based on prepared questions.
Eliciting Device
An activity or object used to draw out individuals and encourage them to recall and share information.
Digital Ethnography
the use of digital technologies (audio and visual) for the collection, analysis, and representation of ethnographic data.
A study of cultures of the recent past through oral histories, accounts of explorers, missionaries, and traders, and through analysis of records such as land titles, birth and death records, and other archival materials.
An assertion of opinion or belief formally handed down by an authority as true and indisputable. Also known as dogma.
Human Relations Area Files (HRAF)
A vast collection of cross-indexed and ethnographic and archaeological data catalogued by cultural-characteristics and geographic locations. Archived in about 300 libraries (or microfiche and/or online).
Idealist Perspective
A theoretical approach stressing the primacy of superstructure in cultural research and analysis.
Materialist Perspective
A theoretical approach stressing the primacy of infrastructure (material conditions) in cultural research and analysis.
An anthropologist specializing in the study of human evolutionary history.
A specialist in the behavior and biology of living primates and their evolutionary history.
Changes int he genetic makeup of population over generations.
The basic physical units of heredity that specify the biological traits and characteristics of each organism.
A series of beneficial adjustments of organisms to their environment.
Natural Selection
The principle of mechanism by which individuals having biological characteristics best suited to a particular environment survive and reproduce with greater frequency than individuals without those characteristics.
A population or group of populations having common attributes and the ability to interbreed and produce live, fertile offspring. Different species are reproductively isolated from one another.
The subgroup of mammals that includes lemurs, lorises, tarsiers, monkeys, apes and humans.
The broad-shouldered tailless group of primates that includes all living and extinct apes and humans.
A special form of locomotion in which an organism walks upright on two feet - characteristic of humans and their ancestors.
The genus including several species of earl bipeds from southern, eastern, and central Africa (Chad) living between about 1.1 and 4.3 million years ago, one of whom was directly ancestral to humans.
Lower Paleolithic
The first part of the Old Stone Age spanning from about 200,000 or 250,000 to 2.6 million years ago.
The first stone tool industry, beginning between 2.5 and 2.6 million years ago at the start of the Lower Paleolithic.
Homo Habilis
"Handy Human." the First fossil members of the genus Homo Appearing 2.5 to 2.6 million years ago, with larger brains and smaller faces than Australopithecus.
Homo Erectus
"Upright Human." A species within the genus homo first appearing just after 2 million years ago in Africa and ultimately spreading throughout the Old World.
A distinct group within the genus Homo inhabiting Europe and Southwest Asia from approximately 30,000 to 125,000 years ago.
The tool industry found among Neandertals in Europe and Southwest Asia, and their human contemporaries in northern Africa, during the Middle Paleolithic, generally dating from about 40,000 to 125,000 years ago.
Multiregional Hypothesis
the hypothesis that modern humans originated through a process of simultaneous local transition from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens throughout the inhabited world.
Recent African origions hypothesis
The hypothesis that all modern people are derived from one single population of archaic H. sapiens from Africa who migrated out of Africa after 100,000 years ago, replacing all archaic forms due to their superior cultural capabilities. Also called the "eve" or "Out of Africa" hypothesis.
In biology, a subgroup within a species, no scientifically applicable to humans because there exists no subspecies within modern homo sapiens.
A system of communication using sounds or gestures that are put together in meaningful ways according to a set of rules.
An instinctive sound or gesture that has a natural or self-evident meaning.
the modern scientific study of all aspects of language.
The systematic identification and description of distinctive speech sounds in a language.
The study of language sounds.
The smallest unit of sound that makes a difference in meaning in a language.
The study of the patterns or rules of word formation in a language (including such things as rules concerning verb tense, pluralization, and compound words).
The smallest unit of sound that carries a meaning in language. It is distinct from a phoneme, which can alter meaning but has no meaning itself.
The patterns or rules by which morphemes are arranged into phrases and sentences.
the Entire formal structure of a language, including morphology and syntax.
Language Family
A group of languages descended from a single ancestral language.
Linguistic Divergence
The development of different languages from a single ancestral language.
In linguistics, a method for identifying the approximate time that languages branched off from a common ancestor. It is based on analyzing core vocabularies.
Core vocabularies
The most basic and long-lasting words in any language - pronouns, lower numerals, and names fro body parts and natural objects.
Linguistic Nationalism
the attempt by ethnic minorities and even countries to proclaim independence by purging their language of foreign terms.
The study of the relationship between language and society through examining how social categories (such as age, gender, ethnicity, religion, occupation, and class) influence the use and significance of distinctive styles of speech.
gendered Speech
Distinct male and female speech patterns, which vary across social and cultural settings.
Varying forms of a language that reflect particular regions, occupations, or social classes and that are similar enough to be mutually intelligible.
Code Switching
changing from one level of language to another as the situation demands, whether from one language to another or from one dialect of a language to another.
A branch of linguistics that studies the relationships between language and culture and how they mutually influence and inform each other.
Linguistic Relativity
The idea that distinctions encoded in one language are unique to that language.
Linguistic determinism
The idea that language to some extent shapes the way in which we view and think about the world around us; sometimes called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis after its originators Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Lee Whorf.
facial expressions and bodily postures and motions that convey intended as well as subconscious messages.
A system of notating and analyzing postures, facial expressions, and bodily motions that convey messages.
The cross-cultural study of humankind's perception and use of space.
Voice effects that accompany language and convey meaning. These include vocalizations such as giggling, groaning, or sighing, as well as voice qualities such as pitch and tempo.
Tonal Language
A language in which the sound pitch of a spoken word is an essential part of its pronunciation and meaning.
referring to things and events removed in time and space.
Writing System
A set of visible or tactile signs used to represent units of language in a systematic way.
A series of symbols representing the sounds of a language arranged in a traditional order.
The ability to identify oneself as an individual, to reflect on oneself, and to evaluate oneself.
Naming Ceremony
A special event or ritual to mark the naming of a child.
The distinctive way a person thinks, feels, and behaves.
Dependence Training
child-rearing practices that foster compliance in the performance of assigned tasks and dependence on the domestic group, rather than reliance on oneself.
Independence Training
Child-rearing practices that foster independence, self-reliance, and personal achievement.
Modal Personality
the body of character traits that occur with the highest frequency in a culturally bounded population.
Core Values
Those values especially promoted by a particular culture.
A personal born with reproductive organs, genitalia, and/or sex chromosomes that are not exclusively male or female.
a person who crosses over or occupies a culturally accepted position int he binary male-female gender construction.
Ethnic Psychosis
A mental disorder specific to a particular ethnic group.
Cultural Adaptation
a complex of ideas, activities, and technologies that enable people to survive and even thrive.
A system, or a functioning whole, composed of both the natural environment and all the organisms living within it.
Cultural Evolution
Culture change over time (not to be confused with progress)
The notion that humans are moving forward to a better, more advanced stage in their culture development toward perfection
Convergent Evolution
In cultural evolution, the development of similar cultural adaptations to similar environmental conditions by different peoples with different ancestral cultures.
Parallel Evolution
In cultural evolution, the development of similar cultural adaptations to similar environmental conditions by peoples whose ancestral cultures were already somewhat alike.
Culture Area
A geographic region in which a number of societies follow similar patterns of life
Culture core
Cultural features that are fundamental to the society's way of making its living - including food-producing techniques, knowledge of available resources, and the work arrangements involved in applying those techniques to the local environment.
Food foraging
Hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plant foods.
Carrying Capacity
The number of people that the available resources can support at a given level of food-getting techniques.
Density of Social Relations
The number and intensity of interactions among the members of a camp.
The New Stone Age; prehistoric period beginning about 10,000 years ago in which people possessed stone-based technologies and depended on domesticated plants and/or animals.
Neolithic Transition
Sometimes referred to as Neolithic revolution,. The profound culture change beginning about 10,00 0 years ago and associated with the early domestication of plants and animals, and settlement in permanent villages.
Cultivation of crops carried out with simple hand tools such as digging sticks or hoes.
Slash-and-burn cultivation
Also known as swidden farming. an extensive form of horticulture in which the natural vegetation is cut, the slash is subsequently burned,and crops are then planted among the ashes.
the cultivation of food plants in soil prepared and maintained for crop production. Involves using technologies other than hand tools, such as irrigation, fertilizers, and the wooden or metal plow pulled by harnessed draft animals.
Breeding and managing large herds of domesticated grazing animals, such as goats, sheep, cattle, horses, llamas, or camels.
A rural cultivator whose surpluses are transferred to a dominant group of rulers that uses the surpluses both to underwrite its own standard of living and to distribute the remainder to groups in society that do not farm but must be fed for their specific goods and services in return.
Economic System
An organized arrangement for producing, distributing, and consuming goods.
Tools and other material equipment, together with the knowledge of how to make and use them.
The exchange of goods and services, of approximately equal value, between two parties.
Generalized reciprocity
A mode of exchange in which the value of what is given is not calculated, nor is the time of repayment specified.
Balanced Reciprocity
A mode of exchange in which the giving and the receiving are specific as to the value of the goods and the time of their delivery.
Negative Reciprocity
A form of exchange in which the aim is to get something for as little as possible. Neither fair nor balanced, it may involve hard bargaining, manipulation, and outright cheating.
Silent Trade
A form of barter in which no verbal communication takes place.
Kula ring
A form of balanced reciprocity that reinforces trade relations among the seafaring Trobriand people, who inhabit a large ring of islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean off the eastern coast of Papua New Guinea, and other Melanesians.
A form or exchange in which goods flow into a central place, where they are sorted, counted, and reallocated.
Conspicuous consumption
A showy display of wealth for social prestige
On the northwest coast of North America, a ceremonial event in which a village chief publicly gives away stockpiled food and other goods that signify wealth.
Prestige Economy
Creation of a surplus for the express purpose of gaining prestige through a public display of wealth that is given away as gifts.
Leveling Mechanism
A cultural obligation compelling prosperous members of a community to give away goods, host public feasts, provide free service, or otherwise demonstrate generosity so that no one permanently accumulates significantly more wealth than anyone else.
Market Exchange
The buying and selling of goods and services, with prices set by rules of supply and demand.
Something used to make payments for other goods and services as well as to measure their value.
Informal Economy
A network of producing and circulating marketable commodities, labor, and services that for various reasons escape government control.