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The study of humanity, from its evolutionary origins millions of years ago to its current worldwide diversity


Populations of people living in organized groups with social institutions and expectations of behavior


The learned values, beliefs, and rules of conduct shared to some extent by the members of a society that govern their behavior with one another

Symbolic Culture

The ideas people have about themselves, others, and the world, and the ways that people express this idea.

Material Culture

The tools people make and use, the clothing and ornaments they wear, the buildings they live in.

Comparative Perspective

An approach in anthropology that uses data about the behaviors and beliefs in many societies to document both cultural universals and cultural diversity

Culture Change

Changes in peoples' ways of life over time through both internal and external forces


The rapid transformation of local cultures around the world in response to the economic and other influences of a dominant culture.

Holistic Perspective

A perspective in anthropology that views culture as an integrated whole no part of which can be completely understood without considering the whole.

Cultural Anthropology

The study of cultural behavior, especially the comparative study of living and recent human cultures.


Aspect of cultural anthropology involved with building theories about cultural behaviors and forms.


Aspect of cultural anthropology involved with observing and documenting peoples' ways of life.

Indigenous Societies

Peoples who are now minority in state societies but who were formerly independent and have occupied their territories for a long time.


The widespread human tendency to perceive the ways of doing things in one's own culture as normal and natural and that of others as strange

Cultural Relativism

Stresses the importance of analyzing cultures in their own terns rather than in terms of the culture of the anthropologist.

Ethical Relativism

The belief that all rights and wrongs and relative to time, place, and culture, such that no moral judgment of behavior can be made.

Linguistic Anthropology

The study of language and communications of different cultures.

Historical Linguistics

The study of changes in language and communication over time and between people in contact.


The study of past cultures, both historic cultures with written records and prehistoric cultures that predate the invention of writing.

Biological or Physical Anthropology

The study of human origins and biological diversity


The study of the fossil record, especially skeletal remains, to understand the process and products of human evolution.

Medical Anthropology

A discipline that bridges cultural and biological anthropology, focusing on heath and disease in human populations.

Applied Anthropology

An area of anthropology that applies the techniques and theories of the field to problem solving outside of traditional academic settings.

Forensic Anthropology

Biological anthropologists who analyze human remains in the service of criminal justice and families of disaster victims

Cultural Resource Management

The application of archaeology to preserve and protect historic structures and prehistoric sites.

Contract Archaeology

The application of archaeology to assess the potential impact of construction on archaeological sites and to salvage archeological evidence.

Cultural Knowledge

Information that enables people to function in their society and contributes to the survival of the society as a whole.

Cultural Models

Shared assumptions that people have about the world and about the ideal culture.


Sets of expectations and attitudes that people have about appropriate behabior.


A group whose members and other think of their way of life as in some significant way different from that of other people in the larger society.


Process of learning one's culture through informal observation and formal instruction


Norms specifying behaviors that are prohibited in culture.

Cultural Core

Practices by which people organize their work and produce food and other goods necessary for their survival

Naturalized Concepts

Ideas and behaviors so deeply embedded in a culture that they are regarded as universally normal or natural.

Cultural Integration

Tendency for people's practices and beliefs to form a relatively coherent and consistent system


A word, image, or object that stands for cultural ideas or sentiments

Culture Wars

Internal disagreements in a society about cultural models or about how society or the world should be organized


A alternative cultural model within a society that expresses different views about the way that society should be organized


Culture-based, often ethnocentric, way that people see the word and other people.

Culture Contact

Direct interaction between peoples of different cultures through migration, trade, invasion, or conquest.


Process by which a cultural product is created when people adapt a cultural item selectively borrowed from another culture to fit their existing culture.


Process by which a less numerous and less powerful culture group changes its ways and cultural identity to blend in with the dominant culture.


Process by which a group adjusts to living within a dominant culture while at the same time maintaining its original cultural identity

Cultural Pluralism

Condition in a stratified society in which many diverse cultural groups ideally lie together equally and harmoniously without losing their cultural identities and diversity,


Complex culture change both internal and external bases on industrialism and a transnational market economy.

Cultural Evolution

Belief of early anthropologist that cultures evolve through various stages from a simpler and more primitive state to a complex and more culturally advanced state.


New technologies and systems of knowledge.


Process by which new technologies and systems of knowledge are based on or built from previous tools, knowledge, and skills.


Process by which people try to change their culture or overturn the social order and replace it with a new ideal society and culture.


Spread of ideas, material objects, and cultural practices from one society to another through direct and indirect culture contact.

Reactive Adaptation

Coping response of captive, conquered, or oppressed peoples to loss and deprivation

Revitalization Movement

Type of nonviolent reactive adaptation in which people try to resurrect their culture heroes and restore their traditional way or life.

Global Culture

A constellation of technologies, practices, attiudes, values, and symbols that spread internationally from one broad cultural origin, most recently from the Anglo-European-American cultural complex

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