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Cultural Anthropology with Dr. Wormsley at NCSU

Four fundamental questions of anthropology


Strengths of anthropology

Breadth of coverage (holism)
Unit of analysis (culture)
Research sample

Sub-fields of anthropology

Biological (physical)

Biological (physical) anthropology studies...

Human evolution
Primate behavior
Primate studies and the definition of "human"

Charles Darwin

evolutionary theory
On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection (1859)

Biological anthropology goal

To clarify the physical evolution of pre-history human and human species over the past several million years and th chart the ancestry of modern humans

L.S.B. Leakey

worked in Olduvai Gorge in east Africa with family to answer "how did humans survive before culture evolved?"

Jane Goodall

one of "Leakey's Angels"
observed chimpanzees in the wild

Goodall's discoveries with chimpanzees

The showed aggression, nurturing, hunting, and violence; and they used tools which proved that we were no longer the only "smart" species

Dian Fossey

one of "Leakey's Angels"
observed Mountain Gorillas in the wild
became an activist for protection of Mountain Gorillas
murdered by poachers

Birute Galdikas

one of "Leakey's Angels"
observed orangutans in the wild

Galdikas' discoveries with orangutans

their tools suggested a shared ancestry with earlier primate ancestors
They nurture their children like humans

The "Evolution Threat"

People did not want to accept that man is related to "monkeys"

Language as a definitive human trait

Language is found within many other species
see Koko, the gorilla

DNA and evolution

DNA proved positive identification when human genes closely resembled chimpanzees (99%)

Population genetics emphasis

Understanding the significance of genetic markers, traits, and genes

Population genetics goals

to relate human populations to one another and to map out the great human migrations

Forensic anthropology (applied physical anthropology)

Identification of remains in case of warfare, mass murder, and catastrophe; to assist in criminal investigation of murder


Description and understanding of ancient (often extinct) cultures

Law of superstition

The lower the stratum, the older the artifact, used in relative dating

Absolute dating

any method of measuring the age of an event or object in years

Absolute dating techniques

C-14 dating, dendrochronology, potassium-argon

Relative dating techniques

law of superstition, stratigraphy

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

C-14 dating

Radiocarbon dating that measures the half-life of an organic material to get a date


"Tree ring dating"
limited utility (like US Southwest), continuous overlapping of specimen trees with annual growth rings

Cultural anthropology

the branch of anthropology that deals with human culture and society

Topical/ theoretical expertise

focusing on a specific subject matter

culture area specialization

focusing on a specific area and the cultures within

historical linguistics

the study of how languages change over time.

Descriptive linguistics

The scientific study of a spoken language, including its phonology, morphology, lexicon, and syntax.


Study of relationships between social and linguistic variation; study of language in its social context

applied anthropology

The use of anthropological knowledge and methods to solve practical problems, often for a specific client.

concept of culture

attitudes, beliefs, behavior that is learned and shared by a group of people

attributes of culture

learned - not inherited genetically
shared - common property of a group
symbolic - much lacks physical reality
adaptive - rational response to change
dynamic - always changing
integrated - fully connected internally

overt vs. covert

open/visible vs closed/hidden

ideal vs. real

difference between what we say we do or would like to do and what we REALLY do


how an outsider might describe or explain a culture


based in models and vocabulary of the culture one is describing

human nature

the idea that a behavior is universal among all humans; this is not true. not all of humanity is alike by virtue of being human

noble savage

The idea that primitive human beings are naturally good and that whatever evil they develop is the product of the corrupting action of civilization.


tendency to view one's own culture and group as superior to all other cultures and groups

cultural relativism

all human cultures are worthy of respect; each culture is adaptive and successful, as evident by its continued survival; and a culture should not be judged against the beliefs and values of another culture


a detailed description of a particular culture primarily based on fieldwork; based on observation, new data, and is highly qualitative


the branch of anthropology that deals with the division of humankind into races and with their origins and distribution and distinctive characteristics; comparison of many cultures, no fieldwork involved, uses existing data, and is highly quantitative


Human Relations Area Files: vast collection of cross indexed ethnographic and archaeological data catalouged with cultural characteristics and geographic locations archived in about 300 libraries

ethnographic method

The immersion of researchers in the lives and cultures of the peoples they are trying to understand in order to comprehend the meanings these people ascribe to their existence

4 forms of observation


fieldwork as rite of passage

modifies an anthropologists behavior
may test one's commitment to cultural relativism; culture shock
causes anthropologists to reflect on and re-interpret his/her own culture
key to the reflexive aspect of anthropology

culture shock

a condition of disorientation affecting someone who is suddenly exposed to an unfamiliar culture or way of life or set of attitudes

reverse culture shock

culture shock experienced by travelers upon returning to their home country

thai wai

a Thai greeting that consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion.

tee (Enga)

Pigs remain a culturally valued item with elaborate systems of pig exchange also known as "tee" that mark social life in the province.

Kathy Reichs

forensic anthropologists known for inspiring the show "Bones" and writing fictional novels of forensic anthropology cases

Washoe/ Koko

Ape Language Studies

Lewis Henry Morgan

Lawyer in Rochester, NY
Iroquouis Indians fascinated him
Believed transitions occurred at varying speeds in different cultures and that culture and biology are key factors in the speed of change

Morgans model of the 7 stages of cultural evolution

Lower savagery - stone tools, no culture
Middle savagery - fire
Upper savagery - bow and arrow
Lower barbarism - pottery
Middle barbarism - domesticated animals
Upper barbarism - iron smelting
Civilization - alphabet, literacy

George Peter Murdock

Believed that general principles of culture could be derived from cross-cultural analysis on a massive scale. Began a project to index and tabulate info on all the world's known cultures. HRAF- Human Relations Area Files.

Clark Wissler

rejected unilinear evolution, developed concept of culture area, change due to culture contact

Bronislaw Malinowski

British anthropologist (born in Poland) who introduced the technique of the participant observer (1884-1942); one of the first anthropologists to do research; introduced basic needs, derived needs, and traits that seem to meet no need

Margaret Mead

one of the first female anthropologists; worked with national character studies to understand motives of the Japanese Kamikaze bombers;

Ruth Benedict

cultures exhibit basic personalities through individual behavior; "Patterns of Culture" (1934)

Apollonian type

compromise and avoidance of stress

Dionysian type

warlike and competitive; seek excitement

Claude Levi-Strauss

French philosopher and structural anthropologist, developed theory of binary opposites, said culture was a system of communication, interpreted human culture on linguistics, information theory, and cybernetics, wrote "Structural Anthropology", "Totemism", "The Raw and the Cooked", and "The Savage Mind"

Roy Rappaport

-compares humans to other organisms.
-culture to humans is invested with meaning
-critiques functionalism bc believes that religion has a profound effect upon the natural world.

Clifford Geertz

(1926) American anthropologist; worked in field of symbolic anthropology, which attributes special importance to thoughts (symbols)

John Bodley

Wrote: "The Price of Progress"
Discussed: The effects of "progress" being pushed on native people
Conclusion: Benefits of progress for indigenous peoples are often illusory and detrimental. can lead to work and dietary change, disrupting environmental balance, overpopulation, urbanization, and crowding

Gisaro (Kaluli)

The centerpiece of Kaluli ceremonial life is the Gisaro, which is performed at all major celebratory occasions such as weddings. "Gisaro" specifically refers to the songs and dancing performed for a host longhouse by visitors; the songs are composed to incorporate sorrowful references to important places and people who have died but who are remembered with fondness and grief.

Pandanus language (Imbonggu)

The language of the Imbonggu created to steal nuts from the spirits since they could not understand it.

Donald Black

termed "law" as governmental social control, wrote "The Behavior of Law", showed the contrast between ideal and real culture within American law

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