ANTA02H3 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Linguistic Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology
ProfessorAnne- Emanuelle Birn
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Review for Anthro Midterm
Chapter 1 Summary
1. Anthropology is the holistic, biocultural, and comparative study of humanity. It is
the systematic exploration of human biological and cultural diversity across time
and space. Examining the origins of, and changes in, human biology and culture,
anthropology provides explanations for similarities and differences among humans
and their societies.
2. The four subfields of general anthropology are (socio) cultural, archaeological,
biological, and linguistic. All consider variation in time and space. Each also
examines adaptation—the process by which organisms cope with environmental
3. Anthropology’s biocultural perspective is a particularly effective way of
approaching the topics of human biological diversity and “race.” Because of a range
of problems involved in classifying humans into racial categories, contemporary
scientists focus on specific differences, such as in skin color, and try to explain them.
Biological similarities between groups—rather than common ancestry (the assumed
basis of race)—may reflect similar but independent adaptation to similar natural
selective forces. Cultural forces mold human biology, including our body types and
4. Cultural anthropology explores the cultural diversity of the present and the
recent past. Archaeology reconstructs cultural patterns, often of prehistoric
populations. Biological anthropology documents diversity involving fossils, genetics,
growth and development, bodily responses, and nonhuman primates. Linguistic
anthropology considers diversity among languages. It also studies how speech
changes in social situations and over time.
5. Concerns with biology, society, culture, and language link anthropology to many
other fields—natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
6. Anthropology has two dimensions: general and applied. The latter uses
anthropological perspectives, theory, methods, and data to identify, assess, and solve
social problems. The fields in which applied anthropologists work include business,
government, economic development, education, and social services, action, and
outreach. Applied anthropologists come from all four subfields.
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Chapter 2 Summary
1. Culture, which is distinctive to humanity, refers to customary behavior and
beliefs that are passed on through enculturation. Culture rests on the human
capacity for cultural learning. Culture encompasses rules for conduct internalized in
human beings, which lead them to think and act in characteristic ways.
2. Although other animals learn, only humans have cultural learning, dependent on
symbols. Humans think symbolically—arbitrarily bestowing meaning on things and
events. By convention, a symbol stands for something with which it has no
necessary or natural relation. Symbols have special meaning for people who share
memories, values, and beliefs because of common enculturation.
3. Cultural traditions mold biologically based desires and needs in particular
directions. Everyone is cultured, not just people with elite educations. Cultures may
be integrated and patterned through economic and social forces, key symbols, and
core values. Cultural rules don’t rigidly dictate our behavior. There is room for
creativity, flexibility, diversity, and disagreement within societies. Cultural means
of adaptation have been crucial in human evolution. Aspects of culture also can be
4. The human capacity for culture has an evolutionary basis that extends back at
least 2.5 million years—to early tool makers whose products survive in the
archaeological record (and most probably even further back—based on observation
of tool use and manufacture by apes). Humans share with monkeys and apes such
traits as manual dexterity (especially opposable thumbs), depth and color vision,
learning ability based on a large brain, substantial parental investment in a limited
number of offspring, and tendencies toward sociality and cooperation.
5. Many hominin traits are foreshadowed in other primates, particularly in the
African apes, which, like us, belong to the hominid family. The ability to learn, basic
to culture, is an adaptive advantage available to monkeys and apes. Chimpanzees
make tools for several purposes. They also hunt and share meat. Sharing and
cooperation are more developed among humans than among the apes, and only
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