Anthropology: Human nature, human society, human past, human present – human
advancement in different time/places
Study what Human beings are alike, different (commons, differences developed in
Many anthropologists do work in peasant communities, urban settings, multinational
corporations, and non-western societies.
Anthropologists are different from sociologists, psychologists, etc. – because they
attempts to draw different disciplines together, like biology, religion, language,
Anthropology is holistic – Perspective on the human condition that assumes that the
mind and body, individuals and society individuals and the environment
interpenetrate and even defines one another. (Relies on different social sciences)
Anthropology is comparative – Necessary to understand from different views such as
American, Canadian…It considers similarities and differences in a wide range of
human societies (both past and present) in addition to what makes us similar to and
different from other species.
Anthropology is divided into four disciplines
Archaeology – examines ancient ways of life, social process, and specializes in
the reconstruction and analysis of past cultures.
Biological anthropology – Studies how are humans different from and similar to
other living organisms? Physical evolution; similar or different from closest living
ancestors such as the apes ; and biological transformations.
Linguistics – reconstruction of ancient languages, universal features of language
say something about the brain, language differences reflect world view, speech
reflects social relations.
Cultural/Social anthropology – comparative study of cultures and societies,
examines how variation in beliefs and behaviors is shaped by being a member of a
particular society. Usually non-western societies (non-primitive) however in the
more recent years more anthropology studied western societies.
Methods of Socio-cultural anthropology – Studies meanings, instead of
measurements; for example, a myth versus electrons.
Fieldwork – involves a period of close association with the people in whose
language or way of life the anthropologist is interested in.
Participant observation – This entails living as closely as possible with the
people whose culture the anthropologists is interested in studying and participating
in their lives as much as possible. The participant shows up as an “infant”, in position
in a child to relearn everything. (Most at least for a year in order for the subjects to be comfortable to the researchers)
Culture shock – refers to the feeling of disorientation, akin to panic, that develops in
people living in an unfamiliar society when they cannot understand what is
happening around them.
Culture – Shared, learned, and accumulated experience. It refers to socially
transmitted patterns of behavior characteristic of a given society. That complex
whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, law, custom, and any other
capabilities and habits acquired by human beings as a member of a given society. We
rarely study culture patterns, and seldom ignore it, we look at the world through
glasses of distorted lenses.
Ethnocentrisms – To view other people’s behavior in terms of our own cultural
categories is called ethnocentrism. The opinion that one’s own way of life is
“natural”, “correct”, and indeed, the only true way of being fully human.
Cultural relativism – entails understanding another culture in its own terms so that
the culture appears to be a coherent and meaningful design for living. Strive to
understand what is shared among a given people, those rules and common
understandings which allow us to interact.
Emic analysis – Understands culture as a system of rules that govern behavior.
- ‘natives’ own perceptions, thoughts of values.
- Examines how patterns of thinking in a particular culture a governed by conscious
and unconscious rules.
- Rules may server as guidelines for behavior, but don’t fully determine it.
- People often break their own rules, or can’t elucidate a rule to account for their
Types of anthropological writings –
Ethnography – A description of a particular society
Ethnology – A comparative study of many societies
Compared to ethnography, the study of single groups through direct contact with the
culture, ethnology takes the research that ethnographers have produced and then
compares and contrasts different cultures.
Unilineal cultural evolution –
- Different cultural forms are not randomly different; rather; what they represent
are the different stages of social evolution through which every human society
had either passed, or would pass in the future.
- Cutural evolution was seen to be a process in which multiplicity of human groups
developed through a series of similar stages from being “simple” to “complex.”
- Evolutionary theorists saw their own world as the apex of civilization. For them, nineteenth century European capitalist society was the most advanced stage of
cultural evolution yet.
- Societies that had not already reached this level were taken as living relics;
“survivals” of the more primitive stages that the west had already left behind.
Evolutionary typologies –
Savages – Hunters and gatherers
Lower – Origin of human race.
Middle – Fishing knowledge, use of fire.
Upper – invention of the bow and arrow
Barbarians – Domesticated plants and animals, but no writing
Lower – invention of pottery.
Middle – Domestication of animals and plants, irrigation, use of brick and stone.
Upper – Smelting, use of iron tools.
Civilized people – State organization alphabets, and the invention of writing
Evolution of the Family –
Savagery – random mating/primitive promiscuity. Impossible to tell who the
biological parents are.
Barbarism – kinship ties traced to one sex only; first women, later in time men.
Civilization – Monogamous marriage
Key components of evolutionary thinking
-The civilization of Western Europe – its technology, social organization, religious
belief, etc, was seen to be the most developed.
- Non-western people could be taken as “survivals” depicting the different stages
through which mankind as a whole had either passed, or would pass.
Problems of Evolutionary thinking
- Poor data, speculative reasoning
- Assumption that human societies could be ranked as being “better” or worse
than one another
- Failure to see that all of humankind need not have the same history
- Belief that is possible to understand cultural phenomenon completely divorced
from the context or setting in which it occurred.
Bronislaw Malinowski – Trobriand islands
- Father of modern fieldwork
- Ethnographic present
- “The final goal of social anthropology is to grasp the natives’ point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world.”
Franz Boas – Inuit
- Museum collections
- North American cultural anthropology
Human Evolution – upright posture
- Bipedal locomotion
- Hand-eye coordination
- Large brain
The premature human infant – babies require an enormous amount of time and
energy if they are to survive.
- Children rely on their parents for food, protection and to teach them the skills
that are required in a complex world.
- Predisposes us to live in groups.
Consequences of our large brain – Humans can go further than other animals in how
they handle the “facts of life”.
- Kinship system vary because our intelligence allows us to be flexible with how we
handle the processes of mating, birth, and parenthood.
Consanguinity – A relative by birth
Biogenetic view of kinship – 23 chromosomes from the mother, 23 chromosomes
from the father.
Trobriand islands – Baloma (spirit of the dead) are the causes of pregnancy
Kinds of Relatives – Pater – legal father, Mater – legal mother, Genitor – Biological
father, genetrix – biological mother.
Affine – Relative by marriage.
Lakher of Burma – Two children born of the same mother but different fathers would
Kinship Diagram – A kinship diagram is a convention used by anthropologists to
graphically represent kinship relations.
A descent Group – A kinship group whose membership is based on a rule of descent
- Appropriate descent status (matrilineal, patrilineal or cognatic) entitles a person
to be a member of the group.
Matrilineal Descent – involves tracing ties of kinship from ancestress through her
- Can also be referred to as uterine descent.
Patrilineal Descent – Descent traced from an ancestor through the male line.
- Also known as agnatic descent
- Here, the children of brothers are members of the group but not the children of sisters.
Cognatic Descent – Ties are traced through both male and female links, a child
belong simultaneously to both their mother and their father’s group.
Unilineal Descent – If a kinship system traces links through one sex only, we can say
that this system is based on a principle of unilineal descent.
- A unilineal system can be either matrilineal – the important point is that it
recruits members on the basis of one sex only.
Lineage – If the links between members of a descent group are known, we call this
type of descent group a lineage.
-Thus, a lineage is a social group whose members trace descent from an ancestor or
ancestress by known genealogical links.
Clan – Here, the precise genealogical links are not known or not remembered.
-Members assert that they are all related to a common ancestor, but cannot
demonstrate the exact connections involved.
Double Descent – Yako of Nigeria, uses 2 unilineal principles at the same time to
define two distinct groups with different purposes.
Ancestor – focused group - whatever their form, have one feature in common – they
consists of the descendants of a common ancestor
- When we look at kinship from the perspective of descent, we are looking at what
anthroplogists have called ancestor focused groups.
Ego- focused groups – do not necessarily have an ancestor in common: they consist
of persons who have a relative in common – ego.
- Best known of such groups is the kindred.
- Persons born of a kindred are not all related to one another – what they have in
common is a tie to ego.
- North American idea of cousinship.
Lusi conception ideaology – A father is connected to his child through the
provisioning of semen which builds the child’s body and provides nourishment in
- A mother is connected to her child only through feeding it after birth.
- Post-birth adoption possible through the sharing of food.
Euro-American Comparisons – Wetnurses, sharing a cheque book. Nuer – Sudan
Nuer background – Number 200,000
- Lives on both sides of Nile River
- Garden and raise livestock
- Pattern of life follows the seasons.
Marriage as a social process – Payment of bridewealth
- Performance of ceremonies.
3 Stages to marriage – Larcieng (engagement)
- Ngut (wedding ceremony proper)
- Mut (birth of a child)
Euro-American vs. Nuer Marriage – American’s marriage unites two people through
performance of a single religious ceremony.
- Nuer’s marriage is the gradual pulling together of two lineages through rites, the
transfer of property, and birth of a child.
Evans – Pritchard writes: “Marriage (among the Nuer) is not a single act. It is a
succession of interconnected acts leading from courtship to birth of children, and
bridewealth is not a single payment but a succession of payment in response to the
changing status of the wife and the increasing maturity of the union.”
Genitor of the bride- If the genitor of the bride is different from the pater, he is
entitled to a “cow of the begetting” and will take precedence over all of the claims.
- If he has also played a role in raising the girl, his claims to bridewealth will be
Return of Bridewealth – If a woman dies and no children have been born, all of the
cattle except for two have to be returned to the groom’s people.
- If a wife dies after havingborne a single child, the usual procedure is for half of
the brideweath to be returned.
- If a wife leaves her husband after only a single child has been born, her husband’s
kin may demand the return of all of the cattle except for 6 which the groom’s side
leaves with the wife’s people in order to retain rights to the child.
Types of Nuer Marriage – Ordinary marriage
Ordinary marriage – Similar to Euro-American, but not complete until the birth of a child.
Woman – woman marriage – A woman marries another woman and counts as the
pater of children born to her “wife”.
-A woman who marries in this way is usually barren and for this reason counts in
some respects as a male.
Ghost marriage – If a man dies without legal heirs, a kinsman ought to take a wife in
his name so that he will be remembered by his children
- The ghost will be the legal father of any children.
- Ghost marriages are almost as common as ordinary marriages.
Levirate – Marriage persists, even in the face of death of a spouse.
- Widow takes up residence with dead husband’s brother.
- Any children born belong to the dead man because it was in his name that
bridewealth was paid.
Widow Concubinage – A widow lives with a man who is not her husband’s kin
- “Natural family” rather than legal family.
Wife Concubinage – A woman is not content to remain with her husband and after
she has borne him a single child, she leaves him.
- Nobridewealth returned
- Bear her husband “children in the bush”
Simple Concubinage – Woman never married
- Genitor has rights to la claim to any children by paying 4-6 head of cattle for each
Legal vs. Natural family – Legal family is the tie between pater and child is derived
from the time between husband and wife created by the payment of bridewealth
- Natural family is the tie between pater and child is created by the payment of
cattle for the child and not for the woman.
Summary – Nuer do not attach much importance to physiological paternity
- Pay little attention to the manner of begetting a child so long as the legal
fatherhood of the child is well established
- Legal fatherhood is created through the payment of cattle.
Sexual differences – Only men can impregnate women.
- Only women can menstruate.
- Only women can gestate.
- Only women can lactate.
Sex – Refers to the physical differences between men and women.
Gender – Refers to those ideas and perceptions which give social meaning to the
physical differences between sexes.
- Gender renders two biological classes – male and female – into two social classes – men and women – and makes the relationship in which men and women stand
toward each other seem reasonable and appropriate.
Hua – Papua New Guinea
Gender Identity – Refers to a process of self-definition: whether one experiences
oneself as being “male” or “female”.
Transgender – is the state of one’s gender identity not matching one’s assigned sex
based on anatomical characteristics
- Relating to a person whose identity does not conform to conventional notions of
male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these.
- Non-identification with the sex one was assigned at birth.
Third gender – People who are biologically male or female, but who take on the
cultural and economic role of the opposite sex.
Native North Americans – Two spirits
- Included biological males and females who assumed social roles other than (or in
addition to) the roles usually associated with their sex.
- Could become two-spirits as a result of personal inclination, spiritual calling, or
- The social and sexual lives of two-spirits were consistent with their gender roles:
female two-spirits had sexual relations with and might marry a woman, and male
two-spirits had sexual relations with and might marry a man.
- Not viewed as either heterosexual nor homosexual.
Gender Orientation – Sexual object choice: whether one is attracted to members of
the same or the opposite sex. Humans are born sexual, but their sexuality has to be
channeled in a particular direction and this take places through a process of cultural
John Money & Anke Ehrhardt – Easier to change someone’s anatomical sex than it
was to change someone’s gender identity once it had been formed
- Studies of hermaphrodites.
- Individuals choose to become the sex that they grew up believing that they were.
- Gender is a product of learning rather than a mere derivative of biology.
Gender Roles – Refers to constellations of behaviors that are culturally associated
with each gender.
- May include the kind of work typically assigned to men and women, the familial
roles that people play, leadership patterns in the home or community, and ritual
practices. Gender Relations – Consist of interactions between men and women, which may
reflect differences in their relative status, prestige and power.
- In some societies, gender equality prevails.
- In other societies, the genders are not considered equal and some degree of
male dominance prevails.
Inequality/Equality in !Kung and West –
- Salary disparity persists in Florida, Woman in Florida fare slightly better than the
national earning 80 cent rather than 77 cent to a man’s dollar. However
regardless of race, women working full time in Florida earn less than white male
counterparts. White man – 1 dollar, White woman – 78 cents, African American –
61 cents, Hispanic Woman – 57 cents.
Sambia – Papua New Guinea
Ethnographic – background – Studied by Gilbert Herdt
- Eastern Highlands Province, PNG.
- Number of approximately 2,000.
- Agriculture, hunting, gathering, pig raising.
-Sharp division of labor.
-Unmarried men live on their own in the men’s cult house.
-Segregation of sexes in terms of domestic arrangements
Warrior Ethos – Until 1960s, warfare rife throughout the region.
- Notion of strength (jerungdu) of central importance
- Men should be strong, brave, and unyielding in all of their pursuits.
- Strength a product of male initiation.
Sambia Gender Dichotomy – Men and women are understood to be radically
different kinds of beings.
- Women are polluting – contact with a woman’s menstrual blood or the fluids of
birth has the power to debilitate a man, perhaps even kill him.
- Gendered use of space.
Sambia Female Physiology – Female physiology is advantageous in certain respects.
-Women live longer and enjoy greater health.
-Girl mature far more quickly than boys.
-Boys need help attaining maturity- can only come about through ritual means. The Ritual Cycle – 6 distinct stage of initiation
-First 3 stages done collectively on a group of boys as age-mates
-Final three stages take place on an individual basis, in keeping with where a youth is
in terms of getting married and reproducing
-A new initiation cycle is set in motion every 3-4 years.
How a Sambia Girl develops – A girl is born with all of the vital fluids and organs
which are necessary for her to attain reproductive competence on her own.
- Tingu – menstrual blood organ – manufactures blood in profuse quantities.
- Tingu is the very endowment of femaleness and the capacity to act as a mature
How a Sambia boy develops – Men lack a tingu, but they possess a kereku-kereku or
- This acts as a repository of sperm which is held to be the essence of manhood.
- In young boys, this organis solid and dry – it can only store but not manufacture
- Only oral insemination can activate the kereku-kereku giving boys the push
Source of Female pollution – Although menstrual blood is a life giving female fluid, it
also constitutes the most debilitating and potentially lethal of all fluids to men.
- Contact with this substance is said to stunt the growth of a boy, destroy, the
strength of a man, and endanger the success of a project the strength of a man
and endanger of success of any project that a man might undertake.
- Other female products that are similarly polluting include skin flakes, sweats,
saliva, body odor, and vaginal fluids.
- Only males at risk from female pollution.
Summary – Why initiate boys? – A young boy is a person with male genitals who is
polluted and incapable of masculine growth on his own.
-To attain reproductive competence, he must break free of women and be ritually
Stage 1: (Age 7-10)
-Boys take up residence in men’s cult house where they are assigned a ritual sponsor.
-Must induce masculinity and remove the polluting influence of women
(particularly a boy’s mother).
-Stretching rites, egestive rites (nose bleeding) and ingestive rites are particularly
Ingestive rites – First and second stage initates can only serve as fellators – they are
forbidden to reverse roles with their partenrs.
-Notions of incest govern these relations. -In