Stephanie Oliveira 1
Mirror for Humanity
Mirror for Humanity
Chapter 1: What is Anthropology?
Anthropology is much more than the study of nonindustrial peoples. It is a
comparative science that examines all societies, ancient and modern, simple
Ethnography- Ethnographic fieldwork entails spending a year or more in
another society, living with local people and learning about their way of life.
Anthropology is the exploration of human diversity in time and space.
Anthropology studies the whole of human condition: past, present and
future; biology, society, language and culture.
Creativity, adaptability and flexibility are basic human attributes and human
diversity is the subject matter of anthropology.
Anthropology is the study of human species and its immediate ancestors.
It’s a comparative and holistic science.
Holism- the study of the whole human experience. Looks at every aspect.
People share societies with other animals but culture is more distinctly
Cultures- traditions and customs, transmitted through learning that form
and guide the beliefs and behavior of the people exposed to them.
Enculturation- When children learn a tradition by growing up in a society.
The most critical element of cultural traditions is their transmission through
learning rather than through biological inheritance.
Culture rests certain features on human biology.
Adaption, Variation and Change
Adaption refers to the processes by which organisms cope with
environmental forces and stresses, such as those posed by climate and
topography or terrains, also called landforms.
Humans use biological and cultural means of adaption
Forms of Cultural and Biological Adaption (to High Altitude)
Form of Adaptation Type of Adaptation Example
Technology Cultural Pressurized airplane
cabin with oxygen
Genetic Adaptation Biological Larger “barrel chests” of
(occurs over native highlanders
Long term Biological More efficient
physiological respiratory system, to adaptation (occurs extract oxygen from
during growth and “thin air”
development of the
Short-term Biological Increased heart rate,
when the individual
organism enters a new
Humans have the capacity for short-term or immediate
physiological adaptation so when lowlanders arrive in high
lands, they immediately increase their breathing and heart
rates, they start to hyperventilate, the pulse increases and
blood reaches their tissue faster. All these responses maintain
an adequate supply of oxygen to the body.
Social and cultural means of adaptation have become more
important. Humans have devised diverse ways of coping with
the range of environments they have occupied in time and
For millions of years, hunting and gathering of nature’s bounty
was the sole basis of human subsistence. It took a few 1000
years for food production to replace foraging in most areas.
6,000-5,000 BP: the first civilizations arose. There were
powerful and complex societies (ex: Ancient Egypt) that
governed large geographic areas.
Throughout human history, major innovations have spread at
the expense of earlier ones. Todays global economy link all
people in the modern world system. This generates new
challenges for anthropology.
A.k.a “four field anthropology” includes four main subfields.
General anthropology explores the basics of human biology, society, and
culture and considers their interrelations.
Cultural Forces Shape Human Biology
Cultural Forces constantly mold human biology (Biocultural refers to
the combination of biological and cultural perspectives and
approaches to solve an issue)
Cultural traditions promote certain activities and abilities, discourage
others and set standards.
Cultural standards of attractiveness and propriety influence
participation and achievement in sports. Ex: Americans run not just to
compete but to stay fit while Brazil’s beauty standards has accepted
more fat. Stephanie Oliveira 3
Mirror for Humanity
Culture is an environmental force that affects our development as
much as nutrition, heat, cold and altitude does. It also guides our
emotional and cognitive growth and helps determine the kinds of
personalities we have as adults.
4 Subfields of Anthropology
(1) Socio-cultural Anthropology:
Is the study of human society and culture. It explains social and cultural
similarities and differences.
To interpret cultural diversity, you must engage in two kinds of activity:
ethnography (based on fieldwork) and ethnology (based on cross-cultural
Ethnography provides an account of a particular community, society or
During fieldwork, the ethnographer gathers data that he/she organizes,
describes, analyses, and interprets to build and present that account, which
may be in the form of a book, article or film.
Ethnographers observe discriminatory practices directed toward such
people, who experience poverty unlike political scientists who study
programs that national planners develop.
Ethnology examines, interprets,