CHAPTER 1
                       WHAT IS ANTHROPOLOGY?

I. Adaptation, Variation, and Change
   A. Anthropology is the study of the human species and its immediate ancestors.
      1. Anthropology is holistic in that the discipline is concerned with studying the whole of
         the human condition: past, present and future, biology, society, language, and culture.
      2. Anthropology offers a unique cross-cultural perspective by constantly comparing the
         customs of one society with those of others.

   B. People share both society and culture.
      1. Society is organized life in groups, a feature that humans share with other animals.
      2. Cultures are traditions and customs, transmitted through learning that govern the
         beliefs and behaviors of the people exposed to them.
      3. While culture is not biological, the ability to use it rests in hominid biology.
   C. Adaptation is the process by which organisms cope with environmental stresses.
      1. Human adaptation involves interaction between culture and biology to satisfy
         individual goals.
      2. Four types of human adaptation (see the illustration of these with regard to adjustment
         to high altitude).
         a. Cultural (technological) adaptation.
         b. Genetic adaptation.
         c. Long-term physiological or developmental adaptation.
         d. Immediate physiological adaptation.
   D. Humans are the most adaptable animals in the world, having the ability to inhabit widely
      variant ecological niches.
      1. Humans, like all other animals use biological means to adapt to a given environment.
      2. Humans are unique in having cultural means of adaptation.
   E. Through time, social and cultural means of adaptation have become increasingly
      important for human groups.
      1. Human groups have devised diverse ways in order to cope with a wide range of
      2. The rate of this cultural adaptation has been rapidly accelerating during the last 10,000
         a. Food production developed between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago after millions of
            years during which hunting and gathering was the sole basis for human subsistence.
         b. The first civilizations developed between 6,000 and 5,000 years ago.
         c. More recently, the spread of industrial production has profoundly affected human

II. General Anthropology
   A. The fourth subdisciplines of American Anthropology.
      1. The academic discipline of American anthropology is unique in that it includes four
         subdisciplines: cultural anthropology, archaeological anthropology, biological or
         physical anthropology, and linguistic anthropology.
       2. This four-field approach developed in the U.S., as early American anthropologists
          studying native peoples of North America became interested in exploring the origins
          and diversity of the groups that they were studying.
       3. This broad approach to studying human societies did not develop in Europe (e.g.
          Archaeology, in most European universities, is not a subdiscipline of anthropology; it
          is its own department).
   B. The four subdisciplines share a similar goal of exploring variation in time and space to
      improve our understanding on the basics of human biology, society, and culture.
      1. Variation in “Time” (diachronic research): using information from contemporary
         groups to model changes that took place in the past; and using knowledge gained from
         past groups to understand what is likely to happen in the future (e.g. reconstructing
         past languages using principles based on modern ones).
      2. Variation in “Space” (synchronic research): comparing information collected from
         human societies existing roughly at the same time, but from different geographic
         locations (e.g. the race concept in the U.S., Brazil, and Japan).
   C. Any conclusions about “human nature” must be pursued with a comparative, cross-
      cultural approach.
III. Cultural Forces Shape Human Biology
   A. Cultural traditions promote certain activities and abilities, discourage others, and set
      standards of physical well being and attractiveness.
      1. Participation and achievement in sports is determined by cultural factors, not racial
      2. In Brazilian culture, women should be soft, with big hips and buttocks, not big
         shoulders; since competitive swimmers tend to have big, strong, shoulders and firm
         bodies, competitive swimming is not very popular among Brazilian females.
      3. In the U.S., there aren’t many African-American swimmers or hockey players, not
         because of a biological reason, but because those sports aren’t as culturally significant
         as football, basketball, baseball, and track.
   B. There is no conclusive evidence for biologically based contrasts in intelligence between
      the rich and poor, black and white, or men and women.
      1. The best indicators of how any individual will perform on an intelligence test are
         environmental, such as educational, economic, and social backgrounds.
      2. All standard tests are culture-bound and biased because they reflect the training and
         life experiences of those that develop and administer them.
      3. Jensenism asserts that African-Americans are hereditarily incapable of doing as well
         as whites.
         a. Named for Arthur Jensen, the educational psychologist, who observed that on
             average African-Americans perform less well on intelligence tests that Euro-
             Americans and Asian-Americans.
         b. This racist notion of the inborn inferiority of African-Americans recently resurfaced
             in the 1994 book The Bell Curve by Richard Hernnstein and Charles Murray.
   C. The Bell Curve (1994).
      1. Like Jensen, Hernnstein and Murray disregard more convincing environmental
         explanations in favor of a genetic one to explain patterns observed in intelligence test
      2. An environmental explanation acknowledges that for many reasons, both genetic and
         environmental, some people are smarter than others, however these differences in
         intelligence cannot be generalized to characterize whole populations or social groups.
      3. Psychologists have come up with many ways to measure intelligence, but there are
         problems with all of them.
       4. Intelligence tests reflect the experiences of the people who write them.
          a. Middle-and upper-classed children do well because they share the test makers’
             educational expectations and standards.
          b. The SATs claim to measure intellectual aptitude but they also measure the type and
             quality of high school education, linguistic and cultural background, and parental
          c. Studies have shown that performance on the SATs can be improved by coaching
             and preparation, placing those students who can pay for an SAT preparation course
             at an advantage.
       5. Cultural biases in testing, affect performance by people in other cultures, as well as
          different groups in the same nation.
          a. Native Americans scored the lowest of any group in the U.S., but when the
             environment during growth and development for Native Americans is similar to
             that of middle-class whites, the test scores tend to equalize (e.g. the Osage Indians).
          b. At the start of World War I, African-Americans living in the north, scored on
             average better than whites living in the south, due to the better public school
             systems in the north.
IV. The Subdisciplines of Anthropology
   A. Cultural Anthropology combines ethnography and ethnology to study human societies
      and cultures for the purpose of explaining social and cultural similarities and differences.
      1. Ethnography produces an account (a book, an article, or a film) of a particular
         community, society, or culture based on information that is collected during fieldwork.
         a. Generally, ethnographic fieldwork involves living in the community that is being
            studied for an extended period of time (e.g. 6 months to 2 years).
         b. Ethnographic fieldwork tends to emphasize local behavior, beliefs, customs, social
            life, economic activities, politics, and religion, rather than developments at the
            national level.
         c. Since cultures are not isolated, ethnographers must investigate the local, regional,
            national, and global systems of politics, economics, and information that expose
            villagers to external influences.
      2. Ethnology examines, interprets, analyzes, and compares the ethnographic data
         gathered in different societies to make generalizations about society and culture.
         a. Ethnology uses ethnographic data to build models, test hypotheses, and create
            theories that enhance our understanding of how social and cultural systems work.
         b. Ethnology works from the particular (ethnographic data) to the general (theory).
   B. Interesting Issues: Even Anthropologists Get Culture Shock
       1. “Culture shock” is alienation that results from stepping outside one's own cultural
          frame and into a different one.
       2. The example of Kottak’s work among the Arembepe suggests that culture shock eases
          once we begin to grasp the logic of a culture that is new to us.
   C. Archaeological anthropology reconstructs, describes, and interprets past human behavior
      and cultural patterns through material remains.
      1. The material remains of a culture include artifacts (e.g. potsherds, jewelry, and tools),
         garbage, burials, and the remains of structures.
      2. Archaeologists use paleoecological studies to establish the ecological and subsistence
         parameters within which given group lived.
      3. The archaeological record provides archaeologists the unique opportunity to look at
         changes in social complexity over thousands and tens of thousands of years (this kind
         of time depth is not accessible to ethnographers).
       4. Archaeology is not restricted to prehistoric societies.
          a. Historical archaeology combines archaeological data and textual data to reconstruct
             historically known groups.
          b. William Rathje’s “garbology” project in Tucson, Arizona.
   D. Biological, or physical, anthropology investigates human biological diversity across time
      and space.
      1. There are five special interests within biological anthropology:
         a. Paleoanthropology: human evolution as revealed by the fossil record.
         b. Human genetics.
         c. Human growth and development.
         d. Human biological plasticity: the body’s ability to change as it copes with stresses
            such as heat, cold, and altitude.
         e. Primatology: the study of the biology, evolution, behavior, and social life of
      2. Biological anthropology is multidisciplinary as it draws on biology, zoology, geology,
         anatomy, physiology, medicine, public health, osteology, and archaeology.
   E. Linguistic anthropology is the study of language in its social and cultural context across
      space and time.
      1. Some linguistic anthropologists investigate universal features of language that may be
         linked to uniformities in the human brain.
      2. Historical linguists reconstruct ancient languages and study linguistic variations
         through time.
      3. Sociolinguistics investigates relationships between social and linguistic variations to
         discover varied perceptions and patterns of thought in different cultures.
V. Applied Anthropology
   A. Anthropology, as defined by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), has two
      dimensions: 1) theoretical/academic anthropology and 2) practicing or applied
      1. Theoretical/academic anthropology includes the four subfields discussed above
         (cultural, archaeological, biological, and linguistic anthropology).
         a. Directed at collecting data to test hypotheses and models that were created to
            advance the field of anthropology.
         b. Generally, theoretical/academic anthropology is carried out in academic institutions
            (e.g. universities and specialized research facilities).
      2. Applied anthropology is the application of any of anthropological data, perspectives,
         theory, and techniques to identify, assess, and solve contemporary social problems.
         a. Some standard subdivisions have developed in applied anthropology: medical
            anthropology, environmental anthropology, forensic anthropology, and
         b. Applied anthropologists are generally employed by international development
            agencies, like the World Bank, United States Agency for International
            Development (USAID), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United
   B. Applied anthropologists assess the social and cultural dimensions of economic
      1. Development projects often fail when planners ignore the cultural dimensions of
      2. Applied anthropologists work with local communities to identify specific social
         conditions that will influence the failure or success of a development project.
VI. Anthropology and other Academic Fields
   A. Anthropology's own broad scope has always lent it to interdisciplinary collaboration.
      1. Anthropology is a science, in that it is a systematic field of study that uses
         experiments, observations, and deduction to produce reliable explanations of human
         cultural and biological phenomena.
      2. Anthropology is also one of the humanities, in that it encompasses the study and
         cross-cultural comparison of languages, texts, philosophies, arts, music, performances
         and other forms of creative expression.
   B. Cultural anthropology and sociology
      1. Formerly, sociology focused on “Western” societies while anthropology looked at
         “exotic” societies.
      2. Cultural anthropological methodologies have primarily been in-depth and qualitative
         (e.g. participant observation).
      3. Sociological methodologies tended to be mainly quantitative (statistically based).
      4. The trend toward increasing interdisciplinary cooperation (deconstruction) is causing
         these differences to disappear.
   C. Anthropology, Political Science, and Economics
      1. While other disciplines have looked at such institutions as economics and politics as
         distinct and amenable to separate analysis, anthropology has emphasized their
         relatedness to other aspects of the general social order.
      2. Anthropology has tended to emphasize cross-cultural variation in such institutions, in
         contrast to the almost exclusively Western orientation of the other disciplines.
   D. Anthropology and the Humanities
      1. The anthropological concept of “culture” has gained increasing influence in the
         humanities' treatment of human artifacts.
      2. In turn, cultural studies have brought a fuller recognition of the influence such
         artifacts may exert on human behavior.
   E. Anthropology and Psychology
      1. Anthropology has contributed a cross-cultural perspective to concepts developed in
      2. The school of cultural anthropology known as culture and personality has emphasized
         child-rearing practices as the fundamental means for transmitting culture.
   F. Box: “Margaret Mead, Public Anthropologist”
      1. Margaret Mead worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York
         City, and at Columbia University.
      2. Mead was a student of Franz Boas, and her work followed his in emphasizing the
         importance of culture in shaping human behavior.
      3. Mead made a point of publishing her findings in the popular press and appearing on
         television, as well as producing work for scholarly purposes, only.

   G. Anthropology and History
      1. The convergence between the disciplines of anthropology and history has been
         marked, particularly during the last decade.
      2. Recent treatments of colonial history have emphasized the importance of
         understanding the cultural contexts of historical texts.
      3. Kottak argues for some continued distinction between history and anthropology, based
         on history's focus on the movement of individuals through roles, as opposed to
         anthropology's focus on change in structure or form.
VII. Beyond the Classroom: The Utility of Hand and Foot Bones for Problems in Biological
    A. Della Collins Cook studied hand and foot bones to determine the stature and sex of
       individuals that had been buried in a burial mound in west central Illinois.
    B. After taking a series of measurements, she used statistical methods to predict the sex of
       the individuals with accuracies of over 87%.

C. Based on a series of skeletal anomalies on one of the skeletons, Ms. Cook argues that this
individual suffered from a rare genetic syndrome called Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome.

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