Anthropological Terms Used In ANTH 102
(Most terms borrowed from Oregon State University, Dept. Anthropology website:
acculturation - culture change resulting from contact between cultures. A process of external
adaptation - patterns of behavior which enable a culture to cope with its surroundings.
adjudication - mediation with the ultimate decision being made by an unbiased third party.
age category - a culturally defined category based on age used to define the life cycle, such as
infant, youth, teenager, young adult, adult, elderly.
age grade - a social category or status based on an age range.
age set - a social group defined by those who share the same age status and are a recognizable
aggression - acts or threats designed to cause injury.
ambilineal - a corporate kin group that traces relationships through either the female or male
animatism - belief in an impersonal and divisible supernatural force or forces, which reside in
living or un-living things.
animism - a belief that natural phenomena such as rocks, trees, thunder, or celestial bodies
have life or divinity.
anthropocentric - the idea that humans are the most important beings in the universe.
anthropological linguistics - the branch of anthropology that studies human language.
Linguistic anthropology is mainly concerned with the technical analysis of language.
anthropology - the study of humanity; divisions are physical anthropology, archaeology,
ethnology, and anthropological linguistics.
applied anthropology - using the knowledge of anthropology to address human real-world
archaeology - study of material culture.
art - human endeavor thought to be aesthetic and have meaning beyond simple description.
Includes music, dance, sculpture, painting, drawing, stitchery, weaving, poetry, writing,
assimilation - when one ethnic group absorbs another, so that the cultural traits of the
assimilated group become indistinguishable.
avunculocal - residence after marriage is with or near the mother's brother of the husband.
balanced reciprocity - is a direct exchange where the two parties involved seek to arrive at a
mutually acceptable price or exchange for goods or services.
band - a small group of related people, who are primarily organized through family bonds.
Foraging typifies the subsistence technology. A respected and older person may be looked to
for leadership, but the person has no formalized authority.
big-man - a form of leadership in tribes where the leader achieves power and influence based
bilineal - descent in which the individual figures kinship through both the father's and mother's
brideprice - an economic exchange by the groom's family to compensate the bride's family
cargo - from the Spanish verb cargar which means to carry and to be in charge of.
cargo cult - do not confuse "cargo system" with "cargo cult" which is a revitalization movement
characterized by the belief that ancestral spirits will bring wanted goods (cargo) and throw off
oppressive customs and colonizers.
cargo system - a set of community offices and obligations a person goes through to achieve
recognition and status.
caste system - the ranking of members in a society by occupational status and degree of purity
or pollution as determined by their birth.
chiefdom - political organization is typically inherited through kinship lines. A ranked society in
which a few leaders make decisions for the group.
clan - a non-corporate descent group in which genealogical links to a common ancestor are
assumed but are not actually known.
class stratification - where members of a society are ranked from higher to lower based on
wealth, prestige, position, or education.
cognatic descent - tracing descent through both the females and males in one's lineage.
common interest groups - associations that are formally recognized with a name and social
organization, but are not based on age, kinship, marriage, or territory.
comparative methods - analyzing data about cultures to learn and explain patterns of similarity
consanguineal - members of one's kindred who are related by blood line.
conspicuous consumption - the display of material items for the purpose of impressing others.
core-periphery - the structural relation between centralized core, often an urban area, and
communities on the periphery, usually tribal or rural, resource-based communities.
core values - attitudes and beliefs thought to uniquely pattern a culture.
corporate descent group - a descent group that owns or controls property.
cosmology - ideas about the universe as an ordered system and the place of humans in the
crimes - violations against the state.
cross-cousin - children of the opposite-sexed siblings of one's parents, e.g., mother's brother's
and father's sister's children.
cultural anthropology - study of cultural variation and similarities. Includes ethnology and
anthropological linguistics. May also include archaeology.
cultural ecology - the study of human interaction with ecosystems to determine how nature
influences and is influenced by human social organization and culture.
cultural knowledge - information, skills, attitudes, conceptions, beliefs, values, and other
mental components of culture that people socially learn during enculturation.
cultural relativism - understanding the ways of other cultures and not judging these practices
according to one's own cultural ways.
cultural transmission - how culture is passed on through learning from one generation to
another. Also referred to as enculturation or socialization.
culture - The learned patterns of behavior and thought that help a group adapt to it's
culture of discontent - a level of aspirations that far exceeds the bounds of an individual's local
opportunities. Also discussed as the gap between expectations and the ability to meet these
descent group - a kin group whose members are recruited by one of the principles of descent;
e.g., matrilineal, patrilineal, etc.
deviance - to not follow the norms of society.
diffusion - the spread of a cultural pattern from one culture to another, and where no directed
change agent is apparent.
distribution - system of allocating resources in a society.
division of labor - the division of tasks in a society between women and men, old and young,
ability, knowledge, experience.
domestication - when humans intervene in the breeding patterns of plants or animals.
dowry - the woman's share of her inheritance from the group of her birth, which is taken with
her upon marriage.
egalitarian - a society without formalized differences in the access to power, influence, and
ego - the person from whose point of view kinship relations are referenced.
emic - views of the world that members of a culture accept as real, meaningful, or appropriate.
enculturation - the process of learning one's own culture, also called socialization.
endogamy - rules requiring selecting of a marriage partner from within a particular group.
equality - a measure of how similar people are to one another.
ethnic identity - a named group identified through their ethnic boundary markers. Ethnic
identity can vary with changes in social context.
ethnocentrism - judging other cultures by the standards of your own, which you believe to be
ethnography - description of a culture, usually based on the method of participant observation.
ethnology - comparative analysis of cultural patterns to explain differences and similarities
evolution - change in the form of a culture. Usually a process of internal cultural change.
exogamy - rules requiring selection of a marriage partner from outside a particular group.
extended family - a composite family composed of other relatives besides the nuclear families.
Extended families can be constructed across generations by including parent's or children's
families or extended laterally by including multiple wives or sibling's families.
extinction - when a culture dies out. Often the people die out too. Some may become peasants
or pass into contemporary society.
family - families are universal in cultures, but their definition and dynamics are changing. A very
inclusive definition is two or more people who define themselves as a family. Also see
"extended family," "nuclear family".
fieldwork - living among a group of people for the purpose of learning about their culture.
folk art - art produced by people not professionally identified as artists.
foragers - getting food by collecting or hunting what is naturally available. The term used to
refer to the subsistence patterns of cultures different from our own continually changes as our
values change. Initially, these groups were called "primitives." This term came to be viewed as
too ethnocentric since it emphasized they were less developed than "modern" cultures. The
term "hunters and gatherers" has been replaced by foragers because of the gender associations
with male hunters and female gatherers. Since !Kung women produce 85% of the food by
volume, is it appropriate to call them a hunting and gathering society?
genealogy - a family tree or web of kinship relationships traced through parents and children.
Also called a kindred.
generalized reciprocity - an exchange where a person gives a good or a service to someone else
but does not receive anything back at that time. There is the expectation that in the future
should the person receiving the good or service have something that it will be given at a later
grammar and syntax - the formal structure of a language and the rules for making sentences
holistic - no dimension of culture can be understood in isolation, cultures are integrated
horticulture - an agricultural technology distinguished by the use of hand tools to grow
domesticated plants. Does not use draft animals, irrigation, or specially prepared fertilizers.
humanism - concern for human welfare, dignity and values.
ideal - what people think the situation should be.
industrial society - a society integrated by a complex network of occupational specialties
supporting the manufacture of material goods.
informal economy - the economy common to shanytowns, , slums where goods and services
sold or bartered are unregulated by formal institutions.
innovation - introducing an object as if it were new.
intensive agriculture - use of irrigation, draft animals, terracing, natural fertilizers, selective
breeding, mechanization, etc., to grow more food.
interdisciplinary - two or more specialists having different disciplinary backgrounds working
jointly and continuously to interlink their analyses (see multidisciplinary).
invention - a unique object produced through the process of imagination and experience.
kindred - people related to one another by blood, marriage, and adoption.
kinesics - body, facial, hand, and arm movements that are used to communicate.
kinship chart - the diagram of kinship relations using symbols to indicate males, females,
marriages, divorces, siblings, descent, and deceased relatives. Also called a kindred diagram.
Kula - a set of trade relations among Trobriand men involving the giving away of shell artifacts
with the objective of displaying prestige and reinforcing alliances.
law - the means by which members of a group regulate their conduct and deal with breaches of
rules and incompatible interests.
legitimacy - the right to hold and use power, usually based on the consent of the governed.
leveling device - a cultural mechanism which reduces wealth differentials between individuals
often by inducing the wealthy to sponsor feasts or to destroy or give away surplus in return for
lineage - a corporate descent group whose members can trace their genealogical links to a
known common ancestor.
linguistic anthropology - study of how language is used in various social contexts.
Anthropological linguistics focuses more on the interplay of language and culture.
magic - practices designed to gain control over the supernatural. Magic and religion are
separated in several ways in anthropology. For some anthropologists magic tries to gain control
over the supernatural. Others see magic as being individual, while religion is a group
phenomena that creates lasting social bonds. Malinowski saw magic as a means to an end,
while religion was the end in itself. Other anthropologists find separating magic and religion
markets - systems that exchange goods and services using all-purpose money as a standard
measure of relative value. Early market systems are characterized by market places or bazaars
which are often cyclical, moving among a fixed set of localities, each having its specific market
matriarchy - where a mother figure and women have authority.
matrilineal - descent traced exclusively through the female line.
matrilocal - residence after marriage in association with the wife's mother's relatives.
mediation - dispute settlement through negotiation assisted by an unbiased third party.
meditation - to contemplate or reflect in a state of relaxed focus.
modal personality - the personality characteristic held by the most people in the group.
modernization - the process by which cultures are forced to accept traits from outside.
moiety - division of a society into two halves based on descent.
monogamy - marriage in which an individual has one spouse.
morpheme - the smallest unit in a language that carries a grammatically distinct meaning.
morphology - the study of meaningful units of sound in a language.
multiculturalism - stressing the importance of different cultures, races, and ethnicities.
multidisciplinary - researchers from different disciplines working independently on related
myth - a common or shared historical experience
national character - studies based on the assumption that collectively members of a society
have a distinctive set of psychological qualities. Has been replaced by the concept of core
nature-nurture - contrasting the biological verses cultural or environmental basis for behavior.
negative reciprocity - when one person in an exchanges tries to get something for nothing or
for less than its recognized worth.
negotiation - the use of direct argument and compromise by the parties to a dispute to arrive
at a mutually satisfactory agreement.
neolocal - residence in which the married couple's household has no connection with either the
husband's or wife's family.
nuclear family - a woman and/or husband and dependent children.
one-world culture - a popular belief that the future will bring development of a single
homogeneous world culture through links created by modern communication, transportation,
origin story - description of how the culture came into being.
pacification - extending the authority of national government over formerly autonomous
people whether by force or persuasion.
paralanguage - the use of accent, cadence, pitch, and tone to convey meaning.
parallel-cousin - children of the same-sexed siblings of one's parents, e.g., mother's sister's and
father's brother's children.
paramount chief - the highest ranking social office in a chiefdom.
participant observation - living in a culture that is not your own while also keeping a detailed
record of your observations and interviews.
pastoralist - subsistence gained by tending and breeding animals.
patriarchy - where a father figure and males have authority.
patrilineal - tracing kinship, inheritance, power through the male line.
patrilocal - residence after marriage in association with the husband's father's relatives.
personality - personal beliefs, expectations, desires, values, and behaviors that derive from the
interaction between culture and the individual. Personality is the behaviors and techniques for
solving problems that are used by an individual. Personality is to the individual as culture is to
phoneme - the smallest unit of sound that does not alter the meaning of words in which it
phonetics - study of the production, transmission, and reception of sounds in speech.
phonology - the study of sound patterns in language.
physical anthropology - study of biological origins and physical variations among human
polyandry - a woman has more than one husband.
polygamy - an individual who has more than one spouse.
polygyny - a man has more than one wife.
potlatch - a ceremony used to display wealth and increase status.
power - the ability to influence the actions of others.
production - making goods available
qualitative methods - rich descriptions of cultural situations obtained from interviewing,
participant observation, and collection of oral and textual materials. Ethnographies are reports
from qualitative research.
quantitative methods - numerical tabulations and statistical comparisons made possible by
systematic surveys, observations, or analysis of records. Data are used to test hypotheses and
identify the strength of patterns observed using qualitative methods.
reciprocity - a mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges, especially the
exchange of rights or privileges of trade between individuals or groups as in the transfer of
goods or services between two or more individuals or groups. Also see balanced, generalized,
and negative reciprocity.
redistribution - a mechanism whereby a politically or economically powerful individual (or
group) collects goods and services from the members of society and reallocates them among
the society's members.
relations - the relationships between individuals in a social network.
religion - a set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power.
revitalization movement - religiously based social movement with the purpose of reforming
ritual - the visible control of abstract thoughts. Tries to control unpredictable events and the
supernatural. Tries to know the unknowable and change the unchangeable.
sacred - things and actions set apart as religious or spiritual which are entitled to reverence.
science - systematically acquired knowledge that is verifiable.
seasonal round - the annual pattern followed in the production of food.
secular - things not regarded as religious or spiritual.
serial monogamy - a pattern of divorce and monogamous remarriage.
sex role division of labor - the division of subsistence tasks between women and men.
shaman - a religious specialist who uses supernatural power in curing.
sister exchange - a shorthand label for a marriage system in which men of different descent
groups exchange women who are sometimes their own sisters or daughters and sometimes
parallel cousins or the daughters of parallel cousins.
slash and burn - cultivation with recurrent clearing and burning of vegetation and planting in
the burnt fields. Fallow periods for each plot last longer than periods of cultivation. It is
sometimes referred to as swidden (or shifting) cultivation.
social class - people having the same rank in a system that differentiates people from high to
social control - the rules, habits, and customs by which a society tries to maintain order.
social stratification - arranging the members of a society into a pattern of superior and inferior
socialization - the process by which culture is learned; also called enculturation. During
socialization individuals internalize a culture's social controls, along with values and norms
about right and wrong.
sociobiology - study of human behavior based on the assumption that human behavior is
sociolinguistics - study of the relationship between language and social factors such as class,
ethnicity, age and sex.
sorcery - using power obtained from evil spirits.
specialization - where individuals become experts in producing certain goods or services that
are then exchanged.
state - a culture that has a formal political organization with a central bureaucracy with the
authority to employ legalized force.
status - the position one has in a social network.
subsistence farmers - when there is very little surplus and nearly all that is produced goes to
supporting the farm household.
subsistence - the way by which a culture obtains its food.
supernatural - characteristics of the reality beyond the senses.
sustainable - using natural and human resources in a way that does not jeopardize the
opportunities of future generations.
symbols - physical objects, colors, sounds, movements, scents which convey information
through an arbitrary or culturally assigned meaning.
syncretism - blending traits from two different cultures to form a new trait.
theocracy - a form of state political organization in which the government is based on religious
theory - several related propositions that explain some domain of inquiry.
Third World - countries with economies largely based on agriculture and characterized by low
standards of living, high rates of population growth, and general economic and technological
dependence upon wealthier industrial nations. A very ethnocentric way of referring to other
cultures because it ranks cultures below those of the "First World" like Europe, Japan, Canada,
and the United States.
torts - violations against an individual.
tribe - a group that centers around kinship units and common-interest groups that cross-cut
kindred boundaries. Horticulture typifies the subsistence technology. People who attain
prestige according to cultural standards may be seen as leaders. The big-man institution is quite
common in tribes.
urbanization - the process by which more and more people come to live in cities.
values - what people think is right and wrong, good and bad, desirable and undesirable.
warfare - organized, armed conflict between groups, each of which is motivated by a common
wealth - the net gain in material well-being from economic activity. Wealth is measured
according to the items of value in a given culture.
wealth distribution - a plot of the wealth held by all the members of a community. Wealth
distribution is concerned with the whole population of people.
world view - the beliefs about the limits and workings of the world shared by the members of a
society and represented in their myths, lore, ceremonies, social conduct, and general values.