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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology, 11th Edition by Carol R. Ember, Melvin Ember (Prentice Hall) reflects recent anthropological research and controversial developments, while integrating features in each chapter to spark and maintain reader interest. A focus on applied anthropology discusses the history and types in the United States and shows how the work of applied anthropologists is playing more of a role in the planning of possible solutions to various global social problems—including AIDS, disasters, homelessness, crime, family violence, and war. This book offers an introduction to anthropology, cultural variation, and using applied anthropology and medical anthropology to address global social problems. For individuals interested in exploring the far-reaching aspects of anthropology. This text is well suited for undergraduate, introductory use and manages to give a useful survey of the state of the science of anthropology.

Ethnographic fieldwork is the basis of most theory and re­search on human culture. To emphasize its importance, the authors have added "Portraits of Culture" as a box feature in this edition. They introduce the new set of boxes in the first chap­ter, and every other chapter has an extract from a "portrait" of a different culture. These extracts come from a series of original ethnographic articles that were specially commis­sioned for supplementary reading. The entire series, with other specially commissioned series (on "Research Fron­tiers in Anthropology" and "Cross-Cultural Research for Social Science"), is now available from Prentice Hall on a CD-ROM (not seen by reviewer). Other major changes in this edition include expanded coverage of globalization and its consequences and a new section on terror­ism in the chapter on global social problems. Other changes are outlined below in the description of each chapter. In updating the book, the authors attempted to go beyond descrip­tions, as always. they are interested not only in what humans are and were like; they are also interested in why we got to be that way, in all our variety. When there are alternative explanations, the authors  show the necessity to evaluate them logically as well as on the basis of the available evidence. Throughout the book, they try to communicate that no idea, including ideas put forward in textbooks, should be accepted even tentatively without supporting tests that could have gone the other way.

What is Anthropology? Chapter introduces the student to anthropology. The authors discuss what is special and distinctive about an­thropology in general, and about each of its subfields in particular. Each of the subfields is outlined and related to other disciplines such as biology, psychology, and soci­ology. The increasing importance of applied anthropology is emphasized. There are four boxes. The first three focus on an individual anthropologist and her or his work. The fourth box highlights an entirely new series of boxes that are found in all subsequent chapters. Called "Portraits of Culture," these new boxes include extracts from original ethnographic portraits that wre commis­sioned for a CD-ROM series titled with the same name. (not seen)

The Concept of Culture chapter introduces the concept of culture. The authors convey a feeling for what culture is before dealing more explicitly with the concept and some assumptions about it. A section on cultural relativism puts the concept in its historical context and discusses recent thinking on the subject. The fact that individual behavior varies in all societies is discussed and how such variation may be the beginning of new cultural patterns. The first box, which is new, describes an ethnographer's initial shock at finding out that same-sex public affection in her place of field­work has completely different meanings from what it has in North America. The second box, which asks whether Western countries are ethnocentric in their ideas about human rights, incorporates the debate within anthropology about cultural relativism. The third box discusses an applied anthropologist's view of why Bedouin are reluc­tant to settle down.

In Theory and Evidence in Cultural Anthropology chapter focuses first on those theoretical orienta­tions that remain popular in cultural anthropology. Then what it means to explain and what kinds of ev­idence are needed to evaluate an explanation is reviewed, concluding with a discussion of the major types of study in cultural anthropology-ethnography, ethnohistory, within-cul­ture comparisons, regional comparisons, and worldwide cross-cultural comparisons. The authors have expanded the dis­cussion of fieldwork by showing how an ethnographer can select knowledgeable informants to help understand a culture. The first box explores the differences between sci­entific and humanistic understanding and points out that the different approaches are not really incompatible. The second box uses a research question about the Abelam of New Guinea to illustrate how different theoretical orien­tations suggest different types of answers. In the third box, two purposes are concerned. One is to give a feeling for the experience of fieldwork; the second is to use the Mead­-Freeman controversy to explore the issue of how we can know that an ethnographer is accurate. The last box, which is new, discusses how an ethnographer did historical research on the Miskito of Nicaragua.

Part II: Cultural Variation: In most of the chapters that follow, the authors try to convey the range of cultural variation with ethnographic examples from all over the world. Wherever possible the authors discuss possi­ble explanations of why societies may be similar or different in regard to some aspect of culture. If anthropologists have no explanation as yet for the variation, they say so. But if there are some plausible ideas of the conditions that may be related to a particular kind of variation, even if it is not known yet why they are related, the authors discuss that too. So as to train students to go beyond what is now known, it helps to tell them what we do not yet know, as well as what is well known and even taken as the bedrock of anthropological lore.

The Communication And Language chapter begins by discussing communication in humans and other animals. After an updated discussion of human non­verbal communication we describe the debate about the degree of difference between human and nonhuman primate language abilities. The origins of language and how creoles and children's language acquisition may help us understand the origins is discussed. Then the basis of descriptive linguistics and the processes of linguistic divergence is brought into view. After discussing the interrelationships between language and other aspects of culture, the authors end with the ethnography of speaking and the differences in speech by status, gender, and ethnicity. They have expanded the discussion of interethnic or intercultural communication, indicating how lin­guists can play a role in helping people improve their cross-cultural communication. The first box, which is new, deals with Haitian Creole. The second discusses the prob­lem of language extinction and what some anthropologists are doing about it. To stimulate thinking about the possible impact of language on thought, we ask in the third box whether the English language promotes sexist thinking.

Getting Food Chapter discusses how societies vary in getting their food, how they have changed over time, and how such variation seems to affect other kinds of cultural variation-including variation in economic systems, social stratification, and po­litical life. The authors include a discussion of "market foragers" to emphasize that most people in a modern market economy are not in fact producers of food. The first box deals with the change from "Man the Hunter" to "Woman the Gath­erer," and the question is raiseed of whether either view is accurate. Although it is commonly thought that industrial­ization is mainly to blame for negative developments in the environment, our second box deals with the negative ef­fects in preindustrial times of irrigation, animal grazing, and overhunting. Our third box, which is new, explores how the agricultural Han Chinese adapted to moving into drier land more suited to pastoralism.

Economic Systems chapter discusses how societies vary in the ways they al­locate resources (what is "property" and what ownership may mean), convert or transform resources through labor into usable goods, and distribute and perhaps exchange goods and services. The authors have expanded and updated the discussions of land use amongst pastoralists, they discuss the effects of political systems (including colonialism) on land ownership and use, and have expanded the dis­cussion of food sharing. There is a discussion of why chil­dren in some foraging societies do more work than in others. The first box addresses the controversy over whether communal ownership leads to economic disaster. The second box, which is new, discusses the distribution of work among the Yanomamo. After the discussion of commercialization, the third box illustrates the impact of the world-system on local economies, with special refer­ence to the deforestation of the Amazon.

Social Stratification: Class, Ethnicity, And Racism chapter explores the variation in degree of social stratification and how the various forms of social inequal­ity may develop. The authors discuss "race," racism, and ethnicity and how they often relate to the inequitable distribution of resources. We have added new material on how egali­tarian societies work hard to prevent dominance, and on the controversy about whether pastoral societies with in­dividual ownership of animals are egalitarian. We have extensively revised the boxes and text to provide up-to-date information on the degree of inequality in the world as well as in the United States. The first box, which is new, discusses social stratification in a foraging society-the Tlingit of southern Alaska. The second box discusses so­cial stratification on the global level-how the gap be­tween rich and poor countries has been widening, and what may account for that trend. The third box discusses possible reasons for disparities in death by disease be­tween African Americans and European Americans.

Sex, Gender, and Culture chapter discusses how and why sex and gender differences vary cross-culturally; in the second part discusses variation in sexual attitudes and practices. How the concepts of gender do not always involve just two genders is explained while emphasizing all the ways women contribute to work, and how conclusions about contribu­tions by gender depend on how you measure "work." The authors include new material on female hunting and what impact it has on theories about division of labor. In the first box,  presents research on why women's political participa­tion may be increasing in some Coast Salish communities of western Washington State and British Columbia, now that they have elected councils. A second box examines cross-cultural research about why some societies allow women to participate in combat. The new box discusses the Andean Mestizo belief that a long period of breast­feeding is detrimental to girls.

After discussing various theories about why marriage might be universal, Marriage and The Family chapter moves on to discuss variation in how one marries, restrictions on marriage, whom one should marry, and how many one should marry; concluding with a discussion of variation in family form. The authors have added new research on why bride price varies, the rela­tionship between population density and marriage distance, and have expanded coverage of polygyny from women's perspectives. The new box on the Yapese of Micronesia conveys the unimportance of marriage cere­monies in some societies. To introduce topics regarding the husband-wife relationship that are only beginning to be investigated, the second updated box discusses varia­tion in love, intimacy, and sexual jealousy. The third box, in the section on family organization, discusses why one­ parent families are on the increase in countries like ours.

In addition to explaining the variation that exists in mari­tal residence, kinship structure, and kinship terminology, Marital Residence and Kinship chapter emphasizes how understanding residence is important for understanding social life. One of the boxes discusses the possible relationship between neolocality and adolescent rebellion. The new second box is on the impor­tance of the mother's brother among the Cherokee of the southeastern United States. The last box is on how varia­tion in residence and kinship affects the lives of women.

Associations and Interest Groups chapter covers the importance of associations in many parts of the world, particularly the increasing importance of volun­tary associations. There is a section on rotating-credit associations. The authors discuss how they work to provide lump sums of money to individuals, how they are especially important to women, and how they become even more important when people move to new places. The first box addresses the question of whether separate women's associations in­crease women's status and power; the second box discusses why street gangs develop and why they often become vio­lent. The new last box discusses the role ethnic associations play in Chinatowns in the United States.

Political Life: Social Order and Disorder looks at how societies have varied in their levels of po­litical organization, the various ways people become leaders, the degree to which they participate in the political process, and the peaceful and violent methods of resolv­ing conflict. Also discussed is how colonialization has trans­formed legal systems and ways of making decisions, how conflicts may be resolved peacefully, and how cross­cultural research casts doubt on the notion that wars in the non-Western world are fought over women. The authors have added new material on the causes of widespread political participation. The new box discusses the Iroquois confed­eracy. The second box deals with how new local courts among the Abelam of New Guinea are allowing women to address sexual grievances. The third box deals with the cross-national and cross-cultural relationship between economic development and democracy.

Psychology and Culture Chapter discusses some of the universals of psycholog­ical development, some psychological differences between societies and what might account for them, how people in different societies conceive of personality differently (e.g., the concept of self), and how knowledge of psychological processes may help us understand cultural variation. The authors have added two new sections that identify some larger processes that may influence personality. One is on the importance of the settings that children are placed in. The second is on how native theories ("ethnotheories") about parenting vary by culture. The first box, which is new, discusses whether adolescence is a meaningful concept in Morocco. The second box discusses the idea that women have a different sense of themselves than men have, and therefore a different sense of morality. The third box, re­ferring to a comparison of preschools in Japan, China, and the United States, discusses how schools may con­sciously and unconsciously teach values.

After discussing why religion may be culturally universal, Religion and Magic chapter discusses variation in religious belief and practice with extensive examples. Also revitalization movements are discussed and how humans tend to anthropomorphize in the face of unpredictable events. The authors have added a discussion of why women may predominate in possession trances. The first box discusses research on New England fishermen that suggests how their taboos, or "rituals of avoidance," may be anxiety reducing. The second box, which is new, dis­cusses shamanism among the Sierra Otomi of Mexico. The last box discusses the emergence of new religions and points out that nearly all the major churches or religions in the world began as minority sects or cults.

After discussing how art might be defined, the Arts chapter discusses vari­ation in the visual arts, music, and folklore, and review how some of those variations might be explained. In re­gard to how the arts change over time, the myth that the art of "simpler" peoples is timeless and how arts have changed as a result of European contact is presented. The authors address the role of ethnocentrism in studies of art with a section on how Western museums and art critics look at the visual art of less complex cultures. One box discusses how art varies with different kinds of political systems. The second box, dealing with universal symbolism in art, reviews re­cent research on the emotions displayed in masks. The last box, which is new, portrays dance performance among the Nimpkish of North America's northwest coast.

Culture Change and Globalization chapter is considerably revised and has an entirely new section on globalization. The authors have added new research on societies that have increased innovation over time, on soci­eties that have deliberately introduced culture changes, on what may predict the acculturation of immigrant groups in North America, and on what may predict ethnogenesis. After discussing the ultimate sources of culture change­discovery and innovation—they discuss some of what is known about the conditions under which people are likely to accept innovations. Also the costs and benefits of innovations, external and internal pressures for culture change, globalization, ethnogenesis, and the likelihood of cultural diversity in the future is outlined. The first box, which is new, describes how culture change has been selective among the North Alaskan Eskimo. The second box examines culture change in Communist China-what has changed because of government intervention and what has persisted never­theless. To convey that culture change often has biological consequences, the last box discusses obesity, hypertension, and diabetes as health consequences of modernization.

Part III: Using Anthropology: Applied and Practicing Anthropology chapter discusses the types of jobs outside of acade­mia, the history and types of applied anthropology in the United States, the ethical issues involved in trying to im­prove people's lives, the difficulties in evaluating whether a program is beneficial, and ways of implementing planned changes. We point out how applied anthropolo­gists are playing more of a role in planning, rather than as peripheral advisers to change programs already in place. The authors have expanded the forensic anthropology section to include how cultural anthropologists can be involved. The first two boxes show how anthropologists have been able to help in business and in reforestation. The last box, which is new, discusses the ways that the Taos of New Mexico have resisted some kinds of change.

The Medical Anthropology chapter discusses cultural understandings of health and illness, the treatment of illness (particularly from a biocultural rather than just a biomedical point of view), political and economic influences on health, and the con­tributions of medical anthropologists to the study of vari­ous health conditions and diseases. Those conditions and diseases include AIDS, mental and emotional disorders, the folk illness susto, depression, and undernutrition. The first box, which is new, discusses the Saraguros' (of Ecuador) belief that experience and emotion have an equal footing with infection and contagion as risk factors for illness. The second box deals with why an applied medical project didn't work; the third box deals with eat­ing disorders and the cultural construction of "beauty."

In the Global Social Problems chapter discusses the relationship between basic and applied research, and how research may suggest pos­sible solutions to various global social problems, includ­ing natural disasters and famines, homelessness, crime, family violence, and war. A new section discusses terror­ism. The sections on family violence and war have been updated. There are three boxes; the last one is new. One is on global warming and our dependence on oil. The sec­ond is on ethnic conflicts and whether or not they are in­evitable. The last one touches on how war has endangered the Abkhazian culture of the Northwest Caucasus.

Continuing Features include:

  • Boxes In Each Chapter for example Research Frontiers and Current Issues. These boxes deal with research or research controversies in depth or ex­amine topics students may have heard about in the news. Research examples include variation in love, intimacy, and sexual jealousy in the husband-wife relationship, the in­crease in single-parent families, and the universality of emotions expressed in masks. Examples of current issues in the news are whether inequality between countries is in­creasing and whether ethnic conflicts are ancient hatreds.
  • Glossary Terms: At the end of each chapter are listed the new terms that have been introduced; these terms were identified by boldface type and defined in the text. A complete Glossary is provided at the back of the book to review all terms in the book and serve as a convenient reference for the student.
  • Critical Questions: provide three or four questions at the end of each chapter that may stimulate thinking about the implica­tions of the chapter.
  • Summaries and Suggested Reading: In addition to the outline provided at the beginning of each chapter, there is a detailed summary at the end of each chapter that will help the student review the major concepts and findings discussed. Suggested reading pro­vides general or more extensive references on the subject matter of the chapter.
  • Bibliography: All of the references cited throughout the book are col­lected and listed at the end of the book.
  • Interactive Anthropology CD-ROM: In the back of every new copy of Cultural Anthropology, 11/E, is a CD-ROM that provides an exciting learning experi­ence. Ethnographies, interactive simulations and exer­cises, a complete map atlas and reference resources, all help to illustrate the concepts described in the book.

Cultural Anthropology (6th Edition) by Marvin Harris, Orna Johnson (Allyn and Bacon) strives to provide a unified the­oretical framework for explaining cultural systems. It is based on the premise that material constraints such as environment, technology, and population pressure are a primary force in the evolution of sociocultural systems. The book is dedicated to a science of an­thropology that tries to formulate explanatory theo­ries. It assumes that cultural strategies most closely related to how people make a living and satisfy basic human needs provide the causal center of explana­tions for sociocultural similarities and differences.

The universal pattern makes it possible to identify the causal infrastructural variables which most likely explain domestic and political organization and ide­ological, symbolic sectors of culture. Giving strategic priority to infrastructure (production and reproduc­tion) in no way minimizes the importance of ideo­logical and spiritual aspects of culture. Moral values, religious beliefs, and aesthetic standards are the most significant and most distinctly human of all our at­tributes. Changes and innovations in the structural or superstructural sectors (for example, new religions or belief systems) are likely to cause substantial changes in other sectors but it is unlikely that they will be re­tained over time if they are not compatible with ma­terial constraints (that is, if they substantially impede the ability to satisfy basic human needs and drives).

Chapter 1 has been expanded to explain what an­thropologists do through fieldwork and partici­pant observation. Also, differences between a humanistic versus a scientific approach to anthro­pology are defined.

Coverage of anthropological theory‑formerly in the appendix‑ is now in Chapter 2. It follows the discussion of cultural materialism to provide a more rounded coverage of the history of anthropological theory.

Chapter 3, "The Evolution of the Capacity for Culture," contains an expanded discussion of adaptation, more detailed coverage on the evolution of hominids, and a diagram of the time line of hominid occupation.

Chapter 4, "Language and Culture," includes an expanded discussion of language and gender and two new ethnographic examples on gender asymmetry during dinner conversations and cultural differences in the communication of respect among Korean immigrants and Blacks in Los Angeles.

Chapters 7 and 15 from the Fifth Edition, "Human Sexuality" and "Gender Hierarchies," respectively, have been combined into one chapter, "Sexuality and Gender Hierarchies" (now Chapter 14). A new section on mating strategies shows the evolutionary basis of gender differentiation and hierarchy.

Chapters 8 and 9, "Domestic Organization" and "Kinship," have been streamlined to provide simpler coverage of domestic groups and kinship. The discussion of the incest taboo is updated to include current research relevant to the Westermark hypothesis. Data from the 2000 census is presented to show changes in household composition and family structure in the United States.

Chapter 12, "Class and Caste," gives a more extensive view of obstacles to class mobility in the United States, and provides an expanded discussion of poverty in the U.S. and a profile describing the obstacles lower class youths face trying to make it out of poverty.

Chapter 15, "Psychological Anthropology," gives a more concise discussion of the Oedipal Conflict and how it has been used by anthropologists. New material has been added to the discussion of Japanese personality, the role of early childhood training, and spirit possession.

Chapter 13, "Ethnicity," has a more in‑depth discussion of ethnic chauvinism and class‑consciousness among minority ethnic groups. The impact of demographic change is discussed and there is a new profile on the conditions that led to Black/Korean tension and subsequent uprising in South Central Los Angeles.

Chapter 18, "Applied Anthropology," includes a newly expanded discussion of medical anthropology. It discusses native perceptions of health and illness, factors determining treatment choice, and people's perceptions of native healers verses western biomedical treatment.

A new Chapter 19, "Globalization," provides an overview of some of the social and economic changes that have taken place over the last 25 years. It describes colonial and post‑colonial efforts to generate exports from the less developed countries. The impact of commercialism and free market (neoliberalism) verses anti‑market forces is discussed, as well as the problems of introducing technological improvements into traditional economic settings. An example of resistance to globalization is shown in the case of the Zapatistas and the impact of the global economy on traditional cultures is presented through profiles of present day conditions among the !Kung, Machiguenga, and Yanomami.

The format of the book has been changed to include both key concepts and key terms that appear throughout the text. Key concepts are highlighted in bold blue type and, as in the Fifth Edition, provide a concise statement of the issue being discussed. We intend for students to use them as though they were highlighted in yellow to emphasize the most important ideas in each chapter.

Key terms are highlighted in bold blue type next to a blue icon. These terms are defined within the chapter, instead of the glossary. They are intended to catch the student's eye as he or she reads and provide a clear definition of each term within the context of the discussion in the text.

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