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Readings in Anthropology

Biology, Ontogeny

Gibson, Kathleen R. (2002). Customs and cultures in animals and humans: Neurobiological and evolutionary considerations. Anthropological Theory, 2(3), 323-339. doi:10.1177/1463499602002003803.

Abstract: Anthropologists have long considered culture to be a defining attribute of humanity. Over the last decade, however, primatologists have repeatedly asserted that great apes also possess culture. Whether or not great apes or other animals pass the `culture test' depends on how one defines culture. This article uses the terms `custom' and `symbolic culture' to distinguish socially transmitted behavioral patterns and symbolic systems of belief, each of which is sometimes called culture. Information presented here indicates that social customs are widespread among mammals. It remains questionable, however, whether any non-human animals possess symbolic cultures. Symbolism, teaching, imitation, speech, and gesture demand brain-size mediated neurological capacities possessed by few non-human species. These include fine motor skills and the ability to construct variable, complex motor acts, concepts, and objects from multiple components. Humans exceed all other animals in these mental constructional skills and, hence, in many abilities that rely upon them including language, making complex tools, art, dance, mime, teaching and imitation. These interacting capacities enhance our social learning abilities and also allow us to create and transmit symbolic systems of belief. Symbolic cultures, thus, may be creations of social beings equipped with prerequisite motor and mental capacities, and they may reflect activities of multiple neurological areas as opposed to being a discrete human trait mediated by a specific, genetically-determined neural module. To the extent that symbolic cultures are creations, all mental capacities essential for culture may have been present in ancestral humans prior to the appearance of actual evidence of culture in the archaeological record.

Ingold, Tim. (1991). Becoming Persons: Consciousness and Sociality in Human Evolution. Cultural Dynamics, 4(3), 355-378. doi:10.1177/092137409100400307.

Jackson, Michael. (1983). Knowledge of the Body. Man, 18(2), 327-345. doi:10.2307/2801438.

Abstract: This article argues for the necessity of recovering the original sense of the word 'culture' as denoting modes of practical activity in the man-made environment: cultivating the land rather than cultivating the mind. This entails a critique of intellectualistic tendencies to assimilate bodily experience to conceptual and verbal formulations and to regard practices as 'symbolic' of something outside themselves. Working with Merleau-Ponty's concept of the 'lived body' and Bourdieu's notion of habitus, I endeavour to move away from the unduly abstract semiotic models which have dominated anthropological research in recent years by developing a grounded and common-sense mode of analysis which lays emphasis on patterns of bodily praxis in the immediate social field and material world. I examine the interplay between forms of comportment and forms of cognition through a restudy of gender construction and initiation rites among the Kuranko of Sierra Leone. Consideration is given to gender inversions and imitations, and the relation of bodily habits to social convention and custom.

Lambek, Michael (1998). Body and mind in mind, body and mind in body: some anthropological interventions in a long conversation. In Michael Lambek & Andrew Strathern (Eds.), Bodies and persons: comparative perspectives from Africa and Melanesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 0521621941.

Abstract: Counter Large-scale comparisons are out of fashion in anthropology, but this book suggests a bold comparative approach to broad cultural differences between Africa and Melanesia. Its theme is personhood, which is understood in terms of what anthropologists call 'embodiment'. These concepts are applied to questions ranging from the meanings of spirit possession, to the logics of witchcraft and kinship relations, the use of rituals to heal the sick, 'electric vampires', and even the impact of capitalism. There are detailed ethnographic analyses, and suggestive comparisons of classic African and Melanesian ethnographic cases, such as the Nuer and the Melpa. The contributors debate alternative strategies for cross-cultural comparison, and demonstrate that there is a surprising range of continuities, putting in question common assumptions about the huge differences between these two parts of the world. .

Martin, Emily. (1992). The End of the Body? American Ethnologist, 19(1), 121-140. doi:10.2307/644828.

Mauss, Marcel. (1973). Techniques of the body. Economy and Society, 2(1), 70-88. doi:10.1080/03085147300000003.

Robertson, A. F. (1996). The Development of Meaning: Ontogeny and Culture. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2(4), 591-610. doi:10.2307/3034298.

Abstract: If bio-cultural studies are to progress, we must find means of inserting the agency of human lives between the rival temporal schemes of evolution and history. This article starts from the neglected biological notion of ontogeny, and extends it to fit the sociality which is so essential to our life as a species. A viable model of human development must account for the life course in its entirety, including the aging process. It should view the life cycle not within the encapsulated notion of individuality, but within the context of the social relations of reproduction. The bio-cultural unit is not the static, modal, psychically integral, ungendered, ego-centred individual; it is a process within which persons are formed and dissolved, move between dependent impotence and independent authority, divide and multiply their being through relations with others, know more and less about the world, and acquire and lose the capacity to change it. This is the medium in which meanings, the stuff of culture, are formed, perpetuated and changed.

Toren, Christina. (1999). Mind, materiality, and history: explorations in Fijian ethnography. London: New York.

Culture and Society

Benedict, Ruth. (1934). Patterns of culture. Boston: New York, Houghton Mifflin Co.

Boas, Franz. (1920). The methods of ethnology. American Anthropologist, 311(93), 130.

Boas, Franz. (1940). Race, language and culture. New York: The Macmillan Co.

Durkheim, EĢmile. (1965). Rules for the explanation of social facts The rules of sociological method (8th ed., pp. 119-). New York: Free Press.

Evans-Pritchard, Edward E. (1965). Theories of primitive religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Kroeber, A. L. (1917). The superorganic. American Anthropologist, 19(2), 163-213. doi:10.1525/aa.1917.19.2.02a00010.

Kroeber, A. L. (1952). The nature of culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Malinowski, Bronislaw. (1926). Myth in primitive psychology. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Mauss, Marcel. (1967). The gift: forms and functions of exchange in archaic societies. New York: Norton. ISBN: 0393003787.

Mead, Margaret. (1928). Coming of age in Samoa: a psychological study of primitive youth for western civilisation. New York: W. Morrow & Co.

Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (1952). Structure and function in primitive society, essays and addresses. Glencoe: Ill., The Free Press.

Sapir, Edward (1949). Culture, genuine and spurious. In David Goodman Mandelbaum (Ed.), Selected writings in language, culture and personality (pp. 308-331). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Stocking, George W. (1968). Boas and the Culture Concept in Historical Perspective Race, culture, and evolution; essays in the history of anthropology (pp. 195-233). New York: Free Press. ISBN: 0029315301.

Gender and Sexuality

Butler, Judith. (1993). Gender is burning: questions of appropriation and subversion Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of "sex" (pp. 121-140). New York: Routledge. ISBN: 0415903661.

Foucault, Michel. (1978). The history of sexuality (1st American ed.). New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN: 0394417755.

Haraway, Donna Jeanne. (1988). Situated knowledges: the science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies, 14(3), 575-599.

Haraway, Donna Jeanne. (1989). Primate visions: gender, race, and nature in the world of modern science. New York: Routledge. ISBN: 0415901146.

Abstract: Haraway's discussions of how scientists have perceived the sexual nature of female primates opens a new chapter in feminist theory, raising unsettling questions about models of the family and of heterosexuality in primate research.

Lutz, Catherine A. (1995). The gender of theory. In Ruth Behar & Deborah A. Gordon (Eds.), Women writing culture: University of California Press. ISBN: 0520202074.

Mead, Margaret. (1970). Sex and temperament in three primitive societies. New York: Morrow. ISBN: 0688060161.

Ortner, Sherry B. (1974). Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture? In Michele Zimbalist Rosaldo & Louis Lamphere (Eds.), Woman, Culture, and Society (pp. 67-87): Stanford University Press. ISBN: 9780804708517.

Oyewùmí, Oyèrónke. (1997). The invention of women: making an African sense of Western gender discourses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN: 0816624402.

Abstract: The "woman question", this book asserts, is a Western one, and not a proper lens for viewing African society. A work that rethinks gender as a Western contruction, The Invention of Women offers a new way of understanding both Yoruban and Western cultures. Oyewumi traces the misapplication of Western, body-oriented concepts of gender through the history of gender discourses in Yoruba studies. Her analysis shows the paradoxical nature of two fundamental assumptions of feminist theory: that gender is socially constructed in old Yoruba society, and that social organization was determined by relative age. --BOOK JACKET.

Rubin, Gayle. (1975). The Traffic in Women: Towards a Political Economy of Sex In Rayna R. Reiter (Ed.), Toward an anthropology of women: Monthly Review Press. ISBN: 0853453721.

Sacks, Karen Brodkin. (1989). Toward a unified theory of class, race, and gender. American Ethnologist, 16(3), 534-550. doi:10.1525/ae.1989.16.3.02a00080.

Sperling, Susan. (1991). Baboons with briefcases vs. langurs in lipstick. In Micaela Di Leonardo (Ed.), Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist Anthropology in the Postmodern Era: University of California Press. ISBN: 9780520070936.

Abstract: Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge brings feminist anthropology up to date, highlighting the theoretical sophistication that characterizes recent research. Twelve essays by outstanding scholars, written with the volume's concerns specifically in mind, range across the broadest anthropological terrain, assessing and contributing to feminist work on biological anthropology, primate studies, global economy, new reproductive technologies, ethno-linguistics, race and gender, and more. The editor's introduction not only sets two decades of feminist anthropological work in the multiple contexts of changes in anthropological theory and practice, political and economic developments, and larger intellectual shifts, but also lays out the central insights feminist anthropology has to offer us in the postmodern era. The profound issues raised by the authors resonate with the basic interests of any discipline concerned with gender, that is, all of the social sciences and humanities.

Weber, Max. (1968). The types of legitimate domination Economy and society: an outline of interpretive sociology, vol. 1 (pp. Chp. 3). New York: Bedminster Press. ISBN: 0520028244.

Globalization, the State, and Politics of Difference

Anderson, Benedict R. O'G. (2006). Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. New York: Verso. ISBN: 9781844670864.

Abstract: 'Imagined Communities' examines the creation & function of the 'imagined communities' of nationality & the way these communities were in part created by the growth of the nation-state, the interaction between capitalism & printing & the birth of vernacular languages in early modern Europe.

Appadurai, Arjun. (1996). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy Modernity at large : cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN: 0816627924.

Appadurai, Arjun. (2006). Fear of small numbers: an essay on the geography of anger: Duke University Press. ISBN: 0822338343.

Abstract: Providing a conceptually innovative framework for understanding sources of global violence, this work describes how the nation-state has grown ambivalent about minorities at the same time that minorities increasingly see themselves as parts of powerful global majorities.

Barth, Fredrik. (1998). Ethnic groups and boundaries: the social organization of culture difference. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press. ISBN: 0881339792.

Comaroff, Jean, & Comaroff, John L. (2001). Naturing the Nation: Aliens, Apocalypse and the Postcolonial State. Journal of Southern African Studies, 27(3), 627-651. doi:10.2307/823319.

Abstract: This paper examines the predicament of the postcolonial nation-state through the prism of environmental catastrophe. When are plant 'invaders' likely to become an urgent political issue? And, when they do, what might they reveal of the shifting relations among citizenship, community, and national sovereignty under neo-liberal conditions? Pursuing these questions in the 'new' South Africa, we posit three key features of postcolonial polities in the era of global capitalism: the reconfiguration of the subject-citizen, the crisis of sovereign borders, and the depoliticisation of politics. Under such conditions, we argue, aliens - both plants and people - come to embody core contradictions of boundedness and belonging. And alien-nature provides a language for voicing new forms of discrimination within a culture of 'post-racism' and civil rights.

Gupta, Akhil, & Ferguson, James. (1992). Beyond "Culture": Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference. Cultural Anthropology, 7(1), 6-23. doi:10.2307/656518.

Lee, Benjamin, & LiPuma, Edward. (2002). Cultures of Circulation: The Imaginations of Modernity. Public Culture, 14(1), 191-213.

Abstract: The speed, intensity, and extent of contemporary global transformations challenge many of the assumptions that have guided the analysis of culture over the last several decades. Whereas an earlier generation of scholarship saw meaning and interpretation as the key problems for social and cultural analysis, the category of culture now seems to be playing catch-up to the economic processes that go beyond it. Economics owes its present appeal partly to the sense that it, as a discipline, has grasped that it is dynamics of circulation that are driving globalization -- and thereby challenging traditional notions of language, culture, and nation.

Mazzarella, William. (2004). Culture, Globalization, Mediation. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, 345-367. doi:10.2307/25064857.

Abstract: This chapter reviews the literature on media and globalization. It develops the argument that this literature foregrounds a problem that, ironically, it also largely disavows: namely, the question of mediation as a general foundation of social life. I explore the origins of this contradiction in the emergence of globalization studies out of earlier traditions in media and cultural studies. I suggest that the failure to move beyond this impasse has perpetuated a surprising and debilitating reliance on substantialist and essentialist models of culture, models that are both at odds with the critical thrust of globalization studies and fully complicit with the agendas of public and commercial bureaucracies. The review tracks the recurrence of such thinking in several key strands of globalization studies and proceeds to outline an alternative ethnographic and theoretical strategy on the basis of a general theory of media and mediation.

Ong, Aihwa. (2006). Neoliberalism as exception: mutations in citizenship and sovereignty: Duke University Press. ISBN: 0822337363.

Abstract: Neoliberalism is commonly viewed as an economic doctrine that seeks to limit the scope of government. Some consider it a form of predatory capitalism with adverse effects on the Global South. In this groundbreaking work, Aihwa Ong offers an alternative view of neoliberalism as an extraordinarily malleable technology of governing that is taken up in different ways by different regimes, be they authoritarian, democratic, or communist. Ong shows how East and Southeast Asian states are making exceptions to their usual practices of governing in order to position themselves to compete in the global economy. As she demonstrates, a variety of neoliberal strategies of governing are re-engineering political spaces and populations. Ong's ethnographic case studies illuminate experiments and developments such as China's creation of special market zones within its socialist economy; pro-capitalist Islam and women's rights in Malaysia; Singapore's repositioning as a hub of scientific expertise; and flexible labor and knowledge regimes that span the Pacific. --Book cover.

Knowledge, Perspective, Objectivity

Abu-Lughod, Lila. (1991). Writing against culture. In Richard Gabriel Fox (Ed.), Recapturing anthropology: working in the present (pp. 137-162). Santa Fe, N.M.: School of American Research Press. ISBN: 0933452772.

Castro, Eduardo Viveiros de. (1998). Cosmological Deixis and Amerindian Perspectivism. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 4(3), 469-488. doi:10.2307/3034157.

Abstract: This study discusses the meaning of Amerindian 'perspectivism': the ideas in Amazonian cosmologies concerning the way in which humans, animals and spirits see both themselves and one another. Such ideas suggest the possibility of a redefinition of the classical categories of 'nature', 'culture' and 'supernature' based on the concept of perspective or point of view. The study argues in particular that the antinomy between two characterizations of indigenous thought on the one hand 'ethnocentrism', which would deny the attributes of humanity to humans from other groups, and on the other hand 'animism', which would extend such qualities to beings of other species can be resolved if one considers the difference between the spiritual and corporal aspects of beings.

D'Andrade, Roy. (1995). Moral Models in Anthropology. Current Anthropology, 36(3), 399-408. doi:10.2307/2744050.

Dhareshwar, Vivek. (1998). Valorizing the Present: Orientalism, Postcoloniality and the Human Sciences. Cultural Dynamics, 10(2), 211-231. doi:10.1177/092137409801000208.

Abstract: There are many cultures. But only one culture has offered descriptions of other cultures. What are the implications of this fact for the human sciences? Until the appearance of Edward Said's Orientalism, the human sciences did not find it necessary to interrogate either the status of these descriptions or the culture that offered them. The western descriptions of other cultures have recently been contested by postcolonial theory/discourse which has not, however, looked into the culture that produced the descriptions. Valorizing the present in India (and other postcolonial cultures), this paper argues, requires us to take a road that neither Said nor postcolonial discourse has taken: namely, reconceptualizing the human sciences by theorizing the experience of the non-western cultures and, as a prerequisite to it, theorizing the West.

Holy, Ladislav , & Stuchlik, Milan. (1983). Anthropological data and social reality Actions, norms, and representations: foundations of anthropological inquiry (pp. 5-19). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 0521254922.

Jackson, Jean E. (1995). Culture, genuine and spurious: the politics of Indianness in the Vaupés, Colombia. American Ethnologist, 22(1), 3-27. doi:10.1525/ae.1995.22.1.02a00010.

Abstract: In this article I use Edward Sapir's (1924) famous phrase as a theme to explore how Tukanoans of Colombia's Northwest Amazon are learning to change their notions of their own history and culture to achieve a better fit with received wisdom about Indianness. Situated in a highly politicized context, this process involves local and national Indian rights organizations and sympathetic international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). I also briefly address the issue of ethnographic authority—the confrontation between anthropological and native visions of indigenous culture and history. [Northwest Amazon, indigenous mobilizing, identity politics, construction of culture, ethnic nationalism].

Latour, Bruno. (1993). Relativism. In We have never been modern (pp. 91-129): Harvard University Press. ISBN: 0674948386.

Oyewùmí, Oyèrónke. (1997). The invention of women: making an African sense of Western gender discourses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN: 0816624402.

Abstract: "The "woman question", this book asserts, is a Western one, and not a proper lens for viewing African society. A work that rethinks gender as a Western contruction, The Invention of Women offers a new way of understanding both Yoruban and Western cultures." "Oyewumi traces the misapplication of Western, body-oriented concepts of gender through the history of gender discourses in Yoruba studies. Her analysis shows the paradoxical nature of two fundamental assumptions of feminist theory: that gender is socially constructed in old Yoruba society, and that social organization was determined by relative age."--BOOK JACKET.

Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. (1995). The Primacy of the Ethical: Propositions for a Militant Anthropology. Current Anthropology, 36(3), 409-440. doi:10.2307/2744051.

Abstract: In bracketing certain "Western" Enlightenment truths we hold and defend as self-evident at home in order to engage theoretically a multiplicity of alternative truths encoded in our reified notion of culture, anthropologists may be "suspending the ethical" in our dealings with the "other." Cultural relativism, read as moral relativism, is no longer appropriate to the world in which we live, and anthropology, if it is to be worth anything at all, must be ethically grounded. This paper is an attempt to imagine what forms a politically committed and morally engaged anthropology might take.

Spiro, Melford E. (1996). Postmodernist Anthropology, Subjectivity, and Science: A Modernist Critique. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 38(4), 759-780. doi:10.2307/179198.

Strathern, Marilyn. (1996). Cutting the Network. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2(3), 517-535. doi:10.2307/3034901.

Abstract: New technologies have stimulated the rehearsal of old debates about what is new and what is old in descriptions of social life. This article considers some of the current uses to which the concepts of `hybrids' and `networks' are being put. It could be seen as following Latour's call for a symmetrical anthropology that gathers together modern and nonmodern forms of knowledge. In the process, the article reflects on the power of analytical narratives to extend endlessly, and on the interesting place that property ownership holds in a world that sometimes appears limitless.

Thornton, Robert J. (1988). The Rhetoric of Ethnographic Holism. Cultural Anthropology, 3(3), 285-303. doi:10.2307/656176.

Weber, Max (2004). The 'objectivity' of knowledge in social science and social policy. In Sam Whimster (Ed.), The essential Weber: a reader (pp. 359-). New York: Routledge. ISBN: 0415244269.

(re)Thinking Modernity

Appadurai, Arjun. (1996a). Here and now Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization (pp. 1-). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN: 0816627924.

Appadurai, Arjun. (1996b). Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN: 0816627924.

Comaroff, Jean, & Comaroff, John L. (1993). Modernity and its malcontents: ritual and power in postcolonial Africa

Harvey, David. (1990). Time-space compression and the postmodern condition. In David Harvey (Ed.), The condition of postmodernity: an enquiry into the origins of cultural change (pp. 284-307). Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN: 0631162925.

Jameson, Fredric. (1991). Postmodernism, or, the cultural logic of late capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN: 9780822309291.

Abstract: This wide-ranging work seeks to crystallize a definition of postmodernism. The author looks at the postmodern across a wide landscape, from high art to low; from market ideology to architecture, from painting to punk; film, from video art to literature.

Latour, Bruno. (1993). We have never been modern

Nietzsche, Friedrich. (1967). On the genealogy of morals. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN: 0679724621.

Symbols, Structure, and Meaning

Asad, Talal. (1979). Anthropology and the Analysis of Ideology. Man, 14(4), 607-627. doi:10.2307/2802150.

Abstract: This lecture discusses some of the conceptual problems involved in anthropological treatments of ideology, and argues that most of the difficulties arise from a theoretical preoccupation with essential human meanings-as embodied in the authentic social categories, actions and discourses of given cultures. This preoccupation, it is maintained, is shared by anthropologists who are often thought of as being radically different from each other, and it accounts for the difficulties they have encountered in conceptualising social change. The first and longer part of the lecture explores these difficulties in some writings by Bloch, Bourdillon. Leach and Mary Douglas. The tendency to reduce anthropological problems about the nature and consequence of particular public discourses to the philosophical problem of the origin of essential human concepts is noted. The tendency to see authoritative meanings as the a priori totality which defines and reproduces the essential integrity of a given social order is also criticised, on the grounds that it leaves an important question unasked: namely, how particular political and economic conditions maintain or undermine given forms of authoritative discourse as systems. The final part of the lecture is devoted to a general critique of the vulgar Marxist theory of the social function of ideology, with particular reference to the kinds of reductionism which that theory undertakes in its attempt to determine essential meanings, and the kinds of question which it fails to consider adequately.

Geertz, Clifford. (1972). Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight. Daedalus, 101(1), 1-37. doi:10.2307/20024056.

Geertz, Clifford. (1973). Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture The Interpretation of Cultures Selected Essays (pp. 3-30). ISBN: 046503425X

Greenblatt, Stephen. (1997). The Touch of the Real. Representations(59), 14-29. doi:10.2307/2928812.

Keesing, Roger M., et al. (1987). Anthropology as Interpretive Quest [and Comments and Reply]. Current Anthropology, 28(2), 161-176. doi:10.2307/2743185.

Turner, Victor W. (1967). The forest of symbols: aspects of Ndembu ritual. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN: 9780801491016.

Turner, Victor W. (1974). Passages, Margins, and Poverty: Religious Symbols of Communitas Dramas, fields, and metaphors: symbolic action in human society (pp. 231-). Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN: 9780801408168.