Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Participatory Learning and Assessment --Participatory Rapid Assessment

Participatory Learning and Assessment is an approach for quickly developing a preliminary qualitative understanding of a situation where specific research techniques are chosen from a wide range of options and where it is assumed that all the relevant parts of a local system cannot be identified in advance.The local system is best understood by combining the expertise of a multidisciplinary team that includes locals while combining information collected in advance ,direct observation and semi-structured interviews and time should be structured  to ensure team interaction as part of an interactive process.

Rapid assessment allows a team of two or more individuals usually representing different academic disciplines to produce qualitative results for decisions about additional researches or preliminary decisions for design and implementation of  applied activities.It is relevant when time constraints do not let the intensive qualitative methods by a single researcher and when the different perspectives of the team members are essential for understanding the situation.Rapid appraisal uses the techniques and shares many of the characteristics of traditional qualitative research but differs in three important ways- more than one researcher is always involved;researcher team interaction is a critical aspect of the methodology and the results are produced much  faster.Rapid appraisal is characterized by the production of quick results and the simultaneous use of research techniques associated with the basic concepts.

Rapid appraisal should be based on the participants in the system believed to be the  critical elements,their relative importance and how they relate to each other.Rapid appraisal is designed to contribute to an insider's perspective of the system.It doesn't reject or abandon the traditional methods and techniques of the social science but provides ways to complement them.

Concept of Research in Anthropology

Research is the most essential input in Anthropology.It is characterized by empiricism.The first hand learning from living people themselves constitutes fieldwork.It involves the direct interaction between the fieldworker and his subjects.The tasks of fieldworker are noting,recording and reporting the culture of the people and their society. The manifold tasks of the field worker includes learning what information in society is needed for his social science.Learning from persons in society what social role as an observer will permit him to get from them. Accommodating himself in that role- getting in-into the situation itself,staying-in surviving in his role as an observer and easing out leaving the situation undamaged and with himself unhurt,free to report ,to turn the information into data for a contribution to his social structure.

Till the end of 19th century not a single social anthropologist had conducted fieldwork besides Morgan's study of  Iroquios.However it had become apparent that if socio-cultural anthropology had to advance,anthropologists would have to conduct fieldwork and make their own direct observations and study.Franz Boas initiated fieldwork expeditions in USA.Shortly afterwards in 1895-99 A Haddon organized Torres Strait expedition from Cambridge.While Rivers worked among the Todas of south India and later among Pacific Islanders,Seligman worked in Melanesia,among Veddas of Ceylon and later in Sudan.

Gradually two important and interconnected developments began to take place.Anthropology became more and more whole time professional study and field experience came to be regarded as an essential part of anthropological training.Studies of primitive societies then started increasingly more intensive.The most important of these was A R Radcliffe Brown's study of the Andaman Islanders in 1906-08.His fieldwork was the first prolonged study for a duration of two years.He was the first social anthropologist to investigate sociological theories in a primitive society. The 20th century saw professionalism in anthropological fieldwork methods and techniques.A leader in this movement was Bronislaw Malinowski who conducted extensive fieldwork.

Gender Bias and literacy in women - Jean Dreze

According to Jean Dreze there is a link between the neglect of female education in India with specific social practices  that create deep asymmetries  between male and female education.Prominent among these social practices are the gender division of labour and the kinship system.

The gender division of labor confines many adult women  to household work and some family labor in agriculture.The benefits of female education at home are often less clearly perceived  and less strongly valued than the economic returns to male education.The kinship system in many parts of India  involves the separation of an adult woman from her parents after her marriage when she joins her husband's family.This implies that educating a daughter is of little benefit from the point of view of parental  self-interest.The situation is very different in the case of sons since educated sons are expected  to get better jobs and to look after their aged parents.There is much evidence that employment opportunities and old-age security do play a major role in schooling decisions. The fact that educating a daughter does not bring any tangible benefits to her parents and is no less costly than educating a son may be an important cause of gender bias in schooling opportunities.

Parents are often reluctant to let their daughters wander outside the village.This prevents many girls from studying beyond the primary level given that upper primary schools are often unavailable within the village.Many parents rely on their elder daughters to look after young siblings.Indian men often expect their spouse to be less educated than they are themselves without the gap being too large.In a community with low levels of male education a relatively well educated daughter is often considered as a burden because she may be difficult to marry.In communities with high levels of male education however uneducated daughters may become a liability for the same reason.In such communities education is often considered to improve a daughter's marriage prospects.Given that a daughters marriage is often regarded as the overriding goal of her upbringing these links between female education and  marriage prospects are likely to have  a significant influence on schooling decisions.

Modernization-Perspectives -IV

Social-Psychological Perspectives

The most typical example of American modernization studies in India is the study by Alex Inkeles and David Smith who examines how people move from being traditional to becoming more modern personalities in six developing countries - Argentina,Chile,India,Israel,Nigeria and East Pakistan.The study was based on intensive interviews with a stratified sample of 1000 males in each country whose responses were measured for their degree of modernization on a composite attitudinal scale developed by the authors.

The sampling scheme included rural cultivators ;urban non factory workers and new and experienced factory workers.The main findings confirmed the existence of psycho-social syndrome of modernity as internalized values and attitudes  and manifested in behavior demonstrating a feeling of personal efficacy,autonomy from traditional sources of influence and openness towards new experiences and ideas.The most important causal factor was education,followed by occupation and exposure to mass media.Urbanization was found to be unimportant.

Modernization -Perspectives III

Synthetic Perspectives
Among the attempts to synthesize the different perspectives on modernization in India the most comprehensive and well known is Prof Yogendra Singh's Modernization of Indian tradition to overcome the partial focus on social processes and the limitations of the analytical categories used in other perspectives on social change which  have rendered them narrow and inadequate.He identifies commonalities in the earlier perspectives  and uses them to fashion his own taxonomic synthesis based on unilinear evolutionism in the long run which distinguishes  the micro and macro contexts in which change producing processes begin and materialize the internal and external sources of change and the structural and cultural  substantive domains within which phenomena are undergoing change.This is said to yield a comprehensive as well as theoretically consistent synthetic theory into which social change in India from the Vedic times to the present can be fitted including epochal changes  as advent of Muslims,British colonialism or Independence.

Modernization- Perspectives-II

Tradition Inspired Perspectives
 A perspective critical of westernization mode of studying modernization emerged with the studies conducted by D.P Mukerji and A.K Saran who belonged to Lucknow school of sociology.They arrived at this position through engagement with Marxist  materialism and its inadequacies and study of Hindu religion and metaphysics.D.P Mukerji in his address to first meeting of the Indian Sociological Society in 1955 said that the study of Indian traditions is the first and immediate duty of Indian sociologist.He further says that it is not enough for the Indian sociologists to be Indian sociologist.He must be Indian first that is he is to share in the folkways,mores,customs and traditions for the purpose of understanding his social system and what lies beneath it and beyond it.He argued for indigenous modes of analysis because western concepts fail to capture the complex particularity of Indian society which requires a different approach to sociology because of its special traditions,its special symbols and its special pattern of culture and social actions.It is only thereafter that there can  be a case for studying change because the thing changing is more real and objective than change per se.According to T N Madan Mukerji viewed modernization as at once an expansion,an elevation,a deepening and a revitalization of traditional values and cultural patterns that is as a kind of self-conscious synthesization of modernity by tradition.

A.K Saran moved in the direction of Hindu religion and philosophy with a view to exploring their potential for Indian sociology.But there is a lack of substantial texts where this position is clearly spell out. This broad position defined by the tradition identification,anti-modernism and theoretical indigenism has exerted influence despite its lack of dominance.Many scholars were influenced by this perspective and worked on different aspects.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Studying Modernization in India- Some theoretical perspectives-I

Social Anthropological Perspectives
Modernization as a theme has helped shape the horizons of Indian sociology and social anthropology.The production of systematic knowledge on Indian society based on the pioneering work of orientalist Indologists,colonial administrators  and missionaries developed rapidly from 1760 onward.By the early decades  of the 20th century these varied traditions had already produced a considerable body of works on arts,sciences and cultural-religious practices of classical Hinduism,the cultural coherence of Indian communities and the regional inventories of caste and tribes detailing their customs and manners. To this were added the later work of  western and Indian scholars trained mainly in the British tradition of a social anthropology as well as American anthropologists.This work consisted of ethnographic monographs on village,caste or tribal communities.

However this diverse body of anthropological work on India did not show deep or sustained interest in social change except in inquiries into the decay or degeneration of traditional practices,institutions and communities.With Independence the search for social change became an important item on the agenda of social anthropology in India.In the aftermath of Indian independence  the idea of modernization took on the dimensions of a national mission ;it became an integral part of Nehruvian idea of socialism. India's inheritance of western style academic institutions and their eagerness to participate in the agendas of the nationalist state provided site for the emergence of modernization studies in India one marked by an ambivalent attitude towards western scholars and institutions and by the bias against basic research and policy oriented studies.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cultural Materialism

Marvin Harris developed the cultural materialism approach as a research strategy linking ecological and sociological branches of anthropology.His theory focuses on the importance of population pressure and ecological pressure in the determination of socio-cultural systems.

According to him, the evolution of four levels of human organization is determined by the need for food,sexual relations,affective stimuli and so on.The four levels are the infrastructure of production and reproduction.The structures of domestic and political economy.The behavioral superstructure of social relations and the mental superstructure of goals,values,beliefs etc.The first level determines the second,the second the third and the third determines the fourth level.The theory of Harris is considered to be a variant of ecological determinism.The pioneer's work is aimed at arriving at ecological explanations for taboos,cannibalism and the practice of food prohibition.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Flake Culture

The tool types belonging to the Middle Palaeolithic were mainly made on flakes.Hence this culture is also called Flake Culture.A new technique by the name Mousterian after the site Le Moustier in France was discovered to  be prevalent in Middle Palaeolithic Period.The Levalloisian technique was also used in large scale.

Mousterian Technique in which a stone with a large flat surface is chosen.Small flakes are removed all around the flat surface of the core.This process was repeated until no more flakes could be removed from the core.These small flakes were used in the making of the tool types.

The tool types that were pervalent in the Middle Palaeolithic age are points,borers and scrapers.

Points are made on flakes and are large and small,thick and thin,triangular and lean.These points could have been used as arrow heads and  the thinner,leaner ones could have been used as spear heads.

A borer has a thick projecting point protuding from square,rectangular or round stone.

According to the shapeof the piece and the position and nature of the edge for scraping the tool is named as side scraper,end scraper,round scraper and convex scraper.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Terraces are step-like structures formed along the banks of the rivers.The decrease in the level of river due to its erosional activity is called Degradation and the terrace formed is called degradational terrace.The increase in the level of the river due to accumulation of materials on its bed is called aggradation. Due to seasonal  oscillations of the sea-level or fluctuations of climate or tectonic movements of the ground the river undergo a series of such degradation an aggradations thus forming a succession of terraces.Generally the highest terrace will be the oldest since it is first formed and the subsequent terraces will be younger or more recent as they are formed later.

According to their modes of origin three kinds of terraces are seen
Tectonic terrace which are formed due to sudden tectonic movement of the earth's super crust bringing about a subsidence or an uplift  of part of the river's course like that of a waterfall thus forming a terrace.

Thallassostatic Terraces are formed due to fluctuations in the sea level.These fluctuations of the sea-level are called eustatic.

Climatic terraces  are formed due to various climatic fluctuations.Generally during wet climatic conditions degradational terraces are formed and during dry climatic conditions aggradational terraces are formed.

Pre-history and Proto- history

Pre-history refers to the history of a people or race in a region,country or nation before they had any knowledge of writing.The history of such  a group of people is unrecorded  as they were preliterate people.The primary cultural accomplishment of pre-historic man was tool-making.Archaeologists have divided the pre-historic culture in three stone ages which are Paleolithic,Mesolithic and Neolithic.

Proto history refers to the history of people who has an oral literary tradition although they did not take to literary writing.For example in India there was well-developed oral tradition which is amply demonstrated by the existence of the Vedas and Sutras that were handed down from generation to generation by oral repetition and memory retention.The Indus Valley Civilization reveals rudimentary writings on the seals.

Information regarding pre-history and proto-history of people is obtained through evidences supplied by geological,palaentological,geographical,archaeological and other such sources.Based on these evidences the prehistory and proto history of people are constructed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sacred Complex- L P Vidyarthi

The concept of Sacred Complex was put forth by L.P Vidyarthi in his book The Sacred Complex of Hindu Gaya.He studied the sacred and great traditional Hindu city of Gaya and described in detail three analytical concepts.These are a sacred geography,a set of sacred performances and a group of sacred specialists.These three concepts collectively called sacred complex.It reflected a level of continuity,compromise and combination between great and little tradition.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Contribution of British Colonial Officers to Indian Anthropology

The study of anthropology as a separate science came to the forefront after the arrival of British in India.In 1807 the directors of British East India Company believed that the knowledge on the inhabitants of the country will be useful in administrating the territory.The Governor-General of India appointed Francis Buchanan to study the condition of the inhabitants of Bengal and their religion.Over the period of time more and more officers were interested who had some interest in carrying out anthropological studies.In addition to the administrative work the responsibility of preparing material on different tribes and caste fell on these officers. The officers included Dalton (1872),Risley(1891) ,Grigson(1938),Gordon( 1914) and others.The ethnographic data collected by the officers  were of use in colonial administration. In the early of studies ,the anthropology was equated with the study of Indian tribes .

Concept of Rhina and Rebirth

Rina meaning debt is related to the sense of obligation of a man to his duties and for ensuring continuity in tradition.The three major types of debts are Guru rina ( debt to preceptor),Pitru rina( debt to forbears) and Deva    
rina( debt to God).These debts in life have to be repaid by a man to attain moksha ( liberation),Guru rina is incurred when a man in Brahmacharya Ashram gains knowledge through his preceptor.

Repayment is by way of life-long reverence to guru and by sending his sons for study under the guru.Parents take care of their parents so a man needs to repay by taking care of his parents  and bringing up his own children in a selfless way.Debt to God is repaid by offering prayers,performing yagnas and by leading a virtuous life.

Rebirth is an important concept of Hinduism.Karma the sum of all actions in the previous birth is said to determine the way of life in the present birth.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

J.C Frazer - The Golden Bough

Sir James George Frazer (1 January 1854, Glasgow – 7 May 1941, Cambridge), was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. He is often considered one of the founding fathers of modern anthropology.His most famous work, The Golden Bough (1890), documents and details similar magical and religious beliefs across the globe. Frazer posited that human belief progressed through three stages: primitive magic, replaced by religion, in turn replaced by science.

He wrote that primitive man knew nothing of science.Evolution of magic in the primitive society was based on law of similarity and the law of control.Magicians adhereing to this law thought that they could control nature by imitating it.When rains were needed,water was poured out and if one wanted an enemy to be harmed a doll representing the enemy was made and needles pierced through it in the belief that the enemy would suffer from physical agony.The magic associated with the law of contact is known as contagious magic.

Robert Redfield -Little Community

Robert Redfield's development of the concept of Little Community is for the purpose of studying the human whole.A Little Community is a small group of individuals living together and all characteristics of communal living are found in them.The members participate in communal activities.According to him,Little Communities represented the predominant style of humans living togther from time immemorial.

The little community has its unique distinctiveness and group consciousness.The community is small in number and members have mutual relationship.The activities and state of mind of people belonging to the same sex and age group are alike.The younger generation follows the activities of the preceding generation.Self-sufficiency is a marked feature.The community caters to the needs of all the members from birth to death.A community qualifies as a Little Community only when the same culture is present and is situated away from a large complex culture.


Edward Tylor on the basis of comparison of data from 282 societies made a correlation of post -marital residence with the custom of avoidance of in-laws.His conclusion was that matrilinealty and matrilocality preceded patrilinealty and patrilocality.He related teknonymy to matriarchal family.In such a family wives were the main authority and husbands were regarded as outsiders.Husbands were not included in primary kin groups and were accepted in secondary kin groups.The husbands were called through the names of their children.Thus a kin became the reference of two kins. The custom of teknonymy is prevalent in several countries including India.

However Lowie did not accept the correlation of teknonymy with matriarchal societies.He said that teknonymy was defined in patriarchal societies also.He believed that teknonymy originated in some societies where women had low status .

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Environment and Society

Ecology is the study of the interaction of living organisms and the natural environment.Being an interdisciplinery science ecology draws from the work of natural and social scientists.Of all the living organisms, humans alone take deliberate action to modify the world according to their interests.There is an increasing environmental pollution due to generation of large scale solid and liquid wastes which leads to the process of global warming.Deforestation and declining biodiversity have become issues of global concern.


One of the important forms of non-kinship organizations in primitive societies is based on age- groupings.People belonging to the same age-group are classified together into distinct age-classes such as infants,children,adolescents,adults and old people.Persons of the same sex or of both belonging to the same age range are formally grouped together into distinctive age-sets.

Every age-set passes through a series of age-classes  or stages.These successive stages of development in the life of an age-set constitute the age-grade.Thus the age-grades are the structural framework through which each age-set progresses.The age-sets are often named  and have common and uniform symbols like dress,ornaments,emblems,badges etc.Each age-set has a distinctive status,characteristic forms of behaviour,specific occupations,ceremonial functions,recreation clubs etc.Members of an age-set are bound together by obligatory cooperation and mutual aid.

Secret Societies

A secret society consists of group of individuals who withhold certain knowledge and activities from the other members of their tribe.Any member who reveals the secrets of the group or any non-member  who stumbles by accident or peeps purposefully into a secret society may even by removed or murdered.Admission to the a secret society is very restrictive and selective.Entry is gained by the payment of a high fee or some special rituals or an ordeal of initiation rite.Further admission is attained only after a period of probation and after undertaking several tests.Any individual who wishes to become a member of a secret society is thus required to possess a high degree of physical and mental endurance.Once a candidate has fulfilled all the requirements for entry the ceremony of admission takes place which is often very elaborate and sometimes dangerous.

Social Network

The term network was used by Radcliffe Brown when he characterized social structure as being a network of actually existing social relations.Social networks play an important part in the inter linkage of different structures of power.As more and more specialized political agencies develop the political system itself tends to acquire a weight of its own.In the traditional system there were no parties ,legislatures or union councils through which the individual could acquire power independently of his position in the class or caste structure.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Integration of Culture by Ruth Benedict

The significance of cultural behavior is not lost as we know that it is local and man made and variable.It tends to be integrated.A culture is a more or less consistent pattern of thought and action.Within each culture there are characteristic purposes  not necessarily shared by other types of society.Each people further and further consolidate its existence and in proportion to the urgency of these drives the heterogeneous items of behaviour take more and more congruous shape.Taken up by a well-integrated culture the most ill-assorted acts become characteristic of its peculiar goals often by the most unlikely metamorphoses.The form that these acts take we can understand only by understanding first the emotional and intellectual mainsprings of that society.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Science of Custom by Ruth Benedict

According to Ruth Benedict, custom has not been commonly regarded as a subject of any great moment.The inner workings of our own brains we feel to be uniquely worthy of investigation but for custom, we have a way of thinking ,is behavior at its commonplace.As a matter of fact it is the other way around.Traditional custom taken the world over is a mass of detailed behavior more astonishing than what any one person can ever evolve in individual actions no matter how aberrant.The fact is the predominant role that custom plays in experience and in belief and the very great varieties it may manifest.

No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes.He sees is edited by a set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking.Even in his philosophical probings he cannot go beyond these stereotypes of the true and the false will still have reference to his particular traditional customs.

'Patterns of Culture' by Ruth Benedict

Anthropology is the study of human beings as creatures of society.It fastens its attention upon those physical characteristics  and industrial techniques those conventions and values  which distinguish one community from all others that belong to a different tradition.

The distinguishing mark of anthropology among the social sciences is that it includes for serious study other societies than our own.For its purposes any social regulation of mating and reproduction is as significant as our own.To the anthropologist our customs and those of a New Guinea tribe are two possible  social schemes for dealing with a common problem and in so far as he remains an anthropologist he is bound to avoid any weighting of one in favour of the other.He is interested in human behaviour not as shaped  by one tradition our own but as it has been shaped by any tradition whatsoever.

He is interested  in the great gamut of custom that is found in various cultures and his object is to understand the way in which these cultures change and differentiate the different forms through which they express themselves and the manner in which the customs of any people function in the lives of the individuals who compose them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People

The second book ,The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People  was written in 1940 by Evans Pritchard.The Nuer are semi-nomadic cattle herdsmen living in marsh and savannah country in the southern Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.They form a congeries of tribes and since they have no chiefs and no legal institutions  the task which seemed to be of importance was to discover the principle of their tribal or political integration.

Nuer had a very simple material culture and were dependent on their environment and it became clear that the pursuit of a pastoral life in difficult conditions made a fairly wide political order necessary if they were to maintain their way of life.This political order is provided by the tribal structure.A study of the different local communities within a Nuer tribe revealed the fact  that each is identified politically with a lineage and that all these lineages are branches of a single clan.Each of the territorial divisions of tribe is thus coordinated with a corresponding branch of this dominant clan so that relations between the parts of a tribe both their separateness and their unity are conceptualized and expressed within a framework of values of descent.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kula in Argonauts of the Western Pacific( 1922) by Malinowski

The Book 'Argonauts of the Western Pacific' is about one set of activities of the Trobriand Islanders which they call Kula.They and the inhabitants  of some neighbouring islands form a kind of league for the exchange of certain objects,long necklace of red shell and bracelets of white shell.

In the system of exchange the necklace pass through communities one way round the circuit of islands and the bracelets pass the opposite way round.These objects have no practical value but only a ritual and prestige value the prestige consisting in the renown a man gets by receiving,possessing and then passing on particularly esteemed objects.

Some ideas of Radcliffe-Brown on Social Anthropology

According to Prof Radcliffe-Brown the concept of function applied to human societies is based on an analogy between social life and organic life.Following Durkheim he defines the function of social institution as the correspondence between the social institution and the necessary conditions of existence of the social organism.He says"the contributions which a partial activity makes to the total activity of which it is a part.The functions of a particular social usage is the contribution it makes to the total social life as the functioning of the total social system."

Institutions are thus thought of as functioning within a social structure consisting of individual human beings connected by a definite set of social relations into an integrated whole.The continuity of the structure is maintained by the process of social life or the social life of a community is the functioning of its structure.So conceived of a social system has a functional unity.

Radcliffe Brown when speaks of social integration he assumes that function of culture as a whole is to unite individual human  beings into more or less stable social structures ie stable systems of groups determining and regulating the relation of those individuals to one another and providing such external adaptation to the physical environment and such internal adaptation between the component individual or groups as to make possible  an ordered social life.

Durkheim and Social Anthropology as discussed by Evans Pritchard

The writings of Emile Durkheim  had a greater and more direct influence on social anthropology.He is the central figure in the history of its development both on account of his general sociological theories and his application with remarkable insight to the study of primitive societies.According to Durkheim social facts cannot be explained in terms of individual psychology if only because they exist outside and apart from individual minds.A language is there before an individual is born into the society which speaks it and it will be there after he is dead.He merely learns to speak it as his ancestors did and as his descendants will.It is a social fact which can be understood in its relation to other facts of the same order, as part of a social system and in terms of its functions in the maintenance of that system.

Julian Steward ( 1902-72)

Julian Steward ( 1902-72) a US cultural anthropologist influenced the development of evolutionary and ecological theory in modern cultural anthropology.His 'Levels of Sociocultural Integration' is a major theoretical contribution in the field of anthropology.

Earliest Human Ancestors

All human ancestors and the current day humans belong to the biological family of Hominidae.Within this family individual ancestors are recognized by the names of their genus and species.A genus is a group of similar species.Humans belong to two genera and they are Austalopithecus and Homo.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Copper Bronze Age

The earliest copper objects were shaped by hammering copper and later on objects were made by smelting copper ore minerals like Chalcopyrites and bornite.By 4000 BC copper metallurgy was widespread. Places in Andes mountains where copper ores are abundant have been known for copper metallurgy for thousands of years.

In the fourth millennium BC it was discovered by Smiths in Near East and South East Asia that alloying of copper with tin,arsenic or lead produced an alloy metal more suitable for making useful articles.

Metallurgical technology progresses in third millennium BC perhaps partly due ti the evolution of the art of writing.Since the demand for bronze increased it gave boost in trading activity.

Polygyny and Polyandry

Polygamy is plural marriage including polygyny which is the marriage of one man to several women and polyandry which is the marriage of one woman to several men.
Different factors in different societies have bearing on the practice of polygyny.In societies in which women are economically important,polygyny favours increase in man's wealth and consequent social position.In ancient and medieval India,many rulers married women from different clans and villages to strengthen their political,social and economic position.
Polygyny is characteristically found in societies with high productivity where agriculture is labour intensive and so additional women in the household is an advantage.Even in societies in which polygyny is defined few men have more than one wife.
In Sororal polygyny a man marries sisters who may cooperate and get along without creating family discord.

Polyandry has been recorded in parts of Tibet and among the Todas and Paharis in India.Polyandry may be an adaption arising out of shortage of women in some societies.The shortage may be due to female infanticide.In societies where men may have to be away from home for long spells of time a woman with more than a husband is assured of protection and help.Fraternal Polyandry recorded in the Toda tribes in the Nilgiri hills South India is a system according to which a woman marries brothers.Usually the eldest brother becomes the legal father to the child born to the woman.Occasionally a woman may marry men who are not biologically brothers.Todas have become largely monogamous.

Anthropologists make it a point to study these systems objectively without any preconceived notions.The anthropologist tries to understand them in the context and circumstances in which the two systems are defined.

The Levirate and Sororate System

Sororate and Levirate systems bear out of the marriage is an alliance between two groups than between individuals.These two systems help to maintain group alliances.

The levirate is a system according to which a man marries the widow of his dead brother.In some cases the children born out of the marriage are considered to be the children of the dead man.Among the pastoral Nuer people of Africa there exists a system of ghost marrige according to which a man can marry a women to the name of a brother who died childless.The children born of the union are considered to be the progeny of the dead brother.In this case the levirate enables the children to remain in the dead man's descent group.

The sororate is the custom according to which when a woman dies her kin group offers a sister as a wife to the widower.In the sororate society the husband of the barren woman marries her sister.At least some children born out of the union are considered to be children of the first wife.

Since marriage involves exchange of rights and obligations,the family of the wife is assured that she will be cared for even if the husband dies.In case there is no one of the right relationship to marry,other kin may be classified as equal for the marriage.

Marriage- Hypergamy and Hypogamy

Marriage is a universal social institution establishing legitimacy of children born in wedlock.The norm in hypergamy is that a man should marry his daughter in a family of higher status than his own status.In a hypergamous marriage a woman preferably marries a superior or marries an equal;a man should not marry a woman of higher status than himself.Though hypergamy is prevalent in India it is not universal.In Hindu ideology the bride is considered as a gift or dan.Ideally the bride is a virgin offered as kanyadan.In addition gifts in terms of dowry and materials are also given.The hierarchical relationship between the wife-giver and wife receiver may be expressed in commensal activities.Hypergamous marriage may led to improved status and rank of the families involved.Hypergamous marriages when repeated by wife-giver and wife-receivers may lead to consolidation of affinal relationship. The norm in the hypogamous system is that a man should marry a woman of higher status than his own.In such a case wife-giver has a higher status than the wife-receiver.Leach and Levi-Strauss have discussed the relationship between matrilateral cross-cousin marriage between persons of different social status and class structure.According to Levi-Strauss hypogamy represents the maternal aspect of anisogamy since it lends privilege to the female line and hypergamy privileges the male line.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Social Institutions

Social institutions provide the basic living arrangements that human beings work out in their interaction with one another and by means of which continuity is achieved across the generations.

Society has defined an organized way of pursuing an activity.It has a set of norms for each activity and the norms governing an activity is called institution.

Institution can be defined as set of norms to achieve some goal or activity that people feel is important.

The institutions of marriage,family and kinship are very important for the study of Anthropology.There are great variations in the family and marriage patterns across different cultures.

A family is a group of persons directly linked up by kin connections,the adult members take care for the children.Family as an institution refers to the system of normative patterns in which family group members interact and play their respective roles.Kinship ties are relations between individuals,established through marriage or through lines of descent.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Maine was the one of the first to use notion of status and to distinguish between societies or social relations where one's position in the society is determined at birth and those in which one's position may depend upon one's actions during one's life time.

The functioning of societies depends upon the presence of patterns for reciprocal behavior between individuals or groups of individuals.The polar positions in such patterns of reciprocal behavior are known as statuses.

A status is a position in a particular pattern.The status of any individual means the sum total of all the statuses which he occupies.It represents his position with relation to the total society.Status and role serve to reduce the ideal patterns for social life to individual terms.

The majority of the statuses in all social systems are of ascribed type.

All societies prescribe different attitudes and activities to men and women.Most of them try to rationalize these prescriptions in terms of the physiological difference between the sexes or their different roles in reproduction.

All societies recognize three age groupings as a minimum child,adult and old.Certain societies have emphasized age as a basis for assigning status and have amplified the divisions.

In the case of age the biological factors involved appear to be secondary to the cultural ones in determining the content of status.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cultural Ecology

Cultural ecology is the analysis of the relationship between cultures and environment.One of the first to advocate cultural ecology was Julien Steward.

He felt that some aspects of cultural variation could be found in the adaptation of societies to particular environments.

At the same time he said that cultural ecology must be separated from biological ecology dealing with relationship between organisms and their environment.

Theories on Origin of Modern Humans

Anthropologists have debated on two theories on the origin of humans.According to the single-origin theory modern humans emerged in just one part of old world and spread to other parts.While spreading they superseded Neanderthals and other per-modern Homo Sapiens.

The second theory known as continuous evolution theory suggests gradual evolution of humans in various parts of the world.The single -origin theory postulates that most of neanderthals and pre- modern Homo Sapiens did not evolve into modern humans.

The Neanderthals were extinct after 35,000 years ago and were replaced by modern humans.According to the single-origin theory,the original small population of Homos Sapiens had some biological and cultural advantage that allowed them to replace pre-modern Homo Sapiens.

According to Continuous -evolution theory anatomically modern looking humans gradually evolved from Homo eretus populations in various parts of the Old World.Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals represent phases in the gradual development of the anatomical features of modern human beings. There were continuous improvements in the technologies of making tools and cooking. These led to changes in the strength of jaws and skull bones.

An intermediate interpretation linking single -origin and continuous evolution theories has also been put forward.This states tht there might have been some replacement of one population by another,local continuous evolution and interbreeding.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sudanese System of Kinship

The Sudanese System is also known as the Bifurcate-Collateral System.Here a distinction between sex of the connecting relative and a distinction between lineal and collateral relative is made.In ego's generation,siblings,parallel cousins and cross-cousins have distinct denotative terms.

Patrilateral parallel cousins are distinguished from matrilateral parallel cousins likewise patrilateral cross cousins are distinguished from matrilateral cross-cousins.

In the first ascendant generation, father,father's brother and mother's brother have distinct denotative terms.In the same manner mother,mother's sister and father's sister have distinct denotative terms.

The Sudanese System is associated with patrilineal societies.

Most north Indian tribes also posses this type of kinship system.

Iroquois System of Kinship

The Iroquois system is also known as bifurcate-merging system.Here a distinction between sex of the connecting relative is made.

But a selective merging of collateral kin on one side with lineal kin is made to produce classificatory terms.

Thus in ego's generation siblings and parallel cousins are merged together but are distinguished from cross-cousins.

In the first ascendent generation father is merged with father's brother and mother's sister's husband but is distinguished from mother's brother and father's sister's husband who have a common term.

The Iroquois System is generally associated with societies that pratice cross-cousin marriage.Such a practice occurs matrilineal,patrilineal and even double-descent systems.

The Iroquois tribe in North America possess this kinship system.

Eskimo System of Kinship

The Eskimo system of kinship is known as Lineal System of kinship.Here a distinction beteen lineal and collateral relatives is made.In ego's generation siblings are distinguished from cousins.

Parallel and cross-cousins are classified together.In the first ascendant generation,father is distinguished from father's brother and mother's brother while the latter two are merged together.

Similarly mother is distinguished from mother's sister and father's sister while the latter two are merged together.

The Eskimo system is generally associated with the Bilateral societies such as the Eskimo Society from which it derives its name.

Hawaiian System of Kinship

The Hawaiian system of kinship is also known as Generation system of kinship.A distinction between people belonging to different generation is made.

In ego's generation we find no difference between siblings and cousins as all are referred to by a single common term.

In the first ascendant generation,father,father's brother and mother's brother have a common term.Likewise mother,mother's sister and father's sister have a common term.

The Hawaiian system is generally associated with an ambilineal society.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Textual Approach and Contextual Approach

Textual Approach are mainly undertaken by the historians.The Anthropologists also take into account the scrutiny of the literary compositions and physical forms such as architecture as well.

Contextual Approach are taken by Anthropologists who observe the actual life of the people and interpret the implications of the findings.They relate to the real life to the concepts in sacred books,epics etc of the people.

Redfield suggested that both the Little and Great Traditions should be studied in their relationship to one another through the methodological media of textual and contextual studies.Milton Singer applied this to his study of Indian Civilization particularly in South India.

Archeological Anthropologists have tried to study and interprete the origins of civilization.They also study several aspects of urban and complex societies.

Eric Wolf has studied the role and importance of kinship,friendship and patron-client relationship in complex societies.

Andrian Mayor has focussed on the political significance of quasi-groups in complex societies.

Oscar Lewis has studied the Culture of Poverty in the slums of modern urban societies.

Robert Redfield

Redfield introduced two pairs of concepts to Anthropological World

Primary Civilization and Secondary Civilization-A primary civilization is one which grows out of its own folk culture by an orthogenetic process by a straight line of indigenous development.A secondary civilization is a hybrid combination of many primary civilizations.

Little and Great Traditions- The characteristic of civilization lies in the presence of different levels of tradition.The complex interrelationships between these traditions is the hallmark of an advanced civilization.A Little Tradition is one that grows within the primary civilization.It is the outcome of the largely unreflective mass of people and keeps going in the lives of people through oral transmission.The Little Tradition is for most part taken for granted and not submitted to much scrutiny for refinement or improvement.

A Great Tradition is consciously developed by the reflective few elites in the civilization such as philosophers,theologians and literary men.It is consciously cultivated in temples and schools which is traditionally handed down from generation to generation both through verbal and non-verbal written forms.

Patterns of culture

The term pattern is used for those arrangements or systems of internal relationship which give to any culture its coherence or plan and keep it from being a mere accumulation of random bits.

The total system or the ideology of patterning is called a configuration.Kroeber has distinguished two major kinds of patterns.

Basic or systemic patterns- these are those that have persisted for years and years as coherent organizations of traits with functional value like agriculture,alphabet

Secondary patterns-these are those that are subject to a great variety and instability like system of thought.

Kroeber in his indepth study of culture published Configurations of Culture Growth wherein he traces the growth of each pattern of culture on wide scale.

Ruth Benedict in her Patterns of Culture adds a new dimension to the two types of patterns discribed by Kroeber.She refers to those qualities of cultural organization which come to pervade all or most spheres of some cultures and give them a distinctive individual slant.She made use of psychological theories to characterize the individual patterns of culture.She named two major kinds of cultures: Apollonian and Dionysain.The former type of culture emphazied order and restraint in individual and collective behaviour while the latter type of cultures emphasized emotional and sensory experiences.

Ralph Linton describes four dimensions of culture
The form of culture trait or complex is what can be perceived by the senses and objectively described.

The meaning of its subjective associations in the culture,implicit and explicit.

Its use is its relation to things outside the society and culture as expressible in physical terms.

Its function is its relation within society and culture.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Symbolism is seen in the ritual behaviour of religion.In religious studies ritual is being examined as a statement or a document of social organization or an expression of non rational imperatives in human action.

Looked from the symbolic inside out ritual can be seen as a symbolic intercom between the level of cultural thought and complex cultural meanings on the one hand and that of social action and immediate event on the other.

It commands a intrinsic values of real utilities matrixes in diffuse social contexts which it symbolically manipulates in transactions freed from the apatio-temporal determinants of these contexts.The medium is thus generalized in its capacity to convert any utility within a relevant domain or category of value that circulates between actors at a new symbolic level of social interaction.

The basis for a social theory of symbolic action was laid by N D Fustel De Coulanges in his study La Cite Antique which appeared in 1864.For him,certain rituals of ancient Greece and Rome functioned and sustained corporate identity of social groups.

We can see in his approach ,the recognition basic to any social theory of symbolism that certain material forms and modes of organizing physical space carry messages relating to the organization of social space;regulation of behaviour in the concrete sphere of social action can express and regulate relationships in the sphere of social structure.

Since social groups are constituted by conformity to cultural rules embodied in symbolic action rather than by natural association or natural affection the grounds of social order must be continuously recreated through common ritual activities.Social bonds and the structure of social units have to be perpetually reinstated in individual experience within a social process that symbolizes these bonds.

Fustel states that these old customs give us an idea of the closeness which united the members of the city.Human association was a religion;its symbols was a meal..Neither interest nor agreement nor habit creates the social bond;it is the holy communion.The ritual maintenance of social bonds requires a particular mode of individual orientation toward society one where the individual conscience is lodged within external social forms that govern it compelling it from without almost like a material bond.

In his view these traditional human societies developed a mode of social control involving the projection of the individual conscience into external symbolic forms that in turn functioned to express sociopolitical relationship.

Social value of Family

Right from the ancient period families were small with no social organization.A family consisted of husband,wife and children but their were joint families also.But family served the basic biological and psychological needs of the human beings.

Many agricultural groups lived in farms paving way for increased social relationship.Such an increase in social intercourse laid the foundation stone for building empires and nations at a later date.

In the earlier times division of labor among the members of families was defined so that there could be mutual understanding between the members.Though the set up has changed in present day societies man works more for his immediate family rather than for the extended family members.The family constitutes the nucleus of man's activities.

Proper organization of families is necessary for maintaining the harmony and social structure of the societies and communities.A child growing up exhibits the characteristics of the family which nurtures it.Family become the fundamental units of a society.Adler rightly says that a man's role in the family determines his role in society.

Components of Culture

Culture ethnographically means a complex whole which includes belief,values,art,morals,behaviour,ideals ,attitudes,customs,laws and other capabilities and habits shared by the members of the group.

There is an alternate view which believes that description of culture should not be based on a set of manners or traits but culture should be abstracted from observed behaviour.Culture is not descriptive term but an analytical one.Culture is composed of interrelated and pattered traditions which are transmitted by man linguistic and non-linguistic capacity.

the two components of culture are cultural anthropology and physical anthropology.There is well defined separation between these two fields of enquiry but comparatively recent developments have brought them together in certain areas.Cultural anthropology can further be divided into ethnography and ethnology.While the former means the study and recording of specific cultures the latter is taken to mean comparative and historical analysis of cultures.

Extended Family

Any grouping broader than the nuclear family which is related by descent or marriage is an Extended family.Further two or more nuclear families affiliated through the extension of parent-child relationship also constitutes an extended family.

Horizontally Extended family is when two or more siblings live together along with their families.

Vertically Extended Family is when a couple live along with their married children

An Extended Family is used asa synonym for a joint family and vice-versa.A joint family comprises of two or more distinct nuclear families while an extended family comprises of one nuclear family and assorted nuclear kin without full families


Deviance is recognised as violation of cultural norms which guide all human activities.Crime which is the violation of society's formally enacted criminal laws is a category of deviance.Criminal deviance ranges from minor thefts to major ones like murder etc.

There is very little link between genes and human behaviour.Psychological explanations of deviance also focus on individual abnormality.While some personality traits are hereditary personality is primarily shaped by social experience.

Deviance is shaped is society and it varies according to cultural norms.Social power is involved in the determination of norms and the ways in which situtions are defined.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Nuclear Family

The family is an important social unit.It is the first institution in the history of man that was founded on man's essential biological and social imperative needs.The family is the most basic and fundamental unit.The family is universal grouping in human societies.It is the bond of kinship which primarily unites the members of a familial grouping together. The two fundamental principles of integration that serve as binding force to keep a family intact are based on the connections arising through Marriage and Descent.These principles operate to produce three major kinds of relationships are those existing between- husband and wife,parents and children and siblings.

Several anthropologists have attempted to provide classification of families based on the differences in the composition of members within each type of familial grouping.The most simple and elementary form of family comprises of a married couple with their unmarried children.

Nuclear Family consists of a husband and wife along with their unmarried children.

Subnuclear Family consists only of a married couple - a husband and wife.It is likely to be completed in a course of time when the couple have children.

Broken Family consists of only one of the parents while the other is dead and the unmarried children of whom at least one may be an adult in order to help in the maintence of the family.

Nuclear Family with Dependents is a familial grouping which includes an extra person or persons who do not have a complete nuclear family of their own and hence have become dependent on anotherlinked nuclear family.

Polygynous Family consists of a man and two or more of his wives along with their children.

Polyandrous Family consists of a woman and two or more of her husbands along with their children.

Forms of Exchange

Levi Strauss discuss two forms of exchange

Restricted Exchange and Generalized Exchange

Restricted Exchange involves a direct transaction between two groups where Group A gives a woman to Group B reciprocates immediately by giving a woman to A.Thus there exists a symmetrical relationship between the exchange units with the wife givers being the same as the wife takers.

The fundamental characteristic of marrige as a form of restricted exchange is seen particularly clearly in the societies with Dual Organizations.Such a system involves sister exchange or marriage with the bilateral cross -cousin.The kin terminology in this system requires the differentiation between the parallel and cross cousins regardless of whether the latter are patrilateral or matrilateral.

Generalized Exchange differs from restricted exchange by the way in which reciprocity takes place and by the number of units involved in a single transaction of exchange.In this A gives a woman to B,B gives a woman to C and so on until at some stage someone along the chain gives a woman to A so closing the circle.Thus their exists an asymmetrical relationship between the exchange units with the wife givers not being the same as the wife takers. Marriage as a form of generalized exchange is often found in societies practising unilateral cross-cousin marriages.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cross Cousin and Parallel Cousin

A cross-cousin is one who is the offspring of one's parent's sibling of the opposite sex.

Father's sisters'children and mother's brothers'children are called cross-cousins.

A parallel cousin is one who is the offspring of one's parents' sibling of the same sex.

Father's brother's children and mother's sister's children are called parallel cousin.

Classification of Kinship System

Levi Strauss classifies kinship systems under :

Elementary Structures and Complex Structures
Elementary Structures are defined as those systems in which the nomenclature permits the immediate determination of the circle of kin and that of affines that is those systems which prescribe marriage with a certain type of relative and are hence based on closed exchange.

Complex Structures are those systems which limit themselves to defining the circle of relatives and leave the determination of the spouse to other mechanisms and are based on open exchange.

Exchange and alliance is the integrative mechanism of the elementary structures of kinship.Once an alliance has been formed between groups it is perpetuated.This has the effect of laying down the category of persons into which one must marry. Levi Strauss views cross-cousin marriage as the most elementary form of exchange.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Alliance refers to a system whereby descent groups or other kin groups are linked by the rules of an affinal relationship with one another generation after generation.It was Levi-Strauss who highlighted the role and importance of alliance in kinship systems.He begins with the explanation of a universal phenomenon: the prohibition of incest.

The prohibition of incest is the fundamental step because of which the transition from nature to culture is accomplished.In any society,incest prohibitions constitute the basis for the distribution of women because they imply at the same time a principle of reciprocity.

According to this principle once men are forbidden to have sexual relationship with their own women because of incest taboos they are forced to exchange them for others thus entering into marital alliances with other groups.Thus it is always a sytem of exchange that emerges as the fundamental and common basis of all modalities of the institution of marriage.


Certain persons who stand in definite social relationship to each other are required to avoid each other formally in many cultures.These persons may usually be of the opposite sex or also be of the same sex.

Avoidance seems to be generally practised between persons who are affinally related.Thus we have avoidance relationships between daughter-in-law and her parents-in-law and between son-in-law and his mother-in-law. Such relations are never mutual or equal because it is the duty of man to avoid his mother-in-law who is in a higher plane of authority.Avoidance also extends to all the women who stand in the category of a mother to his wife.

Avoidance may continue throughout the life of a person as in the case of parent-in-law avoidance or may be reduced or even erased after birth of child etc.

Avoidance may also exist between father and daughter and between brother and sister.The attempt is to reduce any form of intimacy that is prohibited due to incest taboos.

Joking Relationship

A degree of familarity between persons who stand in particular social relationship is expressed through Joking Relationship.Such joking involve playing tricks on one another teaing each other,damage of each other's property,ridicule and so on.In a joking relationship an individual may not only be permitted but also be required to make fun of the other who is not permitted to take offense.

A R Radcliffe-Brown discuss symmetrical joking relations where both the parties have the right to tease and asymmetrical joking relations where only one party is so privileged.

Joking relationships are usually directed towards specific members generally members of the opposite sex and may have originated between potential martial partners.

Further joking relations may exist between a person of his/her parents siblings.Sometimes a joking relationship with one's maternal uncle's wife may reveal the practice of inheriting the maternal uncle's property including his wife in some tribes.

The most commonly found type of joking relationship exists between grandparents and grandchildren.Often grandparents also serve to impart informal education regarding cultural traditions and practices.

Kin Behaviour

Kin behaviour refers to the kind of relationships that are existing and or stipulated between relatives.The family forms the basis for certain primary relationships.The relationships established in the family group are affected by generation,relative age and by similaries or differences of sex.

Those members of the parental generation who are in a position of authority are entitled to obedience and respect others may share an intimacy without super or subordination.Mutual affection,loyalty and support are expected of brothers and sisters.

The patterns of behaviour that prevail between relatives define their relationships and as such are an integral part of the kinship system.

With the set of relatives outside the family there is often a greater variety of behaviour patterns some based on the model of intra family relationships but others of a diverse nature such as joking and avoidance.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Descent refers to a principle arising out of series of affiliations i.e parent-child links known as filiation.Accordind to Fortes a child is filiated to both parents but he is only descended from one of them in a unilineal system.Thus he is equally the child of both parents but he only derives his legal and political status from one of them-father in a patrilineal and mother in a matrilineal system.

However in patrilineal system a man is only descended from his father does not mean that his tie to filiation with his mother is lost.He is still her child and has some rights as a result of this.Fortes refer to it as complementary filiation that is the ties a man has through the parents who does not give him his descent status.


A kindred is an ephemeral grouping which is neither permanent nor a continuing one through generations in any fixed pattern.The reckoning of kindred changes with the individual who reckons his/her cicle of relatives.

This is because the members of any particular kindred do not have nor reckon an ancestor in common to all of them ;instead what they all have or recognize in common is ego.

Every individual in a society has a kindred and the kindred of each individual will overlap with his/her next of kin.No kindred is common for any two individuals besides siblings.

A kindred is thus not ancestor-focused but ego-centred.

Non Unilineal or Cognatic Systems

The term Cognatic means akin to both parents.The underlying principle in cognatic or non-unilineal systems is thus the affiliation of an individual with a group of kin who are related to him/her through both his/her parents,irrespective of whether kinship linkages are traced through the mother or the father.Societies with cognatic kin groups are far less numerous than those with unilineal kin groups.

The kinship systems of Polynesia,Indonesia,Malaysia and Philippines reveal the presence of such cognatic kin groupings.

The cognatic kin groups do not have the discreteness ,the well defined boundaries and the clear-cut membership that the unilineal kin groups have.However several cognatic kin groups show definite patterns of localization and residence based on the presence of their land for cultivation and livelihood.Often this land is owned jointly by all the members and all the descendents of all the members of the group may be granted the right to enjoy its produce.Each cognatic kin group may have its own political set up to manage its economic resources and any conflicts arising from inside or outside the group.The cognatic kin groups may not always have a well-defined exogamous boundary.

The cognatic or Non-Unilineal systems are of two types:

Ambilineal:In an Ambilineal system the affiliation of an individual to his/her kin is left to the choice of an individual whereby he/she may reckon descent from a putative ancestor through any form of linkages with males or females or both.

Bilateral:Bilateral descent affiliates an individual with a group of kin who are related to him/her through both his/her father and mother.Thus these kinsmen may include both the patri and matri kin of her/his father as well as both the matri and patri kin of his/her mother.Such a bilateral kin group invariably will be too large in number and hence each society has definite ways to delimit the recognition of kin upto certain degrees.


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