Thursday, August 30, 2012

Human Rights

The idea of human rights invokes a realm of justice and morality beyond and superior to particular countries, cultures, and religions. 

Human rights, usually seen as vested in individuals, include the right to speak freely, to hold religious beliefs without persecution, and not to be murdered, injured, enslaved, or imprisoned without charge. These rights are not ordinary laws that particular governments make and enforce. 

Human rights are seen as inalienable (nations cannot abridge or terminate them) and international (larger than and superior to individual nations and cultures). 

Four United Nations documents describe nearly all the human rights that have been internationally recognized. Those documents are the UN Charter; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Independent Invention

Independent invention is the process by which humans innovate, creatively finding solutions to problems a mechanism of cultural change. 
Faced with comparable problems and challenges, people in different societies have innovated and changed in similar ways, which is one reason cultural generalities exist. 
One example is the independent invention of agriculture in the Middle East and Mexico. In both Mexico and the Middle East, agriculture led to many social, political, and legal changes, including notions of property and distinctions in wealth, class, and power.

Intellectual Property Rights

The notion of indigenous intellectual property rights (IPR) has come up in an attempt to conserve each society’s cultural base— its core beliefs and principles. IPR are claimed as a cultural right, allowing indigenous groups to control who may know and use their collective knowledge and its applications. 
According to the IPR concept, a particular group may determine how its indigenous knowledge and the products of that knowledge are used and distributed, and the level of compensation required.

Cultural Rights

Cultural rights are vested not in individuals but in groups, including indigenous peoples and religious and ethnic minorities.
 Cultural rights include a group’s ability to raise its children in the ways of its forebears, to continue its language, and not to be deprived of its economic base by the nation in which it is located. 
Many countries have signed pacts endorsing, for cultural minorities within nations, such rights as self- determination; some degree of home rule; and the right to practice the group’s religion, culture, and language. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Anthropology of Law

Anthropologists distinguish between law and custom but have shown that in operation there is little difference between the two concepts.

Custom reinforces normative rules-forms of action and behaviour that ought to be observed.But there are legal institutions for mediating in disputes and considering breaches of normative rules and customary sanctions  or punishment for wrong doings.

Paul Bohannan in Law and Welfare ( 1967) distinguished law from custom and rules of condust as being doubly institutionalized meaning that law reinstitutionalizes customs or rules derived from other institutions.

Law is a custom that has been restated in order to make it amenable to the activities of the legal institutions.

American anthropologist E Adamson Hoebel suggested in The Law of Primitive Man (1954) that law has three principles

The legitimate use of force to ensure correct behaviour and punish wrongdoing.

The allocation of power to individuals to use coercion.

Respect for tradition as against whim.Enforcement must be based on the existence of known rules whether customs or statutes.

Different mechanisms exist for resolving disputes.Avoidance occurs in hunter-gatherer societies.Social space is great and formal mechanism or control are relatively underdeveloped.

Divination or ordeals can be used to discover the sources of conflict and agression between people.

Mediation,negotiation,arbitration and adjudication lead to variety of arrangements that go beyond settling conflict or contention.They deal with resolving disputes a specific incident of contention and may involve settling compensation or operating customary sanctions.

There may be specific,often ritualized,groups invested with authority to arbitrate and adjudicate disputes or disputes may be dealt with by formally constituted courts.

Source: Anthropology by Merryl Wyn Davies and Piero

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Anthropology and Cosmetic Surgery by Evie Robinson

Anthropologists are consulted by many different disciplines. Psychiatrists, for example, have consulted anthropologists specialising in ‘moral panic’ when researching the question of whether internet sex addiction is in fact an addiction at all, or a media storm simply seeking to medicalizing a personal preference in order to boost circulation figures. The use of anthropological data is extremely useful in investigations of this kind. But has work been done into the rise and rise of cosmetic surgery in society?

Medicalizing Aesthetics
The increasing application of medical techniques to the arena of human aesthetics should give the inquisitive anthropologist pause for reflection. What of the history of self-adornment, and are there parallels to be drawn. What is the difference between inserting a gigantic cup into your lower lip, and extending your neck with metal rings, and the surgical enhancements on offer from cosmetic surgeons today? Discuss. There is no doubt that human beings have a primary urge to appear as attractive as possible to the opposite sex, and are prepared to take some fairly extreme measures to enhance their assets. Some attempts, such as the bizarrely huge boots seen in Mexico of late, can be seen as a passing fashion, albeit one that is taking off across America where Mexican communities are strong. Others are deeper rooted and culturally specific.

Men And Cosmetic Surgery

Reports show that men in the West have shown an increasing willingness to undergo surgical cosmetic procedures in the last five years. This is no doubt due to the rise and pressure of the celebrity culture, which has made male cosmetic surgery more culturally acceptable. Increasingly too, men are being confronted with the commoditised body as a thing to aspire to. The six-pack is the object of desire, and magazines such as Men’s Health play a large role in creating a body-conscious male consumer. The shift in acceptability of men undergoing cosmetic procedures is a massive cultural shift. Whilst male grooming in many cultures is acceptable, it stops short of the excessive measures such as breast reduction, eyelid lifts and liposuction, and points to a change in ideas of masculinity. There is no more shame in seeking Propecia hair loss information than in searching out a new gym. The stigma of male vanity being associated with weakness or homosexuality has vanished, particularly amongst the younger generation of men, to whom cosmetic products are aggressively marketed.

Women’s Bodies
Whilst there has always been a cultural obsession with women’s appearances, the acceptability of  procedures has led to skyrocketing demand. Moreover, women’s sexuality is now the object of functional improvement. ‘Revirgination’ is a relatively new but increasingly requested surgery, involving the reattachment of the hymen for women as a ‘gift’ to their husbands. Anthropologists could surely find some cross-cultural parallels in the subject of female genital mutilation, but the difference with this procedure is that it is largely requested by women. The fact that the procedure is only in evidence for one night does not seem to deter women who typically undergo this surgery later in life – in one instance for a fiftieth wedding anniversary present.
Breast enhancement surgery seems to be a western obsession, and it is interesting to note the increased emphasis on the bottom in other cultures. The desire to enhance the derriere is such that women are prepared to take horrific risks to achieve the desired effect, most notably in a recent case where a woman was injected with a mixture of cement, mineral oil, superglue Fix-a-Flat tire sealant leaving her with horrific injuries.
This should be no surprise whatsoever to anthropologists, when we consider other forms of bodily mutilation women across the world undergo for cosmetic reasons. Women in the West African tribe of Karamojong to cut their skin with metal hooks, rubbing ash into the wounds to prevent healing. Girls from the Mursi tribe pierce their bottom lip and gradually stretch it with wooden plates over time. By the time they marry the piercing is large enough to accept a debi or clay plate on their wedding day. Extreme beauty is not confined to the West, as this fascinating slide show depicts. It would certainly make an interesting study.

Mexican boots

Woman from West African tribe of Karamojong
Young woman from the Mursi Tribe

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Scientific Method in Physical Anthropology

Physical anthropologists derive knowledge through the scientific method.Physical anthropologists carefully and systematically observe the natural world around them. These observations form the basis for identifying problems, developing questions, and gathering evidence data that will help answer the questions and solve the problems, fill gaps in scientific knowledge about how the natural world operates. These data are used to test hypotheses, possible explanations for the processes under study. Scientists observe and then reject or accept these hypotheses. This process of determining whether ideas are right or wrong is called the scientific method. It is the foundation of science.
Science  is more than just knowledge of the facts about the natural world. Science is a way of acquiring knowledge—a way of knowing—through observation of natural phenomena. This repeated acquisition results in an ever-expanding knowledge base. In this way, science is empirical, or based on observation or experience. After the systematic collection of observations, the scientist develops a theory—an explanation, not just a description, of phenomena. A theory is an explanation grounded in a great deal of evidence.A scientist builds a case by identifying incontrovertible facts. To arrive at these facts, the scientist examines and reexamines the evidence, putting it through many tests.
The scientist thus employs observation, documentation, and testing to generate hypotheses and, eventually, to construct a theory based on those hypotheses. Hypotheses explain observations, predict the results of future investigation, and can be refuted by new evidence.
Scientists use these hypotheses to build theories. Theories can be modified or even replaced by better theories, depending on findings made through meticulous observation. As observations and hypotheses and theories are tested and subjected to the test of time, science revises its own errors.
If a theory proves absolutely true, it becomes a scientific law. Among the few scientific laws, the well-known ones are the laws of gravity, thermodynamics, and motion. But scientific truth seldom gets finalized into law. Rather, truth is continuousy developed,new facts are discovered and new understandings about natural phenomena are made.

Source-Larsen Essentials of Physical Anthropology by Clark Spencer Larsen

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Modern Man emerged 44,000 years ago: New Study

According to a new study, modern man emerged 44,000 years ago .A team of scientists from Britain,South Africa,France,Italy,Norway and the US carried out a research in Border Cave area in South Africa and gathered evidence which shows tools and ornaments that humans used 44,000 years ago.

Tools like wooden digging stick with perforated stones,poison applicator and ornaments made from ostrich eggshell and marine shell dated back to approx 44,000 years ago.

Many archaeologists believed that the oldest traces of hunter gatherer people earliest known Modern human inhabitants of South Africa dated back to atleast 20,000 years ago.

Many elements of material culture that characterise the lifestyle of San hunter-gatherers were part of the culture and technology of the inhabitants of this site 44,000 years ago.

The Border Cave in South Africa is located in the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains in KwaZulu -Natal and has yielded exceptionally well-preserved organic material.

Poison dating from 25,000 years ago as well as beeswax collected 40,000 years ago was discovered.This represented the earliest evidence for the use of poison.This complex compound used for hafting arrowheads or tools directly dated to 40,000 years ago is the oldest known evidence of the usage of beeswax.

The findings published in the Journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  says stone tools discovered in the same archaeological layers as the organic remains shows a gradual evolution in stone tool technology.


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