Wednesday, September 12, 2012


The view of cultural diversity in a country as something good and desirable is called multiculturalism.The multicultural model is the opposite of assimilationist model in which the minorities are expected to abandon their cultural traditions and values,replacing them with those of the majority population.

The multiculturalist view encourages the practice of cultural-ethnic traditions.A multicultural society socializes individuals not only into the dominant culture but also into an ethnic culture.

Multiculturalism seeks ways for people to understand and interact that donot depend on sameness but rather on respect for differences.Multiculturalism stresses the interaction of ethnic groups and their contribution to the country.It assumes that each group has something to offer to and learn from the others.

The global scale of modern migration introduces unparalleled ethnic variety to host nations.Multiculturalism is related to globalization where people use modern means of transportation to migrate to nations whose lifestyles they learn about through the media and other sources.

In a world with growing rural-urban and transnational migration,ethnic identities  are used increasingly to form organiations focused on enhancing the group's economic competitiveness.People claim and express ethnic identities for political and economic reasons.

The United States and Canada are becoming increasingly multicultural focusing on their internal diversity.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Scope of Anthropology

According to American Anthropological Association, anthropology has two dimensions- Academic anthropology and practicing or applied anthropology. The latter refers to the application of anthropological data, perspectives, theory and methods to identify, assess and solve contemporary social problems.

Applied anthropology is the field of inquiry concerned with the relationships between anthropological knowledge and the uses of that knowledge in the world beyond anthropology.

Many anthropologists now are working in the areas such as public health, family planning, business, economic development and cultural resource management.

Applied medical anthropologists consider both the sociocultural and biological contexts and implication of diseases and illness. Perceptions of good and bad health along with actual health threats and problems differ among societies. Various ethnic groups recognize different illnesses, symptoms and causes and have developed health care systems and treatment strategies.

Public archaeology includes such activities as cultural resource management, contract archaeology, public educational programs and historic preservation. Applied cultural anthropologists sometimes work with the public archaeologists assessing the human problems generated  by the proposed changes in the sites and how they can be  reduced .

Within sociocultural anthropology ethnology is the comparative science that attempts to identify and explain cultural differences and similarities, test hypothesis and build theory to enhance our understanding of how social and cultural systems work. Ethnologists compare, contrast and make generalizations about societies and cultures.

Anthropology is the whole history of man as fired and pervaded by the idea of evolution. Anthropology studies man as he occurs at all known times. It studies him as he occurs in all known parts of the world.

Anthropology is science in the sense of specialized research that aims at truth for truth's sake. It specializes on the particular group of human beings, which itself is part of the larger particular group of living beings. Inasmuch as it takes over the evolutionary principle from the science dealing with the larger group, namely biology, anthropology may be regarded as a branch of biology. Of all the branches of biology, it is the one that is likely to bring us nearest to the true meaning of life; because the life of human beings must always be nearer to human students of life than, say, the life of plants.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Clifford Geertz- Interpretive Anthropology

Related to symbolic anthropology is interpretive anthropology advocated by Clifford Geertz. Geertz defined culture as ideas based on cultural learning and symbols. During enculturation, individuals internalize a previously established system of meanings and symbols. They use this cultural system to define their world, express their feelings, and make their judgments.
Interpretive anthropology approaches cultures as texts whose forms and, especially, meanings must be deciphered in particular cultural and historical contexts. Geertz’s approach recalls Malinowski’s belief that the ethnographer’s primary task is “to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world”. 
Since the 1970s, interpretive anthropology has considered the task of describing and interpreting which is meaningful to natives. Cultures are texts that natives constantly “read” and ethnographers must decipher. 
According to Geertz anthropologists may choose anything in a culture that interests or engages them fill in details, and elaborate to inform their readers about meanings in that culture. Meanings are carried by public symbolic forms, including words, rituals, and customs.

Leslie White- The Evolution of Culture ( 1959)

In his book The Evolution of Culture (1959), White claimed to be returning to the concept of cultural evolution used by Tylor and Morgan, but now informed by a century of archaeological discoveries and a much larger ethnographic record. White’s approach has been called general evolution, the idea that over time and through the archaeological, historical, and ethnographic records, we can see the evolution of culture as a whole. For example, human economies have evolved from Paleolithic foraging, through early farming and herding, to intensive forms of agriculture, and to industrialism. Socio- politically, too, there has been evolution, from bands and tribes to chiefdoms and states. There can be no doubt, White argued, that culture has evolved. But unlike the unilinear evolutionists of the 19th century, White realized that particular cultures might not evolve in the same direction. For White, energy capture was the main measure and cause of cultural advance: Cultures advanced in proportion to the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year.
Leslie White was, like Mead, a strong advocate of the importance of culture. White saw cultural anthropology as a science, and he named that science culturology. Cultural forces, which rested on the unique human capacity for symbolic thought, were so powerful that individuals made little difference. White disputed what was then called the “great man theory of history,” the idea that particular individuals were responsible for great discoveries and epochal changes. White looked instead to the constellation of cultural forces that produced great individuals. During certain historical periods, such as the Renaissance, conditions were right for the expression of creativity and greatness, and individual genius blossomed. At other times and places, there may have been just as many great minds, but the culture did not en- courage their expression. As proof of this theory, White pointed to the simultaneity of discovery. Several times in human history, when culture was ready, people working independently in different places have come up with the same revolutionary idea or achievement. Examples include the formulation of the theory of evolution through natural selection by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, the independent discovery of Mendelian genetics by three separate scientists in 1917.


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