Monday, December 23, 2013

Cultural Imperialism

Cultural imperialism is the process and practice of promoting one culture over another and often occurs through programs designed to assist other nations, particularly developing nations. Historically this occurred during colonization where one nation overpowers another weaker country for economic or political gain. Culture can be imposed in a wide variety of ways such as through restructuring education, religious, and political institutions.

Cultural imperialism is different from cultural diffusion primarily due to the mechanisms involved in changing culture and the roles power plays in the process.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cultural Citizenship

The idea of cultural citizenship has emerged through three main phases of debate. Firstly there was an attempt to extend the categories of citizenship to include questions of culture. Here there was a retracing of the debates on citizenship that was largely concerned with questions of rights and duties in the context of national societies to include issues related to culture. This work owed a great deal to attempts to link sociology and cultural studies found in the work of Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, and others. 

During phase one of the cultural citizenship debate issues related to the commodification of culture, access to the relevant cultural capital and the decline in cultural authority of the traditionalarts dominated. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Concepts of Race and Racism

African-American writer and activist W.E.B. Du Bois saw at the dawn of the last century racism’s bloody climax, the culmination of a 200-year history in which Europeans ordered and ranked humankind through the mechanism of ‘race’ . The idea of ‘race’ had been created over two centuries within science and philosophy to justify the supremacy of white Europeans. For Du Bois, the problem of the colour line not only included the experience of African-Americans who had been enslaved as chattel property and segregated by Jim Crow laws; it also included European forms of colonial domination and dispossession. Furthermore, it provided the mechanism through which to persecute Jews and gypsies Europe’s internal ‘others’  and a means to justify the Third Reich’s Final Solution.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The sex–gender distinction

All societies recognize bodily sexed difference and organize their societies according to what these differences mean. By making distinctions, and thus creating categories, social order or structure is constructed. Through creating categories, the meanings of female and male are made and thereby lived. It is via this process that individuals come to know who they are in terms of self-understanding and the understanding and perception of others. 

This position in language is one aspect of what is termed social structure or social order. These terms include language and its use; architecture and the built environment; and institutions and their settings (schools, government, religions and their organizations, marriage and laws). Gender identity is ‘learned and achieved at the interactional level, reified at the cultural level, and institutionally enforced via the family, law, religion, politics, economy, medicine, and the media.

Sociologists generally make a distinction between sex – the biological differences between men and women – and gender – the learned differences. They argue that we are not born masculine or feminine, but rather acquire and learn to embody distinct gender attributes through processes of early socialization. Children in most cultures come to learn the expectations, patterns of behaviour, identification and biography associated with being a boy or a girl in their particular social, cultural or religious context.  

Gender is not simply a question of embodied style; it also concerns attitudes and ideas about what men and women essentially are or should be.

Children, too, are the social-cultural agents of gender normalization at an early age, as they begin to police and repress within themselves, and in each other, inclusive gender characteristics and identifications.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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 pattern:

1. Basic or Systemic Pattern- These are those that have persisted for years and years as coherent organization of traits  with functional value ( agriculture,monotheism)

2.Secondary Pattern- These are those that are subject to a great variety and instability( formal social organization,system of thought).

Early Human Ancestors

The critical factor that differentiates humans and apes is bipedal locomotion. Comparative studies of fossils of humans and animals show differences in the structure of skulls and pelvis. Bipedalism freed the hands of our ancestors allowing them to carry loads and make tools. Apart from bipedalism particular aspects of tooth number, size, shape and enamel of teeth are of value in tracing human ancestry.

The earliest fossil evidence supporting the evolution of a creature ancestral to humans was found in Kenya. The fossil a single jawbone has been dated to be 5.5 million years old. More substantial evidence was found in mid 1990s in northeastern Ethiopia where the remains of more than 40 individuals who lived about 4.4 million years ago were unearthed.

Marxism and Anthropology

Karl Marx was a socialist and a revolutionary thinker of the 19th century. He was influenced by the works of Lewis Henry Morgan a lawyer who turned his attention to ethnographic study of native people. The notes prepared by Marx were used by Engels to bring out the book – The origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.

Marxist anthropology provides a typical 19th century model of social evolution in which contemporary ethnographic evidence could be fitted into appropriate positions. The positions were recognized in the movement from the primitive through the ancient and the feudal to the capitalist and finally the communist stage. Economic base received primary focus in Marxist anthropology and religion, law or sociology.

Monday, July 8, 2013


Emic and etic have become terms in anthropology, for an ‘‘insider’’ versus an ‘‘outsider’’ view of a particular social world. For example, an outsider view of an economic exchange might hold that a seller’s goal is to maximize profit. An insider view from people actually involved in the exchange might show that profit was not the concern.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Urban Revolution

The urban revolution refers to the emergence of urban life and the concomitant transformation of human settlements from simple agrarian-based systems to complex and hierarchical systems of manu- facturing and trade. The term also refers to the present era of metropolitan or megalopolis growth, the development of exurbs, and the explosion of primate or mega-cities. 


Tradition is generally understood as a body of values, beliefs, rules, and behavior patterns that is transmitted generationally by practice and word of mouth and is integral to socialization processes. Connoting fixity, stability, and continuity, it guides daily behavior and justifies shared beliefs and practices. In small-scale societies, where tradition offers the dominant blueprint for acceptable behavior, its status is that of sacred lore. Where orally transmitted, however, tradition is always open to variation, contestation and change, and becomes a model ofpast practices rather than a passively and unreflec- tively inherited legacy.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Population Genetics

Population Genetics is concerned with the determination of the genetic structure of human population and the analysis of the factors that maintain or alter their genetic structure.The web of genetic relationships among allele frequencies,consanguinity,matting patterns,gene flow  and natural selection are all significant in the study of population.

A human population is found generally in a particular place and is a coherent entity mainly because it is geographically bounded.Further human populations are also defined by other important factors such as economic and even psychological boundaries.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Recombinant DNA Technology

The structure of DNA was explained by a model created by Watson and Crick.The DNA helix has two strands  .Each strand is formed by numerous nucleotides.A nucleotide is formed by a nitrogenous base ( Adenine,Thymine,Guanine or Cytosine) with a 5 carbon sugar and a phosphate.Many nucleotides form a string or  strand called a polynucleotide which is known as gene.The various features or characters of an organism and its internal chemistry are decided only by these genes.

Genetics and its Relevance to Physical Anthropology

According to A.J Kelso physical anthropology attempts to explain human evolution.Genetics provides a basis for investigating similarities  and differences between parent and offspring generations.Evolution  may be defined as the accumulation of genetic changes over generations.

Physical anthropology attempts to describe and explain man's  biological variation.Genetics have made it possible  to employ a distinctive set of traits,inherited ones in describing and analysing man's variation and these may be analysed in ways that other traits cannot.

In classifying man's variation ,physical anthropology have relied heavily on racial classification that basically are pre-Darwinian or non evolutionary in outlook.Genetics in the development of its theory of population structure has laid the foundations  for classifying human variation into categories with clearer evolutionary unity and thus with clearer biological meaning than traditional racial classification simply.


The term Genetics is derived from the Greek word gen which means to become or to grow into.It is the science of inheritance which tries to explain how charactors are transmitted through generations.

Genetics is the scientific study of the laws of inheritance.By inheritance is meant the transmission of biological characteristics from one generation to another generation.Inheritance has two main components.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Functional Theories on Primitive Religion

Functional theories explaining the evolution of primitive religion were propounded by Malinowski and Radcliffe- Brown.Malinowski cites the example of Trobriand Islanders  whose religion is associated with various emotional states of tension. 

The magical and religious practices  of the islanders surround fishing expeditions. The emotional states of tension experienced by the islanders are born out of fear of disasters overtaking them while on fishing expeditions. Various institutions in the lives of the people  give rise to tensions based on anger,hate and greed.These states leading to tension continue for long,frustration set in,work suffers and  zest for life goes down. An emotionally upset state of life is not conducive to bring out the best in an individual.Religion helps to get rid of stress and strain paving way for attaining mental equipose and stability.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Biological Adaptation

In genetic evolution physiological  and behavioural  changes result in increased chances of survival in a given environment. In the biological sense adaptation means  individual responses  which act to maintain  homeostatis as also evolutionary change  over generations towards attaining  increased fitness to live and thrive.The concept is also applied to human behavior and socio-cultural evolution.

Evolutionary change in the genetic composition of a population may represent  either progressive adaptation to constant environmental  conditions or adjustment  to changing environmental conditions.

Macroevolution  is broadly similar to adaptive radiation. Through this process diversification of an initial  stock into smaller stocks takes place  and each becomes adapted  to its own environment.Adaptive radiation in biological  sense is most strikingly illustrated  among invertebrates  in groups showing rapid diversification above the species level.

During evolution change in relative growth of different  parts of the  body of a species  may give rise to different physical  proportions. Changes  relatively  gradual through time may account for adaptation to environment.

In the concept of pre adaptation animals must already possess characters capable of being modified if they have to adapt to new environments.

Religion, Magic and Science

Human beings face problems and perplexities throughout life. It would have been similar experience with the primitive people as well. The primitive man when faced with an insurmountable problem would have prayed and offered worship making a religious approach. He would have tried to coerce a superior unseen power into service      through magic. The two kinds of approaches would have been made to tide over difficult situations.

Frazer based on world wide studies arrived at two laws in classifying magic. The first law known as law of similarity includes homoeopathic and imitative or mimetic magic. The second law named law of contact is associated with contagious magic.

Homoeopathic magic is known among some tribes in Chota Nagpur and in the Ho tribe. The tribes of Chota Nagpur believe that thunder with its rumbling noise causes rains .In order to cause rains they imitate thunder by flinging down rocks and boulders down hills with the hope that rains will follow. The Ho tribe lights huge bonfires from which smoke curls up and hope that rains will follow.

Belief in natural and super natural phenomena in primitive people possibly developed side by side independently. The powers of two needed to be controlled through religion and magic. Religion is communal and has a congregated character and magic is surrounded by secrecy. While people respect the religious priest the magician is feared. The benign quality of religion is ostensibly the reason for religion to take deep roots in society.

Mechanistic procedures are involved in the pursuit of both science and magic. The difference is that the scientists deal with the natural world and the magician is concerned with the supernatural.

According to Fraser religion, science and magic are in principle similar but magic is based on wrong assumptions regarding causal relations. Magic has an element of amazement, expectation and uncertainty. In science there is expectation based on observations,experiment and analysis  of the data obtained  from experiment.Failure in science  may be due to inadequate knowledge and so continued  research on right lines may lead to success.Failure in magic may be the result of errors in performing  rituals.
In certain situations skills and capabilities possessed by people are of no avail and so religion or magic may be used as tools to gain what is desired. In magic certain objects are considered to possess powers which help people to get over difficulties. The sheer anchor of religion is faith and faith makes one to pray to His benediction.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The relationship between Culture,Civilization and Society

In an attempt to trace cultural evolution it was Morgan who developed the sequence of savagery-barbarism -civilization in which civilization represented the most advanced state of culture.The most developed form of societies with the most advanced state of culture are labelled as modern or urban.Such urban societies are characterized by the presence of cities.

The main characteristics of civilizations have been outlined by many anthropologists

Due to greater agricultural productivity there was the presence of higher concentration of population in the same area.

These populations clustered in cities which became the nerve centres of commerce,government,religion and defence.

Each such city did not exist in isolation but had several satellite communities with which it mainly had economic and trade linkages.

Managerial skills were developed to handle separately and efficiently several institutions such as economy and military.

Merchant classes were working within a highly developed exchange network radiating outward from the urban  centre.

Increased specialization in the division of labour paved the way for many other activities.

It led to the rise of full time  craftsmen and an increased aesthetic awareness.

Those specialists who were freed of manual labor could engage in such intellectual pursuits as the development of writing,numerical notation,arthematic,geometry,astronomy,standards of time,space and weight.

It created a greater economic interdependence of population within the city and outside the city.

The means of production were controlled by the ruling classes.

As wealth and power became concentrated in fewer hands,kinship bonds  and egalitarian social groupings were superseded in importance by the emerging classes  thus paving the way for increased inequality and rigidity in the system of social stratification.

Centralized political authorities and an elaborate hierarchical political system emerged.Control of waterworks ,redistribution of specialized resources,military operation and many other factors gave rise to the central political power.

The urban centres thus became the focal points for radiating systems of economic and political integration.

The religious sphere became separated gradually from the secular sphere.Priesthoods and temples developed thus increasing the importance of the religious sphere.

While Morgan conceived of cultural evolution as the process of progressive development from primitive to modern stages ,Kroeber intepreted cultural evolution as the result of the growth and decay of cultural patterns.He made elaborate attempts to trace the rise and fall of civilizations  in his Configurations of Culture Growth.

Robert Redfield  realised the complex nature of civilization because he attempted to simplify the procedure for understanding it.He formulated the concept of The social organization of traditions in which he tried to account for two crucial aspects - One  the manner in which cultural elements are put together into an integrated whole and two  the way in which a culture is transmitted in all its traditional forms.

Society,culture and civilization are closely related concepts.Over the years Anthropologists have continuously contributed  to the understanding of these key concepts  in the study of humanity.Lewis Morgan published Ancient Society in 1877 and Edward Tylor  published Primitive Culture in 1871.It was Morgan  who gave the concept of society  to the British who introduced the concept of culture.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sacred and Profane

The sacred includes everything that is regarded as extraordinary and that inspires in believers deep and absorbing sentiments of awe, respect, mystery, and reverence. 

Sacred things may include objects , living creatures i.e cows, elements of nature i.e mountains, places i.e mosques, states of consciousness (, holy days, ceremonies  and other activities like pilgrimages.

The profane encompasses everything that is not considered sacred, including things opposed to the sacred and things that stand apart from the sacred.

Believers often view contact between the sacred and the profane as being dangerous and sacrilegious, as threatening the very existence of the sacred, and as endangering the fate of the person who makes or allows such contact.

Consequently,people take action to safeguard sacred things. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Ethnography was initially developed in anthropology in the early twentieth century. It generally involved the researcher living with a group of people for an extended period, perhaps a year or several years, in order to document their distinctive way of life, beliefs and values.

Ethnography has been influenced by a range of methodological and theoretical movements. Within anthropology, it was shaped by German ideas about the distinctive character of history and the human sciences, by Wundt’s folk psychology, and even by positivism. 

Subsequently, in the form of the casestudy approach of the Chicago School, it was also influenced by philosophical pragmatism, while recently Marxism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, structuralism, critical theory, feminism, and poststructuralism have all informed its character.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ethics in Fieldwork

Ethics in fieldwork draws on the perspectives of philosophy, law, and psychology to guide moral decisions. Field researchers make ethical decisions whenever they gather, interpret, or present their data. However, ethical practice in fieldwork cannot simply rely on the guidelines for laboratory research.Informed consent has been the core of ethical review. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Symbolic Exchange- View of Jean Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard developed his analysis of symbolic exchange from a critical reading of Mauss, John K. Galbraith and Thorstein Veblen. Symbolic exchange for Baudrillard was a way to escape the consumer society and the political economy of the sign. 

He demonstrated in his early writings how the code of consumption and the system of needs had completed the system of production. The use value of the commodity provided an ‘‘alibi’’ to exchange value. 

Consumers were even more alienated in their private lives than they were at work. They were unconscious of the process of semiosis that led through their acts of consumption of commodities with their coded differences to the reproduction of the capitalist mode of production. 

The only way out of this system was a return to symbolic exchange where the accumulation of wealth and power was impossible and where exchanges were reciprocal and reversible. 

Baudrillard, J. (1988) Symbolic Exchange and Death.    

Symbolic Exchange- View of Marcel Mauss

Symbolic exchange is the organizing principle, the cellular structure, of the earliest forms of society. The exchanges that take place within and between clans, within and between tribes and between chiefs and other members of the tribe are more than economic exchanges as we know them in modern societies, and their circulation integrates the members of these societies. 

Marcel Mauss conceptualizes these exchanges as a form of gift giving, and the gift is a ‘‘total social phenomenon.’’ They are multi-dimensional- economic, moral, religious, mythological, juridical, political, aesthetic and historical.

Mauss created his concept from the work of nineteenth and early twentieth century anthropologists in Melanesia, Polynesia, and northwest America.He  wanted to demonstrate the social basis for exchanges as a refutation of the utilitarian notion that individual interests were the foundation for the creation of market relations. There was no natural economy that had preceded political economy. Further, while the tribes of the Americas, Africa and Asia seemed so different to Europeans, Mauss wanted to demonstrate through comparative analysis the underlying similarities as well.

Gift giving was obviously an economic phenomenon, although it did not involve the exchange of equivalent values as it does in market economies. The complex structure of the gift made it more difficult for Europeans to see these groups as inferior primitives whose annihilation or assimilation would be of no loss to humanity.

Gift giving also involved a relation with nature and created a balanced reciprocal relation between society and nature. The domination of nature is a modern phenomenon  these tribes lived in nature.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cultural Universals and Cultural Particulars

Anthropologist George Murdock (1945) distinguished between cultural universals and particulars. Cultural universals are those things that all cultures have in common. Every culture has natural resources such as trees, plants, and rocks that people put to some use. In addition, every culture has developed responses to the challenges of being human and living with others. Those challenges include the need to interact with others, to be mentally stimulated, to satisfy hunger, and to face mortality. In every culture, people have established specific ways of meeting these universal challenges.

Cultural particulars include the specific practices that distinguish cultures from one another. For example all people become hungry but the potential food sources defined as edible vary across cultures. That is what is appealing to eat in one society may be considered repulsive or simply unavailable in another.


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