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What is Anthropology?. Anthropology. The study of humans past and present . - American Anthropological Association. Areas of study in anthropology. Sociocultural Anthropology.

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The study of humans past and present.

- American Anthropological Association

sociocultural anthropology
Sociocultural Anthropology

Sociocultural anthropologists examine social patterns and practices across cultures, with a special interest in how people live in particular places and how they organize, govern, and create meaning.

medical anthropology culture bound syndromes
Medical Anthropology: Culture Bound Syndromes

hwa-byung or wool-hwa-bung: (Korea) "anger syndrome".

shin-byung: (Korea) syndrome characterized by anxiety and somatic complaints (general weakness, dizziness, fear, loss of appetite, insomnia, and gastrointestinal problems), followed by dissociation and possession by ancestral spirits.

pa-feng and pa-leng: (China) phobic fear of wind and cold, respectively. Patients fear an excess of yin (negative/female energy) from exposure to wind and cold. Afflicted individuals bundle up in warm clothing, eat symbolically "hot" food, and avoid wind or drafts. Symptoms of both often co-occur.

anorexia nervosa (North America, Western Europe): severe restriction of food intake, associated with morbid fear of obesity. Other methods may also be used to lose weight, including excessive exercise. May overlap with symptoms of bulimia nervosa.

brain fag or brain fog: (West Africa) a condition experience by high school or university students. Symtoms include difficulties in concentrating, remembering, and thinking. Additional symptoms center around the head and neck and include pain, pressure, tightness, blurring of vision, heat, or burning


Archaeologists study past peoples and cultures, from the deepest prehistory to the recent past, through the analysis of material remains, ranging from artifacts and evidence of past environments to architecture and landscapes.

biological anthropology
Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropologists seek to understand how humans adapt to diverse environments, how biological and cultural processes work together to shape growth, development and behavior, and what causes disease and early death.

linguistic anthropology
Linguistic Anthropology

Linguistic anthropology is the comparative study of ways in which language reflects and influences social life.

anthropology and woks
Anthropology and WOKs

The degree in which different WOK are used depend on the area of research, research questions, and methodologies.

Example: An archaeologist studying an ancient piece of pottery might rely more on sense perception and reason as WOK. However, they might still use language and emotion.

A linguistic anthropologist would focus on language as the primary WOK, though might also use emotion, sense perception and reason.

ethical issues in cultural anthropology
Ethical Issues in Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Relativism


cultural relativism
Cultural Relativism

Cultures and cultural practices cannot be judged against each other.

What members of one culture might view as strange and bizarre in another culture (for example, polygamy, body tattooing, or strict dietary laws) can be understood best within that culture's context.

cultural relativism vs universal h uman r ights
Cultural Relativism vs. Universal Human Rights

Cultural Relativism

Universal Human Rights

There is a set of universal values no culture should be exempt from.

Who is determining universal values?


The role of “the observer”


How does the observer impact those being observed?

Real life situation:

Margaret Mead- Derek Freeman controversy

is intervention ever appropriate
Is intervention ever appropriate?
  • What is the anthropologist’s responsibility to those he or she is researching?
    • What information should they share and how?
    • Should they share information if it might hurt the people they study?
    • Should the anthropologist help the people they study? If so, how?

Case Study: Terry Kelly (pseudonym) received a grant for research in the Western Tropics. As part of her personal gear, she took along a considerable amount of medication which her doctor had prescribed for use, should Kelly find herself in an active malaria region. Later, after settling into a village, Kelly became aware that many of the local people were quite sick with malaria. Since she had such a large supply of medication, much more than she needed for her personal use, should she distribute the surplus to her hosts?

1. What issues and problems does the case raise and why?

2. What are courses of action the anthropologist could follow and what would be the negative and positive consequences of each?

3. How would "you" have acted in the same situation?


Laura Bohannon, in her book Return to Laughter (Bowen, Elenore, 1964, Doubleday), describes a dilemma when smallpox begins to rage through an African country. She has been vaccinated but cannot get the people to go to the hospital to get vaccinated by Western doctors. Their way of coping with it, is to banish a person from the tribe as soon as a person contracts smallpox. If Bohannon goes after the banished man to give him food and returns without having smallpox she will be considered a witch. This will mean she can no longer study these people effectively. Would you stay in the tribe or go help the man?


American Anthropological Association. Anthropology Newsletter. American Anthropological Association, 4350 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 640, Arlington, VA 22203-1621; 703/528-1902.

1981 issues contain a series on ethical dilemmas prepared under the auspices of the Committee on Ethics. (cases 3, 4 & 5)

February 1994 issue contains the article, " Anthropological Ethics, the PPR and the COE: Thoughts from the Front Line."

October 1995 issue has an article by Bernard Gert, "Universal Values and Professional Codes of Ethics."

Appell, George N. Ethical Dilemmas in Anthropological Inquiry: A Case Book. Waltham, MA: Crossroads Press, 1978.

An excellent resource of over 80 cases designed to help sensitize students and anthropologists to the moral consequences of social inquiry. Cases cover such areas as dealing with threats of aggression; intervening in infanticide; perceiving of illegal activities; dealing with theft, medical emergencies, and missionaries; and handling problems in urban ethnic research. (cases 1 & 3)

Cassell, Joan and Sue-Ellen Jacobs (eds.). 1987. Handbook on Ethical Issues in Anthropology. American Anthropological Association Special Publication #23.

Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn (ed.). 1991. Ethics and the Profession of Anthropology: Dialogue for a New Era. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Carolyn Fluehr-Lobba, AnthroNotes:  http://anthropology.si.edu/outreach/anthnote/Winter98/anthnote.html

what is a gift

What is a Gift?

Brainstorm examples on your own

2. With a classmate, come up with a definition

marcel mauss
Marcel Mauss

The Gift (1923)

there is no such thing as a true gift
There is no such thing as a “true” gift

The obligation to give and receive gifts is the basis of society. Gift giving always serves some purpose and is never a truly “selfless” act.