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Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach / Edition 2

Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach / Edition 2

by Richard H. RobbinsRichard H. Robbins


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The new edition of textbook written for introductory undergraduate courses. The material is organized around problems of general concern, with each chapter addressing a specific question such as explaining the emergence of the modern nation state or understanding the dynamics of family life in other societies. Other topics include the social and cultural construction of reality, problems of identity, the construction of social hierarchy, and the justification and meaning of collective violence. For each problem a number of readings and case studies are provided that address more specific questions within the broader topic. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780875814049
Publisher: Wadsworth
Publication date: 04/28/1997
Edition description: Older Edition
Pages: 240

About the Author

Richard H. Robbins is a distinguished teaching professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. His teaching interests include courses on global problems, utopian societies, comparative religion, the anthropology of food, and activist anthropology. He has conducted research among indigenous peoples of Canada and fishing communities in northeastern New Brunswick. His recent books Include Debt as Power (with Tim DiMuzio); Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, Sixth Edition; Darwin and the Bible: The Cultural Confrontation (With Mark Cohen); and Globalization and the Environment (with Gary Kroll). Professor Robbins is the recipient of the 2005 American Anthropological Association/McGraw-Hill award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Culture and Meaning1
Problem 1How can people begin to understand beliefs and behaviors that are different from their own?
Introduction: The World Behind Everyday Appearances2
1.1Why do human beings differ in their beliefs and behaviors?4
1.2How do people judge the beliefs and behaviors of others?8
The Ethnocentric Fallacy and the Relativist Fallacy10
Virginity Testing in Turkey and Fighting Poverty in Brazil11
Objectivity and Morality12
1.3Is it possible to see the world through the eyes of others?14
The Embarrassed Anthropologist15
Confronting Witchcraft in Mexico16
The Endangered Anthropologist17
1.4How can the meanings that others find in experience be interpreted and described?20
Deciphering the Balinese Cockfight21
1.5What can learning about other peoples tell Americans about themselves?23
A Balinese Anthropologist Studies Football24
An Anthropological Look at a "Happy Meal"27
References and Suggested Readings30
Chapter 2The Meaning of Progress33
Problem 2How do we explain the transformation of human societies over the past 10,000 years from small-scale, nomadic bands of hunters and gatherers to large-scale, urban-industrial states?
Introduction: The Death of a Way of Life34
2.1Why did hunter-gatherer societies switch to sedentary agriculture?37
Life Among Hunter-Gatherers: The Hadza and Ju/wasi39
The Transition to Agriculture41
Producing Potato Calories44
2.2Why are some societies more industrially advanced than others?46
The British in India48
Cotton, Slavery, and the Cherokee Removal50
2.3Why don't poor countries modernize and develop in the same way as wealthier countries?52
The Case of Brazil54
2.4How do modern standards of health and medical treatment compare with those of traditional societies?56
Illness and Inequality56
The Meaning of Illness59
2.5Why are simpler societies disappearing?62
Globalization and Cultural Diversity64
References and Suggested Readings67
Chapter 3The Construction of the Nation--State71
Problem 3How do we explain emergence of the modern nation-state and the methods through which persons come to believe that they owe their allegiance to their country?
Introduction: Everyone Needs a Country to Which to Belong72
3.1Why did human beings organize into large-scale state organizations?73
3.2Why did the nation-state come to exist and what functions does it perform?76
The Nation-State and the Cost of a Twinkie77
3.3How is the state constructed and maintained and how does it succeed in binding together often disparate and conflicting groups?79
Race and the Nation-State83
Education and the Nation-State85
Violence and the Nation-State86
3.4How is the state to survive in an increasingly globalized world?90
References and Suggested Readings96
Chapter 4The Social and Cultural Construction of Reality99
Problem 4Why do people believe different things, and why are they so certain that their view of the world is correct and other views are wrong?
Introduction: The Central Question100
4.1How does language affect the meanings people assign to experience?103
Borrowing Meaning with Metaphors104
Kwakiutl Metaphors of Hunger107
The Metaphors of Contemporary Witchcraft and Magic109
4.2How does symbolic action reinforce a particular view of the world?111
The Kwakiutl Cannibal Dance112
The Ritual of Contemporary Witchcraft and Magic114
Dorothy Meets Luke Skywalker115
4.3How do people come to believe what they do, and how do they continue to hold to their beliefs even if they seem contradictory or ambiguous?116
The Process of Interpretive Drift118
Explaining Why the Sun Moves Around the Earth120
4.4How does the way we live affect our beliefs and rituals?123
"Acting" in Love125
Love and Class Structure126
Love and Individualism127
Romantic Love and the Functioning of Society128
4.5How can people reorder their view of the world if it becomes unsatisfactory?128
Wovoka and the Ghost Dance129
Mother Ann Lee and the Shakers131
References and Suggested Readings135
Chapter 5Patterns of Family Relations139
Problem 5What do we need to know before we can understand the dynamics of family life in other societies?
Introduction: Soap Operas and Family Relations140
5.1What is the composition of the typical family group?141
The Family Composition of the Ju/wasi142
The Family Composition of the Trobriand Islanders145
The Family Composition of the Chinese148
5.2How is the family formed and the ideal family type maintained?150
The Family Cycle of the Ju/wasi151
The Family Cycle of the Trobriand Islanders153
The Family Cycle of the Chinese156
5.3What are the roles of sexuality, love, and wealth?158
Sex, Love, and Wealth Among the Ju/wasi158
Sex, Love, and Wealth Among the Trobriand Islanders159
Sex, Love, and Wealth Among the Chinese159
5.4What threatens to disrupt the family unit?161
Threats to the Ju/wasi Family161
Threats to the Trobriand Island Family162
Threats to the Chinese Family164
References and Suggested Readings167
Chapter 6The Cultural Construction of Identity169
Problem 6How do people determine who they are, and how do they communicate who they think they are to others?
Introduction: The Importance of Self170
6.1How does the concept of personhood vary from society to society?171
The Egocentric and Sociocentric Self172
Personhood in Japan and America173
6.2How do societies distinguish individuals from one another?175
Learning to Be Male and Female176
6.3How do individuals learn who they are?178
The Transition to Adulthood179
6.4How do individuals communicate their identities to one another?183
Gifts and Commodities186
Gift-Giving and Christmas in America188
6.5How do individuals defend their identities that are threatened?191
Making Moka in Papua New Guinea191
References and Suggested Readings194
Chapter 7The Cultural Construction of Social Hierarchy197
Problem 7Why are modern societies characterized by social, political, and economic inequalities?
Introduction: The Rationale for Social Inequality198
7.1How do societies rank people in social hierarchies?199
The Feminization of Poverty200
7.2Why do societies construct social hierarchies?202
Integrative and Exploitative Theories of Social Hierarchy203
Karl Marx and the Origin of Class204
7.3How do people come to accept social hierarchies as natural?206
Constructing the Ideology of Racism207
The Social Construction of "Intelligence"210
Constructing Stratification by Gender216
7.4How do people living in poverty adapt to their condition?218
Kinship as an Adaptation to Poverty219
In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio221
7.5Can a nonstratified community exist within a large society?225
The Hutterites and the Colony of Heaven225
References and Suggested Readings228
Chapter 8The Cultural Construction of Violent Conflict231
Problem 8How do societies give meaning to and justify collective violence?
Introduction: The Justification of Violent Conflict232
8.1How do societies create a bias in favor of collective violence?233
Horses, Rank, and Warfare Among the Kiowa233
Good Hosts Among the Yanomamo234
Defending Honor in Kohistan236
8.2How do societies create a bias aganist violent conflict?237
Characteristics of Peaceful Societies238
8.3What are the economic, political, or social differences between peaceful and violent societies?240
The Need to Protect Resources and Honor241
Creating the Conditions for Violence243
Sexism and Violent Conflict245
8.4What are the effects of war on society?246
The Impact of War on Population246
The Evolution of the Nation-State247
Violence and Male Solidarity248
8.5How is it possible to justify the creation of weapons of mass destruction?249
The Anthropology of a Nuclear Weapons Laboratory250
The Language of Nuclear Destruction253
References and Suggested Readings256
Chapter 9Applications to Problems of Cultural Diversity259
Introduction: The Problems of Diversity260
9.1Anthropology in Health Care260
Health Care Among the Swazi261
9.2Anthropology in Economic Development263
Growing Trees in Haiti263
9.3Anthropology in Education265
Intercultural Understanding in American Schools266
9.4Anthropology in Architecture267
Designing Homes Apache-Style268
9.5Anthropology in Law269
Writing Law in Papua New Guinea269
References and Suggested Readings272

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