e-book The Rise of Anthropological Theory: A History of Theories of Culture

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His theoretical work led to an active role in the anthropological controversies of his day. Marvin Harris. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: New York s overview. At the start of the s, midtown Manhattan was the centre of the American music industry, containing the headquarters of three major labels RCA, Columbia, and Decca , most of the music publishers, and many recording studios.

Mozambique, a scenic country in southeastern Africa. Mozambique is rich in natural resources, is biologically and culturally diverse, and has a tropical climate. Its extensive coastline, fronting the Mozambique Channel, which separates mainland Africa from the island of Madagascar, offers some of…. Medieval scholars and explorers, who traveled the world to develop new trading partnerships, continued to keep accounts of the cultures they encountered.

Ibn Battuta traveled much more extensively than Marco Polo. This work was strongly influenced by the work of natural historians, such as Georges Buffon. These studies justified the colonial agenda by describing foreign territories and peoples as in need of European reason and control. Today, we recognize these studies as racist.

Early State Concept in Anthropological Theory

Colonial thought deeply affected the work of 19th-century anthropologists. Evolutionists argued that all societies develop in a predictable, universal sequence. Anthropologists who believed in evolutionism placed cultures within this sequence. Evolutionists believed that all societies would reach the civilization stage when they adopted the traits of these powers.

By analyzing and comparing the cultural traits of a society, diffusionists could determine from which culture circle that society derived. Diffusionists and evolutionists both argued that all cultures could be compared to one another.

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They also believed certain cultures mostly their own were superior to others. To put societies in cultural context, anthropologists began to live in these societies for long periods of time.


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They used the tools of participant-observation and ethnography to understand and describe the social and cultural life of a group more fully. Turning away from comparing cultures and finding universal laws about human behavior, modern anthropologists describe particular cultures or societies at a given place and time. These anthropologists turned to analyzing the practices of everyday life in the developed world.

As a result, ethnographic work has been conducted on a wider variety of human societies, from university hierarchies to high-school sports teams to residents of retirement homes. Anthropology Today New technologies and emerging fields of study enable contemporary anthropologists to uncover and analyze more complex information about peoples and cultures. Zahi Hawass, a former National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, has used CT scans on ancient Egyptian mummies to learn more about patterns of disease, health, and mortality in ancient Egypt.

Hawass and his team were able to identify this mummy as Queen Hatshepsut, a major figure in Egyptian history, after finding one of her missing teeth in a ritual box inscribed with her name. Genetics is the study of how characteristics are passed down from one generation to the next. The Genographic Project uses sophisticated laboratory and computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people and collected at archaeological sites. One Genographic study of indigenous populations in Africa revealed that early human populations were small and isolated from each other for tens of thousands of years.

Anthropologists also apply their skills and tools to understand how humans create new social connections and cultural identities. Michael Wesch, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, is studying how new media platforms and digital technologies, such as Facebook and YouTube, are changing how people communicate and relate to one another.

New technologies, such as wi-fi and social media, have expanded the scope of anthropology and ethnography. Zora Neale Hurston The short stories and novels of Zora Neale Hurston are an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement among African Americans during the s and s.

Hurston was also an important anthropologist. Hurston graduated from Barnard College, where she was the only black student, before being awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and conducting field work throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Margaret Mead One of the most famous and controversial anthropologists of the 20th century is Margaret Mead.

Mead lived and interacted with the people of Tau, Samoa, for her research.

She documented an open-minded society where young women and men regularly engaged in casual sex. This was troubling to many Westerners, who had much more conservative attitudes. Some of her conclusions may have been more a product of the time in which she studied, rather than an unbiased look at a unique culture. Meads problematic methodology has put many of her anthropological conclusions into doubt. Cultural Variety Anthropology has dozens of specialties. Some sections listed by the American Anthropological Association are:. Also called physical anthropology.

Also called a CAT scanner. Also called Kulturkreise.

Also called cultural anthropology. The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited. Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society. Dunn, Margery G. For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service.

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If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media. Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service. Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives. Hunter-gatherer cultures forage or hunt food from their environment. Often nomadic, this was the only way of life for humans until about 12, years ago when archaeologic studies show evidence of the emergence of agriculture. Human lifestyles began to change as groups formed permanent settlements and tended crops. There are still a few hunter-gatherer peoples today.

Indicative Reading List

Explore the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers in your classroom with these resources. But the first formal genetic study was undertaken by a monk named Gregor Mendel in the middle of the 19th Century. Mendel bred peas and noticed he could cross-pollinate them in certain ways to get green or yellow seeds.


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  • Today, the field of genetics is breaking new ground searching for new ways to treat disease or develop crops more resistant to insects or drought. Empower your students to learn about genetics with this collection of resources. Humans relied on hunting and gathering practices to survive for thousands of years before the development of agriculture. This more reliable food supply meant humans could stay in one place and gave rise to settled communities and cities. These urban civilizations had larger populations, unique architecture and art, systems of government, different social and economic classes, and a division of labor.

    Learn more about the rise of cities with these resources. Demography is the study of a population, the total number of people or organisms in a given area. Understanding how population characteristics such as size, spatial distribution, age structure, or the birth and death rates change over time can help scientists or governments make decisions. For example, knowing how lion populations have increased or decreased over a period of time can help conservationists understand if their protection efforts are effective while knowing how many seniors or children live in a particular neighborhood can shape the type of activities scheduled at the local recreation center.

    Select from these resources to teach your students about population characteristics. Demography is the study of demographics, the social characteristics and statistics of a human population. This study of the size, age structures, and economics of different populations can be used for a variety of purposes. Political candidates use the information to inform targeted campaigns. Scientists employ the data to answer research questions, and marketing teams use it for advertising purposes. Government and business policymakers use it to craft ideas and plan for the future.