BL00001A.gif (2386 bytes)Definitions

Anthropology
The study (logos) of what it means to be human (anthropos) with an awareness of all the ways humans have lived, all over the globe, throughout human history.
Culture
A symbolic construct, shared by a group of people, which serves both to guide and interpret behavior.  This is humans' primary means of adaptation.
Egalitarian
A society without structured unequal access to the things the society values -- a society where everyone is equal.  (See stratification)
Endogamy
Rules (not necessarily codified) requiring marriage within a group, e.g. religion, class, ethnicity.  Endogamy strengthens ties within a group. (See exogamy)
Ethnocentrism
The belief that one's own culture is what it means to be human and that other cultures or ways of life are somehow not normal and natural.
Exogamy
Rules (not necessarily codified) requiring marriage outside a group, e.g. a kinship group or lineage.  Exogamy creates ties between groups.   (See endogamy)
Kindred
The kinship group created by a bilateral kinship system.  It is a flexible group, different for different members (except for unmarried siblings).
Lineage
The kinship group created by a unilineal kinship system.  It is a closed, corporate group with clearly delineated membership.  When the lineage membership is assigned based on the father's lineage it is a patrilineage.  When it is assigned based on the mother's lineage it is a matrilineage.
Polygamy
A marriage with more than one spouse.  Polyandry refers to the marriage form in which one women marries more than one man.  Polygyny refers to the marriage form in which one man marries more than one woman.
Stratification
A system which structures unequal access of the society's members to opportunities, wealth, power. Caste and class are two ways societies can be stratified.  In addition to class in our own society, gender and ethnicity are important means of stratification.
Subsistence Mode
The combination of environment and technology that allows a group of people to get what they need and want in order to survive.  Examples of particular susbsistence modes include: foraging, horticulture, agriculture, industrialism.

 


Notes on the Video The Hunters

The film was made in the 1960s, at the same time that Lee was at Dobe, but in area to the norheast.  The filmmaker, John Marshall and his family were very important in the study of the Ju.  The film focuses on the hunt, though begins by telling us that the gathering of vegetable foods is more important in providing the daily diet of the people.  We are introduced to four men, Toma, /Gau, /Twi, and K"au who are the hunters of the film.  They set out to find meat for the band.  They kill a kudu (or rather wound it with a poisoned arrow) and spend the rest of the day tracking it.  In the morning they find the kudu bones by observing a flock of vultures.  Their guess is that a lion ate it, followed by hyenas, followed by vultures.  Three of them men eat bone marrow, but  Toma refuses, saying that it will be bad for his luck on the rest of the hunt.  Next they find a giraffe herd and are able to wound a female giraffe.  Again the tracking begins and the giraffe, being much larger than the kudu, takes many days to die.  When they find her on the last day there is a standoff.  Her tough hide makes it very difficult to wound her with their spears, and she is still strong enough to kill a man if she hits him with one of her hooves.  Finally she drops, killed by the poison.  K"au, as a medicine man, is the first to cut into the body.  The men butcher the giraffe while one of them returns to the band to bring people to help carry the meat.  The meat is distributed equally throughout the band, but via gifts from the four hunters and the man who had made the arrow that wounded the giraffe.  Their thirteen day hunt provides enough meat for the entire band for nine days.  The group gather for the distribution and first meal and the story-telling of the hunters.

More information on the Ju

Ju Kinship

Notes on the Video N!ai:  The Story of a !Kung Woman

N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman" is an ethnographic film where N!ai, a Ju/'hoansi woman, tells her life story.  Through N!ai, we see traditional Ju/'hoansi society transformed. When N!ai was a child her band traveled foraging for animals, roots and seeds.  There was a tremendous variety of food and all was shared. The film was made in 1978, by which time the Ju/'hoansi were living on a reserve under the South African government. Their land area has been vastly reduced, food is scarce, and disease and conflict are far more prevalent. Hunting is now illegal, but the Ju/'hoansi still practice it with some innovations-on horseback and with rifles. Their primary source of food is "mealie-meal" (cornmeal) which they are given by the government.  The Ju/'hoansi have entered the capitalist economy. They receive small amounts of money from the government or, as in N!ai's case, are paid by filmmakers and photographers.  Their wealth is in durable goods which they do not share. Children attend schools where they study by rote.  The pastor at the church does not speak their language and does not understand their culture. Their medical care is provided by a doctor who cannot speak their language and does not understand their culture.  We see images of traditional healing, but also of traditional dances performed for tourists.  The film ends on the theme of militarization of the society as we see men taken by the South African army to fight against SWAPO.


 

Study Questions for Robbins Chapter One

  1. Why is a discussion of the classroom chairs an application of an anthropological perspective?
  2. How does culture create different worlds for people to live in?
  3. What is the ethnocentric fallacy? What is the relativist fallacy?
  4. What are the central methods of anthropology that help us understand cultures other than our own?
  5. What does an anthropological analysis of professional football and McDonalds Happy Meals tell us about the culture we live in here in the United States?

 

Study questions for Robbins Chapter Two

1.  What is progress?

2.  What has, and what has not, evolved in what is called cultural evolution?

3.  What are two theories explaining cultural evolution that Robbins discusses?

4.  Who benefits from and who pays for modernization?

 

Study Questions Robbins Chapter Four

  1. What does Robbins mean when he says that the world is socially and culturally constructed?
  2. How does language reflect and shape the ways people perceive the world?
  3. What is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis?
  4. What is a metaphor?
  5. What are key metaphors for our culture? For the Kwakiutl?
  6. How do rituals and myths help reinforce a people’s view of the world?
  7. How do people hold contradictory or apparently "wrong" beliefs?
  8. Why does the chapter include a section on romantic love?
  9. What are some examples of ways people have reorganized their world views?

Study Questions Robbins Chapter Five

1.  What is a bilateral kinship system? What are two societies that have bilateral kinship systems?

2.  What is a matrilineal kinship system?  Give an example of a society that has this system.

3.  What is a patrilineal kinship system?  Give an example of a society that has this system.

4.  The relationship between which two people is the most important in each of the types?

5.  How do family structures relate to subsistence/wealth patterns?

 

Study Questions for Robbins Chapter 7

1.  Why does inequality exist in human societies? What are some different theories that people have developed to explain social inequality?

2.  What are the benefits to complex societies of social hierarchy?  What are the costs?

3.  What are the various ways societies use to organize people into social hierarchies?

4.  What are the ways societies justify social ranking and hierarchy -- putting some people above or below others?

5.  How do people living in poverty adjust to their situations?

6.  Can there be communities in complex societies that exist without social and economic hierarchy?

 

Study Questions Chapter Eight

  1. Is violence a result of innate human tendencies or a social construct?
  2. What are some ways societies promote a bias toward collective violence?
  3. What are some ways societies inhibit a bias toward collective violence?
  4. What are some shared characteristics of peaceful societies?
  5. What are some shared characteristics of violent societies?
  6. What are some effects of collective violence on societies?
  7. How do we in the United States mask the consequences of collective violence?

    Robbins Chapter Nine Study Questions 

    1.What is applied anthropology? What are some of the difficulties associated with it?

    2. How can anthropology be useful when cultural diversity creates practical problems that can be avoided or alleviated?

    3. How does knowledge of cultural diversity and ethnocentrism help anthropologists who want to help others?

    4. What are some specific examples of applied anthropology, illustrating both its effectiveness and the pitfalls?

 

Notes on the video Touching the Timeless

Much is quoted verbatim from the film; thanks to Barb Cabot for the version from which these notes were made.

Summary of Millennium – Touching the Timeless video; much is direct quotation.

In the Nyimba Valley of Nepal, a man tells his son this prophecy: "There’s a hidden valley and timeless peace near the sacred valley. In 1970, many set out from here to find it; sold their possessions, walked for a month toward the sacred valley. They never found the valley. Some returned, many died. It was not the time, they were not the people to find it."

"When is the time and who are the people?"

"When chaos rules the world and when people are ready in spirit, a lama will lead them to the hidden valley. The valley can only be found when you’re ready. It’s only there when the need is there."

We all search for the sacred in one way or another – for some, it’s here on earth, for some it’s on another plane and for some it’s within. There’s always a journey to get there – a pilgrimage. Tribal peoples usually have someone to lead the pilgrims and s/he has objects that connect to or focus the timeless, provide that looking glass through which we step into the world of the gods or through which they step into our world.

An example of such an object is this mirror, the face of god. It brings the power of the gods to us. In its glass one looks into the face of the gods and beyond, into the timeless world. And the god looking out into our own world can see into our hearts. But it does this only in the hands of a shaman, a trained and dedicated guide to the timeless.

The Huichol Indians live in the Sierra Madre mountains of central Mexico, speak a pre-Aztec language. They’re not Christian, but are surrounded by Christians. They use a hallucinogen, peyote cactus, as a religious experience. They used to be hunter/gatherers, especially for deer, and have not forgotten that deep past. They believe if they don’t go on their pilgrimages, the world will end and that’s their responsibility. Pancho is the shaman. Chaleo is a Huichol politician caught between old and new, Huichol and Catholic. Chaleo could have been the first and only Catholic priest of the Huichol, but gave it up seven years ago. He is a municipal delegate for San Andreas, but doesn’t know who he is. "Made a Catholic, born a Huichol, where is the heart of such a man? Lost. I must find my heart."

Pancho: My feet are the tellers of this story; they have gone on many pilgrimages.

Chaleo: "Where does faith come from? I used to believe bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ. So why is it so difficult to see these things as sacred objects? My wife does. Perhaps if I take the ritual seriously and with humility it will reveal its mystery."

The pilgrims come into the temple to the gods (around an open fire). They come to be reminded that the first pilgrimage was of the ancient ones. They must remember this to find their hearts. Grandfather Fire was the first leader of the first journey to Wirikuta. I pray to Grandfather Fire; I become Grandfather Fire.

Early the next morning the pilgrims set out, travelling 300 miles by truck. Pancho: "We used to walk; what an offering that was. What a gift is this life, this earth. We must always acknowledge the gift or it might just fly away."

Two days away from Wirikuta, it is time to confess sins. Everybody has to hear and for each sin you tie a knot in a string. Chaleo describes Catholic confession – secret, heard by only the priest and god. Pancho tosses the strings of sins into Grandfather Fire and he forgives and now the heart is pure, ready for the sacred places. But walk there with a secret sin and the gods will not forgive.

They stop in Zacatecas where they are "a sideshow" to the Mestizo residents. They visit a Catholic church that is a sacred place for the Huichol too. Grandmother Growth stopped here on her way to Wirikuta. "The virgin mother for them, Grandmother Growth for us."

Pancho covers the eyes of the new pilgrims with bandanas so the light of Father Sun does not blind them. They are at a place where the ancestors are very powerful, close to the waters of "our mother who watches over us."

"Fences have been put up across our sacred places. If only they knew that Father Sun would not come up for them or for anyone if we didn’t pray to him, offer to him."

At the waterhole: "Tatimatinyori turned herself into this water at the first pilgrimage before the world was made, so the pilgrims would drink and refresh themselves. There are many offerings to leave here, each to a particular god, ancestor, each by a particular person. A personal matter for each of us talking to the gods. The objects connect us to them. Calabash bowl to Mother Ocean, Grandmother Growth. Arrows to father, son, and brother deer. The cross with coins to Jesu Christo, the mestizo god who brings wealth. The offerings focus the life, keep the gods always before us. You have to pay attention to the timeless world. You need to remember.

Pancho is Grandfather Fire on this holy morning in this sacred, dangerous place. Everything must be done right or the gods will punish. Now is the time for care, great care. Paint the face to tell Father Sun we have open hearts. Standing in the center of the sacred land, Pancho holds the object that represents the face of god, blesses the four directions, points to father, son, and brother deer so they see through this eye into the fifth direction, the pilgrims’ hearts. Speaking to the film crew Pancho says "I'll bless your objects for you. I think they keep you distant from the gods, or maybe they are sacred for they are the way you tell your stories."

"We are near to the beginning of things." In the beginning, Huichol hunted the deer. It was their whole life. "Deer fed us, clothed us, led us in the ways of the gods. It was magic. Where it stepped, it left a footprint which was magic. Made you see into your heart, see beyond time, and below the rocks. Made you see what the gods see. Made you god." It was and is the peyote. The footprint of the magical deer. Huichol hunt the peyote, bless it with powdered corn and blood of the deer. Give it all the objects – eyes of god, calabashes, candles, feathers of the red tail hawk, everything. Eat it for a heart already open and for a heart that must be opened. Collect peyote for the coming season. "Harvest in the fields of our fathers, for all the ceremonies to come, all the generations to come."

"On this most holy hill, Kayumarie, close to the gods, the gods will come into us, we will be gods."                               "On the first morning fierce Father Sun was born, but with the gentle soul of a young girl, balance. Here is the world which the ancestors maintain. Our gift, our pilgrimage maintain the ancestors, make the world go on. Each of us with our own small gift. Each small step makes the world go on. Take away the last gift, the last step, the last pilgrim and the world is gone."  They return to the village with peyote and candles "through these we are bound together with those in the sacred lands. We know our good place and we know our hearts. We have been gods and will be again."

Navajo

 


Video "Strange Relations" from the series Millenium: Tribal Wisdom for the Modern World by David Maybury-Lewis

The film begins with a myth told by the Nyinba people of Nepal: a story of spirits so fearsome that the people will not say their name -- they are thought to kill children and the weak. Condemned to live eternally between life and death, their crime was adulterous and passionate love. The myth is only 30 years old, for only that recently has romantic love come to threaten their society.

Maybury-Lewis takes us to the land of the troubadours and tells us about the West's version of romantic love: Courtly Love, which made it clear that love and marriage are opposites. Romantic love, that dangerous heresy that threatens the family; marriage is about property and responsibility and romantic love is about freedom and selfishness. Societies need people who will live for the children, not those who will die for love.

We go to the Wodaabe of Niger, a pastoral, patrilineal, polygynous people. We hear the story of Fajima, a "given wife" who wants to leave her arranged marriage and become a "love wife." She can do this because she has no children. She arranges to meet Djajeejo at the gathering of the tribe at the market and Yakke dance. Though Djajeejo has two wives, both with children, he wants a new wife. The two of them, Djajeejo and Fajima, run off together, madly in love, though when they return to Djajeejo's camp it is clear that Fajima has become just another wife. Women don't leave their husbands even though they don't welcome the new wife because they would have to leave their children.

[There is a story of a blended family in Canada -- his second marriage, her first, though she already has two children,]

The Nyinba of Nepal are an agricultural, patrilineal, and polyandrous society. They have no word for love -- the closest they come is "beautiful from the heart." Zumkhet and Sonam meet at a dance (men and women, fully clothed, dancing men on one side and women on the other of a fire) which their elders regard as erotic and dangerous. They are each unhappy in their marriages and go to a holy man to give them sanctuary while divorces from their former spouses are set in motion. Zumkhet comes to live in Sonam's household, consisting of his father and mother and his three brothers. Zumkhet has hir first child, by Sonam's older brother, Ghoka. She is traditional, believing in the polyandrous system of her culture: the family and the family holdings are held together through the one wife. More modern Nyinba, following a more romantic notion, split into couples and partition the land. Sonam leaves for school and Zumkhet muses on what is better: education and change, or the old ways.

 

 

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