Categories Uncategorized

Definitions, meanings in Anthropology

academic anthropology – careers that involve the teaching of anthropology at colleges and universities. Academic anthropologists do research, but the objective is more for the contribution to general knowledge.

acculturation – culture change resulting from contact between cultures. A process of external culture change.

adaptation – patterns of behavior which enable a culture to cope with its surroundings.

adjudication – mediation with the ultimate decision being made by an unbiased third party.

affinal – members of one’s kindred who are related through a marital linkage.

age category – a culturally defined category based on age used to define the life cycle, such as infant, youth, teenager, young adult, adult, elderly.

age grade – a social category or status based on an age range.

age set – a social group defined by those who share the same age status and are a recognizable group.

aggression – acts or threats designed to cause injury.

ambilineal – a corporate kin group that traces relationships through either the female or male lines. Also called cognatic descent.

animatism – belief in an impersonal and divisible supernatural force or forces, which reside in living or unliving things.

animism – a belief that natural phenomena such as rocks, trees, thunder, or celestial bodies have life or divinity.

anthropocentric – the idea that humans are the most important beings in the universe.

anthropological linguistics – the branch of anthropology that studies human language. Linguistic anthropology is mainly concerned with the technical analysis of language.

anthropology – the study of humanity; divisions are physical anthropology, archaeology, ethnology, and anthropological linguistics.

apartheid – racial, political, and economic segregation of non-European peoples.

applied anthropology – using the knowledge of anthropology to address human real-world problems.

archaeology – study of material culture.

art – human endeavor thought to be aesthetic and have meaning beyond simple description. Includes music, dance, sculpture, painting, drawing, stitchery, weaving, poetry, writing, woodworking, etc. A medium of expression where the individual and culture come together.

assimilation – when one ethnic group absorbs another, so that the cultural traits of the assimilated group become indistinguishable.

attitudes – data that describe how people think, believe, and feel.

autoethnography – an ethnographic description written by a member of the culture.

avuncu-local – residence after marriage is with or near the mother’s brother of the husband.

balanced reciprocity – is a direct exchange where the two parties involved seek to arrive at a mutually acceptable price or exchange for goods or services.

band – a small group of related people, who are primarily organized through family bonds. Foraging typifies the subsistence technology. A respected and older person may be looked to for leadership, but the person has no formalized authority.

big-man – a form of leadership in tribes where the leader achieves power and influence based on ability.

bilineal – descent in which the individual figures kinship through both the father’s and mother’s descent group.

bilingual education – teaching a second language by relying heavily on the native language of the speaker. The theory is that maintaining a strong sense of one’s one culture and language is necessary to acquire another language and culture.

bilocal – residence after marriage is with either the wife’s or husband’s relatives.

biodiversity – usually considered at the genetic, species, and ecossytem levels. Includes the measure of the number and frequency in an assemblage.

bis – a ceremony for purging malevolent deceased spirits. Includes the carving of elaborate poles to commemorate deceased persons.

brideprice – an economic exchange by the groom’s family to compensate the bride’s family upon marriage.

bureaucracy – government based on a specialized set of offices usually hierarchically organized.

cannibalism – consuming human flesh. This is reported to occur in the context of warfare, as part of a funeral rite or, rarely, in cases of extreme stress.

captial – a stock whose value is in its ability to produce a flow of benefits. Capital can include renewable and non renewable natural and human made assets, as well as intellectual, social, and cultural assets

cargo cult – do not confuse “cargo system” with “cargo cult” which is a revitalization movement characterized by the belief that ancestral spirits will bring wanted goods (cargo) and throw off oppressive customs and colonizers.

cargo system – a set of community offices and obligations a person goes through to achieve recognition and status.

caste system – the ranking of members in a society by occupational status and degree of purity or pollution as determined by their birth.

chiefdom – political organization is typically inherited through kinship lines. A ranked society in which a few leaders make decisions for the group.

clan – a noncorporate descent group in which genealogical links to a common ancestor are assumed but are not actually known.

class stratification – where members of a society are ranked from higher to lower based on wealth, prestige, position, or education.

closed system – each sound is mutually exclusive and can’t be combined with others to make a new meaning.

coevolution – the joint evolution of two or more systems that interact with each other.

cognatic descent – tracing descent through both the females and males in one’s lineage.

colonialism – forced change in which one culture, society, or nation dominates another.

comparative methods – analyzing data about cultures to learn and explain patterns of similarity and difference.

concept – relates facts to propositions and theories. concepts often become variables, but concept is more encompassing. Status and role are concepts. Ranking statuses according to social classes, e.g. lower, middle, and upper, is a variable.

consanguineal – members of one’s kindred who are related by blood line.

conspicuous consumption – the display of material items for the purpose of impressing others.

core-periphery – the structural relation between centralized core, often an urban area, and communities on the periphery, usually tribal or rural, resource-based communities.

core values – attitudes and beliefs thought to uniquely pattern a culture.

corporate descent group – a descent group that owns or controls property.

crimes – violations against the state.

cross-cousin – children of the opposite-sexed siblings of one’s parents, e.g., mother’s brother’s and father’s sister’s children.

cultural anthropology – study of cultural variation and similarities. Includes ethnology and anthropological linguistics. May also include archaeology.

cultural construct – the idea that the characteristics people attribute to such social categories as gender, illness, death, status of women, and status of men is culturally defined.

cultural ecology – the study of human interaction with ecosystems to determine how nature influences and is influenced by human social organization and culture.

cultural knowledge – information, skills, attitudes, conceptions, beliefs, values, and other mental components of culture that people socially learn during enculturation.

cultural relativism – understanding the ways of other cultures and not judging these practices according to one’s own cultural ways.

cultural transmission – how culture is passed on through learning from one generation to another. Also referred to as enculturation or socialization.

culture as an integrated whole – Cultures are systems in which all the parts are related to one another. If one part of the culture changes, this necessitates change in all other related parts.

culture – The learned patterns of behavior and thought that help a group adapt to it’s surroundings.

culture of discontent – a level of aspirations that far exceeds the bounds of an individual’s local opportunities. Also discussed as the gap between expectations and the ability to meet these expectations.

curer – a specialist who heals with herbal preparations and magic learned through apprenticeships. Curers are usually part-time specialists who are paid for their services and are also called shamans.

cyclical migration – the annual pattern followed in the production of food.

descent group – a kin group whose members are recruited by one of the principles of descent; e.g., matrilineal, patrilineal, etc.

deviance – to not follow the norms of society.

diffusion – the spread of a cultural pattern from one culture to another, and where no directed change agent is apparent.

distributive justice – the rules in a culture that specify how the economic productivity of that culture is distributed among the members. It is a statement of values about what should be done.

divination – obtaining factual knowledge by magical means which have no apparent empirical connection to the information sought.

division of labor – the division of tasks in a society between women and men, old and young, ability, knowledge, experience.

domestication – when humans intervene in the breeding patterns of plants or animals.

dowry – the woman’s share of her inheritance from the group of her birth, which is taken with her upon marriage.

economic development – the institutional changes made to promote economic betterment. It is the social organizational changes made to promote growth in an economy.

economic growth – the overall growth in an economy. Gross national product and gross domestic product are the usual measures of economic growth. Because growth can come in many ways, GNP and GDP are not particularly good measures. Wealth, the net gain from economic activity, is better. Further, economic growth could occur from having more people in an economy. If the economic growth occurs more slowly than the population growth, then there can be economic growth, but the average person is less well-off.

egalitarian – a society without formalized differences in the access to power, influence, and wealth.

ego – the person from whose point of view kinship relations are referenced.

emic – views of the world that members of a culture accept as real, meaningful, or appropriate.

enculturation – the process of learning one’s own culture, also called socialization.

endogamy – rules requiring selecting of a marriage partner from within a particular group.

equality – a measure of how similar people are to one another. It can be measured quantitatively with such measures as wealth concentration, Gini coefficients, and percentiles.

equity – the institutional arrangements to promote equality. Equity is not quantitatively measured; it is determined by people agreeing that their institutions are fair.

ethics – the principles of conduct governing an individual or group; concerns for what is right or wrong, good or bad.

etic – views of a culture that are accepted by a group of scientists as a valid description for the culture.

ethnic boundary markers – overt characteristics used to denote ethnic group membership.

ethnic identity – a named group identified through their ethnic boundary markers. Ethnic identity can vary with changes in social context.

ethnocentrism – judging other cultures by the standards of your own, which you believe to be superior.

ethnographic present – a description of a culture as it was prior to contact.

ethnography – description of a culture, usually based on the method of participant observation.

ethnology – comparative analysis of cultural patterns to explain differences and similarities among societies.

evolution – change in the form of a culture. Usually a process of internal cultural change.

exogamy – rules requiring selection of a marriage partner from outside a particular group.

extended family – a composite family composed of other relatives besides the nuclear families. Extended families can be constructed across generations by including parent’s or children’s families or extended laterally by including multiple wives or sibling’s families.

extinction – when a culture dies out. Often the people die out too. Some may become peasants or pass into contemporary society.

family – families are universal in cultures, but their definition and dynamics are changing. A very inclusive definition is two or more people who define themselves as a family. Also see “extended family,” “nuclear family,”

fields of anthropology – physical, linguistics, sociocultural, and archaeology. Note that sociocultural anthropology and ethnology are closely related fields of study.

fieldwork – living among a group of people for the purpose of learning about their culture.

folk art – art produced by people not professionally identified as artists.

foragers – getting food by collecting or hunting what is naturally available. The term used to refer to the subsistence patterns of cultures different from our own continually changes as our values change. Initially, these groups were called “primitives.” This term came to be viewed as too ethnocentric since it emphasized they were less developed than “modern” cultures. The term “hunters and gatherers” has been replaced by foragers because of the gender associations with male hunters and female gatherers. Since !Kung women produce 85% of the food by volume, is it appropriate to call them a hunting and gathering society?

fusion – blending traits from two different cultures to form a new trait. The cargo is a fusion of Mayan and Catholic religious elements. Also called syncretism.

genealogy – a family tree or web of kinship relationships traced through parents and children. Also called a kindred.

gender – the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a culture considers appropriated for men and women.

generalized reciprocity – an exchange where a person gives a good or a service to someone else but does not receive anything back at that time. There is the expectation that in the future should the person receiving the good or service have something that it will be given at a later time.

Gini coefficient – a numerical measure of inequality. A Gini coefficient of zero indicates perfect equality. When the Gini coefficient is 1.0, it shows the greatest inequality. The Gini coefficient is obtained by dividing the area between the 45-degree line, showing perfect equality, and the curve showing the percent of wealth held by each percent of wealthholder by the total area under the 45-degree line of perfect equality.

global culture – one world culture. The earth’s inhabitants will lose their cultural diversity and on culture will be experienced by all people.

grammar and syntax – the formal structure of a language and the rules for making sentences and phrases.

Green Revolution – the development of high-yielding varieties of seed for crops such as wheat and rice in Third World countries and requiring extensive technology for planting, irrigation, fertilizing, spraying, and harvesting.

gross domestic product (GDP) – a measure of an economy’s economic performance. It is the market value of all goods and services produced within the boundaries of a country.

gross national product (GNP) – a measure of an economy’s economic performance. It is the market value of all goods and services produced by the residents of a particular country. It includes the income of those residents earned by corporations owned overseas and from working abroad.

hegemonic – the use of power, usually by those controlling the meta or master narrative against the other

histogram – a graph showing the distribution of wealth. It plots levels of wealth from low to high on the x-axis and the number of individuals or households in each wealth category along the y-axis.

holistic – no dimension of culture can be understood in isolation, cultures are integrated wholes.

horticulture – an agricultural technology distinguished by the use of hand tools to grow domesticated plants. Does not use draft animals, irrigation, or specially prepared fertilizers.

imperialism – economic control gained through the corporate organization of nation states.

industrial society – a society integrated by a complex network of occupational specialties supporting the manufacture of material goods.

informal economy – the economy common to shanytowns, , slums where goods and services sold or bartered are unregulated by formal institutions.

information society – a society integrated by complex communication networks that rapidly develop and exchange information.

information age – a form of culture where electronics joins members of diverse cultural backgrounds together. Greater quantities of information than ever before are available to individuals, yet certainty about the way systems operate is less and more subject to question.

intensive agriculture – use of irrigation, draft animals, terracing, natural fertilizers, selective breeding, mechanization, etc., to grow more food.

interdisciplinary – two or more specialists having different disciplinary backgrounds working jointly and continuously to interlink their analyses.

invention – a unique object produced through the process of imagination and experience.

isolative integration – where a culture tries to prevent another culture from changing its ways and selectively takes from the dominant culture.

key informants – a few individuals selected on the basis of criteria such as knowledge, compatibility, age, experience, or reputation who provide information about their culture.

kindred – people related to one another by blood, marriage, and adoption.

kinesics – body, facial, hand, and arm movements that are used to communicate.

kinship chart – the diagram of kinship relations using symbols to indicate males, females, marriages, divorces, siblings, descent, and deceased relatives. Also called a kindred diagram.

Kula – a set of trade relations among Trobriand men involving the giving away of shell artifacts with the objective of displaying prestige and reinforcing alliances.

law – the means by which members of a group regulate their conduct and deal with breaches of rules and incompatible interests.

legitimacy – the right to hold and use power, usually based on the consent of the governed.

leveling device – a cultural mechanism which reduces wealth differentials between individuals often by inducing the wealthy to sponsor feasts or to destroy or give away surplus in return for increased prestige.

life cycle – the set of states a person goes through from birth to death.

lineage – a corporate descent group whose members can trace their genealogical links to a known common ancestor.

linguistic anthropology – study of how language is used in various social contexts. Anthropological linguistics focuses more on the interplay of language and culture.

Lorenz Curve – a graph showing the degree of inequality. The cumulative percent of wealth holders is on the x-axis. The cumulative percent of wealth held is on the y-axis. Perfect equality is the 45-degree line from the origin to 100%. This line means that every person has the same amount of wealth. Since 10, 20 and even 50% of some populations have no wealth, a Lorenz curve typically bows below the line of perfect equality. The more it bows below the line, the more inequality is indicated.

magic – practices designed to gain control over the supernatural. Magic and religion are separated in several ways in anthropology. For some anthropologists magic tries to gain control over the supernatural. Others see magic as being individual, while religion is a group phenomena that creates lasting social bonds. Malinowski saw magic as a means to an end, while religion was the end in itself. Other anthropologists find separating magic and religion very difficult.

markets – systems that exchange goods and services using all-purpose money as a standard measure of relative value. Early market systems are characterized by market places or bazaars which are often cyclical, moving among a fixed set of localities, each having its specific market days.

matriarchy – where a mother figure and women have authority.

matrilineal – descent traced exclusively through the female line.

matrilocal – residence after marriage in association with the wife’s mother’s relatives.

mean wealth – the average. It is the sum of all the wealth divided by the number of wealthholders. Since wealth is unequally distributed, the mean is not a good indicator of what is typical for a population.

median wealth – the middle of a distribution. It is a better indicator of what is typical for the population because the median is the place in a histogram where there are an equal number of people having more wealth and an equal number having less.

mediation – dispute settlement through negotiation assisted by an unbiased third party.

megalopolis – a very large city or a thickly populated region encompassing one or more large cities.

modal personality – the personality characteristic held by the most people in the group.

modernization – the process by which cultures are forced to accept traits from outside.

moiety – division of a society into two halves based on descent.

monastery – an establishment for those under religious vows. The seat of government for the Tibetan state.

monogamy – marriage in which an individual has one spouse.

monte – an uncultivated area of dense woods or forest.

morpheme – the smallest unit in a language that carries a grammatically distinct meaning.

morphology – the study of meaningful units of sound in a language.

multiculturalism – stressing the importance of different cultures, races, and ethnicities.

multidisciplinary – researchers from different disciplines working independently on related problems

myth – a common or shared historical experience

national character – studies based on the assumption that collectively members of a society have a distinctive set of psychological qualities. Has been replaced by the concept of core values.

nature-nurture – contrasting the biological verses cultural or environmental basis for behavior.

negative reciprocity – when one person in an exchanges tries to get something for nothing or for less than its recognized worth.

negotiation – the use of direct argument and compromise by the parties to a dispute to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement.

neolocal – residence in which the married couple’s household has no connection with either the husband’s or wife’s family.

New World – pertaining to the areas of the world most recently discovered by Europeans; e.g., North and South America.

nirvana – the state of peace and happiness in achieving freedom from the endless cycles of reincarnation. A state of freedom from pain, worry, and the external world.

nuclear family – a woman and/or husband and dependent children.

noblesse oblige – the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high social rank or birth.

non-academic anthropology – careers where anthropology is used to solve problems and improve the human condition.

Old World – pertaining to areas of the world having the longest period of documented human habitation: e.g., Europe, Asia, and Africa.

oligarchy – the ruling class. Usually a small group of wealthy individuals.

one-world culture – a popular belief that the future will bring development of a single homogeneous world culture through links created by modern communication, transportation, and trade.

open system – with this system new meanings can be expressed without inventing new sounds.

origin story – description of how the culture came into being.

pacification – extending the authority of national government over formerly autonomous people whether by force or persuasion.

panchayat – a council of elders representing a village or caste.

paralanguage – the use of accent, cadence, pitch, and tone to convey meaning.

parallel-cousin – children of the same-sexed siblings of one’s parents, e.g., mother’s sister’s and father’s brother’s children.

paramount chief – the highest ranking social office in a chiefdom.

participant observation – living in a culture that is not your own while also keeping a detailed record of your observations and interviews.

pastoralist – subsistence gained by tending and breeding animals.

patriarchy – where a father figure and males have authority.

patrilineal – tracing kinship, inheritance, power through the male line.

patrilocal – residence after marriage in association with the husband’s father’s relatives.

peasants – people who produce for their own subsistence in preindustrial and industrializing state societies–usually rural, lower class, primary producers such as farmers, artisans, or fishermen. They are involved in market relations with urban centers, to which they are also bound politically and administratively.

peer group – a subgroup of a society in which membership is determined by similar age, sharing the same social status, etc.

perceived – what people think the situation actually is.

personality – personal beliefs, expectations, desires, values, and behaviors that derive from the interaction between culture and the individual. Personality is the behaviors and techniques for solving problems that are used by an individual. Personality is to the individual as culture is to the group.

personalness – refers to how well a person knows the other with whom an exchange is being made. Personal means that the other is well known, where as impersonal reflects lack of knowledge about the other.

phoneme – the smallest unit of sound that does not alter the meaning of words in which it occurs.

phonetics – study of the production, transmission, and reception of sounds in speech.

phonology – the study of sound patterns in language.

physical anthropology – study of biological origins and physical variations among human populations.

political ecology – a theoretical focus that attempts to understand distributional factors in human interaction with the environment.

polyandry – a woman has more than one husband.

polygamy – an individual who has more than one spouse.

polygyny – a man has more than one wife.

postmodern – a view that social and cultural reality, as well as social science itself, is a human construction.

potlatch – a ceremony used to display wealth and increase status.

power – the ability to influence the actions of others.

protestant work ethic – a value system that stresses the moral value of work, self-discipline, and individual responsibility as the means to improving one’s economic well-being.

qualitative methods – rich descriptions of cultural situations obtained from interviewing, participant observation, and collection of oral and textual materials. Ethnographies are reports from qualitative research.

quantitative methods – numerical tabulations and statistical comparisons made possible by systematic surveys, observations, or analysis of records. Data are used to test hypotheses and identify the strength of patterns observed using qualitative methods.

reciprocity – a mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges, especially the exchange of rights or privileges of trade between individuals or groups as in the transfer of goods or services between two or more individuals or groups. Also see balanced, generalized, and negative reciprocity.

redistribution – a mechanism whereby a politically or economically powerful individual (or group) collects goods and services from the members of society and reallocates them among the society’s members.

relations – the relationships between individuals in a social network.

religion – a set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power.

revitalization movement – religiously based social movement with the purpose of reforming society.

ritual – the visible control of abstract thoughts. Tries to control unpredictable events and the supernatural. Tries to know the unknowable and change the unchangeable.

role – the relation one has with another node in a social network. A loving and affective relationship is the role of being a spouse. See status.

sacred – things and actions set apart as religious or spiritual which are entitled to reverence.

science – systematically acquired knowledge that is verifiable.

seasonal round – the annual pattern followed in the production of food.

secular – things not regarded as religious or spiritual.

serial monogamy – a pattern of divorce and monogamous remarriage.

shaman – a religious specialist who uses supernatural power in curing. Also called curer or cuerandero.

shantytown – neighborhoods where poor migrants to cities live. Also called slum, farela, township.

sister exchange – a shorthand label for a marriage system in which men of different descent groups exchange women who are sometimes their own sisters or daughters and sometimes parallel cousins or the daughters of parallel cousins.

slash and burn – cultivation with recurrent clearing and burning of vegetation and planting in the burnt fields. Fallow periods for each plot last longer than periods of cultivation. It is sometimes referred to as swidden (or shifting) cultivation.

social class – people having the same rank in a system that differentiates people from high to low.

social construction – reality that is constructed uniquely by each person.

social control – the rules, habits, and customs by which a society tries to maintain order.

social network – the relationships an individual has with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and people in groups to which the person belongs, e.g. church, recreation, political, social, and other groups. See also family, kinship, caste, class.

social stratification – arranging the members of a society into a pattern of superior and inferior ranks.

socialization – the process by which culture is learned; also called enculturation. During socialization individuals internalize a culture’s social controls, along with values and norms about right and wrong.

sociobiology – study of human behavior based on the assumption that human behavior is biologically based.

sociolinguistics – study of the relationship between language and social factors such as class, ethnicity, age and sex.

sorcery – using power obtained from evil spirits.

space industrialization – the development of important new manufacturing activities in the environment of outer space.

specialization – where individuals become experts in producing certain goods or services that are then exchanged.

spirit cult – a group of adherents to a set of religious beliefs and ritual in which ghosts are believed to interfere in the affairs of the living.

state – a culture that has a formal political organization with a central bureaucracy with the authority to employ legalized force.

subsistence farmers – when there is very little surplus and nearly all that is produced goes to supporting the farm household.

subsistence – the way by which a culture obtains its food.

supernatural – characteristics of the reality beyond the senses.

symbols – physical objects, colors, sounds, movements, scents which convey information through an arbitrary or culturally assigned meaning.

syncretism – blending traits from two different cultures to form a new trait. Also called fusion.

terminology systems – the terminology used to refer to cousins. Two-thirds of all world cultures can be classified according to six kinship systems–Hawaiian, Eskimo, Crow, Omaha, Iroquois, Sudanese. The text defines these systems.

theocracy – a form of state political organization in which the government is based on religious offices.

theory – several related propositions that explain some domain of inquiry. Also called a school or paradigm.

Third World – countries with economies largely based on agriculture and characterized by low standards of living, high rates of population growth, and general economic and technological dependence upon wealthier industrial nations. A very ethnocentric way of referring to other cultures because it ranks cultures below those of the “First World” like Europe, Japan, Canada, and the United States.

topophilia – all emotional connections with a place, having a strong sense of place.

torts – violations against an individual.

tribe – a group that centers around kinship units and common-interest groups that cross-cut kindred boundaries. Horticulture typifies the subsistence technology. People who attain prestige according to cultural standards may be seen as leaders. The big-man institution is quite common in tribes.

urbanization – the process by which more and more people come to live in cities.

values – what people think is right and wrong, good and bad, desirable and undesirable.

warfare – organized, armed conflict between groups, each of which is motivated by a common purpose.

wealth – the net gain in material well-being from economic activity. Wealth is measured according to the items of value in a given culture.

world view – the beliefs about the limits and workings of the world shared by the members of a society and represented in their myths, lore, ceremonies, social conduct, and general values

Leave a Reply