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Annual Editions: Anthropology 12/13, Thirty-Fifth Edition
1. A Dispute in Donggo: Fieldwork and Ethnography, John Monaghan and Peter Just, Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2000
In this account of dispute resolution in an Indonesian community, the authors illustrate the unique features of anthropological fieldwork. Participant observation, involving prolonged exposure to the daily lives of people, allows for contextual understanding of events and motivations that go beyond superficial appearances.
2. Eating Christmas in the Kalahari, Richard Borshay Lee, Natural History, December 1969
Anthropologist Richard Borshay Lee gives an account of the misunderstanding and confusion that often accompany cross-cultural experience. In this case, he violated a basic principle of the !Kung Bushmen's social relations—food sharing.
3. Tricking and Tripping: Fieldwork on Prostitution in the Era of AIDS, Claire E. Sterk, Tricking and Tripping: Prostitution in the Era of AIDS, Social Change Press, 2000
As unique as Claire E. Sterk's report on prostitution may be, she discusses issues common to anthropologists wherever they conduct fieldwork: How does one build trusting relationships with informants and what are the ethical obligations of an anthropologist toward them?
4. Can White Men Jump?: Ethnicity, Genes, Culture, and Success, David Shenk from The Genius in All of Us, Doubleday, 2010
Clusters of ethnic and geographical athletic success prompt suspicions of hidden genetic advantages. The real advantages are much more cultural, more nuanced, and less hidden.
5. How Language Shapes Thought, Lera Boroditsky, Scientific American, February 2011
As the author observes, each language contains a way of perceiving, categorizing, and making meaning In the world, an invaluable guidebook developed and honed by our ancestors. But, do differences in language create differences in thought or is it the other way around? The answer, says the author, is both.
6. Do You Speak American?, Robert MacNeil, USA Today Magazine, January 2005
It is a common assumption that the mass media is making all Americans speak in a similar manner. Linguists point out, however, that while some national trends in language are apparent, regional speech differences are not only thriving, but in some places they are becoming even more distinctive.
7. Fighting for Our Lives, Deborah Tannen, The Argument Culture, Random House, 1998
In America today, a pervasive warlike tone seems to prevail in public dialogue. The prevailing belief is that there are only two sides to an issue and opposition leads to truth. Often, however, an issue is more like a crystal, with many sides, and the truth is in the complex middle, not in the oversimplified extremes.
8. Shakespeare in the Bush, Laura Bohannan, Natural History, August/September 1966
It is often claimed that great literature has cross-cultural significance. In this article, Laura Bohannan describes the difficulties she encountered and the lessons she learned as she attempted to relate the story of Hamlet to the Tiv of West Africa in their own language.
9. How Cooking Frees Men, Richard Wrangham, from Catching Fire, Basic Books, 2009
The classic explanation for why there is a universal sexual division of labor in foraging societies has to do with men hunting and women gathering. Even more important, says Wrangham, is the advent of cooked food. This dietary change has fostered anatomical and physiological changes as well.
10. When Cousins Do More than Kiss, Anthony Layng, USA Today Magazine, September 2009
Given the variability of incest taboos cross-culturally, it is very unlikely that humans have some sort of instinct against inbreeding or that genetic closeness is the major concern. The more likely explanation is that requiring young people to find their mates outside their group fostered cooperation and exchange of food between hunting and gathering bands.
11. The Inuit Paradox, Patricia Gadsby, Discover, October 2004
The traditional diet of the Far North, with its high-protein, high-fat content, shows that there are no essential foods—only essential nutrients.
12. Ties That Bind, Peter M. Whiteley, Natural History, November 2004
The Hopi people offer gifts in a much broader range of circumstances than people in Western Cultures do, tying individuals and groups to each other and to the realm of the spirits.
13. Cell Phones, Sharing, and Social Status in an African Society, Daniel Jordan Smith, Canadian Journal of African Studies, 40(3): 496–523, 2006
Although the economic dimensions of Nigeria's emerging cell phone culture are important, much of its cell phone-related behavior requires a social rather than an economic explanation.
14. When Brothers Share a Wife: Among Tibetans, the Good Life Relegates Many Women to Spinsterhood, Melvyn C. Goldstein, Natural History, March 1987 (Updated 2011)
While the custom of fraternal polyandry relegated many Tibetan women to spinsterhood, this unusual marriage form promoted personal security and economic well-being for its participants.
15. Death without Weeping, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Natural History, October 1989 (Updated 2011)
In the Shantytowns of Brazil, the seeming indifference of mothers who allow some of their children to die is a survival strategy, geared to circumstances in which only some may live.
16. Arranging a Marriage in India, Serena Nanda, Stumbling Toward Truth: Anthropologists at Work, Waveland Press, 2000
Arranging a marriage in India is far too serious a business for the young and inexperienced. Instead, the parents make the decision on the basis of the families' social position, reputation, and ability to get along.
17. Who Needs Love!: In Japan, Many Couples Don't, Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, February 11, 1996
Paradoxically, Japanese families seem to survive, not because husbands and wives love each other more than American couples do, but rather because they perhaps love each other less. And as love marriages increase, with the compatibility factor becoming more important in the decision to marry, the divorce rate is rising.
18. The Berdache Tradition, Walter L. Williams, The Spirit and the Flesh, (Beacon Press, 1986, 1992)
Not all societies agree with the Western cultural view that all humans are either women or men. In fact, many Native American cultures recognize an alternative role called the ``berdache,'' a morphological male who has a non-masculine character. This is just one way for a society to recognize and assimilate some atypical individuals without imposing a change on them or stigmatizing them as deviants.
19. The Hijras: An Alternative Gender in India, Serena Nanda, Adapted from an article in Manushi, vol. 72, 1992.
The transgender hijra of India form structured households and communities and, as a caste, fulfill roles that are rooted in social and religious tradition. As Serena Nanda notes, cross-cultural understandings such as this represent a challenge to the binary sex/gender notions of the West.
20. Sexual Orientation Differences as Deficits: Science and Stigma in the History of American Psychology, Gregory M. Herek, Perspectives on Psychological Science, November 2010
Until recently, health professionals defined homosexuality in the United States as a mental illness. This differences as deficits model resulted in non-heterosexuals being put in the same category as rapists and child molesters. They were arrested in their homes, fired from their jobs, and even subjected to medical experimentation to correct their ``problem.'' This is a classic example of how scientific theories, research methods, and clinical practices often incorporate and reproduce values to the detriment of society's less powerful groups.
21. Where Fat Is a Mark of Beauty, Ann M. Simmons, Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1998
In a rite of passage, some Nigerian girls spend months gaining weight and learning customs in a ``fattening room.'' A woman's rotundity is seen as a sign of good health, prosperity, and feminine beauty.
22. Missing Girls, Michelle Goldberg, from The Means of Reproduction, Penguin, 2009
Motivated by economic need and runaway consumerism and fueled by modern technology, such as ultrasound, sex selection in favor of sons has become a tool for limiting population in much of Asia. The resulting imbalance in the sex ratio threatens to impede women's rights, destabilize entire regions, and prevent men from marrying at all.
23. Rising Number of Dowry Deaths in India, Amanda Hitchcock, International Committee of the Fourth International, July 4, 2001
Traditionally, a dowry in India allowed a woman to become a member of her husband's family with her own wealth. However, with the development of a cash economy, increased consumerism, and a status-striving society, heightened demands for dowry and the inability of many brides' families to meet such demands have led to thousands of deaths each year.
24. Trial by Fire, J. Malcolm Garcia, Mother Jones, January/February 2011
For many Afghan women, the only escape from spousal abuse is to douse themselves in kerosene and light a match. There is one prosecutor who is risking the lives of herself and her family to bring the instigators to justice.
25. Murder in Amman, Rana Husseini, from Murder in the Name of Honour, Oneworld Publications, 2009
As journalist Rana Husseini seeks to understand the ``honor killing'' of young women in Jordanian society, she finds that, to a lesser extent, the victims include the family and even the murderer.
26. Is Islam Misogynistic?, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn from Half the Sky, Knopf, 2009
Some Muslims and non-Muslims cite the Koran as the basis for the suppression of women in addition to anti-Western terrorism. However, a careful study of the text, say some historians, reveals that both the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran itself were more progressive than they have been given credit for and that much of the patriarchy and aggressiveness associated with Islam is more culturally based than religious in origin.
27. Shamanisms: Past and Present, David Kozak, Religion and Culture, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008
This article explains how few generalizations about shamanism do justice to the varying social contexts and individual cultural histories of the shamans, and discusses the past perceptual biases on the part of ethnographic observers.
28. The Adaptive Value of Religious Ritual, Richard Sosis, American Scientist, March/April 2004
Rituals promote group cohesion by requiring members to engage in behavior that is too costly to fake. Groups that do so are more likely to attain their collective goals than the groups whose members are less committed.
29. Understanding Islam, Kenneth Jost, CQ Researcher, November 3, 2005
As the world's second largest religion after Christianity, Islam teaches piety, virtue, and tolerance. Yet, with the emphasis of some Islamists on a strong relationship between religion and state, and with an increasing number of Islamic militants calling for violence against the West, communication and mutual understanding are becoming more important than ever.
30. The Secrets of Haiti's Living Dead, Gino Del Guercio, Harvard Magazine, January/February 1986
In seeking scientific documentation of the existence of zombies, anthropologist Wade Davis found himself looking beyond the stereotypes and mysteries of voodoo, and directly into a cohesive system of social control in rural Haiti.
31. Body Ritual among the Nacirema, Horace Miner, American Anthropologist, June 1956
The rituals, beliefs, and taboos of the Nacirema provide us with a test case of the objectivity of ethnographic description and show us the extremes to which human behavior can go.
32. Baseball Magic, George Gmelch, Original Work, 2011
Professional baseball players, like Trobriand Islanders, often resort to magic, in situations of chance and uncertainty. As irrational as it may seem, magic creates confidence, competence, and control in the practitioner.
33. Why Can't People Feed Themselves?, Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins, Food First: Beyond the Myth of Scarcity, Random House, 1977 (Updated 2011)
When colonial governments force the conversion of subsistence farms to cash crop plantations, peasants are driven into marginal lands or into a large pool of cheap labor. In either case, the authors maintain their stand that the farmers are no longer able to feed themselves.
34. The Arrow of Disease, Jared Diamond, Discover, October 1992
The most deadly weapon colonial Europeans carried to other continents was their germs. The most intriguing question to be answered here is, why did the flow of disease not move in the opposite direction?
35. The Americanization of Mental Illness, Ethan Watters, The New York Times, January 8, 2010
According to some anthropologists and cross-cultural psychiatrists, mental illness has varied in time and place much more than previously thought. American-led globalization, however, is undermining local conceptions of self and modes of healing and, says Watters, is ``homogenizing the way the world goes mad.''
36. The Price of Progress, John Bodley, Victims of Progress, Mayfield Publishing, 1998
As traditional cultures are sacrificed in the process of modernization, tribal peoples not only lose the security, autonomy, and quality of life they once had, but they also become powerless, second-class citizens who are discriminated against and exploited by the dominant society.
37. Last of Their Kind, Wade Davis, Scientific American, September 2010
Within the next generation, we may eliminate half of the world's several thousand existing cultures. This represents an enormous loss if one values the languages and the diversity of adaptations they represent. There are so many lessons they have yet to teach us about coping with our own future.
38. The Tractor Invasion, Laura Graham, Cultural Survival Quarterly, Summer 2009
The Brazilian Cerrado is one of the world's most biologically diverse tropical Savanna regions. Its indigenous people are struggling to survive the onslaught of agribusiness, deforestation, environmental pollution, and exotic diseases. What legal rights they have to the land are being trampled and their cries for help are largely ignored.
39. What Native Peoples Deserve, Roger Sandall, Commentary, May 2005
What should be done about endangered enclave societies in the midst of a modern nation such as Brazil? The main priority, says Roger Sandall, must be to ensure that no one should have to play the role of historical curiosity and that those who want to participate in the modern world should be able to do so, whether on the reservation or off it.
40. Being Indigenous in the 21st Century, Wilma Mankiller, Cultural Survival Quarterly, Spring 2009
With a shared sense of history and a growing set of tools, the world's indigenous peoples are moving into a future of their own making without losing sight of who they are and where they come from.
41. Population Seven Billion, Robert Kunzig, National Geographic, January 2011
With the world's population rising by several billion from the current seven billion, inevitable questions arise as to how this will impact the quality of life as well as the condition of Planet Earth.
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