Archaeological Evidence of Chumash Social Complexity

Chumash Tomol (National Geographic)

Chumash Tomol (National Geographic)

Inferring the social complexity (also known as the “social inequality”) of a settlement from solely its material remains is a common task in archeology. Socially complex settlements have a social structure with a division of labor based on more than age and gender and a hierarchical ranking of certain groups with differential access to resources and power. A socially complex society implies an integration of differentiated social roles into a cohesive society with uniform expressions of solidarity or difference via language and culture–things that are variously manifest in its material culture. Continue reading

Girl in the Jungle: Female Anthropologists & Feminist Dilemmas –Part II

Hortense Powdermaker on Lesu (1920s)

Hortense Powdermaker on Lesu (1920s)

Feminist anthropologists have traditionally studied gender differences, female subordination and traditional feminine roles in a culture.  Early female anthropologists such as Margaret Mead, and Hortense Powdermaker aimed to correct the historically androcentric (male) bias in anthropology.   Later feminist anthropologists such as Annette Weiner, Patricia Zavella, Lila Abu-Lughod and Diane L. Wolf dealt with the contradictions of being a feminist working for social change and anthropologist studying a society as it is. These perceived feminist dilemmas in fieldwork are talked about in their work. Continue reading

Girl in the Jungle: Female Anthropologists & Feminist Dilemmas–Part I

Jungle Girl (1941)

Jungle Girl (1941)

What are  the advantages of being a female anthropologist in the field? According both male and female anthropologists, there are both advantages and disadvantages of being either gender.  The following is an essay about some of the issues of being a female or male anthropologist studying gender roles in the field (Part I), and the feminist dilemmas in fieldwork (Part II). Continue reading

A Geertzian Cockfight: Symbolic Interpretism, Marxist Materialism or Synthesis?

Balinese Cockfight 1949 by Alred Palmer

Balinese Cockfight 1949 by Alred Palmer

This paper compares and contrasts a Marxian materialist approach with a symbolic interpretive approach to describing Geertz’s cockfight from “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” in The Interpretation of Cultures (pages 412-453) from the vantage of its participants and its spectators.  By doing so I hope to show the limitations of each of these often-times oppositional theoretical perspectives. However, using these perspectives together, in synthesis, can create a more situated and complete ethnographic record of a culture (Behar 1997:28; Ortner 2006:453). First I will present the foundations of each theoretical model and then I will compare and contrast each as applied to Geertz’s cockfight essay. Continue reading

Individual and Society: The contrasting views of Benedict, Geertz and Wilson

What is the relationship between the individual and his or her society/culture? Does a person’s culture and society determine his beliefs and behavior? Or do the individual beliefs and behaviors based on self-interest, collectively comprise a culture and determine the cohesion of a society? In this paper I will compare and contrast the views of Ruth Benedict, Clifford Geetz and David Sloan Wilson on the relationship between people and their culture and society. Continue reading

Keeping it together: Why some societies & cultures cohere & some persist

Why do some social groups or societies persist for generations and others disappear in only a few generations? How is the integration and coherence of a society developed and maintained? Benedict, Gluckman, Barth, and Wilson all believed in specific mechanisms that sustained traditional values and societies over time. In this paper I will compare and contrast the various explanations for cultural coherence and longevity put forth by Ruth Benedict, Max Gluckman, Fredrik Barth and David Sloan Wilson. Continue reading

Genetic, geographic & cultural factors that cause sickle-cell anemia

It is important to note that even genetic diseases are caused by multiple social, environmental and biological factors. This is particularly true in the case of sickle-cell anemia, a genetically inherited blood disorder usually found in people with West African ancestry (PBS 2001).  The following paper will summarize the genetic, geographic and cultural factors that contribute to the incidence of sickle-cell anemia and why this disease is called a “balanced polymorphism”. Continue reading