Anthropology Readings

Author of the Balinese Cockfight
Clifford Geertz
Cockfight Summary
Geertz and his wife were not accepted by Balinese until they joined in on running from the police after cockfight. Found that cockfighting involved a deep psychological identification for men, almost related to inner self-esteem status. Cocks are expressions of human status. Cockfights were not created to initiate fights or humiliation, simply a means of creating moral import for the individuals playing. Cockfights are a simulation of the social matrix.
Author of Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage
Renato Rosaldo
Summary of Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage
Rosaldo and wife went to study Ilongots in the Philippines. Ilongots had an unusual custom: headhunted to mourn the loss of a close individual. Rosaldo found that the rage was what lead them to headhunt and this was how they would displace it. Ilongots equated tossing the head away to casting away burdens and grief; compared headhunting to a “song”. Rosaldo did not understand this until his own brother and wife (fellow anthropologist) died as well.
On Alternating Sounds Author
Franz Boas
On Alternating Sounds Summary
Boas researched the concept of sound blindness, otherwise known as attention. Criticized those who try to study phonology in a scientific and bias way. Explained how our perception of sounds, timbre, and key can all effect the way we ultimately hear something. Everything we interpret is first related to our own knowledge of language. So, new sensations, words, etc. are all perceived by means of similar sensations that form part of our knowledge. We are never bias when learning something new.
Coming of Age in Samoa Author
Margaret Mead
Coming of Age in Samoa Summary
Mead studied the adolescent girl in Samoa, a brown Polynesian people society. Through simulation, found that the girl was completely different from the Western adolescent girl Mead was used to. Analyzed that anthropology is a study of the way a social environment forms an individual’s life. Tackles the nature, nurture debate by arguing that ultimately, no matter our nature, the civilization that surrounds us is the one that forms us; the best way to observe this is by observing a pubescent individual.
Body Ritual among the Nacirema Author
Horace Miner
Body Ritual among the Nacirema Summary
Miner studied the Nacirema, a North American group. Found that it was a heavily trade-based group. Also valued ritual activity highly. Realized that the only way to break into a society was if he acted as though their daily-activites were also his own. Nacirema had a sick obsession with the body. Always needed it to be in good health even if it meant going through holy horrible procedures (medicine men and holy-mouth-doctor). Their rituals were what kept them going. *All a big joke :nacirema backwards is american…
Funes, the Memorious Author
Jorge Luis Borges
Funes, the Memorious Summary
Borges reflects on his encounter of an individual, named Ireneo. Ireneo was known for his impeccable sense of time; he could immediately tell that Ireneo was an intelligent boy. Ireneo was thrown off a horse and crippled. Ireneo explained to him that before the accident, he felt as though he was blind, deaf-mute, somnambulistic, memoryless. “He looked without seeing, heard without hearing, forgot everything.” Ireneo felt as though being crippled was a small price to pay for he felt as though he had awoken. “I have more memories in myself alone than all men have had since the world was a world.” Borges learned that moving forward does not mean forgeting/leaving behind. We must indulge in our memories for they are what make us who we are today. “To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract.”
Making of an Anthropologist Author
Making of an Anthropologist Summary
Strauss struggled with finding an appropriate field that could define things concretely. Studied rationalism, philosophy, law, anthropology and came to realize that anthropology was the field that fit him best. Attributed anthropology with a field that doesn’t allow one truth but instead accepts all truths. All people have their own beliefs and interests, giving a different meaning to life.
Argonauts of the Western Pacific Author
Bronislaw Malinowski
Argonauts of the Western Pacific Summary
Malinowski set out to study the Papuo Melanesians, a group of traders, manufacturers, and sailors. Studie dtheir complex trading system, called the Kula. Malinowski realized that the only way to get to know a culture was having no one guide you or help you. Papuos only spoke Pidgin-English so he was forced to learn it and took down all his notes in their language in order to not misinform his future readers. Found that a student must have a real scientific aim, them put himself in good conditions of work (immerse himself) and then apply a number of methods to collect information. A true anthropologist must be inspired by works regarding the culture but must separate himself from preconceived knowledge and ideas of it. But actually getting intimate with a native has nothing to do with scientific means, the best ethnographers surpass the rigidity of scientific accounts and analyze events in their actuality, without recording and computing. So, ultimately a good ethnographer breaks it down (1. organization of the culture, 2. actual life, 3. beliefs and personal experiences of natives). Through realizing human nature is very distant and foreign to us, we shall have some light shed on our own.
A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term Author
Bronislaw Malinowski
A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term Summary
Malinowski worked with the Oburaku, natives. Spent most of his time writing and thinking about his wife, E.R.M. Racism is a heavy theme in the reading as Malinowski expresses distrust and disgust with the Oburaku, constantly referring to them as “******s.” Malinowski speaks of the things he tried to do to try to get involved with the culture (cricket playing, making map of the sea and grounds) but the failures he experienced because his mind was elsewhere. Showed how isolated and exclusive an anthropologist must be in order to experience and understand a culture first-hand.
A Writing Lesson Author
A Writing Lesson Summary
Strauss set out to work with the Nambikwara, natives who have no written language and cannot write or draw either. Was only able to enter the society because the chief seemed to want to pretend to share secret with the “white man” as to look superior. Found that in this society, writing equated knowledge and that those who were most highly looked upon were the scribes for they served as moneylenders as well (the business men). Writing and deception was in the midst of the Nambikwara’s village as the natives began to realize that not being able to write was also a way of enslavement. Due to this awareness of lack of knowledge, Nambikwaras were always cautious, and to a certain degree aggressive (with their bodies).
I Swear I Saw This Author
Michael Taussig
I Swear I Saw This Summary
Taussig explains how he saw a man and a woman lying down at the entrance of a tunnel in Medellin, Colombia as he was passing in a cab. Immediately draws a picture of what he saw. Suddenly feels the need to validate what he saw. Taussig targets the following question: What is the difference between seeing and believing? Later, Taussig finds out that soldiers were murdering civilians and then dressing them in guerilla outfits to raise the kill count. Learns that there is much homelessness in Medellin during the war. Taussig realizes that there is a symmetry between the cars rushing into the tunnel and the woman sewing the man into the nylon cocoon. The tunnel = the safe space of a cruel and unpredictable world. Cars = hazards, causes of death and disability in the third world. The point is that Taussig witnessed something but could never know what was actually happening in the tunnel; surrealism. Meaning is what is created between witnessing something and interpreting it.
Moral Models in Anthropology Author
Roy D’Andrade
Moral Models in Anthropology Summary
D’Andrade argues that subjectivity is something that is much more easily attainable than objectivity. However, it is the role of the anthropologist to find that objectivity in order to properly study a culture. Agues that there must be a separation between moral and objective models because they are counterproductive in discovering how the world works. Criticizes post modernists, claiming they have misinterpreted the notion of objectivity by saying that objectivity can never be independent from the observer and that all observations must thus be subjective. Defines moral as the identification of what is good and what is bad and to allocate punishment and rewards. D’Andrade says that an observation can be objective without the observer being it as well. Goes on to define objectivity as describing an object rather than the observing agent’s reactions.
Let us Now Praise Famous Men Author
James Walker Evans Agee
Let us Now Praise Famous Men Summary
The study is on cotton tenantry in the US where Agee and Walker stay with three different white families who are tenant farmers. They wanted to capture the lives of these people through writing and photography. The slaves were under complete control of their masters, up to the point where they would have to stop walking when told to. An example of this was when there were black people on their way to church and were told to stop and sing for Agee and Walker. They were obligated to fulfil this request and did it with no smile. The family wanted to show Agee and Walker what “****** music” sounded like. Agee felt guilty for holding them up and gave them 50 cents and tried to apologize to them through eye contact. In the last home they stayed at, Agee found himself falling for the oldest sister Emma who was married and ran away from her husband (this has happened multiple times). Agee focuses on the details of each family member in this house, especially when they are asleep. He notices their breathing patterns and the fact that they all sleep together, which reveals the closeness within the family.
The Social Skin Author
Terrence Turner
The Social Skin Summary
Turner is interested in studying why altering the human form in accordance to social notions has been a concern of every human society. It is common custom that the surface of the body is just the boundary of the individual, as a frontier of the social self as well. Conforming to fashions of your culture is a way of measure of security and integration. Turner wanted to study the Kayapo, a native tribe in the Southern Amazons. In their tribe, “dress” does not include clothing but instead consists of a variety of piercings, hair dress, paint, and sheaths that all determine different stages within the society. The Kayapo viewed family as biological extensions of themselves (ex: the loss of a family members means cutting off one’s hair). To be dirty = to be anti-social. Cleanliness thus is the first step in socializing. Essentially, Turner learned that the notion of socialization for the Kayapo meant a transfer of natural powers/attributes into social forms.
Making Up People Author
Ian Hacking
Making up People Summary
Hacking wanted to understand what the theory of making up people is and how it affects the idea of what it is to be an individual. Essentially, Hacking’s main theory was dynamic nominalism: stating that numerous kinds of human beings and human acts come into being hand in hand with our invention of the categories labeling them. Perversion, for example, was created in the 19th century and became a new functional understanding of disease. Another example: once a name for self-kill (suicide) came about, more suicides ended up happening. Multiple Personality disorder was an idea, but before it became a clinical phenomenon, there were only one or two possible cases. After it was introduced, a whole flock of cases occurred. Creating labels has engendered vastly more kinds of people than the world ever knew before. So, again, the category and the people in it emerge hand in hand. We are not only what we are, but what we might’ve been and what we may become.
Breaking up is Hard to Do Author
Ilana Gershon
Breaking up is Hard to Do Summary
Gershon was interested in studying how the “newness” of media has altered certain ways of communicating. She decides to interview a variety of individuals, who had all gone through breakups that were affected by different sources of media. “Many of the narratives revolved around the degree to which particular technologies or combinations of technologies allowed breaking up to be an effective performative speech act.” Gershon found that the following could all be problems in failing to have a successful breakup: unsuccessful media switching, being trapped by a medium (ex: relying too much on text and not co-presence), too much media publicity of the relationship, etc. Gershon ultimately boiled it down to the following: most people find face-to-face interaction an ideal way of breaking up, however media has made the process of breaking up a slightly less confrontational one.
The Pre-Eminence of the Right Hand Author
Robert Hertz
The Pre-Eminence of the Right Hand Summary
Hertz was concerned with the life-long preference of the right hand over the left hand. Analyzed how many cultures force a cruel pressure from childhood on people who are left-handed. In some cultures, he found, the right side was viewed as sacred, and the left side as profane. The right hand = joins in marriage, takes the oath, concludes contracts, delivers the strike. Right-handedness is not simply accpted, submitted to, like an atural necessity; it is an ideal to which everybody must conform and which society forces us to respect by positive sanctions. What Hertz saw was that every culture had to have a certain sense of dualism in order for their to be social organization.
Time, Sugar and Sweetness Author
Sidney W. Mintz
Time, Sugar and Sweetness Summary
Today, there is an upsurge of interest on the study of patterned relationships between food and human groups. Until the 17th Cent, people from Northern Europe secured sweetness in food mostly from honey and fruit. The white granulated sugar familiar today is made from sugar cane and sugar beets. Monarchs and the wealthy in Britain began using sugar in their recipes e.g. chocolate, jam + using it in medicine to disguise bitterness. Sugar is linked to slavery and economic growth; the sugar cane plantation profits were transferred to European banks. Eventually, sugar shifted from the food of the elite to the proletariat (as it had no nutritional value).
Supply-Side Sushi Author
Theodore C. Bestor
Supply-Side Sushi Summary
The marketplace is the arrangement of the “heterogenic city” which links itself to places around the world, which in turn changes the city (society as a whole). Tokyo’s Tsukiji is a wholesale market (largest in the world) for fresh and frozen seafood , particularly the Atlantic bluefin tuna. The trade relies on flows of culture that cross huge, national, cultural and societal boundaries (commodity chain responsible for the cultural interaction and influence in other settings). There is a long process and a lot of effort put into the purchasing of tuna as it is expensive and in high demand due to the North America craze for sushi (1 tuna can go for $1000 plus). The Japanese seafood industry has become global but within that large scheme we can observe the finer connections between diff cultures and in individual parts involved in the global structure.
The Measure of America Author
Claudia Roth
The Measure of America Summary
Talks about the German anthropologist Franz Boas. He waged war on racism. His professional objective was to study “the relationship between the life of a people and their physical environment”. He questioned the idea of the Western society being more advanced, modern and overall better than the other societies that were considered inferior. Boas disputed the idea that our skull’s width could portray our ethnic identity (blacks were at the bottom of the racial ladder). He believed that “the negro, when given facility and opportunity will be perfectly able to fulfil the duties of citizenship as well as his white neighbour”. Boas placed emphasis on the fact that all races could contribute to human progress if we were willing to them a fair opportunity.
Terror as Usual Author
Michael Taussig
Terror as Usual Summary
Terror is a question of distance – holding it at arm’s length so it doesn’t turn on you, and yet not putting it so far away in a clinical reality that we end up having substituted one form of terror for another. Taussig visited Colombia during the time of the “dirty war”. This was during a period where silence was the worst terror. There was no officially declared war and no prisoners, yet people were “disappearing” out of nowhere (the para-military death squads were clearly to blame but they would not admit to it). The point about silencing and the fear behind it was to create more fear and uncertainty in which dream and reality commingle.
The Girl in the Cast Author
Ruth Behar
The Girl in the Cast Summary
The Behar family were in a car crash when Ruth was 9. The crash was caused by a drunk driver (who died during the crash). Ruth’s femur bone was broken in a few places and the doctor had to put her in a full body cast for about a year. She was homeschooled and forced to stay on her bed (in the same spot) as to not move or injure her leg farther. During this time, her mother had to force her to excrete and this was really scarring and embarrassing for her (she had to poop in bedpan). After recovering, she found it hard to remember how to walk. This was when her mother was hardest on her and told her that no boy would like what they saw from the waist down. She only began feeling confident with her legs after she had her first child. During her 30s, she began exercising and this was when she had a physical breakdown during her aerobics dance class. Her body shut down for weeks after that and she felt like she couldn’t physically feel her legs. Eventually she learned that she had a condition called Agoraphobia. During this time, she began to grieve for the 9 year old Ruth who wasn’t allowed to be sad about her leg because “she was lucky just to be alive”. **Racial Factor: in the case of Gates, who injured his foot playing football. Due to being black, he was intentionally misdiagnosed by a doctor and was never able to properly heal and had walk with a limp for his entire life.
Indulgence in Fat: The Anthropology of Obsession Author
Margaret Wilson
Indulgence in Fat: The Anthropology of Obsession Summary
The study is set in a chic coffee in urban Seattle. People who order at cafes tend to contradict themselves. They order their coffee with skim milk but ask for whipped cream at the same time. They do this because they feel “they deserve it”. Wilson interviewed a few people and one of the women claimed that the fat doesn’t count because it’s in a drink. Despite America’s impressive fat consumption, there is an American obsession with appearing as though they are avoiding fat. Indulgence is thought of as something bad so it could only be permitted in small doses. In coffee, they are allowed to indulge (commit a little sin). They wouldn’t usually add that extra whipped cream if they were at home making a coffee but it’s justified when it’s ordered in a cafe because they wouldn’t commit such a sin in their own household.
Digital Gambling Author
Natasha Dow Schull
Digital Gambling Summary
This research was conducted in Las Vegas among game developers and machine gamblers. It demonstrates the intimate connection between extreme states of subjective absorption in play and design elements that manipulate space and time to accelerate the extraction of money from players. Time is a critical site of technological intervention – the aim is to speed up play and also extend its duration. Designers also put a lot of thought into the comfort level that the players feel when gambling. Everything should be made accessbile to the player (including instant messaging and telelvision) in order to motivate them to play for longer. Machine gamblers have the desire to be alone and to exit social space and they use these games as a means to do so (this also leads to the fact that they do not want to be interrupted when they are playing). Many gamblers feel a physical connection to the machine itself, eventually fading the line between the body and the machine.
The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness Author
Donna Jeanne Haraway
The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness Summary
Focuses on the Dog-Human relationship and the ethics and politics committed to taking this idea seriously. (This study is wack). Cyborgs and companion species each bring together the human and the non-human, the organic and technological, carbon and silicon, freedom and structure, history and myth, the rich and the poor, the state an the subject, diversity and depletion, modernity and postmodernity and nature and culture in unexpected ways. Inter-subjectivity does not mean “equality”.
The Gender of Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes Author
Don Kulick
The Gender of Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes Summary
Kulick wanted to study what the difference between sex and gender was in Brazil. He targeted Brazilian transgender prostitutes. Through them, he found that Brazilians relate gender to sexuality and not to the identification with the actual sex organ. Those who are “penetrated” are considered women and those who perform the penetration are considered men. Kulick himself was gay and identified with being man. Found it interesting that people did not consider him a man because of his sexual identity. Discovered that these prostitutes also had relationships outside of the ones in their work place that would change their self-identification. In the workplace, they were considered the men. With their “maridos,” they allowed themselves to be penetrated and so their role changed: became the women. Main point to take out of the reading is that in our society, the poles of the sex/gender dualism are not the same in other societies such as the one he was conducting fieldwork in in Brazil.
Quit Sniveling, Cryo-Baby, We’ll Work Author
Charis Thompson
Quit Sniveling, Cryo-Baby, We’ll Work Summary
Forgetting of Proper Names Author
Sigmund Freud
Forgetting of Proper Names Summary
Freud’s career was concerned with the repression of the subconscious. Freudian slips are subconscious remembrances in the memory that are recognized as incorrect as first. However, the constant reproduction of these slips eventually create a re-created memory. Freud describes a time in which he forgot the name of a specific artist and instead remember the names of two other artists, which in terms of context and sound resembled the original artist’s name. This displacement, according to Freud, is due to the following of paths that can be easily predict and conforming. Essentially, Freud argues that we are able to relate something from the external to something internally repressed (and consequently, replace it). Freud coined the term paramnesia which is a condition or phenomenon that involves the distortion of memory.
The Mindful Body Authors
Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margaret M. Locke
The Mindful Body Summary
Attack the dualism debate of culture and nature. Criticizing the Cartesian thinking “I think there I am” with cultural relativism essentially saying that each of our individualities are directly linked to our own cultures. Shepherd Hughes is trying to get away from the relationship between culture relativism and moral relativism.
Symbols Aren’t Simple Author
Terrence William Deacon
Symbols Aren’t Simple Summary
Essentially a categorization of the way we think of things. Essentially, he is studying the meaning of signs, otherwise known as Semiotics. An icon is something that is representative, an index is a way of categorizing icons through the relationships that are formed between them. Symbols are reserved for humans and essentially portray meaning. Essentially, symbols are unique ways of representing separate cultures. However, the way that cultures are differentiated all boils down the fact that their meanings are different. This is where the role of semiotics comes in. In order to understand the diversity of cultures and anthropology, one must understand that our meanings are what make each one of them different and we must not embrace them and indulge in the symbols but understand each meaning instead. This is the only way in which the human race will not be exclusive.
Statement on Race
American Anthropological Association
Statement on Race Summary
In the Us, both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. There has been so much emphasis on the physical differences between races, yet there is a greater physical variation WITHIN “racial” groups rather than between them. Physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans have put on them. This ideology was created in order to justify and rationalise European attitudes and treatment of the conquered and enslaved peoples. At the end of the 20th Cent, we now understand that human cultural behaviour is learned, conditioned into infants beginning at birth and always subject to modification. No human is born with built in culture or language. It is a basic tenant of anthropological knowledge that all normal human beings have the capacity to learn any cultural behaviour. Present day inequalities between so called “racial” groups are not consequences of their biological inheritance but instead products of historical and contemporary social, economic, educational and political circumstances.

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