Glossary of Terms

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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circumcision  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
removing all or part of the foreskin of the penis.  This surgery is usually done with a knife as part of a rite of passage marking the transition from childhood to adulthood for boys.  See subincision.
clitoridectomy  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
cutting off all or part of the clitoris and sometime all or part of the labia.  This surgery is usually done as part of a rite of passage marking the transition from childhood to adulthood for girls.  In Western Nations, clitoridectomy is often referred to as "genital mutilation."  See infibulation.
core values
the fundamental values that provide the basis for social behavior in society.  They are what people believe is desirable or offensive, appropriate or inappropriate, and correct or incorrect.
cultural relativism
judging and interpreting the behavior and beliefs of others in terms of their own cultural traditions and experiences.  This suspension of one's own ethnocentric views is necessary in order to begin to truly understand another culture or ethnic group.  See ethnocentrism.
culture  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the full range of learned behavior patterns acquired by people in the process of growing up in a society.  Culture includes the knowledge, beliefs, customs, language, and practices acquired through learning.  
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descent  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
socially recognized links between ancestors and descendents, such as the bond between children and their parents.
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 enculturation  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the process of being socialized to a particular culture.  This includes learning the language, customs, biases, and values of the culture.
 episiotomy  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
cutting into the perineum in a woman's vaginal opening during the late stages of labor in anticipation of the delivery of a baby.  This surgical procedure is routinely done in North America to prevent the tearing of vaginal tissues during delivery.
ethnocentrism  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the feeling that your own group's cultural traditions and values are correct and superior to all others.  This is usually coupled with a generalized dislike and even contempt for people who have other cultural traditions.   Ethnocentrism is universal in that all people around the world are ethnocentric to some degree.  See cultural relativism.
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fictive kinship  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
a socially recognized link between individuals created as an expedient for dealing with special circumstances, such as the bond between a godmother and her godchild.  Fictive kinship bonds are based on friendship and other personal relationships rather than marriage and descent.
formal education
structured and directed teaching and learning primarily under the control and direction of adult teachers who are professional "knowers."  Formal education is usually what happens in a classroom.  See informal education.
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indigenous  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
referring to the native population of an area.
indigenous world-view
a world-view in which it is believed that humans are not separate from nature and the supernatural world.  Living creatures and non-living objects in nature as well as supernatural beings are thought to be human-like in their motivations, feelings, and interactions.  When the characteristics of this type of world-view were first proposed in the early 1950's by Robert Redfield, it was called a "primitive world-view."  See metropolitan world-view.
infibulation  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
Infibulation is partially closing off the opening to the vagina by sewing, pinning, or clamping part of the vulva.   This surgery is usually done as part of a rite of passage marking the transition from childhood to adulthood for girls.  See clitoridectomy.
informal education
learning as a result of imitation, experimentation, and repetitive practice of basic skills.  This is what happens when children role-play adult interactions in their games.  See formal education.
inner-directed personality
a personality that is guilt oriented.  The behavior of individuals with this sort of personality are strongly controlled by their conscience.  As a result, there is little need for police to make sure that they obey the law.  These individuals monitor themselves.  The inner-directed personality is one of the modal personality types identified by David Riesman in the early 1950's.
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kinship  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
culturally defined relationships between individuals who are commonly thought of as having family ties.  Kinship is based on marriage, descent, and, occasionally, fictive relationships as well.
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large-scale society
generally a society with cities, industry, intensive agriculture, and a complex international economy.  Such societies have socio-economic classes and a government with hierarchies of officials.  The importance of kinship is diminished in comparison to the common pattern of small-scale societies.
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  map of Melanesia in the Southwest Pacific Ocean
Melanesia  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
New Guinea and other nearby islands in the Southwest Pacific Ocean west of Polynesia.  Indigenous people from this region are referred to as Melanesians.
metropolitan world-view
a world-view in which people have an emotional detachment between people and the realms of nature and the supernatural.  Animals, trees, rocks, and other things in nature are "its" rather than "thous" and do not have human personalities.  This separation of people emotionally from nature allows them to exploit it with little care for its well being.  When the characteristics of this type of world-view were first proposed in the early 1950's by Robert Redfield, it was called a "civilized world-view."  See indigenous world-view.
modal personality  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the most common personality type within a society.  In reality, there is usually a range of normal personality types within a society.  See inner-directed personality, other-directed personality, and tradition-oriented personality.
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national personality type
a distinct culturally specific personality pattern acquired during the process of being enculturated.  The notion of national personality types implies that personality is almost entirely learned rather than genetically inherited.  This is no longer widely believed in anthropology and psychology.
norms  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the conceptions of appropriate and expected behavior that are held by most members of the society.
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other-directed personality
a personality that is shame oriented.  People with this type of personality have ambiguous feelings about right and wrong.  When they deviate from a societal norm, they usually don't feel guilty.  However, if they are caught in the act or exposed publicly, they are likely to feel shame.  The other-directed personality is one of the modal personality types identified by David Riesman in the early 1950's.  See inner-directed personality and tradition-oriented personality.
otiose deity  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
a god who established the order of the universe in the distant past and is now remote from earthly activities and concerns.
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personality   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
all of an individual's complex of mental characteristics that makes him or her unique from other people.  It includes all of the patterns of thought, emotions, and other mental traits that cause us to do and say things in particular ways.
personality type
  map of Polynesia
a set of personality traits and behavioral tendencies which are shared by a group of people.
Polynesia  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
a major division of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of the International Date Line, extending from Hawaii in the north to New Zealand in the south.  In addition to these islands, Polynesia includes Samoa, Tonga, the Society, and Marquesas Islands.
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rites of passage  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
ritual ceremonies intended to mark the transition from one phase of life to another.
role  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the part a society expects an individual to play in a given status (e.g., child, wife, mother, aunt, grandmother).  Social group membership gives us a set of role tags to allow people to know what to expect from each other.
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small-scale society
generally a society of a few dozen to several thousand people who live by foraging wild foods, herding domesticated animals, or non-intensive horticulture on the village level.  Such societies lack cities as well as complex economies and governments.  Kinship relationships are usually highly important in comparison to the common pattern of large-scale societies.
socialization  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the general process of acquiring culture as you grow up in a society.  During socialization, children learn the language of the culture as well as the roles they are to play in life.  In addition, they learn about the occupational roles that their society allows them.  They also learn and usually adopt their culture's norms through the socialization process.  See enculturation.
status  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the relative social position of an individual.  For instance, student, teacher, child, and parent are easily identifiable statuses in most cultures.  Each of us has a number of different statuses.  We usually acquire new ones and lose old ones as we go through life.  See role.
subincision  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
cutting into the side of the penus or making a hole entirely through it.  This surgery is done as part of a rite of passage marking the transition from childhood to adulthood for boys in some cultures.  See circumcision.
 
sub-Saharan Africa  click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the region of Africa south of the Sahara desert.

 

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tradition-oriented personality
a personality that has a strong emphasis on doing things the same way that they have always been done.  Individuals with this sort of personality are less likely to try new things and to seek new experiences.  The tradition-oriented personality is one of the modal personality types identified by David Riesman in the early 1950's.
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Western World
those nations dominated by European derived culture.  The Western World today includes Europe, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and a few other countries.
world-view
the complex of motivations, perceptions, and beliefs that we internalize and that strongly affect how we interact with other people and things in nature.  World-view  is a set of feelings and basic attitudes about the world rather than clearly formulated opinions about it.  These feelings and attitudes are mostly learned early in life and are not readily changed later.
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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 08, 2009.
Copyright 2002-2009 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.
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