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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- A -
the process by which a culture is transformed due to the massive adoption of cultural traits from another society--it is what happens to a culture when alien traits diffuse in on a large scale and substantially replace traditional cultural patterns. See transculturation.
a society in which political power is diffused to the degree that there are no institutionalized political leadership roles such as chiefs and kings. Bands and tribes are acephalous. Most foragers and simple horticulturalists have highly egalitarian, acephalous societies. The word "acephalous" is Greek for "without a head."
- actual behavior
- what people really do in their lives rather than what they think they are doing or what they believe they should be doing. In most societies there is a discrepancy between these three kinds of behavior. It is important for anthropologists to distinguish between actual, believed, and ideal behavior when they learn about another society and its culture.
- adaptive mechanism
- a behavior, strategy, or technique for obtaining food and surviving in a particular environment. Successful adaptive mechanisms provide a selective advantage in the competition for survival with other life forms. For humans, the most important adaptive mechanism is culture.
a kinship link created by marriage, such as the bond between a man and his wife and her family (in-laws). People who have an affinity relationship with each other are "affines" . See consanguinity.
a program or policy intended to correct the effects of past discrimination in employment, education, housing, etc. Usually affirmative action in the United States includes out-reach programs, hiring goals, set-asides, and/or extra opportunities for members of underrepresented minorities.
age-based categories of people recognized by a culture. In North America, for example, we generally label people as children, teenagers, adults, middle aged, and elderly or senior citizens. See age sets.
age grades that are clearly recognized in a culture as distinct identifiable groups of people. They consist of people of similar age and usually of the same gender who share a common identity and maintain close ties throughout their lives. They also pass through age-related statuses together as a group. The transition between these statuses is usually marked by a rite of passage.
see patrilineal descent.
- ambilocal residence
- the residence pattern in which a newly married couple has the choice of living with or near the groom's or the bride's family.
ancestor focused kindred
a kindred in which the person to whom all members trace their kinship ties is dead. An example would be the descendants of a well known pioneer family. It is rare for a kindred to continue functioning as an effective kin group after the death of the individual who was its focus. This usually occurs only when the ancestor was historically important.
souls or ghosts of ancestors. A belief in ancestral spirits is consistent with the widespread belief that humans have at least two parts--a physical body and some kind of non-physical spirit. The spirit portion is generally believed to be freed from the body by death and continues to exist. Ancestral spirits are often seen as retaining an active interest and even membership in their family and society.
- the characteristic of having a blend of both masculine and feminine personality characteristics but not strongly either one.
- a belief in a supernatural power not part of supernatural beings. For those who hold this belief, the power is usually impersonal, unseen, and potentially everywhere. It is neither good nor evil, but it can be powerful and dangerous if misused.
- a belief that natural objects are animated by spirits. This belief can take diverse forms. Things in nature may all have within them different spirits--each rock, tree, and cloud may have its own unique spirit. In contrast, all things in nature may be thought of as having the same spirit. In both forms of animism, the spirits are thought of as having identifiable personalities and other characteristics such as gender.
- a feeling of alienation and isolation from all other people, including family and friends.
the broad scientific study of human culture and biology. Anthropologists are interested in what it is to be human in all of our many different societies around the world today and in the past. In North American universities, the study of anthropology is usually divided into four main sub-disciplines: cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics.
- anticipatory sororate
- a cultural pattern in which some sexual permissiveness is allowed between a man and his wife's sister in anticipation of a future marriage between them. This is usually associated with sororal polygyny.
laws prohibiting sexual intercourse and marriage between people of different "races".
the branch of anthropology oriented towards using anthropological knowledge for practical purposes. The work of most applied anthropologists has the goal of helping small indigenous societies adjust to the massive acculturation pressures that they are now experiencing without their suffering culture death and genocide.
a specialized subsistence pattern that concentrates on fish and/or marine mammal hunting. Aquatic foraging is usually a far more reliable and productive strategy for obtaining food than the diversified hunting and gathering of most foragers who live away from the coasts and major rivers. The most well known aquatic foragers lived on the Northwest Coast of North America from the Klamath River of California to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. These societies specialized in salmon fishing along the rivers and hunting seals and whales off the coast. The word "aquatic" is derived from the Latin word aqua, meaning water.
the systematic study of the material remains of human behavior in the past. Archaeologists reconstruct the prehistory and early history of societies and their cultures through an examination and interpretation of such things as house foundations, broken tools, and food refuse.
a marriage partner selection process in which the future bride and groom usually do not participate actively in the decision. Marriages are commonly arranged by parents or their agents when the marriages are seen as principally uniting two families rather than just husband and wife. There is also often the rationalization that teenagers and young adults are too inexperienced to make a wise mate selection. The tradition of arranged marriages has been dramatically undermined whenever romantic love becomes a popular notion in a society.
the absorption of an individual or minority group of people into another society or group. This is achieved by learning and adopting the cultural traditions of the society to which assimilation occurs. It is also often hastened by intermarriage and de-emphasizing cultural and or biological differences.
- avunculocal residence
- the residence pattern in which a newly married couple moves in with or near the groom's maternal uncle's house. This is strongly associated with matrilineal descent and occurs when men obtain statuses, jobs, or prerogatives from their nearest elder matrilineal male relative.
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- B -
an economic exchange in which there is an explicit expectation of immediate return. Simple barter or supermarket purchases involve this understanding. See reciprocity.
- the level of political integration in which a society consists only of an association of families living together. Bands are loosely allied by marriage, descent, friendship, and common interest. The primary integrating mechanism is kinship ties. There is no economic class differentiation. All adults of the same gender are more or less equal as far as community decision making is concerned. However, some individuals in a band may stand out for their skills and knowledge. These often are the people who have the best memories, are the best hunters, most successful curers, most gifted speakers, etc. Such people become informal leaders. Most often they are given authority by community consensus arrived at through casual discussion without the need for a formal vote. Leaders generally have temporary political power at best, and they do not have any significant authority relative to other adults within their band. Subsequently, bands are essentially acephalous societies. The total number of people within these societies rarely exceeds a few dozen. Bands are found among foraging societies.
- trading goods and services directly for other goods and services without the use of money as a medium of exchange. See dumb barter.
- believed behavior
- what people honestly believe that they are doing in their lives rather than what they think they should be doing or what they actually are doing. In most societies there is a discrepancy between these three kinds of behavior. It is important for anthropologists to distinguish between actual, believed, and ideal behavior when they learn about another society and its culture.
using magical acts and/or the assistance of supernatural beings to cause something to occur. Bewitching is an integral part of witchcraft.
- bilateral descent
- bilineal descent
- the cognatic pattern of descent in which an individual is both a member of his mother's matrilineage and his father's patrilineage. Also known as "double descent." This is not the same as bilateral descent.
- biological anthropology
- boundary maintenance (in reference to ethnic groups)
- reinforcing an ethnic group's unity and distinctness by emphasizing the traits that set its members apart from others, rather than what they share in common with them.
a morpheme that has meaning but can not stand alone. The prefix dis in the English word dislike is an example.
things of high value given by a groom to his bride's father. It is a way of showing respect for the bride and her parents. At the same time, it is a compensation for the bride's family for the loss of her economic services. It is also a way of validating the groom's right to future offspring. Bride price is most common among polygynous, small-scale, patrilineal societies--especially in sub-Saharan Africa and among Native Americans. Bride price is also referred to as "bride wealth" and "progeny price." See dowry.
- work or services done by a groom for his wife's family instead of paying a bride price. Bride service is usually for a set period of time, often years. It is a common practice in societies that have little material wealth and strong rules requiring sharing that prevent the accumulation of wealth.
- an administrative system that divides governing tasks into specific categories carried out by different individuals and/or departments. Members of a bureaucracy are referred to as bureaucrats.
- C -
an individual's rigidly ascribed, or inherited, status within society. The most extensive caste system is in India where it is associated strongly with the Hindu religion. There are 4 major Indian castes originally based on vocation: the Brahmans (or Hindu priests), warriors, farmers, and shop keepers. The castes are all ranked relative to each other with the Brahmans being at the top. In addition, there are people in India who are outside of the caste system. These outcasts are at the bottom of society. One's caste is extremely important in India. People are careful to marry within their own caste and to avoid physical contact with members of lower castes because of the danger of pollution.
the edible seeds of grasses. The economically most important cereals include wheat, rice, and corn (maize), oats, rye, millet, and sorghum. These grains provide the bulk of the calories consumed by people in the world today.
the level of political integration in which a society has a more or less permanent political leader (i.e., a chief) but no bureaucracy of professional administrators. The chief provides direction and authority for the society as a whole. Sometimes there is an advisory council as well. In a few of the more complex chiefdoms in Africa and Hawaii, there have been paramount chiefs and lesser chiefs who perform some administrative functions. Chiefs and their families generally have a higher standard of living than ordinary people within their society. What makes this possible is that chiefs usually perform a society wide economic redistribution function that is cloaked in the guise of ritual gift giving. This essentially siphons off surplus agricultural products from farmers and then redistributes them throughout the society. In the process, a small amount is held back in order to support the chief's somewhat more lavish lifestyle. The ritualized redistribution of surplus food and other commodities in chiefdoms is, in a sense, the rudimentary beginnings of a taxation system. It is tolerated by people because of the economic advantages that it can provide in addition to social stability. The larger territorial size of chiefdoms often encompasses diverse environmental zones with somewhat different products. The redistribution of agricultural surpluses can serve as a method of providing greater food variety for the populace as a whole. Chiefdoms commonly have a population of tens of thousands of farmers. The large population size generally means that the people have less in common than do those in the smaller societies of bands and tribes. Disputes inevitably arise that cannot be settled by informal means based on kinship and friendship. A chief usually functions as an arbitrator and judge in these cases.
- a group of people who claim unilineal descent from the same ancestor but who cannot specify all of the actual links. The ancestor is genealogically so remote that he or she is often thought of as a mythical being, animal, or plant. Clans usually consist of a number of related unilineages. See totem.
a group of people thought of as a unit because they are similar in terms of social and/or economic factors. In America, for instance, a class distinction is commonly made between "white collar" well paid office workers and lower paid "blue collar" factory workers and manual laborers. In state level societies of the past, the most important class distinction was between the ruling elite and the commoners. Bands, tribes, and early chiefdoms did not have classes, though individuals were often ranked relative to each other.
- cognatic descent
- collateral relative
- uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces and other consanguinal kinsmen beyond ego's main line of descent.
a term referring mostly to the Western European nations that carved out colonies in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and the Pacific during the 18th through the early 20th centuries. The U.S., Russia, and Japan also acquired colonial empires in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
large-scale buying and selling of goods and services within and between societies that usually have market economies.
a law that has evolved over time and is part of the cultural tradition rather than being created by enactment in legislatures or by rulers. In large-scale societies, many laws derive from old common laws but are now formalized by being written down in penal codes. Virtually all laws in small-scale societies are unwritten common laws.
- a socially recognized biological descent link, such as between a woman and her father, aunt, or daughter. Individuals who have a consanguinity relationship are "consanguines" to each other. Consanguinity literally means "with the blood", reflecting the old incorrect assumption that biological inheritance is passed on through blood rather than DNA. See affinity.
- contagious magic
- magic that is based on the principle that things or persons once in contact can afterward influence each other. In other words, there is a permanent relationship between an individual and any part of his or her body. As a consequence, believers must take special precautions with their hair, fingernails, teeth, clothes, and feces. If anyone obtained these objects, magic could be performed on them which would cause the person they came from to be affected.
- 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.
- a pidgin language that has become the mother tongue of a population. In Haiti, for example, a French-African pidgin became the creole language that is spoken in that nation today by the majority of the population as their principle or only language.
- a deviation from the social norm that is of such magnitude as to go beyond what would be considered bad manners or odd behavior. Societies respond to such exceptionally deviant actions by creating laws to curb and sometimes punish them. There is no universal agreement between the societies of the world about what constitutes criminal behavior or how it should be dealt with. Sufficient ethnographic data have been collected over the last century to show that societies with different kinds of economies have radically different sorts of laws and legal concerns. See tort.
- cross cousin
- one's father's sister's children or mother's brother's children. The gender of the children is not relevant in making this distinction. See parallel cousin.
- Crow naming system
- a matrilineally based kin naming system in which siblings and parallel cousins of the same gender are given the same term of reference (5 = male and 6 = female) as are mother and mother's sister (2). Other people in ego's father's matrilineage are lumped across generations (1 = male and 3 = female), reflecting the comparative unimportance of the father's side of the family in societies using the Crow system.
- a devoted religious group, often living together in a community with a charismatic prophet leader. Cults are generally considered to be potentially dangerous, unorthodox, extremist groups by the dominant religious organizations in a society.
- cultural anthropology
the study of contemporary and recent historical cultures all over the world. The focus is on social organization, culture change, economic and political systems, and religion. Cultural anthropology is also referred to as social or sociocultural anthropology.
- cultural relativity
- suspending one's ethnocentric judgments in order to understand and appreciate another culture. Anthropologists try to learn about and interpret the various aspects of the culture they are studying in reference to that culture rather than to their own. This provides a better understanding of how such practices as polygamy and cannibalism can function and even support other cultural traditions.
- cultural universals
- cultural traits that are shared by all of humanity collectively. Examples of such general traits are communicating with a verbal language, using age and gender to classify people, and raising children in some sort of family setting. No matter where people live in the world, they share these universal cultural traits. However, different cultures have developed their own specific ways of carrying out or expressing these general traits.
- the full range of learned behavior patterns that are acquired by people as members of a society. A culture is a complex, largely interconnected whole that consists of the knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, skills, and habits learned from parents and others in a society. Culture is the primary adaptive mechanism for humans.
culture bound syndrome
- the complete disappearance of a culture as a result of the total acculturation or the death of all of the people who shared it.
- the loss of cultural traits. As cultures change and acquire new traits, old no longer useful or popular ones inevitably disappear. An example of culture loss is the disappearance over time of certain words and phrases in a language. In some cases, the words continue to be used but acquire new, very different meanings. Culture loss is accelerated during periods of acculturation and transculturation.
- feelings of confusion, distress, and sometimes depression that can result from the psychological stress caused by the strain of rapidly adjusting to an alien culture. This is a common phenomenon for travelers who are totally immersed in the language and customs of another society, day and night, without a break. It is largely due to being forced to constantly experience new, unfamiliar cultural practices and traditions. Transculturating people also are likely to experience culture shock. Until the new culture becomes familiar and comfortable, it is common to have difficulty in communicating and to make frustrating mistakes. This is usually compounded by feelings of homesickness. These feelings can be emotionally debilitating. However, culture shock eventually passes for most people.
a Latin American folk curer. Cuanderos believe that they have received a divine calling to their profession, and they may have direct contact with the spirit world. They usually apprentice for years under an older curandero. In Mexico and Central America, there are curandero generalists and specialists. Yerberos are knowledgeable about herbs. Parteras are midwifes. Sabadoros are specialists in massaging patients. Curanderos may also specialize in particular kinds of illness--e.g., curandero de aire , etc. A female curandero is a curandera .
cyclical round of migrations
seasonal migrations of foragers or pastoralists between different environments in their territories. This often involves migrations that take people from spring to summer camps and then to fall and finally winter ones. This cycle of migrations that is repeated yearly is determined by the resources that can be exploited at particular times of the year in different areas. Carrying out such a round of migrations increases the amount of food that can be obtained by a society. As a result a somewhat larger population can be supported.
- D -
socially recognized links between ancestors and descendants, such as the bond between children and their parents.
descriptive kin naming system
developed nation (or society)
- a nation or society that is relatively wealthy and usually industrialized. Most of the people in developed nations have adequate access to food, electricity, fossil fuels, education, and medicine with the consequence that their lives are materially more comfortable and their life spans are significantly longer than those in underdeveloped nations. The United States, Canada, most of Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand are developed nations.
a variant of a language. If it is associated with a geographically isolated speech community, it is referred to as a regional dialect. However, if it is spoken by a speech community that is merely socially isolated, it is called a social dialect.
- the movement of cultural traits and ideas from one society or ethnic group to another. While the form of a trait may be transmitted to another society, the original meaning may not. For instance, McDonald's hamburgers are thought of as a cheap, quick meal in North America, but they are generally considered to be a special occasion food in China.
- the phenomenon in which different dialects of a language or different languages are spoken by a person in different social situations. Diglossic people may quickly switch back and forth between dialects or languages, depending on the person they are talking to at the time. This is the case with the educated elite of Haiti. They usually speak standard French among themselves but use the Haitian French creole language on the street dealing with poor uneducated Haitians. Diglossia is also referred to as "code switching."
- disease vector
- an intermediate host and/or disease transmitting organism for a contagious disease. Mosquitoes, fleas, lice, ticks, flies, and even snails are common disease vectors.
distribution and exchange (systems of)
the practices that are involved in getting the goods and services produced by a society to its people. See systems of production.
a hunting and gathering subsistence pattern in which there is not a concentration of efforts in harvesting a small number of species. Rather, virtually all potential food sources in the environment are exploited. Most pedestrian foragers take a diversified approach. In contrast, aquatic and equestrian foragers are specialized. A diversified subsistence pattern has the advantage of relative economic security if there are fluctuations in the weather, water supply, or periodic die-offs of the food sources. The disadvantage is that the total amount of food calories acquired is often less and the amount of time required to secure them is greater compared to specialized foraging.
a magical procedure by which the cause of a particular event or the future is determined.
division of labor
referring to the jobs that are normally assigned to people based on such things as gender and age. In most foraging societies, large animal hunting is an occupation of adult males, while domestic tasks, child rearing, and plant food collecting are mostly adult female jobs. In the Western industrialized nations today, the division of labor is based mostly on age, knowledge, skills, and preference. Gender is often rejected as a criteria for job assignment in these contemporary societies.
see bilineal descent.
money, property, or other things of high value given by a bride's family to the groom, ostensibly to establish a new household. It is her share of the family inheritance. A dowry is, in a sense, the reverse of a bride price.
drop of blood criterion (for race classification)
barter without direct contact between the traders. Individuals from one group leave trade goods at a neutral location on the edge of their territory and then leave. Sometime later, members of the other community pick up the goods and leave something in exchange. The first group then returns and either picks up the things that were left by the strangers or leaves them until additions or substitutions are made that are acceptable. In the past, dumb-barter of this sort occurred in parts of West Africa, Northern Scandinavia, India, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Timor, New Guinea, and the Amazon Basin of South America. Dumb barter is also known as "silent trade" and "depot trade."
- E -
see Black English.
referring to societies in which all people are equal in terms of economic and political rights. Foraging bands are the most egalitarian societies. However, even in these societies, there are differences based on age and sometimes gender.
- ego (in reference to diagramming kinship)
- in a kinship diagram, the individual to whom all relationships are referred.
referring to the categorization of things according to the way in which members of a society classify their own world. In other words, this is the way their culture and language divide up reality. Such emic categories generally differ from culture to culture and provide valuable insights into the perceptions and world view of other peoples. Discovering, recording, and analyzing emic categories is the task of ethnoscience. See etic categories.
the right of a government to take legal possession of private property for public use. In most Western countries, the property owner is financially compensated for the loss based on what is considered to be fair market value. An example of eminent domain is a government taking someone's house and land in order to build a road through the property.
the process of being socialized to a particular culture. This includes learning the language, customs, biases, and values of the culture. Through enculturation an individual learns the statuses, roles, rules, and values of his or her own culture. The most intensive period of enculturation is usually during early childhood, but the process continues throughout life.
- a disease that is always present in a community, usually at a low, more or less constant frequency. Malaria, arthritis, and high blood pressure are examples. See hyperendemic.
the occurrence of a disease in a population in which it appears, rapidly spreads between people, reaches a high frequency, and then subsides. Contagious diseases such as influenza, measles, and AIDS follow this pattern. Epidemics usually appear seasonally as a result of changing human interaction patterns and changes in the environment. See pandemic.
- the field of medical research that studies the causes of diseases and how to cure or control them. Epidemiologists also track the frequency and geographic distribution of diseases over time. In addition, they study the causal relationships between diseases.
a specialized subsistence pattern in which horses are used extensively in hunting large game animals. Equestrian foragers evolved in only two areas of the world--the Great Plains of North America and the sparse grasslands of Southern Argentina. In both cases, pedestrian foragers acquired horses from Spanish settlers in the early 17th century. Over several generations, horse breeding and riding skills were honed. This resulted in a revolutionary change in these Native American societies. The horse became the principle mode of transportation and dramatically increased hunting success in the pursuit of large animals. These societies became larger, more mobile, and were now able to travel over larger areas throughout the year. Horses allowed them to effectively follow the seasonal migrations of large herbivores over hundreds of miles. In North American the prey of choice was the bison and in South America it was the guanaco. ("Equestrian" is derived from the Latin word equus meaning horse.)
- Eskimo naming system
- a bilateral descent based kin naming system in which members of the nuclear family are given terms of reference based only on their gender and generation. Aunts (3) and uncles (4) are distinguished from parents (1 = father and 2 = mother) and separated by gender. The spouses of aunts and uncles may also be given these kin terms. All cousins are lumped together with one kin term (7) without regard to gender. No kin name distinction is made between uncles, aunts, and cousins with regards to side of the family.
a category or group of people considered to be significantly different from others in terms of cultural (dialect, religion, traditions, etc.) and sometimes physical characteristics (skin color, body shape, etc.). Commonly recognized American ethnic groups include American Indians, Jews, Latinos, Chinese, African Americans ("blacks"), European Americans ("whites"), etc.
ethnic group identity.
selected traits used as symbolic badges of identity to emphasize distinctness from other ethnic groups. Dialect, religion, and style of dress are common ethnic symbols. Biological characteristics, such as skin color and body shape, may be used as ethnic symbols as well.
- the deep felt belief or feeling that your culture is superior to all others. Being fond of your own way of life and condescending or even hostile toward other cultures is normal for all people. Alien culture traits are often viewed as being not just different but less sensible and even "unnatural." This results in the interpretation of other people in terms of one's own cultural values and traditions. An example is people from monogamous societies condemning polygamy as being "unnatural" and immoral. Ethnocentrism is universal and normal but not necessarily morally defensible or desirable because it prevents understanding other cultures. It also interferes with meaningful intercultural communication. See cultural relativity.
ethnocidethe act or attempt to systematically destroy another people's ethnicity or culture. Usually the term ethnocide is applied to intentional acts resulting in culture death. The legalized "kidnapping" of Native American children so that they could be educated as Europeanized Canadians and Americans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries is an example of ethnocide. See genocide.
- anthropological research in which one learns about the culture of another society through fieldwork and first hand observation in that society. Ethnography is also the term used to refer to books or monographs describing what was learned about the culture of a society.
- an anthropological study that systematically compares similar cultures. An example of an ethnological study would be a comparison of what cultures are like in societies that have economies based on hunting and gathering rather than agriculture. The data for this sort of ethnology would come from the existing ethnographies about these peoples. In other words, an ethnology is essentially a synthesis of the work of many ethnographers.
- the scientific study of traditional uses of plants and other organisms for medical purposes. Ethnopharmacology is a specialization within ethnobiology, which is an interdisciplinary field of research carried out by people trained in cultural anthropology, biology, and medicine.
the field of anthropology that tries to learn about how people in different cultures categorize things in their environment. The focus is on emic categories. This data provides important insights into the interests, concerns, and values of cultures.
- referring to the classification of things according to some external system of analysis brought in by a visitor to another society. This is the approach of biology in using the Linnaean classification system to define new species. It assumes that ultimately, there is an objective reality and that is more important than cultural perceptions of it. See emic categories.
- extended family
- two or more nuclear families tied together by bonds of descent. Usually an extended family contains living relatives from three or more generations.
- F -
family of orientation
see nuclear family.
family of procreation
see nuclear family.
prolonged hostility and occasional fighting between individuals and their supporters. It is a universal form of aggression that mostly occurs between members of the same society, though it can occur between people from separate societies as well. It is caused by a desire for revenge for a perceived prior wrong. Usually, both sides in feuds believe that they have been wronged and seek to settle the score. Inherent in feuds is a failure in communication between the feuding parties and the belief that there needs to be "an eye for an eye." Without adequate retribution, there is minimally a loss of face for the families involved.
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.
people who live in more or less isolated, small societies and obtain their food by foraging wild plants and hunting wild animals. Foragers generally have a passive dependence on what the environment contains. They do not plant crops and the only domesticated animals that they usually have are dogs. Most foraging societies do not establish permanent settlements. Rather, they have relatively temporary encampments with tents or other easily constructed dwellings. The length of time that they stay in any one location is largely determined by the availability of resources. Foragers are also referred to as hunters and gatherers.
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.
- G -
- sexual identity as male or female.
the family history, or record of descent, of an individual from his or her ancestors.
gift giving without the expectation of an immediate return. It is understood that at some time in the future there will be an appropriate repayment. See reciprocity.
general purpose money
a portable, arbitrarily valued medium of exchange. All market economies today use this form of money. It can have a variety of physical forms--e.g., coins, paper money, or bank checks. It can also be simply a digital transmission from one computer to another that occurs with the use of credit cards or the electronic transfer of funds. The key point about general purpose money is that anything that is for sale can be bought with it--everyone accepts it. General purpose money is also referred to as "standardized currency." See special purpose money.
the act or attempt to systematically kill all members of an ethnic group or culture. The Nazi extermination of Jews and gypsies by the millions before and during World War II is an example of genocide. See ethnocide.
- the progressive emergence of a single worldwide economic system and the simultaneous reduction in global cultural and political differences. A presumed result of globalization would be the merging of previously separate political entities and the growth in power and prestige of international institutions. Those who advocate globalism generally believe that ethnocentrism, nationalism, and tribalism are obstacles that must be overcome.
- god or goddess
- a powerful supernatural being with an individual identity and recognizable attributes. Another term for a god is a deity . Like spirits, gods have individual identities and recognizable attributes (gods are male and goddess are female). However, gods and goddesses are more powerful than spirits and other lesser supernatural beings--they can effectively alter all of nature and human fortunes. As a result, they are commonly worshipped and requests are made of them to help in times of need.
a person who sponsors a child and assumes some parental responsibility for its upbringing. A godparent shares this responsibility with the "real" parents. A godparent is a fictive kinsman who may be either a godmother or a godfather to a godchild.
- H -
a mind altering drug that can cause profound hallucinations or an altered state of awareness. Most hallucinogens used for religious purposes by shamans and others are derived from plants.
Hawaiian naming system
a kin naming system in which relatives are distinguished only by generation and gender. This results in just 4 different kin terms of reference. Ego's father and all male relatives in his generation are referred to by the same kin term (1). Likewise, ego's mother and all female relatives in her generation have the same kin term (2). All brothers and male cousins are linked by giving them the same kin term (3). Sisters and all female cousins are also referred to by the same term (4).
- eating only vegetable foods. Animals that have this sort of diet are herbivores or vegetarians.
a society consisting of many different ethnic and/or "racial" groups, social classes, languages and/or dialects, and cultural traditions. The U.S. and Canada are heterogeneous societies. See homogenous society.
- hierarchical society
- a society that is divided into unequal social classes and individual statuses. There commonly is a ranking of classes and statuses in hierarchical societies such that those that are at the top of the ranking have greater power and wealth. Large intensive agriculture based societies typically have a social and political pyramid with an elite ruling class at the top and the majority of the people at the bottom.
- referring to Spanish and/or Latin American cultural traditions. In the U.S., Portuguese speaking Brazilians also are often considered Hispanics for official census recording purposes while people from Spain and Portugal are frequently excluded. See Latino.
the view that human existence can be adequately understood only as a multifaceted whole. Human beliefs and actions must be seen in terms of their interrelatedness with all other aspects of culture, human biology, social interaction, and environmental influences.
- a society that predominantly or entirely consists of people who share the same ethnicity/race, language, and cultural traditions. Most small-scale societies are homogenous. A few large-scale ones, like Japan, are as well. See heterogeneous society.
- an individual who is sexually and/or emotionally attracted by members of his or her own gender. Homosexuality generally refers to sexual interaction between members of the same gender. In North America, female homosexuals are often referred to as "lesbians" while males are known as "gays." See bisexual and heterosexual.
- people who obtain most of their food by low intensity farming. This subsistence pattern involves at least part time planting and tending of domesticated food plants. Pigs, chickens, or other relatively small domesticated animals are often raised for food and prestige. Many horticultural societies supplement their farming subsistence base with occasional hunting and gathering of wild plants and animals. They usually practice slash and burn field clearing methods and do not add additional fertilizer or irrigate. Multi-cropping is common. They often have a partial reliance on foraging for wild foods. Their societies are usually larger and more sedentary than those of foragers but still are at a low technological level and relatively small-scale.
- a residential group usually, but not always, consisting of members of the same family.
a naturalistic medical system based on the idea that our bodies have four important fluids or humors--blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Each humor is thought to have its own "complexion." Blood is hot and wet. Phlegm is cold and wet. Black bile is cold and dry. Yellow bile is hot and dry. These complexions have nothing to do with actual temperature and humidity. In addition to bodily fluids, three internal organs are considered highly important in humoral pathology. Each one has its own characteristic complexion. The heart is dry and cold. The brain is wet and cold. The liver is hot and wet. Specific forms of illnesses, medicines, foods, and most natural objects also have specific complexions. Curing an illness involves discovering the complexion imbalance and rectifying it.
- hunters and gatherers
- see foragers.
an endemic disease present at a continuously high frequency within a population.
- the criterion for assigning individuals to specific "races" based on only a distant hereditary relationship. The Nazis used this criterion for labeling people as Jews whose only connection with Judaism was a grandparent. Similarly, it has been used in North America to label people as African American even if they were mostly European in biological ancestry. Hypodescent is also known as the "drop of blood" criterion.
a tentative explanation for a set of observable or measurable facts that is tested using the scientific method.
- I -
rules prohibiting sexual intercourse with close relatives. The prohibition includes at least members of one's nuclear family and may extend to more distant relatives in some cultures.
- ideal behavior
- what people believe that they should do in their lives rather than what they think they are doing or what they actually are doing. In most societies there is a discrepancy between these three kinds of behavior. It is important for anthropologists to distinguish between actual, believed, and ideal behavior when they learn about another society and its culture.
imitative magic see sympathetic magic.
- referring to the native population of an area.
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.
the transition from a society primarily dependent on hand tools produced by individual craftsmen to one with machine and power tools developed through large-scale industrial production. In Western Cultures, this began to occur during the last half of the 18th century. It resulted in increased individual wealth, progressive urbanization, and globalization of the economy.
the killing of children. Extreme threat of starvation has at times forced some societies, such as the Inuit of the North American Arctic, to kill family members. When this occurred, the decision was usually to eliminate the youngest daughter because she was the least likely to add to the family's food supply. Though illegal, female infanticide does occur occasionally in India and mainland China where there is a high value placed on having sons.
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.
informal negative sanction
informant someone who is not only knowledgeable about his or her own culture but who is able and willing to communicate this knowledge in an understandable way to an anthropologist or some other outsider. Ethnographers usually try to develop a warm and trusting relationship with their informants. This makes it more likely that they will learn what the informant's culture is really like.
- the social and psychological forces that operate in the interaction between groups of people and societies. In this interaction, ethnocentrism and the desire to defend ethnic boundaries generally inhibits clear communication and cultural diffusion.
- a person, other than a spouse, whose kinship relationship to ego is only through a marriage bond. Brother-in-law and mother-in-law are examples. In-laws are often considered to be relatives by societies following the Eskimo kin naming system. However, such affinal relatives are usually considered to be more distant in terms of kinship obligations and privileges than consanguinal ones.
- 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.
a subsistence pattern characterized by full-time farming in which large beasts of burden or highly mechanized farm equipment (e.g., rototillers and tractors) are used to prepare the land for planting and later to harvest crops. Intensive agriculture usually involves the use of irrigation or other forms of water management. Often there is mono-cropping with heavy applications of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. This form of agriculture is highly productive but generally capital intensive.
- the distance our bodies are physically apart while talking with each other. If two speakers have different comfortable interaction distances, a ballet of shifting positions usually occurs until one of the individuals is backed into a corner and feels threatened by what may be perceived as hostile or sexual overtures. As a result, the verbal message may not be listened to or understood as it was intended. Interaction distance is an aspect of proxemics.
internalization of the moral code
the situation in which people accept society’s moral code and do not need police or other external means of social control to get them to follow it. They feel guilty if they do something “wrong” and punish themselves or turn themselves in for punishment.
- something new that is created. Invented cultural traits may be new things or ideas. It is rare for inventions to be based on entirely new principles, functions, and forms. Most often, old principles are applied to new functions and/or forms. Inventions may also result from stimulus diffusion
- Iroquois naming system
- a kin naming system in which the same term of reference is used for father and father's brother (1) as well as mother and mother's sister (2). Parallel cousins from both sides of the family are lumped together with siblings but distinguished by gender (5 = male and 6 = female). All cross cousins are similarly lumped together and distinguished by gender (7 = male and 8 = female).
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two or more relatives of the same generation living together with their respective spouses and children. Joint families typically consist of 1-2 generations. See extended family.
- judgment sample
- a probability sample that includes only a limited number of key people selected by an anthropologist to be his or her informants based on the likelihood that they possess knowledge concerning the research questions and will be most able to communicate it. For example, religious leaders would be the most likely informants if research concerns religious beliefs and practices. The judgment sample approach works best if the focus of research concerns cultural information that only some members of the host society possess.
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- K -
the part of non-verbal communication consisting of gestures, expressions, and postures. This part of paralanguage is also known as body language.
kin naming system
a culturally defined set of rules for terms of address and reference to be used for specific categories of relatives. There are 6 different kin naming systems in use around the world: Eskimo, Hawaiian, Sudanese, Omaha, Crow, and Iroquois. Kin naming systems are also referred to as "kin terminological systems."
- an irrational perception that one's prominent sexual body parts are withdrawing into the body and subsequently being lost. In the case of men, the concern is that their penis and testes are shrinking. For women, the focus is on the perceived shrinking of the vulva and nipples. In both cases it is a fear of the loss of masculinity or femininity followed by premature death. Koro is traditionally believed to be caused by "unhealthy sex" (e.g., masturbation or sex with prostitutes). It also thought to be caused by "tainted" foods. Koro is found in China and areas of Southeast Asia where Chinese culture has diffused (especially Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore).
- the complex system of inter-island commerce that existed among the Trobriand Islanders of the Southwest Pacific Ocean. The Kula Ring was a closed trading system in which only established senior male trading partners from each island could participate. The trade was carried out with large outrigger sailing canoes. On the surface, it appeared to be primarily an exchange of gift items and ceremonial feasting organized to reinforce bonds between senior trading partners. The trade network was essentially circular. If a trader was traveling in a clockwise direction around the circuit, he would give long necklaces of red shells (soulava) as gifts to his trading partner. If he was traveling in a counterclockwise direction, he would give armbands of white shells (mwali). These necklaces and armbands were the kula items. While the senior trading partners were formally greeting each other and reinforcing their friendship by giving kula gifts, the younger men were usually unloading more practical trade items on the beach to be bartered. These were mostly surplus luxury items from their home islands. While the kula items were exchanged via a system of generalized reciprocity, the regular trade goods were mostly traded in a manner that resulted in balanced reciprocity.
- a fatal disease caused by prions that was found among the South Foré people of the eastern New Guinea Highlands. The symptoms include palsy, contracted face muscles, and the loss of motor control resulting in the inability to walk and eventually even eat. Kuru victims become progressively emaciated. Death almost always occurs within 6-12 months of the onset of symptoms. This disease was spread among the South Foré as a result of cannibalism. Kuru is a variant of Kreutzfeld-Jacob disease in humans as well as scrapies and mad cow disease in livestock and some wild animals.
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- L -
a specific set of rules for generating speech.
- large-scale farming
- see intensive agriculture.
- 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 social, economic, and political matters (in comparison to small-scale societies).
functions that are less apparent and more difficult to uncover (e.g., building a bridge to keep workers employed and provide a recognizable symbol of a city). See manifest functions.
- in contemporary American usage, this is a person of Hispanic ethnic identity. The feminine form of "latino" is "latina"?
a society's rules of conduct that are usually based on social norms and generally recognized by its members as binding or enforceable. See common law.
a woman who is sexually attracted to other women--a female homosexual.
- levels of political integration
- a term referring to general types of political systems used to organize and manage societies. As a society's population size and territory grow, it must develop new political solutions to keep from splitting apart. In the 1950's, the American Anthropologist, Elman Service described four levels of political integration that have have been used around the world to solve this problem--band, tribe, chiefdom, and state. While there are some unique cultural variations of each of these levels, they are remarkably similar from one society to another. Subsequently, classifying a society in terms of its level of political integration has proven to be a useful tool in comprehending the wide range of human cultures and societies from small foraging communities to modern nation states.
- the comparative study of the function, structure, and history of languages and the communication process in general. Linguistics is also referred to as linguistic anthropology.
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- M -
the Spanish and Latin American ideal of men being confident, strong, dignified, brave, overtly masculine, and sexually active. This ideal of a macho , or "real man", was brought to the New World from Spain and Portugal. Its ultimate origin is probably to be found in the Islamic cultural traditions of North Africa that heavily influenced the culture of the Spanish Peninsula until the end of the 1400's A.D. See marianismo.
- using ritual formulas to compel or influence supernatural beings or powers to act in certain ways for good or evil purposes. By performing certain magical acts in a particular way, crops might be improved, game herds replenished, illness cured or avoided, animals and people made fertile. This is very different from television and stage "magic" that depends on slight-of-hand tricks and contrived illusions rather than supernatural power.
- majority group
- an ethnic/racial group that has the largest population and usually the greatest economic and political power in a society. The majority group in North America today consists mostly of European Americans. See minority group.
mal de ojo (the "evil eye")
a kind of personalistic illness in Latin America and parts of the Mediterranean Basin resulting from soul loss. The cause is traditionally thought to be a strong person staring at a weak individual. The eyes of the strong person drain the power and/or soul from the weak one. Proof that this has occurred to someone is that he or she cries inconsolably without a cause, has fitful sleep, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or a fever. It is thought that powerful people can cause this draining of the soul intentionally or unintentionally. In traditional Mexican and Central American culture, women, babies, and young children are thought of as being weak, while men as well as rich and politically powerful people of either gender are strong. People who believe in the existence of mal de ojo are likely to seek out a curandero to cure it.
the Spanish and Latin American ideal of women being modest, restrained, virtuous, and nurturing. Women are expected to be sexually abstinent before marriage and passive in response to their husbands' demands after marriage. Women are expected to have sexual intercourse only with their husbands. "Marianismo" comes from the Virgin Mary, whose life women are encouraged to emulate as a model of "proper" femininity. See machismo.
the socially recognized union of two or more people. It is a universal method of regulating heterosexual intercourse by defining who is acceptable as a sexual partner and who is not. Marriage establishes social relationships that are the foundation for families and households.
functions that are obvious and easily discovered even by strangers (e.g., building a bridge to get to quickly get across a narrow waterway). See latent functions.
an impersonal but highly efficient system of production, distribution, and exchange that is principally characterized by: 1) the use of money as a means of exchange, 2) having the ability to accumulate vast amounts of capital (i.e., wealth that can be used to fund further production), and 3) having highly complex economic interactions that are ultimately international in the scale of their inter-relatedness. See non-market economy.
a nuclear family in which there is no continuing adult male functioning as a husband/father. This man is missing due to death, divorce, abandonment, or no marriage having taken place. In such families, the mother raises her children more or less alone and subsequently has the major role in their socialization. Matricentric families are also referred to as being "matrifocused" .
a multi-generational group of relatives who are related by matrilineal descent. Matrilineages usually consist of a number of related nuclear families descended from the same woman.
unilineal descent that follows the female line. With this pattern, people are related if they can trace descent through females to the same female ancestor. Both males and females inherit membership in a matrilineal family line, but only females can pass it on to their descendants.
the residence pattern in which a newly married couple moves in with or near the bride's mother's house. This keeps women near their female relatives, while men must leave their natal households. Matrilocal residence is strongly associated with matrilineal descent.
- mechanized grain farming
- intensive farming for the production of cereals (e.g., corn, wheat, oats) in which hundreds and even thousands of acres are planted, tended, and harvested by a small number of people using large machinery (e.g., tractors and combines). There usually are heavy applications of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. This highly productive form of intensive mono-cropping agriculture is capital but not labor intensive. The Great Plains of North America is predominantly a region of mechanized grain farming.
- New Guinea and other nearby islands in the Southwest Pacific Ocean west of Polynesia. Indigenous people from this region are referred to as Melanesians.
melting pot a society in which immigrants and native ethnic/racial minorities are assimilated into the dominant national culture. Those who prefer this model for America generally advocate encouraging assimilation in order to reinforce national unity. See multiculturalism. messianic movement A millenarian movement led by a prophet who is either perceived as a new messiah or who predicts the imminent arrival of one.
- Southern Mexico and northern Central America. This was the main center of early plant domestication and ancient civilizations in North and Central America.
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.
- millenarian movement
- a conscious, organized movement that attempts to revive or perpetuate selected aspects of an indigenous culture or to gain control of the direction and rate of culture change being forced on them. These movements have also been referred to as messianic, nativistic, and revitalization movements. They were especially common among indigenous societies of European colonies. The Cargo Cults of New Guinea and the Ghost Dance Movements of the North American Plains Indians are examples. Millenarian movements typically have a prophet leader and religious beliefs requiring a major leap of faith by their followers.
- a golden age of great happiness, peace, and prosperity expected in the near future. This sort of belief is characteristic of millenarian movements. Literally, "millennium" refers to a period of 1000 years or the ending of such a period.
- minority group
an ethnic/racial group that has a smaller population than the controlling majority group in a society. Minority groups may also be based on shared gender, age, disabilities, political views, etc. See majority group.
- minor supernatural being
- supernatural beings who are not spirits, gods, humans, or other natural beings. They usually have a human-like appearance and/or personality but can do things that are beyond the abilities of humans. Minor supernatural beings often have a "trickster" role--they fool people, do outlandish things, and disappear. In European folk tradition, leprechauns, elves, and pixies were minor supernatural beings.
- modal behavior
- the statistically most common behavior patterns within a society. Those who do not exhibit these patterns are usually labeled as social deviants. What is defined as modal behavior varies from society to society.
- one of two unilineal divisions of an entire society. Moieties have reciprocal privileges and obligations with each other, such as providing marriage partners and assisting at funerals. The founding moiety ancestor is often so genealogically remote that he or she is now mythical. Societies with moieties usually consist of a few thousand people or less. Societies with phratries instead of moieties are often larger.
anything that serves as a medium of exchange for buying and selling goods and services. See general purpose money and special purpose money.
- planting a crop of only one species in a farm field. This is a common practice with intensive agriculture. While this can be a highly efficient farming strategy, it results in crops that are more susceptible to being wiped out by insects and other parasites. Mono-cropping is also known as "mono-culture". See multi-cropping.
marriage of one woman to one man at a time. This is the most common marriage pattern around the world today. If remarriage is allowed following divorce or death of a spouse, the marriage pattern could be defined as being "serial monogamy." monotheism a belief that there is only one god. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are usually considered to be monotheistic religions. However, the distinction between monotheism and polytheism can be a matter of focus. For instance, some scholars have argued that monotheisms, such as Catholicism, are actually de facto polytheisms for many of the faithful if Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints are prayed to for guidance and help as if they were minor gods themselves.
- the smallest combination of sounds (i.e., phonemes) that have meaning and cannot be broken into smaller meaningful units. Words can be one or more morphemes. For example, hot is one morpheme while hotdog is composed of two (hot and dog).
- planting a farm field with more than one species. This is a common practice among horticulturalists. Multi-cropping reduces the chances of total crop failure due to insects and other parasites. However, it is far more labor intensive to plant, tend, and harvest. See mono-cropping.
multiculturalism a "salad bowl" model of society in which the permanent existence of unassimilated and partially assimilated ethnic/racial minorities is accepted and encouraged. Those who advocate this model for America generally advocate providing special attention and assistance to minorities that had been underrepresented in the past. See melting pot.
- multinational corporation
a corporate business that has outgrown its national roots and identity as it became multinational with facilities in many countries and no overriding feeling of obligation or loyalty to any one of them. Such companies typically move their production facilities from nation to nation in response to labor costs and tax advantages. As a result, they are generally independent and beyond the control of any one national political system. Multinational corporations have had a major impact on previously isolated indigenous societies in the late 20th century. Multinational corporations are also known as transnational corporations.
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- N -
- extreme loyalty and devotion to a nation and its interests, usually at the expense of other nations or societies.
national personality type
see millenarian movement.
the residence pattern in which a bride and groom remain in their own separate family's households or compounds after their marriage rather than occupy a residence together. The children born of this union usually stay in their mother's home, which becomes a de facto matricentric residence.
naturalistic medical system
a medical system that explains illness as being due to impersonal, mechanistic causes in nature that can be potentially understood and cured by the application of the scientific method of discovery. Typical causes accepted in naturalistic medical systems include organic breakdown or deterioration, obstruction, injury, imbalance, malnutrition, and parasites. Students learning to be doctors or nurses in medical schools throughout the modern world are taught this kind of naturalistic explanation. However, there are other kinds of naturalistic medical systems also in use today. In Latin America, many people still also rely on humoral pathology to explain and cure their illnesses. This is especially true in rural areas. See personalistic medical system.
- negative reciprocity
an attempt to get someone to exchange something he or she may not want to give up or an attempt to get a more valued thing than you give in return. This may involve trickery, coercion, or hard bargaining. At times, negative reciprocity does not involve taking advantage of someone. In fact, someone may willingly give you more than you believe that you are giving in return. For example, a poor student wanting to go to an expensive university might be polite and respectful toward a rich uncle with the hope that he will help out financially. That uncle may gladly pay for his nephew's or niece's education in return because of the attention and recognition that he receives. The money is relatively unimportant to him compared to the respect and attention that is offered. See reciprocity.
- the residence pattern in which a married couple establishes a new residence independent of both their relatives. This pattern is now common in North America and other industrialized nations in which the importance of kinship is minimized.
- see pastoral nomadism.
an economy with a low level of technological knowledge and a preoccupation with the daily and, at most, seasonal food supply because techniques for long term preservation of food are generally inadequate. Work teams are small and usually only include members of the local community. Large-scale collaboration on subsistence jobs is of short duration if it occurs at all because most tasks are relatively simple and require only a few people. Work related interactions between people are of a face-to-face personal kind. People who work together hunting, gathering, herding, or tending crops are usually kinsmen or lifelong friends and neighbors. Little or no attempt is made to calculate the contribution of individuals or to calculate individual shares. Social pressure generally obligates individuals to freely share food and other products of their labor with whomever needs it or asks for it in the community. This operates as an economic leveling mechanism. As a result, there is little or no possibility of saving and becoming more wealthy than anyone else. Subsequently, the incentive to work is not only derived from a desire to acquire what is being produced. There also is the pleasure of working with friends and relatives. In addition there is potential for increased social prestige from doing the job well. Impersonal commercial exchanges rarely occur in non-market economies. They usually take the form of either barter or gifts. Every household usually provides for its daily needs from its own production. Non-market economies can only function successfully in isolation. They have always been destroyed by prolonged contact with societies that have market economies.
the conceptions of appropriate and expected behavior that are held by most members of the society. Norms are also referred to as "social norms."
a family consisting of a man, woman, and their children. We are born into our "nuclear family of orientation" and we have children in our "nuclear family of procreation." Parents may think of themselves as being members of both of these families at the same time. See matricentric family.
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- O -
The Old World is Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Americas are conventionally referred to as the New World. This distinction is largely an ethnocentric reflection of the European origin of our modern sciences and geography.
Omaha naming system a patrilineally based kin naming system in which relatives are lumped together on the basis of descent and gender. Siblings and parallel cousins of the same gender are given the same term of reference (5 = male and 6 = female). Father and father's brother also have the same kin term (1). Other people in ego's mother's patrilineage are lumped across generations (2 = female and 4 = male).
- 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
- a supreme god who established the order of the universe in the distant past and is now remote from earthly activities and concerns ("otiose" is Greek for "at rest). As a result, otiose deities are usually almost ignored in favor of lesser gods who take an interest in the everyday affairs of humans.
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- P -
an epidemic that becomes unusually widespread and even global in its reach.
groups that cross-cut a tribal society by bringing together a limited number of people, typically at least one from each family. Pantribal associations often are in the form of councils, groups of elder men or women who are members of the same age set, warrior societies, religious cults, or secret societies, . While these groups have specific purposes, they also serve to create order and a sense of unity for a tribe. Pantribal associations are also referred to as sodalities.
- parallel cousin
- parallel descent
- the cognatic pattern of descent in which males trace their descent through the male line of their father and females through the female line of their mother. Unlike bilineal descent, every individual is a member of only one unilineage.
participant observation physically and emotionally participating in the social interaction of another society on a daily basis in order to learn about its culture. In practice this usually requires living within the community as a member, learning their language, establishing close friendship ties, eating what they eat, and taking part in normal family activities. By becoming an active participant rather than simply an observer, ethnographers reduce the cultural distance between themselves and the host society.
- people who make their living by tending herds of large animals. The species of animals vary with the region of the world, but they are all domesticated herbivores that normally live in herds and eat grasses or other abundant plant foods (e.g., cattle, horses, sheep, reindeer). Traditional pastoralists are essentially subsistence herders who form small-scale societies. There are essentially two forms of pastoralism--nomadism and transhumance.
- pastoral nomadism
- traditional pastoralists who follow a seasonal migratory pattern that can vary from year to year. The timing and destinations of migrations are determined primarily by the needs of the herd animals for water and fodder. These nomadic societies do not create permanent settlements, but rather they live in tents or other relatively easily constructed dwellings the year round. Pastoralist nomads are usually self-sufficient in terms of food and most other necessities. See transhumance.
a multi-generational group of relatives who are related by patrilineal descent. Patrilineages usually consist of a number of related nuclear families descended from the same man.
unilineal descent that follows the male line. With this pattern, people are related if they can trace descent through males to the same male ancestor. Both males and females inherit a patrilineal family membership but only males can pass it on to their descendants. Also known as "agnatic descent."
the residence pattern in which a newly married couple moves in with or near the groom's father's house. This keeps men near their male relatives, while women must leave their natal households. Patrilocal residence is strongly associated with patrilineal descent. Just over half of the world's societies have patrilocal residence.
people whose subsistence pattern involves diversified hunting and gathering on foot rather than horseback. The pedestrian hunting and gathering way of life was mobile. Most of these societies moved their camps several times a year and had temporary dwellings. The number of people living in a camp also often varied throughout the year depending on the local food supply. Material possessions were generally few and light in weight so that they could be transported easily. Subsistence tools included such things as simple digging sticks, baskets, spears, and bows and arrows that could be easily replaced when needed. This settlement flexibility is an efficient way of responding to changing environmental opportunities. (The word "pedestrian" is derived from the Latin word pedester meaning "on foot"). See foragers.
personalistic medical system
a medical system that explains illness as being due to acts or wishes of other people or supernatural beings and forces. There is no room for accidents. Adherents to personalistic medical systems believe that the causes and cures of illness are not to be found only in the natural world. Curers usually must use supernatural means to understand what is wrong with their patients and to return them to health. Typical causes of illness in personalistic medical systems include intrusion of foreign objects into the body by supernatural means, spirit possession, loss, or damage, and bewitching. Most of the non-western world traditionally accepted a personalistic explanation for illness. Today, it is mostly found among people in small-scale societies and some subcultures of larger nations. See naturalistic medical system.
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.
a set of personality traits and behavioral tendencies which are shared by a group of people.
the smallest unit of sound that can be altered to change the meaning of a word. In English, for example, the words pan and can have different meaning due to the fact that the initial sound, or phoneme, is different. Phonemes do not have meaning by themselves. The sounds represented by the p and c in the words above are meaningless alone but they can change the meaning of words.
the study of phonemes, or sounds, of language.
- physical anthropology
the study of the non-cultural, or biological, aspects of humans and near humans. Physical anthropologists are usually involved in one of three different kinds of research: 1) non-human primate studies (usually in the wild), 2) recovering the fossil record of human evolution, and 3) studying human biological diversity, inheritance patterns, and non-cultural means of adapting to environmental stresses. Physical anthropology is also referred to as biological anthropology.
a simplified, makeshift language that develops to fulfill the communication needs of people who have no language in common but who need to occasionally interact for commercial and other reasons. Pidgins combine a limited amount of the vocabulary and grammar of the different languages. People who use pidgin languages also speak their own native language. Over the last several centuries, dozens of pidgin languages developed as Europeans expanded out into the rest of the world for colonization and trade. There have been pidgins developed by non-European cultures as well.
- a harmless medical treatment that should have no effect on a patient's disease but actually improves his or her condition as a result of the belief that it will help. For example, a doctor could give patients harmless sugar pills and tell them that they are a powerful medicine. This placebo may actually make some of them feel better and even help them recover from their disease. It is assumed that the belief in the efficacy of a treatment can reduce the production of stress hormones and improve the immune system in some cases. The kind of placebo that works is highly culture related.
- large, labor-intensive farms that mostly produce fruit, sugar, fiber, or vegetable oil products for the international market. The laborers usually work for very low wages that keep them in poverty. Many of the plantations of Indonesia, the Philippines, Central America, the Caribbean, and West Africa are owned by multinational corporations such as Dole and the National Fruit Company. The net effect of this form of agriculture generally has been the flow of wealth from poor nations in the Southern Hemisphere to rich ones in the Northern Hemisphere.
- an idea or physical thing that is used by politicians as a tool for focusing the attention and emotions of people. It can be something as simple as the phrase "a chicken in every pot and a car in very garage" which was used by Herbert Hoover in his 1928 U.S. presidential election. It can be a call for change such as the replacement of a king with a legislature or conversion of "non-believers" to the "true-religion." National flags are often powerful political symbols.
- competition for power over people and things.
- the marriage of one woman to several men at the same time. This is a rare type of polygamy. It usually takes the form of "fraternal polyandry", which is brothers sharing the same wife.
- the marriage of one man to several women at the same time. This is the most common form of polygamy. It often takes the form of "sororal polygyny", which is two or more sisters married to the same man.
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. The indigenous peoples of Polynesia speak similar Polynesian languages.
a belief in more than one god. Hinduism is usually considered a polytheistic religion. However, the distinction between polytheism and monotheism can be a matter of focus. In India and Bali, Hindus can be observed fervently worshipping hundreds of different gods. This fits the classic description of a polytheistic religion. However, since the many gods are only different manifestations of the supreme god, Shiva (or Vishnu or Krishna ), Hinduism can also be interpreted as a monotheism.
a strong association between two different phenomena such that when one is the present, the other is as well. For example, in the United States today, people who have college degrees usually earn more money during their lifetimes than do people who have only gone to high school. It is important to keep in mind that a positive correlation does not necessarily imply a cause and effect relationship between the co-occurring phenomena. positive sanction
post partum sex taboo
- a prohibition against a husband and wife having sexual intercourse for a specified period of time following the birth of a child.
- a complex redistributive system that existed among some of the Indian cultures of the Northwest Coast of North America. This was a complex system of competitive feasting, speechmaking, and gift giving intended in part to enhance the status of the giver. For the Kwakiutl society, potlatches were important social gatherings held to celebrate major life events such as a son's marriage, the birth of a child, a daughter's first menses, and the initiation of a sister's son into a secret society. They also were used to assert or transfer ownership of economic and ceremonial privileges. It sometimes took years to accumulate the things needed for a big potlatch. Loans (with interest) had to be called in from relatives for this purpose. When all was ready, high ranking, influential people from the local and other communities were invited for several days of feasting and entertaining. Guests were seated according to their relative status. The host made speeches and dramatically gave gifts of food, Hudson Bay Company blankets, canoes, slaves, rare copper artifacts, and other valuable items to the guests. Those of higher status received more. The host was likely to also destroy money, waste fish oil by throwing it on a fire, and do other things to show that he was willing to economically bankrupt himself in order to increase his social status. The acceptance of the gifts was an affirmation of the host's generosity and subsequently of his increased status. The feast and the gifts essentially placed the guests in debt to their host until they could at some future time invite him to their own potlatch and give him more than he gave them--in essence a return on an investment. The potlatch served as a tool for one-upmanship for important Kwakiutl men.
the act of judging someone or some thing before the facts are known. Assuming that someone of a specific ethnic group or "race" will act in a particular way is an example of pre-judging them. When people from different groups have little or no contact with each other, they are likely to hold prejudicial views about each other and to act upon them. If the prejudicial views are inaccurate, they can be obstacles to productive dialog and understanding. See stereotype and discrimination.
- a religious leader who is part of an organized religion. Different religions have different terms for these individuals--they may be known as rabbis, ministers, mullahs, Imams, or other terms. They are the keepers of the sacred law and tradition. They are found mostly in large-scale societies. A female priests is often referred to as a priestess .
- a protein that has the ability to cause the cells that it invades to repeatedly duplicate it. Prions are responsible for causing kuru and other similar diseases. Apparently, prions are not effectively attacked by their host's immune system nor can they be killed with existing antibiotics, extreme heat, cold, or other normally lethal conditions. The word prion comes from "proteinaceous infectious particle."
- probability sample
- a sample of people that is carefully chosen so that it will be representative of the entire community or population. Choosing who will be in the sample can be difficult, especially at the beginning of an ethnographic research project when the first contacts are made and the composition of the society and its culture are still poorly understood. Depending on the nature of the society and the research questions, one of three different kinds of probability samples may be employed. They are random sample, stratified sample, and judgment sample.
- production (systems of)
- how food and other necessities are created in a society. See systems of distribution and exchange.
- see bride price.
- an individual who receives divine revelation concerning a restructuring of religious practices and usually of society as well. Prophets call for dramatic change while priesthoods usually act as conservative forces in preserving long-standing traditions. Not surprisingly, prophets are usually outside of the priesthood and are seen by priests as irritating, disruptive trouble-makers. See millenarian movement.
- proprietary deed
- the concept of ownership in which an owner of property has the right to keep it whether or not it is being used or actively possessed. For instance, an individual may own several houses or land and never use them. In addition, the owner has the right to pass the property on to descendents or to others chosen by the owner. In fact, ownership is not always absolute in large-scale societies today. In the United States, for instance, ownership may be forfeited to the government under certain circumstances (e.g., eminent domain, failure to pay taxes, or use in the commission of a felony). See usufruct.
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a biological subspecies, or variety, that consists of a more or less distinct population with anatomical traits that distinguish it clearly from other races. The human "races" commonly assumed to exist are mostly socio-cultural creations rather than biological realities. They are ethnic groups that are defined on the basis of both physical and cultural characteristics.
a relatively benign form of using "racial" distinctions, such as skin color and facial characteristics, for reference purposes. An example of racialism is identifying an accident victim as "an elderly Asian male." In America, "racial" traits are commonly used along with age and gender distinctions when referring to people who we do not know personally. See racism.
harmful prejudice, discrimination, and/or persecution based on presumed ethnic/racial differences. An example of racism is not hiring someone for a job because of his or her skin color. Similarly, giving someone a preference in hiring due to skin color can be racism if people with other skin colors are disadvantaged by this act. See racialism.
surprise predatory attacks directed against other communities or societies. The primary objective of raiding usually is to plunder and then to escape unharmed with the stolen goods. In some societies, the goal is also to kill men in the target community as well as kidnap women and children. Raiders are virtually always men. Raiding is a more organized form of aggression than feuding. Violent encounters are often the result of opportunistic meetings in the case of feuding. In contrast, raids are planned in advance. Another difference is that raids occur in a finite time period. They are rarely sustained activities like feuds.
- random sample
- a probability sample in which people are selected on a totally random, unbiased basis. This can be accomplished by assigning a number to everyone in a community and then letting a computer or hand calculator generate a series of random numbers. If a 10% sample is needed, then the first 10% of the random numbers will indicate who will be the focus of the research. This sampling approach is reasonable for ethnographic research only when there does not seem to be much difference between the people in the population. Since this is rarely the case, random sampling is not often used for ethnographic research.
"reasonable man" standard of law
the idea that legal judgments should be made based on what would be acceptable to a reasonable man in the society. Jury systems in the Western World are based on this assumption.
reciprocity (or reciprocal exchange)
a relationship between people that involves a mutual exchange of gifts of goods, services, or favors. Inherent in reciprocal gift giving is the obligation to return a gift in a culturally appropriate manner. Failure to do so is likely to end the reciprocal relationship. Reciprocity requires adequacy of response but not necessarily mathematical equality. Reciprocity is a common way of creating and continuing bonds between people. See generalized reciprocity, balanced reciprocity, and negative reciprocity.
redistribution (or redistributive exchange)
an economic exchange intended to distribute a society's wealth in a different way than exists at present. In the Western World, charity and progressive income tax systems are examples of redistributive exchanges. Progressive income taxes are intended to make people with greater wealth give at higher rates than those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Some of the tax money is then allocated to help the poorer members of society. The intended net effect is to reduce or prevent extremes of wealth and poverty. Some of the most elaborate redistributive systems have been in small-scale societies with non-market economies (e.g., potlatch).
a dialect associated with a geographically isolated speech community. An example is the Texas in contrast to the upper midwestern American dialect.
- a system of beliefs usually involving the worship of supernatural forces or beings.
- revitalization movement
- a millenarian movement in which the followers focus on recreating and revitalizing their indigenous culture in response to tremendous pressure to acculturate to the culture of another society that dominates them.
- rites of passage
- ritual ceremonies intended to mark the transition from one phase of life to another.
- stylized and usually repetitive acts that take place at a set time and location. They almost always involve the use of symbolic objects, words, and actions. For example, going to church on Sunday is a common religious ritual for Christians around the world.
- 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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- the early 20th century idea of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf that language predetermines what we see in the world around us. In other words, language acts like a polarizing lens on a camera in filtering reality--we see the real world only in the terms and categories of our language. This hypothesis was objectively tested by anthropologists in the 1960's. That research indicated that Sapir and Whorf went too far. It is now clear that the terminology used by a culture primarily reflects that culture's interests and concerns. All normal humans share similar sense perceptions due to the fact that their sense organs are essentially the same. Therefore, they can understand and perceive the categories of reality of another culture, if they are explained.
- scientific method
- the method of learning what is unknown in the natural world by formulating a hypothesis to explain observable or measurable facts and then collecting data through experiments and further observation to answer research questions based on the hypothesis. If the results of the tests support the hypothesis, it may become a theory. If the tests do not support the hypothesis, new hypotheses are developed and tested. The scientific method is the objective method by which old assumptions are challenged and scientific knowledge grows.
relating to worldly rather than religious things.
a person who is not part of an organized religion and is in direct contact with the spirit world, usually through a trance state. A shaman has spirit helpers at his or her command to carry out curing, divining, and bewitching. Shamanistic power is acquired individually, usually in physical and/or mental solitude and isolation from other humans. Spirits or some other supernatural entities are revealed to the shaman and he or she learns how to control them. Training by older shamans usually occurs to help the apprentice shaman understand and use his or her powers.
discrimination based on gender. An example of sexism is excluding people from promotion to executive positions in a corporation due to their gender.
- shifting agriculture
- the horticultural practice of shifting from one field to another when crop production drops due to the inevitable depletion of soil nutrients. Shifting agriculture is also referred to as "swidden cultivation" . See slash and burn.
- brothers or a sisters.
- slash and burn
- the method used by horticulturalists to clear fields of heavy vegetation in preparation for planting new crops. Brush and small trees are cut down and allowed to dry out in place. They are then burned. This simultaneously clears the field of all but large trees and adds ash to the soil surface. The ash acts as a fertilizer. No other fertilizer is applied to the field. As a result, soil productivity lasts only for a few years. Subsequently, horticulturalists practice shifting agriculture.
- small-scale farming
- farming using horticultural techniques.
- 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 band or village level. Such societies lack cities as well as complex economies and governments. Kinship relationships are usually highly important in comparison to large-scale societies.
- social anthropology
- social dialect
- a dialect spoken by a speech community that is socially isolated from others. Social dialects are mostly based on class, ethnicity, gender, age, or particular social situations. The upper class English "public school" way of talking is an example of a social dialect.
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.
- social velocity
- the common social phenomenon in which disruptive interpersonal conflicts increasingly occur as the number of people in a society grows. Richard Lee coined this term as result of observing the phenomenon among the ju/'hoansi of southwest Africa. Band fissioning occurred before a community reached the full carrying capacity of the environment. Families decided to leave and form their own bands because the conflict settling mechanisms were not adequate to resolve differences. It was not food scarcity but, rather, social discord that was the cause of the break-up.
- a group of interacting organisms. In the case of humans, societies are groups of people who directly or indirectly interact with each other. People in human societies also generally perceive that their society is distinct from other societies in terms of shared traditions and expectations.
a rule specifying that a widower should marry the sister of his deceased wife. This is usually favored by their respective parents because it continues the bond between their families. Where polygyny exists, an "anticipatory sororate" is often practiced. That is to say, there is a degree of sexual permissiveness allowed between a husband and his wife's younger sister in anticipation of a presumed future marriage between them.
- specialized foraging
- a foraging subsistence pattern in which a limited number of species are hunted or gathered. Aquatic and equestrian foragers usually are specialized in their food quest. Specialized foraging can be highly productive but is risky in environments that experience periodic droughts or other significant environmental changes that affect the food supply. See diversified foraging.
special purpose money
objects that serve as a medium of exchange in only limited contexts. In societies that have it, usually there are certain goods and services that can be purchased only with their specific form of special purpose money. If you don't have it, you cannot acquire the things that it can purchase. You may not be able to easily obtain the special purpose money either. The Tiv people of central Nigeria provide an example. In the past, they used brass rods to buy cattle and to pay bride price. These rods were acquired by trade from Sahara Desert trading peoples who ultimately obtained them from the urbanized societies of North Africa. If a man could not acquire brass rods by trade or borrowing them, he would be prevented from acquiring cattle and getting married. See general purpose money.
- a broad term referring to patterned verbal behavior. See language.
- a supernatural being who has less power than a god or goddess. It may be an ancestral spirit or simply a spirit that inhabits a natural object or even all of nature. A belief in spirits is the central tenet of animism.
- the level of political integration in which a society has a permanent, highly centralized political organization with an elite social class of rulers at the top. The bulk of the people are at the bottom of the pyramid of power. Between them and the rulers is a bureaucracy of officials who run the state on a daily basis. States with hereditary rulers first appeared 4000-5000 years ago in intensive agricultural societies of 10's to 100's of thousands of people. These were the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq), India, China, Mesoamerica, and the Andean mountain region of Western South America. Modern nations also have state levels of political organization, but rulers are generally elected now.
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.
a fixed notion or conception of people based on their group identity. For instance, assuming that a particular Chinese businessman is going to be greedy and dishonest because you believe that all Chinese businessmen are. Stereotyping is often at the base of prejudice and discrimination resulting from it.
a genuine invention sparked by an idea that diffused in from another culture. The invention of a unique Cherokee writing system by Sequoyah around 1821 after seeing English is an example.
a probability sample in which people are selected because they come from distinct sub-groups within the society. This approach may be used by ethnographers if the information that is being sought is not specialized knowledge such as the esoteric activities of a secret organization with restricted membership.
the area surrounding the arctic circle. In the Western Hemisphere, this includes the northern regions of Alaska and Canada. Subarctic also refers to the cold climates of these regions. Most subarctic regions are tundra.
a regional, social, or ethnic group that is distinguishable from other groups in a society. Members of a subculture often share a common identity, food tradition, dialect or language, and other cultural traits that come from their common ancestral background and experience. Subcultures are most likely to exist in complex, diverse societies, such as the U.S. and Canada, in which people have come from many different parts of the world.
the region of Africa south of the Sahara desert.
the main sources of food used by a society. The term "subsistence base" is often used interchangeably with subsistence pattern.
the methods a society uses to obtain its food and other necessities (e.g., foraging, pastoralism, horticulture, and intensive agriculture). The term "subsistence pattern" is often used interchangeably with subsistence base. Sudanese naming system a kin naming system in which kinsmen are not lumped together under the same terms of reference. Each category of relative is given a distinct term based on genealogical distance from ego and the side of the family. Also referred to as the "descriptive kin naming system."
literally "fright or sudden fear" in Spanish. It is a kind of personalistic illness found among some Latinos in the United States and parts of Latin America. The presumed cause is the loss of one's soul due to incidents that have a destabilizing effect on an individual (e.g., being thrown from a horse, having a nighttime encounter with a ghost, or being in a social situation that causes fear or anger). Typical symptoms of susto are restlessness during sleep as well as being listless and weak when awake, lack an appetite, and little interest in one's own personal appearance. Susto is also known as perdida de la sombra (literally "loss of the shadow" in Spanish).
- a sound or thing which has meaning given to it by the user. Human languages are systems of symbols.
sympathetic magic magic based on the principle that "like produces like." For instance, whatever happens to an image of someone will also happen to them. Sympathetic magic is also referred to as "imitative" magic. syncretism an amalgamation or incorporation of traditional and introduced alien culture traits. In Southern Mexico and Guatemala, the Maya Indian combination of mutually exclusive indigenous religious and European Christian beliefs to create a new composite religion is an example. Syncretism is often a psychologically more satisfying alternative to rapid acculturation that totally replaces indigenous cultural beliefs and customs since one's own cultural identity is maintained.
- the standardized set of rules that determine how words should be combined to make sense to speakers of a language. Along with morphology, syntax makes up grammar.
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- referring to the regions of the world mostly in the middle latitudes where winter temperatures regularly fall below freezing and summers are warm. In the Northern Hemisphere, the temperate regions are south of the colder subarctic and north of the subtropics. Temperate regions often have deciduous and evergreen forests, but they are too cold to grow such tree crops as oranges and avocados outside of a greenhouse.
a set of facts or principles that explain phenomena in the natural world. For instance the heliocentric theory in astronomy proposes that the sun is at the center of our solar system and that the earth and other planets revolve around it.
- third world
- Societies that are underdeveloped.
a crime against individuals or their property rather than against the society as a whole. In modern Western societies, torts are settled in civil cases rather than criminal ones. Torts include any damage or injury done willfully or negligently that harms another individual. See crime.
a mythical clan founding ancestor. Totem origins are so far back in time that they are often believed to be non-human. Totems are used as symbols of clans. When they are believed to be particular kinds of animals or plants, killing or eating them is usually not allowed. Totems are also referred to as "totemic emblems" .
- 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.
activity that results in an altered state of consciousness in which an individual is in a hypnotic-like mental state or at least profoundly absorbed. This is a common tool used by shamans and others all over the world to enter the spirit world. Common techniques used to achieve a trance state include fasting, self-torture, sensory deprivation, breathing exercises and meditation, prolonged repetitive ritual dancing and/or drumming, and hallucinogenic drugs.
what happens to an individual when he or she moves to a new society and adopts their culture. See acculturation.
a cyclical pattern of migrations made by some pastoralists that usually take them to cool highland valleys in the summer and warmer lowland valleys in the winter. This is seasonal migration between the same two locations in which they have regular encampments or stable villages often with permanent houses. See pastoral nomadism.
see multinational corporation.
a person who wears the clothes and bodily adornment normally associated with the other gender. Transvestitism, or cross dressing, is not necessarily connected with homosexuality.
- a profound loyalty to one's tribe, ethnic group, or nation and a rejection of others. Those who promote tribalism generally believe that globalism is a threat that must be overcome. A pattern of establishing ethnically "pure" nations through aggressive "ethnic cleansing" occurred in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990's. Similar attempts to carve out tribal based nations have occurred in the former republics of the Soviet Union and in a number of African nations. Tribalism is a counter force to globalization.
the level of political integration in which a society uses pantribal associations in order to provide unity and common interest. Tribes are more complex acephalous societies than bands due largely to the fact that they have more people and this new integrating mechanism that helps to prevent the disintegration of society. Tribes often have a headman who must lead through his powers of persuasion rather than clear authority to enforce his decisions. Tribes have been common among horticultural, pastoral, equestrian foraging, and rich aquatic foraging societies.
payments made by a defeated people to their conqueror.
treeless regions with permanently frozen soil. Tundra environments are found in the subarctic regions of the world and in some high mountains.
a term used to refer to North American Indian homosexual men of the Great Plains and elsewhere in the West. In the past, two-spirited men led their lives as transvestites and were given respected social statuses within their societies. Formerly, they were known by the somewhat derogatory French term "berdache", which in turn came from an Arabic word meaning a slave. Today, some homosexual Native American women also refer to themselves as being two-spirited.
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a nation or society in which most of the people are persistently poor due to the way they are integrated into the world economic system. They usually provide cheap raw materials and labor for the rich, developed nations and purchase their manufactured goods at high prices. The economies of underdeveloped societies are largely dependent on the richer nations. Bangladesh and Guatemala are examples of underdeveloped nations. They are also referred to as "third world" or "developing" nations. See undeveloped nation.
- underrepresented minority
- a minority group that has a significantly smaller ratio of its members in education, government, business, etc. than other groups. Underrepresentation usually results from poverty and/or discrimination. African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are considered by the national government to be underrepresented minorities in America today.
a largely isolated nation or society that has a low technological level but is economically self-reliant. They are not participants in the world economic system. Such societies mainly consist of indigenous peoples who have subsistence economies. By definition, undeveloped nations are not underdeveloped. Tibet and Afghanistan up until the 1950's are examples of undeveloped nations.
a multi-generational group of relatives who are related by unilineal descent. Unlike clans, phratries, and moieties, members of unilineages usually know the precise genealogical link to the founder. Unilineages usually consist of a number of related nuclear families. See also matrilineage and patrilineage.
- the concept of ownership in which an owner normally can "own" land and other substantial property only as long as it is being used or actively possessed. The society as a whole is the real owner. The individual "owner" is responsible for looking after the property for the society--he or she essentially only has stewardship over it. If the "owner" no longer needs the property or dies, it is reallocated by the society to others. Usufruct is most commonly found in small-scale societies with non-market economies. See proprietary deed.
- uxorilocal residence
- the residence pattern in which a man moves into his wife's home. If it is with her mother instead, the residence pattern is called matrilocal.
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the residence pattern in which a woman moves into her husband's home. If it is with his father instead, the residence pattern is called patrilocal.
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organized, large-scale combat usually between clearly recognizable armies. A significant portion of a population takes part in combat or support activities, often for years. Soldiers are trained and equipped for combat. Warfare is a larger scale, more organized and sustained form of fighting than feuding and raiding.
- weregeld (also weregild and wergeld; literally "blood money")
- the material payment that a murderer must pay to the relatives of his or her victim as compensation for the crime. Once the weregeld has been paid, the crime is essentially expunged and there is no other punishment. The term comes from Old English words meaning "man" + "gold". In small-scale societies, all crimes are usually considered to be torts and weregeld is viewed as the appropriate resolution for them. Weregeld is still an important legal principle for murder cases in some conservative Moslem nations today. Survivals of this legal concept also can be seen in financial settlements for civil suits in the United States and other Western nations.
European cultures and cultures derived from Europe, such as the United States and Canada. Western societies predominantly speak a European language and maintain European-like economic, political, legal, and educational systems. These societies have been the principle sources of pressure towards globalization in the late 20th century. The western cultures are also referred to as the "western world."
a culture bound syndrome reported occasionally among the Northern Algonkian language group of Indians (Chippewa , Ojibwa , and Cree ) living around the Great Lakes of Canada and the United States. Windigo psychosis usually developed in the winter when families were isolated by heavy snow for months in their cabins and had inadequate food supplies. The initial symptoms of this form of mental illness were usually poor appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Subsequently, the individual would develop a characteristic delusion of being transformed into a Windigo monster. These supernatural beings eat human flesh. People who have Windigo psychosis increasingly see others around them a being edible. At the same time they have an exaggerated fear of becoming cannibals.
- actions involving magic or supernatural powers usually undertaken for the purpose of doing harm. This is a limited anthropological definition that does not describe the activities of modern Western European and North American so-called witches or Wicca. The latter are members of an organized religion.
- 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. They have a determinate influence on our observable behavior, both verbal and non-verbal.
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Copyright © 2002-2012 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.