Chapter 6: Anthropological Explanations
Instructor's Manual


Instructor's Manual

CHAPTER SIX
ANTHROPOLOGICAL EXPLANATIONS

CHAPTER OUTLINE

Nineteenth-Century Evolutionism
    Unilineal Evolution: Tylor
    Unilineal Evolution: Morgan
    Unilineal Evolution : A Critique

Diffusionism
    British Diffusionism
    German Diffusionism
    The Limitations and Strengths of Diffusionism

Historical Particularism
    Boas Versus the Unilineal Evolutionists

Functionalism: British Anthropology
    Structural Functionalism: Radcliffe-Brown
    Psychological Functionalism: Malinowski
    The Limits of Functionalism

Twentieth-Century Evolutionism
    Steward and Cultural Ecology
    The Strengths of Neo-evolutionism
    Criticisms of Cultural Ecology

Cultural Materialism

Marxist Anthropology
    Evaluation of Marxist Anthropology

Sociobiology
    A Case Study: Sexual Behavior
    Inclusive Fitness and Kin Selection
    Sociobiology: A Critique

Symbolic Anthropology
    Criticisms of Symbolic Anthropology

Materialism Versus Culturalism

CHAPTER OBJECTIVES

Based on thorough reading and careful consideration of Chapter Six, students should be able to:

  1. Compare, contrast, and critique the nineteenth-century unilinear evolutionism of Tylor and Morgan.

  2. Define diffusionism, its strengths and limitations. Compare and contrast German diffusionism and British diffusionism.

  3. Define historical particularism, discuss its strengths and weaknesses, and the contributions of Franz Boas to anthropological thought.

  4. Define functionalism; compare and contrast the structural-functionalism of Radcliffe-Brown with the psychological functionalism of Malinowski.

  5. Compare and contrast the neo-evolutionism of White with the cultural ecology of Steward.

  6. Explain the differences in views of sociobiologists and cultural ecologists.

  7. Define and discuss the cultural materialism strategy of Marvin Harris, and the concepts of infrastructure, structure, and superstructure.

  8. Define and explain the strengths and weaknesses of Marxist anthropology.

  9. Define sociobiology, including the terms inclusive fitness and kin selection.

  10. Define and analyze the methodology of symbolic anthropology.

  11. Debate the arguments between materialism and culturalism in anthropology.

LECTURE AND DISCUSSION TOPICS

Each of these topics is intended to generate ideas for either a lecture/recitation format or discussion in the classroom. For most topics, students should be able to respond and participate in discussions based solely on reading the text. For others, you may need to provide further reading or other forms of information so that students can develop some personal perspective and become equipped to make independent decisions about the topics.

  1. Discuss the theoretical stance of the nineteenth-century evolutionism in terms of the question: "Why are societies at similar or different levels of evolution and development?" Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the work of Morgan on kinship and Tylor on societal evolution.

  2. Explain the basic tenets of diffusionism, and compare and contrast British and German diffusionism. Discuss how diffusionism has remained very strong in some quarters in explaining the archaeological record. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of diffusionism.

  3. Lecture on the impact of Franz Boas and historical particularism. Emphasize the impact of actually going into the field and getting empirical data through participant observation and other methods. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of historical particularism.

  4. Lecture on functionalism. Compare and contrast the structural-functionalism of A. R. Radcliff-Brown with the psychological functionalism of Bronislaw Malinowski. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of functionalism.

  5. Lecture on the general idea of theory and how theory helps us. You could discuss one or more of the following questions:

    (a) What is the role of a theoretical orientation in deriving theories?

    (b) What is the relationship between a theory and a hypothesis?

    (c) What is the relationship between hypotheses and associations?

    (d) What is the role of measures in anthropological research?

    (e) What kinds of measures do anthropologists use?

    (f) Why do anthropologists use statistics?

    (g) what kinds of samples can be used in statistical research?

    (h) What do anthropologists mean by an "operational definition"?

    (i) How is an operational definition different from a more general definition?

    (j) How do cross-cultural researchers work with anthropological information?

    (k) What kinds of data are used in controlled comparison?

    (l) What kinds of data are used in ethnohistory?

    Some of these questions fit this chapter quite well, and others fit the next chapter.

  6. Lecture on twentieth-century evolutionism. Compare and contrast the neo-evolutionism of White with the cultural ecology of Steward. Show how the Shoshone case study supports Steward's ideas. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of neo-evolutionism and cultural ecology.

  7. Lecture on the cultural materialism of Marvin Harris. Discuss infrastructure, structure, and superstructure. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of cultural materialism.

  8. Describe Marxist anthropology. Explain Marx's historical materialism, or dialectic materialism. Show how Marxism is applied to anthropology.

  9. Lecture on sociobiology. Show how the case study on sexual behavior supports sociobiology. Explain what sociobiologists mean by inclusive fitness and kin selection. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of sociobiology.

  10. Describe symbolic anthropology and its methodology. Explain thick descriptions. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of symbolic anthropology.

  11. Discuss the division between materialism and culturalism and why this division occurs. Within the context of this discussion, explain your own theoretical orientation and why you hold it.

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

  1. Show one or more of the films listed under Resources below; discuss the material with your students.

  2. After discussing the chapter, have each student prepare to defend the theoretical school which she or he believes gives the most complete explanation of sociocultural phenomena. Divide the class into groups on this basis, have them debate their favorite theories among groups.

  3. Engage students in some hypothetical problems which might be considered by anthropologists. Taking different positions based on one theorist (or school), have students explain their position and ideas about the topic.

RESEARCH AND WRITING TOPICS

  1. Research and do a critical analysis and interaction paper on one or more of the following theoretical schools of anthropological thought: (a) unilineal evolutionism; (b) diffusionism; (c) historical particularism; (d) culture and personality; (e) functionalism (structural and psychological); (f) neo-evolutionism; (g) cultural ecology; (h) cultural materialism; (i) Marxist anthropology; (j) sociobiology; (k) symbolic anthropology; (l) psychological anthropology.

  2. Research and write comparative essays on the work of two or three of the following theorists: (a) Edward B. Tylor; (b) Lewis Henry Morgan; (c) Franz Boas; (d) A. R. Radcliffe-Brown; (e) Bronislaw Malinowsky; (f) Julian Steward; (g) Leslie White; (h) Marvin Harris; (i) G. Elliot Smith; (j) William J. Perry; (k) Wilhelm Schmidt; (l) Maurice Godelier; (m) Emmanuel Terray; (n) E. O. Wilson; and (o) Napoleon Chagnon.

  3. Research and write a paper on the general idea of theory and how theory helps us. You could work on one or more of the following questions:

    (a) What is the role of a theoretical orientation in deriving theories?

    (b) What is the relationship between a theory and a hypothesis?

    (c) What is the relationship between hypotheses and associations?

    (d) What is the role of measures in anthropological research?

    (e) What kinds of measures do anthropologists use?

    (f) Why do anthropologists use statistics?

    (g) What kinds of samples can be used in statistical research?

    (h) What do anthropologists mean by an "operational definition"?

    (i) How is an operational definition different from a more general definition?

    (j) How do cross-cultural researchers work with anthropological information?

    (k) What kinds of data are used in controlled comparison?

    (l) What kinds of data are used in ethnohistory?

  4. Research and write a position paper on the materialism versus culturalism debate.

PRINT AND NONPRINT RESOURCES

CHAGNON, N.A., AND W. IRONS, eds. 1979. Evolutionary Biology and Human Social Behavior. North Scituate, MA: Duxbury Press. A collection of papers by anthropologists who use sociobiology in their analysis of human behavior.

HARRIS, MARVIN. 1968. The Rise of Anthropological Theory. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. A thorough account of the history of anthropological thought from the perspective of a cultural materialist.

HARRIS, MARVIN. 1979. Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture. New York: Random House. A presentation of the cultural-materialist theory in comparison with other contending approaches. Harris tries to show the superiority of this theory when compared with structuralism, Marxist anthropology, sociobiology, and other perspectives.

HATCH ELVIN. 1973. Theories of Man and Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. A comprehensive summary of anthropological theories from the nineteenth century to the modern era. This book compares and contrasts the major theorists such as Tylor, Boas, Benedict, Malinowski, White, and Steward.

MANNERS, R.A., AND D. KAPLAN, eds. 1968. Theory in Anthropology: A Sourcebook. Chicago: Aldine. An anthology of readings consisting of different theoretical perspectives held by anthropologists.

TERRAY, EMMANUEL. 1972. Marxism and "Primitive" Societies: Two Studies. New York: Monthly Review Press. The application of neo-Marxist ideas to the analysis of small-scale societies. This book illustrates the development of Marxist anthropology in the 1970s.

INTERNET EXERCISES

  1. Look through the website http://www.indiana.edu/~wanthro/theory.htm. Click on Ann Reed and Applied Anthropology. How does the field of applied anthropology utilize anthropological theory as presented throughout this chapter? Can applied anthropology exist without knowledge of theory or is applied anthropology the application of theory to various situations?

  2. In the book Cultural Materialism, by Marvin Harris, he states…"science is still special in some way, that it is not "just another cultural practice."" This quote and a review of his book can be found at the following website: http://www.anatomy.usyd.edu.au/danny/book-reviews/h/Cultural_Materialism.html. What does he mean by this?

  3. Look at the following website: http://lycoskids.infoplease.com/ce5/CE006511.html. What was the reasoning of Franz Boas to establish a four-field approach in American anthropology?


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