Anthropological Thought Durkheim E 1895 Essay

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The Kula provides a different perspective on the purpose and function of economics. One could imagine our ancient ancestors beginning trade as a social event. When we lived in small bands, every band was self-sufficient and had to supply their own basic needs. I had never thought of economics as a purely social function until reading this article. It changed my perspective on the purpose of economics.

Article Summary #14

Radcliffe-Brown, a. (1940. On Joking Relationships. In Anthropological Theory: An Introductory Theory. Fourth Edition. R. McGee and Richard Warms. McGraw Hill.

Joking and teasing is a cultural construct that has different rules among different cultures. The purpose of this article is to examine the purpose and function of joking relationships among African Tribes. The author discovered that joking relationships among in-laws helps to relieve tension and diffuse what could be volatile social relations. Joking is not random and has a specific cultural purpose.

One of the key concepts examined by the author is that joking relationships can help to classify relationships between these kinsmen. The author discovered that strict rules must be adhered to in order to keep the peace. The second key concept is that joking follows strict rules and represents a real form of communication among tribe members. These joking relationships are an important part of culture. The main point that the author tried to convey is that joking relationships represent an alliance between two people. This alliance can lead to an exchange of goods and services. Joking serves as a type of bonding among tribesmen. A Joking relationship differs from a contractual obligation and has a different social meaning.

In Western society, we tend to think of joking as a form of entertainment. The joke at someone's expense can be taken as an insult. It is seldom taken as a compliment. This difference in social function demonstrates that the same action can have different meanings among different cultures. This was an interesting point in that it makes one think outside of their own culture and treat the action objectively. Joking can be seen as a cultural exchange in both cultures, but in the African tribes, its meaning is almost opposite that assigned to it in Western cultures.

Article Summary #15

Benedict, R. (1930). Psychological Types in the cultures of the Southwest. In Anthropological Theory: An Introductory Theory. Fourth Edition. R. McGee and Richard Warms. McGraw Hill

The purpose of this article is to explain key differences between the Southwestern tribes of the United States and other Native American cultures. The article focuses on the lack of intoxication or vision as a means to achieve religious ecstasy. The author then delves into a discussion about the intoxicants and methods used by surrounding tribes. It dissolves into a discussion about various types of achieving religious experience in other cultures.

The first concept of the research is that the Southwestern tribes have a more highly developed set of ritual than other tribes. Almost every aspect of their lives is ritualized. The second key concept examines how the pueblo tribes differ from neighboring tribes in their lack of use in intoxicants for ritual purposes. This is contrasted to the Pima that exercise heavy use of intoxicants in their ceremony. The third key concept in the article is how the Pueblo people differ from their neighbors in other ways as well. For instance, the Mundugumor only allow women to fish, a task assigned to men in many tribes.

This research highlighted the differences in meaning that can be assigned to various activities according to culture. I found it interesting that the same activity or action can be viewed in an entirely different light, according to one's culture. It is easy to imagine how these differences could cause conflict when two different people came together. Globalization is making us more homogeneous and we are having to make compromises as to the interpretation of various cultural actions. It is important to remember that when we are in a cultural exchange, we must be careful not to allow our own interpretation of the events cloud the real meaning behind gestures and actions.

Article Summary #16

White, L. (1943). Energy and Evolution of Culture. In Anthropological Theory: An Introductory Theory. Fourth Edition. R. McGee and Richard Warms. McGraw Hill.

White's purpose is to define what is meant by culture. In this article, culture is defined by behavior. This behavior is meant to fulfill two different types of needs. The first type of need is filled by drawing on one's inner emotions, such as singing, dancing and myth-making. The second type of need is fulfilled by drawing from the external world, such as clothing or food. White talks about man's culture in terms of energy flow through the system.

The first concept in the article goes into a lengthy discussion of the meaning of culture in relation to its fulfillment of human needs. The second concept discussed places culture in the context of energy flow and transfer within the system. According to this concept, the establishment of culture is based largely on the control of energy. White then goes into a lengthy discussion about the energy flow required in a hunter-gatherer society. Energy is only obtained from an animal or plant when it ceases to be such. Man derives his energy by taking that of another.

It is difficult to argue the primary concept of the White's paper from a theoretical standpoint. However, the extent to which the author relies on this energy exchange as the basis for society does so to the extent that it excludes almost all other factors. The author argues whether technology is a result of culture or whether culture develops because of technology. One of the key points that was missed by the author is that no reliable means was found to measure this energy expenditure.

Article Summary #17

Steward, J. (1955). The Patrilineal Band. In Anthropological Theory: An Introductory Theory. Fourth Edition. R. McGee and Richard Warms. McGraw Hill

The purpose of this article is to explore the development and purpose of the patrilineal band. The author proposes that this social structure resulted from an ecological need. The article also proposes that this social structure represents a level of sociocultural integration that is higher than the traditional Shoshoni family structure. The author surmises that patrilineal family structure developed from archaic times.

The first concept of the paper is that patrilineal bands are generally sparse, ranging over a very small area for food and sustenance. The second observation was that exogamy is required, as all of the women in the band are patrilineally related to the men. The concept and rules surrounding the development of Australian aborigines and the Ojibway developed from the concept of the patrilineal band and the need to bring in new genetic material. The third key concept that the author makes is that the patrilineal band and crossing rules within it are the extension of an innate biological need to diversify the genetic material within a group.

In this day of equality of the genders, it is difficult to remember that our society is still basically a male dominated society. As the band became less localized, it no longer needed the formal structure to make certain that in-breeding did not occur. Today, that is hardly a consideration. The necessity of the patrilineal band decreased as the size of the family structure grew. One of the key reasons for the shift in society from the patrilineal band to a more equal approach to society is that the necessity for the patrilineal band may have diminished as the population increased to the point where crossing within the group would seem unlikely.

Article Summary #18

Wolf, E. (1966). Peasantry and Its Problems. Peasants. In Anthropological Theory: An Introductory Theory. Fourth Edition. R. McGee and Richard Warms. McGraw Hill

The purpose of this article is to explore the purpose and place of the peasantry in the larger picture of the culture. In a primitive culture, the entire society must be involved in some form of communal agricultural activity. In the primitive culture, a more egalitarian approach to distribution of wealth is achieved. Class structure and a division between the wealthy class and the poor class is a sign of a developed society.

The first concept is that peasantry is the result of societal development and differentiation into class structure. The second concept is the in both primitive and advanced cultures, it is the peasantry that supplies the food for all classes. The peasantry produced the food. However, in an advanced society, the peasantry do not receive the highest reward for their efforts. The third concept is that the size and composition of the peasant family determines that ability to produce food for the community. Therefore, large families are needed to supply the needs of the peasant family and the community.

This article reminded me of the situation within our own country. Those that…[continue]

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