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Chapter 1: A Definition

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Reading Assignment: Chapter 1: Anthropology - A Definition

When you have finished this lesson you will be able to define anthropology as a discipline and describe the diversity and interrelatedness of anthropological research, and enumerate the history of anthropology, discuss the methods of anthropological research, and enumerate the subdivisions of anthropology.

You will also be able to analyze fieldwork in the context of the subdivisions of anthropology, discuss the benefits and limitations of participant observation, explain the basic ethics of anthropological reseacrh, and identify the uses of cross-cultural comparison.

Assignment Overview

MCQ   ::  Matching   ::  True/False  ::   Short Essay

MCQ - Chapter 1: Anthropology - A Definition

1. Which of the following correctly describes how anthropology compares with other fields that study human beings?

a. Anthropology is more diverse in the topics it undertakes to study.
b. Anthropology is highly specialized in its focus.
c. Anthropologists study each aspect of the human condition in isolation from other aspects.
d. Anthropologists study each aspect of the human condition only in its historical context.

2. Ethnographers differ from ethnologists in which of the following ways?

a. Ethnologists work in the field gathering data; ethnographers write books analyzing it.
b. Ethnographers gather data; ethnologists do comparative analyzes of that data.
c. Ethnologists study animal behavior; ethnographers describe human customs.
d. Ethnographers describe human behavior; ethnologists interpret human communication.

3. Which of the following is the strongest factor in keeping the different subdivisions of anthropology united in one discipline?

a. They are all found in universities.
b. They are all interested in human beings.
c. They all relate their research to the broader picture of the human condition.
d. They all use fieldwork.

4. What characteristically anthropological research method is employed in all of the subfields of anthropology?

a. fieldwork
b. laboratory research
c. questionnaire research
d. library research

5. Which of the following is most characteristic of participant observation?

a. passive watching and note taking of people's public behavior
b. accurate recording of people's behavior when they are participating in the customs of their society
c. involvement in the day-to-day life of a society to gain fuller insight into the meanings of a people's way of life
d. data gathering sued by applied anthropologists to discover the most effective means of the changing their subject's customs

6. Anthropological ethics are usually predicated on the idea that:

a. first loyalties of the anthropological fieldworker mistle with the people being studied.
b. academic freedom ensures the rights of field workers to study any topic that interests them.
c. field workers have a professional obligation to publish all of the information they obtain about the peoples they study.
d. deception of subjects is necessary so that their behavior will not be influenced by research interests.

7. Which of the following is one method used by anthropologists to improve the general
validity of their interpretations?

a. cross-cultural research
b. participant observation research
c. questionnaire research
d. laboratory research

8. Boasian empiricism is best defined in which of the following ways?

a. a doctrine that empires were the most highly evolved stage of cultural development
b. a scientific approach that stresses careful observation and description over theorizing
c. a concept proposed by Franz Boas that ways of life are determined by racial heredity
d. a scientific approach that emphasizes the importance of careful and systematic theory building

9. The function of a custom is best defined as which of the following?

a. the motives of people who practice that custom
b. the contributions of a custom makes to the unity and survival of a society
c. the means by which a custom increases the complexity of a society
d. the psychological as opposed to material rewards that a custom has for its participants

10. Which of the following illustrates how the role of culture as an adaptive system influenced Dobuan life.

a. it was learned as a result of hostility in child rearing practices.
b. it was the result of historical accident.
c. it was the result of precarious living caused by the unproductive soil of the island on which they live.
d. it was an expression of their growing awareness of conflicting class interests.

Matching Exercise - Chapter 1: Anthropology - A Definition

1. ethnography
2. ethnology
4. function
5. interpretive anthropology
6. neofunctionalism
7. feminist anthropology
8. cultural ecology
9. American Anthropological Association
10. diffusion

11. cultural evolutionism
12. postmodernist anthropology
13. cognitive anthropology
14. applied anthropology
15. Sir Edward Burnett Tylor
16. Franz Boas
17. culture and personality
18. structuralism
19. British social anthropology
20. cultural area



an approach that analyzes how cultures are adapted to their natural environments



the movement of cultural traits from one culture to another



an approach that emphasizes the relativism of all ideologies and the role of the anthropological fieldworker in the dynamic of developing an understanding of a culture



an approach that emphasizes how each element of a culture relates meaningfully to its original context



the first anthropologist to hold an academic position in a university



the use of anthropological insights to solve practical human problems



the development of general laws of culture through the comparative study of descriptive data about many cultures



the major professional organization for U.S. anthropologists



an approach that emphasizes the role of gender in cultural systems



an American anthropologist who emphasized the importance of fieldwork



an approach that asserts that the tendency of the human mind to think in dualities expresses itself in the symbolism of every culture



a major collection of data about many cultures that is used to test the cross-cultural validity of ideas about relationships among various parts of culture



a geographical region within which individual cultures share many cultural characteristics



a description of a human way of life by a cultural anthropologist who has personally studied it



an approach that emphasizes the function of customs in maintaining the stability of social relationships



an approach that emphasized the influence of child-rearing customs on culture



an approach that examines how conflict may promote stability



the contributions of a custom makes to the unity and survival of a society



the dominant theoretical framework among nineteenth century anthropologists



an approach that attempts to systematically describe parts of a culture as they are perceived by their own participants

True/False - Chapter 1: Anthropology - A Definition






1. HOLISM is a concern for how all parts of a system are related to and influence one another.



2. In comparison with other fields, anthropology studies a broader range of societies over a greater period of time.



3. Anthropological linguists are chiefly interested in language for its own sake.



4. Male and female anthropologists are typically exposed to different data during their fieldwork.



5. Linnaeus’ publication Systema Naturae was an attempt to demonstrate that living species had evolved from common ancestors.



6. Physical anthropologists do not do fieldwork.



7. Most archaeologists would probably agree that the physical relationships between the artifacts are just as important as the artifacts themselves.



8. Anthropologists feel that they can best understand human beings by studying large populations.



9. Cross-cultural research is a means of determining whether relationships that appear to be valid in one culture hold true for others under like circumstances.



10. Applied anthropology is rapidly becoming a fifth major subdivision of the field.

Short Essay Questions - Chapter 1: Anthropology - A Definition

1. Eric Wolf has described anthropology as bridging the gulf between the humanities and the sciences. Explain briefly why anthropology can be considered both as one of the humanities and as one of the sciences.

2. In what ways is anthropology broader in scope than other fields that study human beings or human customs?

3. What is meant by when anthropologists say that they take a holistic view of the human condition? How does a holistic perspective add to the breadth of anthropology?

4. What are some of the specific skills and methods used by cultural anthropologists to learn about and document a way of life?

5. How does the work of anthropological linguists differ from that of linguists in other fields? How can learning the native language of a people benefit the research of a cultural anthropologist who plans to study them?

6. The specialized interests of cultural anthropologists, anthropological linguists, archaeologists, and biological anthropologists can be quite diverse. How does the field of anthropology maintain its unity as a single discipline?

7. What is applied anthropology and why is it becoming increasingly important as a new fifth subdivision of anthropology?

8. Define cultural relativism. Why is it important to the study of other cultures?

9. Why is cross-cultural research important to the goals of anthropology? What is the name of the major archive of cross‑cultural data?

10. How does the primary goal of a humanistic understanding of the human condition differ from that of a scientific understanding? Why can humanistic approaches to anthropology be said to be similar to the work of translating a foreign language?

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, January 04). Chapter 1: A Definition. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License