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Asking Questions About Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture

Second Edition

Robert L. Welsch, Luis A. Vivanco, and Agustín Fuentes

Publication Date - 25 September 2019

ISBN: 9780190057374

576 pages
8-1/2 x 11 inches

In Stock

From the authors of the highly acclaimed Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity, this general anthropology text--cowritten with renowned scholar Agustín Fuentes--takes a holistic approach that emphasizes critical thinking, active learning, and applying anthropology to solve contemporary human problems


This general anthropology text takes a holistic approach that emphasizes critical thinking, active learning, and applying anthropology to solve contemporary human problems. Building on the classical foundations of the discipline, Anthropology: Asking Questions About Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture, Second Edition, shows students how anthropology is connected to such current topics as food, health and medicine, and the environment. Full of relevant examples and current topics--with a focus on contemporary problems and questions--the book demonstrates the diversity and dynamism of anthropology today.

New to this Edition

  • Two thoroughly revised chapters in the first section of the book (Chapter 3: Human Biocultural Evolution and Chapter 4: Cross-Cultural Interactions) display the power of anthropology's integrative and holistic perspectives
  • A new feature, "Methods Memos," explains how anthropologists answer the questions they pose, and showcases actual research methods in more detail
  • A new feature, "The Anthropological Life," provides students with concrete, applied examples of anthropology's relevance to careers
  • A new epilogue helps students recognize the many ways in which studying anthropology can enrich their understanding of their world

About the Author(s)

Robert L. Welsch is a guest curator at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. He recently retired from Franklin Pierce University, where he taught from 2008-2019.

Luis A. Vivanco is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Humanities Center at the University of Vermont.

Agustín Fuentes is the Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.


"Anthropology takes a dynamic approach to exploring the four fields and the connections between them. Each chapter begins with a particular problem or story that draws the reader in and illustrates why concepts of that chapter are important. The content is then organized around a series of questions so that students participate in the investigation of ideas."--Claudine Pied, University of Wisconsin Platteville

"Anthropology is easy for students to understand, easy for them to relate to, and is not too overwhelming. It holds the attention of the modern college student, which is not an easy accomplishment. The engaging writing of this textbook--its clear presentation coupled with contemporary and relatable examples--is the primary reason I have chosen this book for my class."--Monica Cox, Auburn University

Table of Contents

    Letter from the Authors
    About the Authors


    1. Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity
    How Did Anthropology Begin?
    The Disruptions of Industrialization
    The Theory of Evolution
    Colonial Origins of Cultural Anthropology
    Anthropology as a Global Discipline
    What Do the Four Subfields of Anthropology Have in Common?
    Cultural Relativism
    Human Diversity

    How Do Anthropologists Know What They Know?
    The Scientific Method in Anthropology
    When Anthropology Is Not a Science: Interpreting Other Cultures
    How Do Anthropologists Put Their Knowledge to Work in the World?
    Applied and Practicing Anthropology: "The Fifth Subfield"?
    Putting Anthropology to Work
    What Ethical Obligations do Anthropologists Have?
    Do No Harm.
    Take Responsibility for Your Work
    Share Your Findings

    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: E. B. Tylor and the Culture Concept
    DOING FIELDWORK: Conducting Holistic Research with Stanley Ulijaszek
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Anthropologists are Innovative
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Key Characteristics of Anthropologists in the Workplace

    2. Culture: Giving Meaning to Human Lives
    What Is Culture?
    Elements of Culture
    Defining Culture in This Book
    If Culture Is Always Changing, Why Does It Feel So Stable?

    How Do Social Institutions Express Culture?
    Culture and Social Institutions
    American Culture Expressed Through Breakfast Cereals and Sexuality
    Can Anybody Own Culture?
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Cultural anthropology and Human Possibilities
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Franz Boas and the Relativity of Culture
    ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER: Michael Ames and Collaborative Museum Exhibits

    3. Human Biocultural Evolution: Emergence of the Biocultural Animal
    Life Changes. But What Does It Mean To Say It Evolves?
    A Brief Primer on the Rise of Evolutionary Thinking
    Differentiating Evolution from Simple Change
    What It Means to Have Common Ancestry
    Why Evolution Is Important to Anthropology . . . and Anthropology to Evolution
    What Are the Actual Mechanisms Through Which Evolution Occurs?
    Basic Sources of Biological Change: Genes, DNA, and Cells
    Genetic Mechanisms of Evolution
    Non-Genetic Mechanisms of Evolution
    How Do Biocultural Patterns Affect Evolution?
    Inheritance Involves Multiple Systems
    Evolutionary Processes Are Developmentally Open-Ended
    Niche Construction and Ecological Inheritance
    The Importance of Constructivist Evolutionary Approaches for Biocultural Anthropology
    Are Modern Humans Evolving, And Where Might We Be Headed?
    The Impact of Disease on Evolution
    Culture, Morphology, and Evolution

    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Clyde Kluckhohn and the Role of Evolution in Anthropology
    ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER: Clarifying the Biocultural and Evolutionary Dimensions of Obesity

    4. Cross-Cultural Interactions: Understanding Global Culture
    Are Cross-Cultural Interactions All That New?
    Is the Contemporary World Really Getting Smaller?
    Defining Globalization
    The World We Live In
    What Are The Outcomes of Global Integration?
    Colonialism and World Systems Theory
    Cultures of Migration
    Resistance at the Periphery
    Globalizing and Localizing Identities
    Doesn't Everyone Want to Be Developed?
    What Is Development?
    Development Anthropology
    Anthropology of Development
    Change on Their Own Terms
    If the World Is Not Becoming Homogenized, What Is Actually Happening?
    Cultural Convergence Theories
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Eric Wolf, Culture, and the World System
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Coldplay and the Global Citizen Festival
    DOING FIELDWORK: Tracking Emergent Forms of Citizenship with Aihwa Ong


    Methods Memo: How Do Anthropologists Study Human and Primate Biological Processes?

    5. Living Primates: Comparing Monkeys, Apes, and Humans
    What Does It Mean To Be a Primate, and Why Does It Matter to Anthropology?
    What It Means To Be a Primate
    The Distinctions Between Strepsirrhini and Haplorrhini
    Primatology as Anthropology
    What Are the Basic Patterns of Primate Behavioral Diversity, and Under What Conditions Did They Develop?
    Common Behavior Patterns Among Primates
    The Emergence of Primate Behavioral Diversity

    How Do Behavior Patterns Among Monkeys and Apes Compare with Humans?
    The Lives of Macaques
    The Lives of Chimpanzees and Bonobos
    How Do They Compare to Us?
    What Does Studying Monkeys and Apes Really Illustrate About Human Distinctiveness?
    Primate Social Organization and Human Behavior
    We Have Culture. Do They Too?

    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: So You Want to Work with Primates?
    DOING FIELDWORK: The Ethics of Working with Great Apes
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Sherwood Washburn and the New (Integrative) Physical Anthropology
    Methods Memo: How Do Anthropologists Study Ancient Primates and Human Origins?

    6. Ancestral Humans: Understanding the Human Family Tree
    Who Are Our Earliest Possible Ancestors?
    Our Earliest Ancestors Were Hominins
    The Fossil Record of Hominins in Africa
    The Three Hominin Genera
    Who Is Our Most Direct Ancestor?
    A Possible Phylogeny, with
    What Did Walking on Two Legs and Having Big Brains Mean for the Early Hominins?
    The Benefits of Upright Movement
    The Effects of Big Brains on Early Hominin Behavior
    Who Were the First Humans, and Where Did They Live?
    Introducing Homo erectus
    The Emergence of Archaic Humans
    Who Were the Neanderthals and Denisovans?
    Anatomically Modern Humans Hit the Scene
    How Do We Know If the First Humans Were Cultural Beings, and What Role Did Culture Play in Their Evolution?
    The Emerging Cultural Capacity of H. erectus
    Culture Among Archaic Humans
    Social Cooperation and Symbolic Expression

    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: How to Think Like a Paleoanthropologist
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Davidson Black and the Brain Capacity of H. Erectus

    7. Human Biodiversity Today: Understanding our Differences and Similarities
    In What Ways Do Contemporary Humans Vary Biologically?
    Genetic Variation Within and Between Human Populations
    Genetic Variation Is Tied to Gene Flow
    Physiological Diversity and Blood Types
    Disease Environments and Human Immunity
    Why Do Human Bodies Look So Different Across the Planet?
    Is Skin Really Colored?
    Variations in Body Shape, Stature, and Size
    Are Differences of Race Also Differences of Biology?
    The Biological Meanings (and Meaninglessness) of "Human Races"
    Is It Possible to Tell Someone's Race from a Skull or Ancestry Test?
    What Biocultural Consequences Do Discrimination and Stress Have on Human Bodies?
    Eugenics: A Weak Theory of Genetic Inheritance
    The Embodied Consequences of Being a Racialized Minority
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Have You Ever Considered a Career in Applied Anthropometry?
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Ashley Montagu and "Man's Most Dangerous Myth"
    ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM-SOLVER: Jada Benn Torres and Reparational Genetics in the Caribbean

    8. The Body: Biocultural Perspectives on Health and Illness
    How Do Biological and Cultural Factors Shape Our Bodily Experiences?
    Uniting Mind and Matter: A Biocultural Perspective
    Culture and Mental Illness
    What Do We Mean by Health and Illness?
    The Individual Subjectivity of Illness
    The "Sick Role": The Social Expectations of Illness
    How and Why Do Doctors and Other Health Practitioners Gain Social Authority?
    The Disease-Illness Distinction: Professional and Popular Views of Sickness
    The Medicalization of the Non-Medical
    How Does Healing Happen?
    Clinical Therapeutic Processes
    Symbolic Therapeutic Processes
    Social Support
    Persuasion: The Placebo Effect
    How Can Anthropology Help Us Address Global Health Problems?
    Understanding Global Health Problems
    Anthropological Contributions to Tackling the International HIV/AIDS Crisis
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Arthur Kleinman and the New Medical Anthropological Methodology
    ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER: Nancy Scheper-Hughes on an Engaged Anthropology of Health
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Zak Kaufman, Grassroot Soccer, and the Fight to Slow the Spread of HIV/AIDS


    Methods Memo: How do Archaeologists Analyze Artifacts to Understand Past Lives?

    9. Materiality: Constructing Social Relationships and Meanings with Things

    Why Is the Ownership of Prehistoric Artifacts Such a Contentious Issue?
    Archaeological Excavation and Questions of Ownership
    Indian Reactions to Archaeological Excavations of Human Remains
    Cultural Resource Management
    How Should We Look at Objects Anthropologically?
    The Many Dimensions of Objects
    A Shiny New Bicycle in Multiple Dimensions
    Constructing the Meaning of an Archaeological Artifact
    How and Why Do the Meanings of Things Change over Time?
    The Social Life of Things
    Three Ways Objects Change over
    How Archaeological Specimens Change Meaning Over Time
    What Role Does Material Culture Play in Constructing the Meaning of a Community's Past?
    Claiming the Past
    The Politics of Archaeology
    Methods Memo: Why is Carbon-14 So Important to Archaeologists?
    ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER: John Terrell, Repatriation, and the Maori Meeting House at the Field Museum
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Nancy Munn on Graphic Signs Among the Walbiri of the Australian Desert
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Richard Busch, Education Collections Manager at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature.
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Margaret Conkey and the Role of Gender on Anthropological Research

    10. Neolithic Revolutions: Modifying the Environment to Satisfy Human Demands
    How Important Was Hunting for Prehistoric Peoples?
    Taking Stock of Living Hunter-Gatherers
    "Man the Hunter"
    Recent Attempts to Understand Prehistoric Hunting Strategies
    Why Did People Start Domesticating Plants and Animals?
    Why Do Archaeologists Call It the Neolithic Revolution?
    The Hilly Flanks Hypothesis
    Other Explanations for the Beginnings of Food Production
    How Did Early Humans Raise Their Own Food?
    Domesticating Plants
    Domesticating Animals
    Tending Tree Crops: Recent Findings on Arboriculture
    What Impact Did Raising Plants and Animals Have on Other Aspects of Life?
    Transhumance: Moving Herds with the Seasons
    Sedentism and Growing Populations
    Methods Memo: How Do Archaeologists Analyze the Objects They Find?
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: What Are The Responsibilities and Job Description of an Archaeologist?
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: V. Gordon Childe on the Neolithic Revolution
    ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER: Michael Heckenberger on the Amazon as a Culturally Managed Landscape

    11. Cities and States: Understanding Social Complexity in Prehistory
    What Does Social Complexity Mean to Archaeologists?
    Social Complexity and Population Growth
    Trade and Contact with Peoples from Different Cultures
    Specialization and Production Models
    Does Complexity Always Imply Social Inequality?
    How Can Archaeologists Identify Social Complexity in Archaeological Sites and Artifacts?
    Identifying Social Complexity from Sites and Artifacts in Western Mexico
    Population Growth and
    Settlement Patterns
    Soils and Land Use
    Monuments and Buildings
    Handling the Dead: Mortuary Patterns and Skeletal Remains
    Ceramic, Stone, and Metal Objects

    How Do Archaeologists Explain Why Cities and States Fall Apart?
    Rethinking Abandonment in the U.S. Southwest
    The Transformation (Not Collapse) of the Classic Maya
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Archaeological Field Schools for Undergraduates
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Robert Carneiro on the Role of Warfare in the Rise of Complex Societies
    DOING FIELDWORK: Studying What Happened After the Migration from the Four Corners with Scott Van Keuren


    Methods Memo: How Do Anthropologists Study the Relationship Between Language and Culture?

    12. Linguistic Anthropology: Relating Language and Culture
    Where Does Language Come From?
    Evolutionary Perspectives on Language
    Historical Linguistics: Studying Language Origins and Change
    How Does Language Actually Work?
    Descriptive Linguistics
    Phonology: Sounds of Language
    Morphology: Grammatical Categories
    Does Language Shape How We Experience the World?
    The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
    Hopi Notions of Time
    Ethnoscience and Color Terms
    Is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis Correct?
    If Language Is Always Changing, Why Does It Seem So Stable?
    Linguistic Change, Stability, and National Policy
    Language Stability Parallels Cultural Stability
    How Does Language Relate to Social Power and Inequality?
    Language Ideology
    Gendered Language Styles
    Language and Social Status

    Language and the Legacy of Colonialism
    Methods Memo: How Do Anthropologists Use Ethnographic Methods to Study Culture and Social Relations?
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Career Trajectories for Undergraduates with a Linguistic Anthropology Background
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Edward Sapir on How Language Shapes Culture
    DOING FIELDWORK: Helping Communities Preserve Endangered Languages

    13. Economics: Working, Sharing, and Buying
    Is Money Really the Measure of All Things?
    Culture, Economics, and Value
    The Neoclassical Perspective
    The Substantivist-Formalist Debate
    The Marxist Perspective
    The Cultural Economics Perspective
    How Does Culture Shape the Value and Meaning of Money Itself?
    The Types and Cultural Dimensions of Money
    Money and the Distribution of Power
    Why Is Gift Exchange Such an Important Part of All Societies?
    Gift Exchange and Economy: Two Classic Approaches
    Gift Exchange in Market-Based Economies
    What is the Point of Owning Things?
    Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Property
    Appropriation and Consumption
    Does Capitalism Have Distinct Cultures?
    Culture and Social Relations on Wall Street
    Entrepreneurial Capitalism Among Malays

    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Marshall Sahlins on Exchange in Traditional Economies
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: The Economics of Anthropology
    ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER: Jim Yong Kim's Holistic, On-the-Ground Approach to Fighting Poverty

    14. Sustainability: Environment and Foodways
    Do All People See Nature in the Same Way?
    The Human-Nature Divide?
    The Cultural Landscape
    How Do People Secure an Adequate, Meaningful, and Environmentally Sustainable Food Supply?
    Modes of Subsistence
    Food, Culture, and Meaning
    How Does Non-Western Knowledge of Nature and Agriculture Relate to Science?
    Traditional Ecological Knowledge
    How Are Industrial Agriculture and Economic Globalization Linked to Increasing Environmental and Health Problems?
    Population and Environment
    Ecological Footprint
    Industrial Foods, Sedentary Lives, and the Nutrition Transition
    Anthropology Confronts Climate Change
    Are Industrialized Western Societies the Only Ones to Conserve Nature?
    Anthropogenic Landscapes
    The Culture of Modern Nature Conservation
    Environmentalism's Alternative Paradigms
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Roy Rappaport's Insider and Outsider Models
    ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER: Migrant Farmworker Food Security in Vermont with Teresa Mares
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Careers in Sustainability

    15. Politics: Power and Social Control
    Does Every Society Have a Government?
    The Idea of "Politics" and the Problem of Order
    Structural-Functionalist Models of Political Stability
    Neo-Evolutionary Models of Political Organization: Bands, Tribes, Chiefdoms, and States
    Challenges to Traditional Political Anthropology
    What Is Political Power?
    Defining Political Power
    Political Power Is Action
    Political Power Is Structural
    Political Power Is Gendered
    Political Power in Non-State Societies
    The Political Power of the Contemporary Nation-State
    How Is Social Inequality Constructed and Upheld?
    Race, Biology, and the "Natural" Order of Things
    The Cultural Construction of Race
    Saying Race Is Culturally Constructed Is Not Enough
    Why Do Some Societies Seem More Violent Than Others?
    What Is Violence?
    Violence and Culture
    Explaining the Rise of Violence in Our Contemporary World
    How Do People Avoid Aggression, Brutality, and War?
    What Disputes Are "About"
    How People Manage Disputes
    Is Restoring Harmony Always the Best Way?

    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: An Anthropological Politician?
    ANTHROPOLOGIST AS PROBLEM SOLVER: Maxwell Owusu and Democracy in Ghana
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Hortense Powdermaker on Prejudice

    16. Kinship and Gender: Sex, Power, and Control of Men and Women
    What Are Families, and How Are They Structured in Different Societies?
    Families, Ideal and Real
    Nuclear and Extended Families
    Kinship Terminologies
    Cultural Patterns in Childrearing
    How Families Control Power and Wealth

    Why Do People Get Married?
    Why People Get Married
    Forms of Marriage
    Sex, Love, and the Power of Families over Young Couples
    How and Why Do Males and Females Differ?
    Toward a Biocultural Perspective on Male and Female Differences
    Beyond the Male-Female Dichotomy
    Explaining Gender/Sex Inequality

    What Does It Mean to Be Neither Male Nor Female?
    Navajo Nádleehé
    Indian Hijras
    Is Human Sexuality Just a Matter of Being Straight or Queer?
    Cultural Perspectives on Same-Sex Sexuality
    Controlling Sexuality
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Family-Centered Social Work and Anthropology
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Margaret Mead and the Sex/Gender Distinction
    DOING FIELDWORK: Don Kulick and "Coming Out" in the Field

    17. Religion: Ritual and Belief
    How Should We Understand Religion and Religious Beliefs?
    Understanding Religion version 1.0: Edward B. Tylor and Belief in Spirits
    Understanding Religion version 2.0: Anthony F. C. Wallace on Supernatural Beings, Powers, and Forces
    Understanding Religion version 3.0: Religion as a System of Symbols
    Understanding Religion version 4.0: Religion
    as a System of Social Action
    What Forms Does Religion take?
    Clan Spirits and Clan Identities in New Guinea
    Totemism in North America
    Shamanism and Ecstatic Religious Experiences
    Ritual Symbols That Reinforce a Hierarchical Social Order
    Polytheism and Monotheism in Ancient Societies
    World Religions and Universal Understandings of the World
    How Does Atheism Fit in the Discussion?

    How Do Rituals Work?
    Magical Thought in Non-Western cultures
    Sympathetic Magic: The Law of Similarity and the Law of Contagion
    Magic in Western Societies
    Rites of Passage and the Ritual Process

    How Is Religion Linked to Political and Social Action?
    The Rise of Fundamentalism
    Understanding Fundamentalism
    THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL LIFE: Is Anthropology Compatible With Religious Faith?
    CLASSIC CONTRIBUTIONS: Sir James G. Frazer on Sympathetic Magic
    DOING FIELDWORK: Studying the Sikh Militants

    Epilogue: Anthropology and the Future of Human Diversity