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3.8: End of Chapter Discussion

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    1. Which of the theories discussed in this chapter do you find yourself most in agreement with? Think of a cultural practice that you are familiar with, does the theory provide an explanation for it?
    2. Do you think that it could be beneficial to view culture through different theoretical perspectives rather than just one?


    Armchair Anthropology: An early and discredited method of anthropological research that did not involve direct contact with the people studied.

    Biological determinism: The belief that there are innate biological differences in intelligence, the capacity for language, and modes of behavior between human populations that explain cultural differences.

    Culture and Personality: The idea that culture is the primary determinant of the personality of its members.

    Culture Ecology: The anthropological approach focusing on the effects of the environment on labor patterns and their effects on the organization of other aspects of the culture.

    Cultural Materialism: The anthropological approach that attempts to account for cross-cultural similarities and differences by focusing on the material constraints on human activity, such as mode of production, mode of reproduction, and ecological factors.

    Ecology: The study of interactions between animal and plant populations in the context of their habitat.

    Feminist Anthropology: A four-field approach to anthropology (archaeological, biological, cultural, linguistic) that seeks to reduce male bias in research findings, anthropological hiring practices, and the scholarly production of knowledge.

    Functionalism: The belief that cultural institutions function to meet the basic physical and psychological needs of people.

    Historical Particularism: The anthropological perspective, associated with Franz Boas, that stressed the uniqueness of each culture thought to be the outcome of chance historical developments.

    Neoevolutionism: The label for the evolutionary perspective associated with Leslie White and his followers.

    Psychic unity of mankind: A basic set of elementary thought patterns common to all human minds, which produce similar responses to similar stimuli although expressed with differing permutations in differing contexts.

    Social Darwinism: The racist ideological perspective that cultural and biological progress depended on the free play of competitive forces in the struggle of individual against individual, nation against nation, and race against race.

    Structural Functionalism: The belief that social practices and social institutions function to preserve the structure of society

    Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology: The theoretical perspective that views public symbols and actions as the manifestation of culture that is formulated through the construction of reality.

    Theory: A formal description of some part of the world that explains how, in terms of cause and effect, that part of the world works.

    Unilineal Evolution: The belief that cultures moved through various stages of development according to different levels of rational knowledge, ending up with something resembling Euro-American lifestyles.

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