ANTHR 101 Glossary (Draft)

This page contains a draft of a glossary of some of the key terms in this course.

Glossary of Terms

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of terms used in this class, nor is it a perfect one. It is a work in progress we are letting you use out of the goodness and mercy of our hearts. The definitions are given in the form of a quote from one the readings that either gives a definition itself or refers to a phenomenon that the term addresses.

Agency:

"... the capacity for responsible and rational action." (59)
Shweder, Richard. 2003. Why do men barbecue?: Recipes for cultural psychology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
See Also: Monaghan, John, and Just, Peter. 2000. Social & Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (33, 46-7, 61)

Bourgeoisie:

"By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employer of wage labour." (50, footnote 1)
Marx, Karl, with Friedrich Engels. 1998. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.
"Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of nether world whom he has called up by his spells." (57)
Marx, Karl, with Friedrich Engels. 1998. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.

Capitalism:

"To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social status in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion. Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power." (67-68)
Marx, Karl, with Friedrich Engels. 1998. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.
"In bourgeois society, capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality." (68)
Marx, Karl, with Friedrich Engels. 1998. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.

Communism:

"The Communists fight for the attainment for the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the moment of the present they also represent and take care of the future of that movement.... The communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their aims can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions." (89-91)
Marx, Karl, with Friedrich Engels. 1998. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.
"Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat.... The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor - hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition. The proletariat, or the class of proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century." (81)
Engels, Friedrich. 1969. "The Principles of Communism". Selected Works, Volume One, p. 81-97. Translated by Brain Baggins. Moscow: Progress Publishers.
"Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society: all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriation." (70)
Marx, Karl, with Friedrich Engels. 1998. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.

Confusionism:

"The knowable world is incomplete if seen from any one point of view, incoherent if seen from all points of view at once, and empty if seen from nowhere in particular." (6)
Shweder, Richard. 2003. "Introduction." In, Why do men barbecue?: Recipes for cultural psychology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Also referred to as "the view from manywheres."

Construct:

"...an entity created by the social agreement that something counts as that entity... The agreement that something counts as something else involves the adherence of a group of people to a constitutive rule and to the entailments incurred by the application of the rule." (91)
D'Andrade. 1984. "Cultural Meaning Systems". In Culture Theories of Mind, Self, and Emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Culture:

"The concept of culture I espouse... is essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning. It is explication I am after, construing social expressions on their surface enigmatical." (5)
Geertz, Clifford. 1973. "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture." In C. Geertz (Ed.), The Interpretation of Cultures (pp. 3-30). New York: Basic Books.
"Culture is the integral whole... by which man is able to cope with the concrete, specific problems that face him." (39)
Monaghan, John, and Just, Peter. 2000. Social & Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cultural Relativism:

"Because culture so deeply and broadly determines our worldview, it stands to reason that we can have no objective basis for asserting that one such worldview is superior to another, or that one worldview can be used as a yardstick to measure another. In this sense, cultures can only be judged relative to one another, and the meaning of a given belief or behavior must first and foremost be understood relative to its own cultural context." (49)
Monaghan, John, and Just, Peter. 2000. Social & Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Developmentalism:

"Cultural Developementalists want to convert others to some preferred superior way of living. Their aim is to eliminate, or at least minimize, the differences between peoples rather than to tolerate or appreciate them as products of the Creative Imagination." (18)
"The claim that some groups have the wrong goals, the wrong values, the wrong pictures of the world, and the wrong patterns of behavior. As a result, their economies are poor, their governments corrupt, and their people unhealthy, unhappy, and oppressed...The Westernization of their cultures is a necessary condition for economic growth" (17-18)
Shweder, Richard. 2003. Introduction. In, Why do men barbecue?: Recipes for cultural psychology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
"Developmentalists, on the other hand, typically deny that the universally valid dictates of reason and evidence are equally available to all persons or peoples. Tylor, Frazer, and more recently Piaget argue that the normative standards (e.g., logic) - by reference to which a person or people judges thinking or action successful or unsuccessful - undergo development. By Tylor's, Frazer's, and Piaget's account, all people and peoples have normative standards for regulating thought, but knowledge of the proper standards (e.g., Bayes's rules for evaluating evidence, Mill's rules for experimental reasoning, Rawl's principle of justice), knowledge of those norms worthy of universal respect, is achieved by only a few cultures (the civilized ones)." (31)
Shweder, Richard. 1984. Anthropology's Romantic Rebellion Against the Enlightenment, Or There's More To Thinking Than Reason and Evidence. In Shweder and LeVine (Eds.), Culture Theory (pp. 27-66). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dialectic Materialism:

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.... Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: It has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other - bourgeoisie and proletariat." (51)
Marx, Karl, with Friedrich Engels. 1998. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.

Emic/Etic:

"Looking at the ordinary in places where it takes unaccustomed forms brings out not, as has so often been claimed, the arbitrariness of human behavior (there is nothing especially arbitrary about taking sheep theft for insolence in Morocco), but the degree to which its meaning varies according to the pattern of life by which it is informed (emic). Understanding a people's culture exposes their normalness without reducing their particularity. (The more I manage to follow what the Moroccans are up to, the more logical, and the more singular, they seem.) It renders them accessible: setting them in the frame of their own banalities, it dissolves their opacity." (14)
Geertz, Clifford. 1973. "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture." In C. Geertz (Ed.), The Interpretation of Cultures (pp. 3-30). New York: Basic Books.
"In Thailand, as is the case everywhere, the dominant biomedical establishment is driven by practices that are considered to be scientific and global (or etic) rather than religious and local (or emic). (183-184)
Cassaniti, Julia. 2015. Living Buddhism: Mind, Self, and Emotion in a Thai Community. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Epistemology:

How you think you know what you know; One’s epistemological stance is one’s stance on how one come’s to know what one knows, what constitutes defensible knowledge, and the assumptions that one makes about how to obtain true knowledge. (compare with “ontology”)

Essentialism:

"Roughly, essentialism is the view that categories have an underlying reality or true nature that one cannot observe directly but that gives an object its identity" (3)
Gelman, Susan A. 2003. The essential child: Origins of essentialism in everyday thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ethnocentrism:

"ethnocentrism - the tendency to measure others entirely by the yardstick of one's own values" (48)
Monaghan, John, and Peter Just. 2000. Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
“ethnocentrism- the belief that our ways, because they are ours, must be closer to truth, goodness, and beauty than are the ways of others" (28)
Shweder, Richard. 1991. "Post-Nietzschean Anthropology: The Idea of Multiple Objective Worlds". In R.A. Shweder (Ed.), Thinking Through Cultures: Expeditions in Cultural Psychology (pp. 27-72). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ethnographic Present:

"Many ethnographers, particularly in the 'classic' accounts of the 1930s and 1940s, employed what came to be called the ethnographic present in which communities were presented as frozen in time, outside any historical context, and without reference to neighboring societies or encapsulating states" (26)
Monaghan, John, and Peter Just. 2000. Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ethnography:

"Above all else, what anthropologists do is ethnography. Ethnography is to the cultural or social anthropologist what lab research is to the biologist, what archival research is to the historian, or what survey research is to the sociologist. Often called - not altogether accurately - 'participant observation', ethnography is based on the apparently simple idea that in order to understand what people are up to, it is best to observe them by interacting with them intimately and over an extended period." (13)
Monaghan, John, and Just, Peter. 2000. Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

Evolution:

"Evolution means gradual change. In the case of animals this usually (but not always) means a change from a less complex animal to a more complex animal. We know now that most of these changes occur during speciation, which is when an "old" species changes quite rapidly into a "new," different species" (16)
Wood, Bernard A. 2005. Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hmong (People):

"America's "secret war" in Laos during the late 1960s and early 1970s displaced hundreds of thousands of Hmong refugees who would, after years in Thai refugee camps, eventually resettle in various Western and Latin American countries following the communist takeover of Indochina in 1975...Animism is central to [the] generally accepted ‘traditional’ Hmong worldview. Every person has a spirit or spirits...The natural world consists of benevolent, malevolent, and ancestor spirits. The physical and spiritual welfare of the Hmong depends heavily on their relationships and interactions with these spirits." (176, 183)
Hickman, Jacob R. 2007. "'Is It the Spirit or the Body?': Syncretism of Health Beliefs Among Hmong Immigrants to Alaska." NAPA Bulletin 27: 176-195.

Incommensurability:

"This is the idea that, in the course of a revolution and paradigm shift, the new ideas and assertions cannot be strictly compared to the old ones. Even if the same words are in use, their very meaning has changed." (xi)
Kuhn, Thomas. 2012. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Fourth ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
“[Isaiah] Berlin further asserted that values may be not only incompatible, but incommensurable… there is no common measure, no ‘common currency’ for comparison, in judging between any two values in the abstract. Thus, one basic implication of pluralism for ethics is the view that a quantitative approach to ethical questions (such as that envisaged by Utilitarianism) is impossible. In addition to denying the existence of a common currency for comparison, or a governing principle (such as the utility principle), value incommensurability holds that there is no general procedure for resolving value conflicts… no value always has priority over another…”
Cherniss, Joshua and Hardy, Henry, "Isaiah Berlin", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = .

Linguistic Relativity:

"[T]he proposal that the particular language we speak influences the way we think about reality..." (291)
"The linguistic relativity proposal forms part of the general question of how language influences thought. Potential influences can be classed into three types or levels. The first, or semiotic, level concerns how speaking any natural language at all [versus speaking no language] may influence thinking… The second, or structural, level concerns how speaking one or more particular natural languages (e.g. Hopi versus English) may influence thinking… The third, or functional, level concerns whether using language in a particular way (e.g. schooled) may influence thinking.” (292)
Lucy, John. 1997. "Linguistic Relativity". Annual Review of Anthropology, 26, 291-312.

Mythical Reality:

"People act upon circumstances according to their own cultural presuppositions, the socially given categories of persons and things. As Durkheim said, the universe does not exist for people except as it is thought. On the other hand, it need not exist in the way they think" (67)
Sahlins, Marshall. 1981. Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: Structure in the Early History of the Sandwich Islands Kingdom. ASAO Distinguished Lectures and Special Publications. 1st ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Normal Science:

“In this essay, ‘normal science’ means research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a times as supplying the foundation for its further practice.” (10)
“Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory [within the paradigm] and, when successful, finds none.” (52)
Kuhn, Thomas. 2012. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Fourth ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Normative:

"The conceptual center-point around which a comprehensive system of analysis can be built." (3)
Geertz, Clifford. 1973. "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture." In C. Geertz (Ed.), The Interpretation of Cultures (pp. 3-30). New York: Basic Books.

Objectivity:

"An experimental science in search of law" (5) (compare with “culture” above)
Geertz, Clifford. 1973. "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture." In C. Geertz (Ed.), The Interpretation of Cultures (pp. 3-30). New York: Basic Books.
"For all of the claims made for and against the products of participant observation, anthropology has always relied on what amounts to a good-faith effort on the part of ethnographers to tell their stories as fully and honestly as possible… We all recognize that complete descriptive objectivity is impossible, that a comprehensive understanding of any society or culture is unattainable..."
Monaghan, John, and Just, Peter. (2000). Social & Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ontology:

What is taken to be real by a person or group of people. One’s ontology entails the entire assumed reality, which includes what entities are supposed to exist (ghosts, spirits, gods, ancestors, persons), as well as the nature of those things (how do ancestors act, what is the nature of god, etc.). (compare with “epistemology”)

Paradigm:

“By choosing it [the term paradigm], I mean to suggest that some accepted examples of actual scientific practice… provide models from which spring particular coherent traditions of scientific research. These are the traditions which the historian describes under such rubrics as ‘Ptolemaic astronomy’ (or ‘Copernican’), ‘Aristotelian dynamics’ (or ‘Newtonian’), ‘corpuscular optics’ (or ‘wave optics’), and so on.” (11)
Kuhn, Thomas. 2012. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Fourth ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Phylogeny:

"How can we characterize primate evolution as a whole? Are there repetitive patterns in the evolution of this order? With a good account of primate history and phylogeny at hand, we can also begin to examine theoretical questions about evolutionary processes. How do the various theories of evolutionary mechanisms, of speciation and of species extinction, fit the primate evidence?" (395)
"Apart from the likelihood that Au. Anamensis and Au. Afarensis are probably a single lineage, there is no consensus as to how these earliest hominins are related to one another, but there is increasing evidence of a bushy phylogeny at the base of our family tree." (?)
Fleagle, John G. 2013. Fossil Hominins, the Bipedal Primates. In J. G. Fleagle (Ed.), Primate Adaptation and Evolution (3rd ed. pp. 361-394). New York: Academic Press.

Pluralism:

"Pluralism is the idea that things can be different but equal... The foundational truth for such an intellectual enterprise is the maxim that 'the knowable world is incomplete if seen from any one point of view, incoherent if seen from all points of view at once, and empty if seen from nowhere in particular. Given the choice between incompleteness, incoherence, and emptiness, this kind of anthropological approach to the study of cultures attempts to overcome incompleteness by staying on the move between different points of view or frames of reference. It aims to achieve that view from manywheres." (6)
Shweder, Richard. 2003. Introduction. In, Why do men barbecue?: Recipes for cultural psychology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Proletariat:

"By proletariat, the class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live." (50, footnote 1)
Marx, Karl, with Friedrich Engels (1998). The Communist Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.

Structuralism:

"The belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract culture."
Blackburn, Simon. 2008. Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, second edition revised. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
"Claude Lévi-Strauss, the founder of 'structuralist' anthropology, would claim that human classification is indeed universal, but that it is universal because a human predisposition to making distinctions produced classifications that mutatis mutandis were but surface representations of a more fundamental 'deep structure' shaped by the binary nature of the human mind: ‘…[I]f we look at all the intellectual undertakings of mankind… the common denominator is always to introduce some kind of order. If this represents a basic need for order in the human mind and since, after all, the human mind is only part of the universe, the need probably exists because there is some order in the universe and the universe is not chaos." (41)
Monaghan, John, and Just, Peter. 2000. Social & Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Structure of the Conjuncture:

“…the specificity of practical circumstances, people's differential relations to them, and the set of particular arrangements that ensue (structure of the conjuncture), sediment new functional values on old categories. These new values are likewise resumed within the cultural structure… but the structure is then transformed.“ (68).
“…the relationships generated in practical action, although motivated by the traditional self-conceptions of the actors, may in fact functionally revalue those conceptions. Nothing gurantees that the situations encounter in practice will stereotypically follow from the cultural categories by which the circumstances are interpreted and acted upon. Practice, rather, has its own dynamics-a "structure of the conjuncture"-which meaningfully defines the persons and the objects that are parties to it" (35).
Sahlins, Marshall D. 1981. Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: Structure in the Early History of the Sandwich Islands Kingdom. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Subjectivity:

"One would think that a scientific approach to gathering ethnographic data would encourage anthropologists to re-study communities that had been studied before by other ethnographers as a check against subjectivity or bias. But this is far from common." (28).
"How, then, can we reconcile the inevitable subjectivity of participant observation with our desire for a calibrated uniformity of data collection? The short answer is that we can't, and it is this, more than anything else, that distinguishes social sciences such as anthropology from natural sciences such as chemistry, whatever their own problems of observer bias." (27).
Monaghan, John, and Just, Peter. 2000. Social & Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Syncretism:

"Charles Stewart offers one of the viable definitions for syncretism in the study of religion: "the combination of elements from two or more different religious traditions within a specified frame" (180)
Hickman, Jacob R. 2007. "Is it the Spirit or the Body?": Syncretism of Health Beliefs among Hmong Immigrants to Alaska. NAPA Bulletin, 27(1), 176-195.

Thick Description:

"...the point is that between what Ryle calls the "thin description" of what the rehearser (parodist, winker, twitcher...) is doing ("rapidly contracting his right eyelids") and that "thick description" of what he is doing ("practicing a burlesque of a friend faking a wink to deceive an innocent into thinking a conspiracy is in motion") lies the object of ethnography: a stratified hierarchy of meaningful structures in terms of which twitches, winks, fake-winks, parodies, rehearsals of parodies are produced, perceived, and interpreted, and without which they would not... in fact exist, no matter what anyone did or didn't do with his eyelids." (7)
Geertz, Clifford. 1973. "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture". In C. Geertz (Ed.), The Interpretation of Cultures (pp. 3-30). New York: Basic Books.

Universalism:

"For example, one axis of disagreement entails whether or not culture is really just icing on a more fundamental psychological cake. Scholars who adopt this universalist stance argue that cultural difference is relatively superficial and that if looked at closely enough, all cultural traits are really just unsubstantial variations on a more universal human psychology. Humanity is characterized by what can be termed a "central processing mechanism"-the "mind" of universalist psychology. The concept of "psychic unity" of humankind is one way this psychic nature has been characterized, and the universalist position buys into a strong form of psychic unity in which the human mind is essentially universal in nature." (4)
Hickman, Jacob R. (In Press). The Origins of Culture. In H. L. Miller (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Theory in Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

The View From Manywheres

(see Confusionism)

World Systems Theory:

World Systems Theory is an application of a Marxian analysis of capitalism, but on a global scale. “The basic ideas was very simple. International trade was not, they said, a trade between equals. Some countries were stronger economically that others (the core) and were therefore able to trade on terms that allowed surplus-value to flow from the weaker countries (the periphery) to the core." (12)
Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2006. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.