From A History of Anthropological Theory, Fourth Edition and Readings for a History of Anthropological Theory, Fourth Edition (Paul A. Erickson and Liam D. Murphy).
Behaviour of the sort that, according to Ruth Benedict, is defined differently in different cultures, there being no behaviour that is defined as abnormal in all cultures.
According to George E. Marcus, mainly accountability to the public, a major theoretical and ethical precept of American anthropology since the 1980s.
The process of acquiring characteristics of another culture.
In cultural ecology, the result of cultures adjusting to environments, or in Darwinian evolution, the result of natural selection.
Edward Burnett Tylor’s name for cultural traits that are statistically significantly associated.
The phase of human development transitioning from childhood into adulthood, studied by Margaret Mead.
In recent anthropological theory, creative acts of intentioned individuals that generate social form and meaning.
A personal armament that, according to Arjun Appadurai, figures in the global cultural economic flows among ethnoscapes, financescapes, ideoscapes, mediascapes, and technoscapes.
The treatment of illness and disease using the knowledge and techniques of Western biomedicine.
In sociobiology, “self-sacrificing” behaviour explained by kin selection.
The flagship professional journal of the American Anthropological Association.
According to Sigmund Freud, the infantile interest in excretory functions that in adults is rechannelled into useful civilized traits.
The veneration of departed relatives; in classical cultural evolutionism, a religious phase.
The doctrine that current psychological states are inherited from the ancient past of humanity, criticized by Franz Boas.
The deeply held cultural bias to view the male as intellectually, spiritually, and physically superior to the female.
A privileging of the Anglo-American English language as a global medium of communication and patterns of cultural practice and consumption, tending to marginalize other languages and those who use them.
An invisible and diffuse supernatural force that can take the form of souls and ghosts.
The belief that both animate and inanimate objects have souls, a concept explored by Edward Burnett Tylor.
According to Émile Durkheim, the sense of personal alienation caused by the absence of familiar social norms.
The study of relationships among geographically contiguous cultures, as practised by Friedrich Ratzel.
The perspective that feminist views should remain relatively autonomous in anthropology.
anthropological political economy
The view that peoples exposed to the global expansion of capitalism experience and modify it in different and creative ways.
anthropologies and colonialism
A term calling attention to the fact that different national traditions of anthropology have had different interactions with colonialism.
anthropology of short-time consultancies
According to Aleksandar Bošković and Thomas Hylland Eriksen, the circumstance of anthropology in peripheral nations brought about by the relative lack of academic and full-time professional jobs.
Opposites, or peoples on opposite sides of the world.
According to Victor Turner, the side of culture expressed through ritual “chaos,” as during liminal states.
anything people do
Sherry B. Ortner’s broad definition of what practice, or praxis, theory encompasses.
After the fact, or based on experience, contrasted with a priori.
Anthropology conducted by anthropologists working outside traditional academic settings such as universities.
Philosophers who favour a priori logic over experience as the source of human mental categories, synonymous with rationalists.
An anthropologist who has done little or no fieldwork.
According to Lewis Henry Morgan, past and present speakers of Indo-European languages, customarily regarded as the high point of European civilization.
According to Sally Slocum, the primary activity of anthropologists, calling attention to the cultural context of anthropological inquiry.
at home and abroad
Two different foci of anthropological interest, manifest differently in different national traditions of anthropology.
The theology of Saint Augustine, which became the state religion of Rome and prevailed during the first part of the Middle Ages.
Primitive, ape-like human ancestors known from fossils found in Africa.
The idea that one body of knowledge is privileged over other bodies in that it has greater access to ultimate reality or the “Truth.”
Balfour, Arthur James (1848–1930)
British Conservative prime minister with Orientalist views on British colonial relations with Africa.
The simplest form of human social organization, placed in evolutionary sequence before the tribe, chiefdom, and state.
In the cultural evolutionary schema of Lewis Henry Morgan, the stage of culture from the invention of pottery to the invention of writing.
basic colour terms
A reported finding that basic colour distinctions are universal across languages.
basic personality structure
In psycho-dynamic anthropology, core personality, shaped by primary cultural institutions and projected onto secondary cultural institutions.
According to Sigmund Freud, the unnatural demand of civilization that people revere the impractical.
As interpreted by Susan Gal, poetry that expresses resistance to symbolic domination by Bedouin men.
In the theory of cultural materialism, what people do contrasted with what people think.
The branch of genetics that investigates inherited contributions to behavioural differences.
The Bell Curve
A 1994 book that purported to demonstrate the scientific basis for a genetic meritocracy in the United States, subject to much public controversy and criticism by anthropologists.
In certain Native American cultures, men who perform roles that elsewhere would be performed by women.
A venerable Parisian hospital, orphanage, asylum, and prison studied by Michel Foucault.
In French structural anthropology, the universal logic of dualities.
The hierarchical system of classifying living things into named scientific groups, with one name for genus and a second name for species.
Anthropology aimed at exploring interactions between human biology and culture, usually according to ecology.
The principle that ontogeny, the growth of the individual, recapitulates phylogeny, the growth of the species.
A term used by anthropologist Oyèrónké Oyewùmí to describe the basic assumption of biological determinism that underlies Western scientific knowledge of sex and gender.
Regarded as caused by heredity more than environment.
biology of nepotism
A colloquial label for sociobiology focusing on the preferential treatment of kin.
The science-based form of ethnomedical knowledge and practice dominant in Western societies.
Clifford Geertz’s term for ethnographic writing that freely borrows literary ideas and methods from other disciplines.
The intellectual framework for American anthropology promoted by Franz Boas, including a strong emphasis on nurture over nature.
According to Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the representations an individual entertains about his or her body or other bodies in relation to the natural and cultural environment.
A colloquial term for non-verbal communication.
According to Herbert Spencer, society organized like an organism; according to Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the political surveillance and regulation of bodies in matters such as reproduction, sexuality, and illness.
A term used by anthropologist Oyèrónké Oyewùmí to describe Western science’s assumption that the human body is a universal foundation for objective knowledge of identity.
In Marxism, the middle class.
The scientific epistemology of induction fashioned by philosophers Francis Bacon and John Locke.
British occupation of Egypt
Beginning in 1882, a British colonial venture launched to quell an Egyptian nationalist rebellion.
British social anthropology
The school of structuralism and functionalism led by Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown and Bronislaw Malinowski.
According to Max Weber, governing social structures that are permanent institutions of daily routine, contrasted with charismatic governance.
The Christian doctrines and practices traced to John Calvin that oppose Roman Catholicism on the basis of scripture and justification by faith.
A group of early-twentieth-century British social anthropologists who pioneered the “genealogical method” of fieldwork.
In Marxist theory, the accumulated wealth of the bourgeoisie, derived mainly from profit.
The political economic system characterized by private ownership of the means of production and unfettered exchange of commodities in the marketplace, yielding profit.
The global network of capitalist relations investigated by theorists such as André Gunder Frank and Immanuel Wallerstein.
Melanesian religious revitalization movements that anticipate and celebrate the future return of material affluence.
The idea of philosopher René Descartes that mind and matter constitute distinct realms knowable by distinct means.
The geological doctrine that agents of geological change have been more dramatic in the past than in the present; contrasted with uniformitarianism.
The socially safe release of feelings of social resentment, for Max Gluckman achieved through rituals of rebellion.
See correlation and causation
centre and margins
Applied to national anthropologies, the dominating anthropologies of the United States, Britain, and France at the centre, with the anthropologies of most of the rest of the world at the margins.
The measured ratio of head breadth to head length, used in nineteenth-century racial classifications.
According to Max Weber, social governance through powerful persuasive personality, contrasted with bureaucratic governance.
According to Max Weber, authority exercised through charisma, that is through powerful, persuasive personality, contrasted with bureaucratic authority.
According to Max Weber, kingship evolved from the charismatic heroism of warlords, contrasted with the divine right of kings.
As identified by Max Weber, individuals who experience a revelation that mandates the establishment of a new social order based on new ethical ideals.
The psychological study of children, according to Margaret Mead inadequate to account for childhood across cultures.
Chomsky, Noam (b. 1928)
Influential linguist who promotes the theory that grammaticality is innate in the human mind.
Intervals along a musical scale, such as the interval between the notes C and C-sharp.
According to Edward Burnett Tylor, a synonym for culture; according to Lewis Henry Morgan, the period of human history following savagery and barbarism; according to Sigmund Freud, a synonym for culture opposed to human nature and based significantly on sublimated libidinous desires.
In the cultural evolutionary schema of Lewis Henry Morgan, the kind of society based on territory and property, contrasted with societas.
clam siphons and goat horns
In Claude Lévi-Strauss’s analysis of Northwest Coast Native American myths, two structurally opposing means that lead to two structurally opposing ends.
classical cultural evolutionism
The theoretical orientation of nineteenth-century cultural evolutionists who used the comparative method.
A type of kinship, contrasted with the descriptive type, that merges kinship categories.
According to Sigmund Freud, an ideal of civilization based on sublimation of natural human instincts to the contrary.
The comprehensive mental capability whose variation is purported to be measured by quantitative tests such as IQ tests.
The school concerned with folk taxonomies and semantic domains as practised in ethnolinguistics and by ethnoscientists in the New Ethnography.
According to Émile Durkheim, the source of collective representations of social facts, sometimes called the group mind.
According to Émile Durkheim, manifestations of the collective consciousness, or group mind.
The historical encounter between European colonizers and the indigenous peoples of the world, who were then often marginalized or oppressed by colonialism.
A British doctrine linked to, promoted by, and following from the concept of Orientalism, according to Edward W. Said.
In Marxist theory, something bought and sold in capitalist exchange, including human labour.
In Marxist theory, the replacement of bourgeois by proletarian ownership of the means of production, ushering in socialism and ultimately communism.
A term employed by Victor Turner to refer to the ritual fusion of individuals into a collective identity.
The use of extant primitive peoples to represent extinct primitive peoples, as in classical cultural evolutionism.
According to Margaret Mead, Western and some Eastern cultures that are too complicated for anthropologists to be able to understand in a relatively brief period of time.
A research technique of cognitive anthropologists used to generate folk taxonomies of semantic domains.
According to Victor Turner, the property of ritual symbols whereby they represent many objects and actions in a single formulation.
The search for cultural patterns, often in the idiom of psychology.
A family type based on group marriage between brothers and sisters.
Pertaining to post-processual archaeologists critical of the nomothetic New Archaeology.
In the schema of Henry Maine, societies that stress individualism, hold property in private, and maintain control by legal sanctions; contrasted with status societies.
The type of scientific laboratory experiment in which experimental conditions can be manipulated and controlled, according to Margaret Mead unable to be replicated in anthropological fieldwork.
A form of cultural evolution in which two or more different evolutionary pathways lead to the same outcome.
Cook, Captain (1728–79)
Captain James Cook, a famous English explorer killed in an encounter with native Hawaiians.
In world-system theory, Western nations and regions that expropriate and control resources of non-Western nations and regions; contrasted with periphery.
correlation and causation
Two kinds of relationship between scientific variables, commonly conflated but in fact distinct.
A phrase describing the nature of otherworldly deities or powers and their relationships to human beings.
The branch of philosophy concerned with the origin and structure of the universe.
An American military counterinsurgency program designed to protect local populations and gain their support, analyzed by David B. Edwards.
The view that biological species are divinely created and do not evolve.
An anthropological term borrowed from linguistics suggesting the fusion of divergent cultural concepts and practices, particularly in the context of postcolonial and globalization studies.
crisis of representation
George E. Marcus and Michael M.J. Fischer’s term for the self-reflection and self-doubt brought about by the postmodern realization that no single ethnographic representation can be authoritative.
criterion of form
The criterion used by anthropo-geographers to determine that similar cultural forms are the result of diffusion.
Anthropologists who self-reflect and share criticisms of positivism.
critical-interpretive medical anthropology
According to Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the investigation of how knowledge relating to the human body, health, and illness is culturally constructed and negotiated.
Cousins related through parents of the opposite sex.
Analysis of cultural similarities and differences.
cultural construction of language
As referred to by Susan Gal, the idea that language categories, including categories of masculine and feminine, are culturally constructed as a means of creating identities.
Anthropological theorists who on different occasions attach causal priority to the domain of thought rather than behaviour or behaviour rather than thought.
The examination of interactions between cultural and environmental variables.
Anthropological theorists who attach causal priority to the domain of thought rather than behaviour.
The theory of Marvin Harris that distinguishes emic from etic perspectives and mental from behavioural domains, and that advocates infrastructural determinism.
Twentieth-century cultural evolutionism, a revival and reformulation of classical cultural evolutionism.
A cultural or artistic creation or fiction, thought by some postmodern theorists to characterize ethnographic writing.
The proposition that cultural differences should not be judged by absolute standards.
cultural resource management (CRM)
Activities that share the practical goal of protecting and preserving objects and places deemed to be of cultural significance.
As referred to by Edward W. Said, the broad context from which the concept of Orientalism draws its power.
Defined many ways; with reference to the Enlightenment, the accumulated way of living created by people and transmitted from one generation to the next extrasomatically rather than through genes.
A geographical area associated with a culture.
The study of cultures without the benefit of fieldwork, practised by American psychological anthropologists in the era of World War II.
In German, kulturkreis, a concept used to represent the process of cultural diffusion.
culture from killing
Sally Slocum’s label for the Man the Hunter concept that represents present-day human behaviour as the evolutionary legacy of ancestral males killing animals.
Archaeology as practised in the era of Franz Boas’s historical particularism.
The theoretical approach of Franz Boas and his followers, sometimes called historical particularism.
culture like a language
As used by Edmund Leach, a phrase that refers to the structural similarities between culture and language.
Leslie White’s name for the nomothetic study of culture.
A general label for ideas associated with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
An historical process that according to Aleksandar Bošković and Thomas Hylland Eriksen has led to increased awareness of non-central national traditions of anthropology.
A term describing the ambition of postmodernism to understand the political and cultural contexts “hidden” behind the writing, or “construction,” of narratives.
In scientific epistemology, the use of logic to reason from general to particular statements; contrasted with induction.
Pertaining to deism, the view that God created the universe but remains relatively uninvolved in its day-to-day operations; contrasted with theistic.
A psychology, such as Freudian psychology, that presupposes unconscious hidden meanings for actions at variance with their surface meanings.
Individuals who perceive themselves to be descended in a lineage from a real or hypothetical common ancestor.
A type of kinship system, contrasted with the classificatory type, that splits kinship categories.
In an era of globalization, the disjuncture between geography and culture brought about by international diasporas and movements of people.
development and underdevelopment theory
André Gunder Frank’s theory about the systematic exploitation of underdeveloped nation-states and regions by developed nation-states and regions.
Historically oriented, or concerned with the past; contrasted with synchronic.
A law pertaining to events through time, or an historical law.
The philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, commonly called Marxism.
Pierre Bourdieu’s tongue-in-cheek label for the radical deconstruction of some postmodern theorists, particularly those preoccupied with second-guessing their own analyses.
dictatorship of the proletariat
In the theory of dialectical materialism, the temporary phase of political organization leading to permanent communism.
didn’t and couldn’t
A pair of words that capture the essence of Jonathan Marks’s observation that just because a culture did not invent something does not imply that it could not have invented it.
difference and domination
According to Susan Gal, two feminist approaches to characterizing the relationships between women and men.
The doctrine that cultural innovations evolve once and are then acquired through borrowing or immigration; contrasted with independent invention.
Pertaining to the Greek god Dionysus, known for his extravagant expression of emotion, a term used by Ruth Benedict to characterize certain whole cultures; contrasted with Apollonian, pertaining to the Greek god Apollo, known for his emotional restraint, a term used by Benedict to characterize certain other whole cultures.
discourses of power
Michel Foucault’s phrase for the spectrum of institutions, rhetorics, and strategies employed by one group to dominate another group.
divine right of kings
According to Max Weber, authority of kings derived from bureaucratic-like theology, contrasted with charismatic kingship.
Deoxyribonucleic acid, the biochemical substance of heredity.
doing anthropology in the present
According to George E. Marcus, the priority for American anthropology required for the effective pursuit of public anthropology.
domestication of plants and animals
Or the Neolithic Revolution, according to Leslie White the second of three energy-capturing revolutions in human history.
domestic cattle of India
Sacred Hindu cattle whose existence and sex ratio Marvin Harris explains in terms of cultural materialism.
Victor Turner’s term for a symbol with multiple, and sometimes contradictory, meanings.
Pierre Bourdieu’s term for a psychological state in which all members of a community consider relations natural, including relations of social, economic, and political inequality.
East is East and West is West
A phrase that according to Eric R.Wolf evokes an historically inaccurate vision of Eastern and Western cultures as separate and distinct.
As defined by Margaret Mead, the totality of cultural experiences that influence how children become adults.
Translated “I,” according to Sigmund Freud, the part of the psyche that interacts with the outside world.
According to Ruth Benedict, the norm of behavior in American culture, disapproved of as abnormal in other cultures.
According to Sigmund Freud, a troublesome psychological state of girls induced by their sexual desire for their fathers; contrasted with the Oedipus complex.
For Émile Durkheim, the equivalent of collective representations, similar to elementary structures.
In French structural anthropology, universal mental logics and their cultural manifestations.
embedded social scientists
As reported by David B. Edwards, social scientists, notably ethnographers, working with American military personnel as part of the Human Terrain Systems (HTS) program.
In the theory of cultural materialism, the epistemological perspective of the investigated, or “the insider point of view”; contrasted with etic.
emotion the mediatrix
According to Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, feelings and cognitions that affect relations among the individual body, social body, and body politic.
The foundation of Marvin Harris’s theory of cultural materialism.
The position that human mental categories derive from experience, not a priori mental logic.
The construction of literary plots, characteristic of some postmodern writing.
See welfare and empowerment
The process of an individual acquiring culture, usually while growing up.
According to Leslie White, the universal basis of organic existence and the prime mover of the thermodynamic law of cultural development.
The pattern by which plurality is expressed in the English language, used by Edward Sapir to exemplify how language patterns are unconscious.
Disorder in the universe, increasing according to the second law of thermodynamics.
In the theoretical framework of Leslie White, the natural setting for culture, relatively unimportant in cultural evolution.
A phenomenon resulting from another phenomenon.
The branch of philosophy that explores the nature of knowledge.
Pertaining to prescriptions for correct behaviour that put the individual in accordance with a metaphysical order.
In the cultural evolutionary schema of Lewis Henry Morgan, past stages of cultural evolution.
Pertaining to ethnocentrism, or cultural bias.
A method of conducting fieldwork, for Bronislaw Malinowski “participant observation.”
An anthropologically constructed time for Native peoples before their contact with Europeans.
The ethnographic activity most subject to postmodern scrutiny, owing to the postmodern dictum that ethnographic writing is literary text.
The anthropological study of other cultures, usually involving fieldwork.
The ethnographic study of non-literate people with reference to historical records, according to Eric R.Wolf promoting the proper view that non-literate and literate peoples share a common history.
The name for linguistically oriented research methods of cognitive anthropology.
Pertaining to ethnomedicine, the anthropological study of non-Western medical systems.
According to Arjun Appadurai, five disjoined dimensions of commodity flow in the global cultural economy.
A term for the collection of methods used in cognitive anthropology.
The study of animal behaviour in the understanding that it sheds light on the innateness of certain human behaviours.
A term meaning spiritual character, used by some anthropologists to characterize a whole culture.
According to cultural materialism, the epistemological perspective of the investigator, or “the outsider point of view”; contrasted with emic.
Pertaining to eugenics, the now-discredited science that endeavoured to “improve” humanity through selective breeding.
The rating of non-European cultures according to a generalized European scale of norms and values.
Whether in the realm of culture or biology, the transformation of one form into another.
evolution of culture
The theoretical concern with constructing past stages of cultural development based on analogies with extant cultures thought to be primitive.
An outgrowth of sociobiology that uses Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to explain aspects of human mentality and behaviour as adaptations from the past.
Alfred Louis Kroeber’s term for the mistaken conflation of organic and social evolution, leading to views that are overly hereditarian.
The practice of marrying or mating outside one’s kinship group; contrasted with endogamy.
The philosophical exercise of accumulated empirical observation, transcending reason, as the guide for human thought and action.
A term used by George E. Marcus to characterize American anthropological theory in the 1980s and, more broadly, a post-modern idea that anthropological theory is in constant flux and poised to turn in unpredictable new directions.
In the theories of Marxism and cultural materialism, the capability of people to misrepresent the meaning of their behaviour to themselves and others.
fantasy phone lines
The adult message industry in which, according to Susan Gal, women often work from positions of power rather than powerlessness.
In the psychology of Sigmund Freud, totems that represent culturally ambivalent attitudes toward adult men.
The practice of treating male children more favourably than female children, resulting in more female deaths.
The view that feminist perspectives should be integrated into anthropology.
In Marxist theory, the agrarian phase of history preceding the industrial phase, characterized by classes of lords and serfs.
According to Clifford Geertz, things made, not discovered, notably anthropological writing and interpretations.
According to Pierre Bourdieu, the dynamic configuration, or network, of objective relationships among social agents and positions.
The first fruits to be harvested in a season, focus of Swazi ceremonies analyzed by Max Gluckman as rituals of rebellion.
fixed action pattern
As conceived by human ethologists, an innate sequence of behaviour released by a key stimulus of an innate releasing mechanism.
A form of college faculty meeting analyzed by Susan Gal to illustrate patterns of symbolic domination and resistance among women and men.
According to cognitive anthropologists, culturally conditioned maps of semantic domains.
The American military imperative of protecting American military personnel, according to David B. Edwards an impediment to establishing a relationship of respect for Afghan culture.
Economic anthropologists who maintained that Western economic concepts apply to non-Western economies; contrasted with substantivists.
The traditional approach of American anthropology that divides the study of anthropology into the four fields of archaeological, biological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology.
Frazer, James (1854–1941)
British classical cultural evolutionist who studied the African first-fruits ceremonies restudied by Max Gluckman.
free terror of madness and stifling anguish of responsibility
Michel Foucault’s terms for the existential dimensions of mental illness before and, in turn, after the therapeutic approach of physician Samuel Tuke.
The idea that people think and act of their own volition, unmotivated by culture.
The intellectual tradition associated with René Descartes and the scientific epistemology of deduction.
French structural anthropology
The theoretical orientation of Claude Lévi-Strauss and his followers, invoking elementary mental structures, reciprocity, and binary oppositions.
The school of psychological anthropology incorporating certain elements of the psychology of Sigmund Freud, also called psychodynamic anthropology.
In British social anthropology, either Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown’s theory of how parts of a society contribute to the whole of society or Bronislaw Malinowski’s theory of how culture responds to biological needs in a hierarchically organized way.
Translated “human sciences,” including anthropology; contrasted with naturwissenschaften.
The various social roles and identities attributed to individuals and groups on the basis of their biological sex.
The method of focusing ethnographic fieldwork on kinship, pioneered by British social anthropologists, notably William H.R. Rivers.
In the cultural evolutionary schema of Marshall Sahlins and Elman Service, the study of long-range evolutionary progress and trends.
According to Claude Lévi-Strauss, the exchange of women among more than two kinship groups, promoting greater social solidarity than restricted exchange.
general systems theory
A cybernetic model for culture used in the New Archaeology.
general theory of cultural interpretation
According to Clifford Geertz, something challenging to formulate, because theory can be neither very abstract nor very predictive.
A psychological configuration, attributed by some psychological anthropologists to an entire culture.
According to Edward Sapir, a patterned body motion performed and understood unconsciously.
ghost of Marx
According to Eric R.Wolf, the historical context in which the social sciences developed with the political-economic theories of Karl Marx in the background.
Technically, the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, the General Infantry Bill implemented in the United States in 1944 in order to provide various benefits to veterans of World War II, including subsidized tuition and living expenses for veterans wishing to attend college or vocational school.
global cultural economy
Arjun Appadurai’s term for the disjoined global flow of commodified culture, generating new cultural combinations and forms.
Arjun Appadurai’s term for the global movement of commodified culture in multiple dimensions separately, generating new cultural combinations and forms.
Marshall McLuhan’s term for an increasingly interconnected global society.
The expansion of Western institutions and lifeways into non-Western cultures and the emergence of new forms of cultural practice that are global in scope.
A term popularized by Roland Robertson to describe the coexistence of globalizing and particularizing tendencies in a society.
According to Charles Darwin, a supernatural, beneficent creator widely believed by people, but not animals, to exist; according to Sigmund Freud, a supernatural entity on whom people project their unattainable and forbidden wishes as cultural ideals.
According to George E. Marcus and Michael M.J. Fischer, the type of anthropological macro-theory that in postmodern times is being superseded by theories more micro-focused on context and indeterminacy.
Great Chain of Being
A medieval philosophical schema that ranked all cosmic and earthly elements, including people, in a single ascending line of importance.
great man theory of history
The theory that individuals affect the course of history more than do historical circumstances.
Robert Redfield’s term for cultures characterized by literacy, industrialization, and rational religions; contrasted with little tradition.
According to Émile Durkheim, the source of collective representations of social facts, sometimes called collective consciousness.
A form of natural selection in which individuals behave altruistically, helping their group, and thereby helping themselves; contrasted with kin selection.
Pierre Bourdieu’s term for the capacity of individuals to innovate cultural forms based on their personal histories and positions within the community.
Sally Slocum’s characterization of the Man the Hunter concept, which suggests that much of evolved human behaviour derives from only the male half of humanity.
A desirable state that according to Sigmund Freud is impossible to achieve because civilization thwarts the expression of libidinous desires.
A term for the capacity of one social group to impose particular beliefs or political and economic conditions upon another group.
Literally sun-centredness, the diffusionist view that world civilizations arose from sun worship in Egypt and then spread elsewhere.
Pertaining to the idea that differences among human beings can be accounted for primarily in terms of differential gene distribution.
The idea that differences among human beings can be accounted for in terms of differential gene distribution to an extent greater than most twenty-first-century biological anthropologists would accept.
A genetics statistic defined as the percentage of variation in a trait, including a behavioural trait, caused by variation in genes rather than environments.
The study of meaning, especially in literary texts, applied by interpretive and postmodern anthropologists to the study of culture.
An umbrella term for the many local and regional religions of India, most of which emphasize the concept of dharma (loosely defined as cosmic law or ultimate truth, toward which Hindus aspire with the goal of salvation), together with their associated myths, rituals, and ascetic practices.
According to Robert Lowie, another term for social or cultural evolution.
The study of language consisting of the reconstruction and descriptive tracking of language genealogies over time.
The theoretical orientation of Franz Boas and many of his students who focused on the particular histories of particular cultures.
Pertaining to an overarching or integrated outlook, often associated with the broad scope of anthropological inquiry.
As described by Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, a politically autonomous social structure divided into families and under the authority of elder men.
Or melmastia, an Afghan cultural institution that according to David B. Edwards is of great help in establishing a relationship of trust between an anthropologist and local people.
A term used in human ethology to describe the alleged suite of inherited predispositions of Homo sapiens.
The view that human history comprises a decline from an original higher state, derived from the biblical book of Genesis.
human subjects and human objects
A phrase describing the circumstance wherein people can be both scientific investigators and scientifically investigated, according to Marvin Harris necessitating the theoretical distinctions between emics and etics and mental and behavioural realms.
Human Terrain System (HTS)
Initiated in 2007, a United States army program in which servicepersons trained across a range of social-scientific fields study civilian populations in regions where the army is deployed, in order to advise military leaders on how best to engage and communicate with these populations, broadly supporting the goals of counterinsurgency and overlapping (but not being isomorphic with) US military operations.
A system of thought that prioritizes people contrasted with nature and with a divine or metaphysical order.
A philosophical model for scientific explanation used in the New Archaeology.
The clinical condition of calm hallucination that got Sigmund Freud interested in psychology.
Or libido, according to Sigmund Freud, the part of the human psyche that expresses natural desires.
Pertaining to idealism, the view that ideas more than material existence cause culture change.
A term describing the view of Max Weber and others that the holistic individual is central to the creation, maintenance, and change of culture.
A term used by Karl Marx and Marxist scholars denoting a system of beliefs that influences the outlooks of individuals and groups.
Pertaining to a particularizing approach to description and explanation; contrasted with nomothetic.
Benedict Anderson’s term for the post-medieval social construction of nation-states brought about by the invention and influence of print media.
A name for the nineteenth-century synthesis of archaeology, racism, and colonialism.
imponderabilia of actual life
According to Bronislaw Malinowski, routine aspects of a culture that an ethnographic fieldworker can only understand first-hand, at close range, and over time.
Culturally proscribed inbreeding that, according to Sigmund Freud, is an act that led to the primal patricide.
In sociobiology, the measure, or result, of kin selection.
Swazi name for the first-fruits ceremonies analyzed by Max Gluckman as rituals of rebellion.
Or independent or parallel evolution, the circumstance where two or more similar evolutionary pathways lead to similar outcomes.
The doctrine, linked to psychic unity, that cultural innovation can occur independently in more than one place; contrasted with diffusionism.
The British colonial policy of co-opting Native leaders in order to avoid having to govern by force.
individual and social behaviour
According to Edward Sapir, the behaviour of individuals and the behaviour of individuals with reference to cultural patterns.
In the critical-interpretive medical anthropology of Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the lived experience of the body-self.
In scientific epistemology, the process of arriving at generalizations about particular facts; contrasted with deduction.
In Marxist terms, the kind of society characterized by the economic system of capitalism.
In anthropological fieldwork, someone who provides information.
In Marvin Harris’s theory of cultural materialism, the name for the belief that culture change usually begins in the etic infrastructure.
inheritance of acquired characteristics
The mechanism of biological evolution proposed by Jean Lamarck whereby traits acquired in one generation can be transmitted to subsequent generations.
innate releasing mechanism
As conceived by human ethologists, the mechanism that, when triggered by a key stimulus, releases a fixed action pattern.
According to Max Weber, the ethical demand of Calvinist Protestantism that Christians not retreat from the world in order to live piously.
inorganic aggregate/organic aggregate
Herbert Spencer’s distinction between nonliving and living entities.
According to Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, a social structure that maintains the form of society, while the matter, or individuals, change.
Victor Turner’s term for those symbols that can be consciously wielded in ritual as a form of technology in order to achieve particular ends.
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
An Indian program for indigent women and children characterized by Akhil Gupta and Aradhana Sharma as run by a paternalistic welfare state.
According to Charles Darwin, the evolved mental powers of people, attributed significantly to language.
The anthropological school, associated with Clifford Geertz, espousing the view that culture is lived experience integrated into a coherent, public system of symbols that renders the world intelligible.
interpretive theory of culture
Clifford Geertz’s semiotic theory of culture based on the ethnographic practice of thick description.
According to Edward Sapir, the unconscious motivation of individuals to engage in social behaviour.
A phrase describing the modern invention of historical events and personages, often with the goal of legitimizing contemporary political or religious ideologies by linking them directly to antiquity.
invention of cultures
The insight, popular among postmodernists, that ethnographers do not so much record and report cultures, but, through ethnographic writing, construct them.
Abbreviation for Intelligence Quotient, a ratio of measured intellectual to chronological age, figuring prominently in public and anthropological debates about nature versus nurture.
A self-conscious literary mode signalling that an author does not necessarily believe his or her own statements, according to George E. Marcus and Michael M.J. Fischer, characteristic of some postmodern ethnographic writing.
A euphemistic and usually pejorative term for the academy, or universities.
Transportation vehicles that according to Akhil Gupta and Aradhana Sharma figure differently in the routines of two kinds of Indian social programs.
The label attached to the view of behavioural geneticist Arthur Jensen that IQ is highly heritable and differs among human races.
jeweler’s-eye view of the world
A microscopic view, according to George E. Marcus and Michael M.J. Fischer, needed as an antidote to the macroscopic view of grand theory.
John the Baptist and Jesus Christ
As analyzed by Edmund Leach, two famous historical figures related by structural similarities and differences.
Justice derived from rulings of Islamic judges.
As conceived by human ethologists, the device that triggers an innate releasing mechanism, thus releasing a fixed action pattern.
The scientific study of human body motion.
In sociobiology, reproductive success via genes shared with relatives; sometimes called the biology of nepotism.
According to Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown and others, the social structure and organization of so-called primitive societies.
Kissinger, Henry (b. 1923)
American statesman and foreign policy expert, according to Edward W. Said with a world view similar to that of the Orientalist.
According to Michel Foucault, information linked to social discourses of power.
knowledge and power
According to Edward W. Said, two properties of a relationship wherein knowledge is, or creates, power, notably in the context of colonial rule.
A city in Indiana where, according to Margaret Mead, fieldwork would be easier to conduct and communicate than in Samoa.
A cultural and economic exchange network among inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands, studied by Bronislaw Malinowski.
Translated “culture circle”; according to certain theorists, the pattern of diffusion of cultural traits.
labour theory of value
The proposition of Karl Marx that commodities should be valued in terms of the human labour required to produce them.
The evolutionary philosophy of Jean Lamarck, notably his mechanism of the inheritance of acquired characteristics.
Archaeology that considers artifacts and features to be expressions of culture, both incorporating and modifying elements of the natural world.
In Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistics, reference to language as an abstract system that can be studied independently of actual speech, or parole.
law of cultural development
According to Leslie White, E x T > P, or energy times technology yields cultural product.
law of universal gravitation
Isaac Newton’s scientific explanation of universal planetary and earthly motion.
layer-cake model of culture
Leslie White’s model of culture, with technology and economy at the bottom, ideology at the top, and social and political organization in between.
According to Pierre Bourdieu, language deemed to be official and correct and thereby occupying a position of symbolic domination.
liberation of the insane
Michel Foucault’s term for the stated goal of physician Samuel Tuke, according to Foucault actually a justification for having mentally ill patients internalize guilt.
According to Sigmund Freud, pertaining to the libido, the basis of natural human instincts.
An ephemeral psychosocial space in which social arrangements are subject to transformation, inversion, and affirmation.
Multi-generational kinship groups with membership determined by ties to common ancestors.
According to Pierre Bourdieu, the body of meanings, representations, and objects held to be prestigious or valuable to a linguistic group.
According to Pierre Bourdieu, along with correctness, one of two properties that characterize the perceived excellence of legitimate language.
According to Pierre Bourdieu, the dynamic configuration, or network, of objective relations between linguistic agents.
According to Pierre Bourdieu, the arena, or field, in which linguistic groups exchange linguistic capital.
literature as a transient category
The postmodern concept that literature, including ethnographic writing, is not grounded in a single truth but instead expresses partial truths that change from time to time and place to place.
According to Robert Redfield, cultures characterized by illiteracy, preindustrial economies, and “irrational” supernatural beliefs; contrasted with great tradition.
Alfred Louis Kroeber’s fictive exemplar of the important difference between organic and superorganic evolution.
According to Michel Foucault, a cognitive and emotive condition defined by people in power, the definitions changing over time.
An Indian program for indigent women and children characterized by Akhil Gupta and Aradhana Sharma as embodying the neoliberal philosophy of empowerment.
In the psychological anthropological model of John Whiting and Irvin Child, the equivalent of Abram Kardiner’s primary cultural institutions without Freudian components.
According to Sally Slocum, anthropology characterized by a preponderance of questions about male activities asked and answered by male anthropologists.
male-female pair bonding
A purportedly evolved attribute of human nature that according to Sally Slocum is contradicted by anthropological evidence.
Man the Hunter
An influential concept developed in the 1960s stating that key attributes of human behaviour are the evolutionary legacy of hunting by ancestral males.
A coterie of anthropologists trained under Max Gluckman at Manchester University in the 1950s and 1960s.
A collection of views derived from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and their theory of dialectical materialism.
A description of diverse anthropological theories that claim a legacy of Marxism, according to George E. Marcus and Michael M.J. Fischer a grand theory out of favour in postmodern times.
Cultural meaning expressed in the products of human artifice, or artifacts.
In dialectical materialism, the belief that human existence determines human consciousness; in cultural materialism, the equivalent of the principle of infrastructural determinism.
matrilateral cross-cousin marriage
Marriage to a child of one’s mother’s brother; contrasted with patrilateral cross-cousin marriage.
Unilineal kinship systems reckoned through the female line.
A tag phrase for the perceived homogenization and Americanization of the world’s cultures brought about by globalization.
means of production
In dialectical materialism, how people make a living in the material world.
The philosophy inspired by the law of universal gravitation, portraying the universe as a complex machine with fine-tuned, interacting parts.
According to Émile Durkheim, social cohesion maintained by similarities among individuals; contrasted with organic solidarity.
The medieval science of motion.
The cross-cultural, pan-historical study of sickness and health.
A member of the medical profession, who, according to Michel Foucault, is thereby an instrument of power and control over those in need of medical attention.
mental and behavioural fields
In Marvin Harris’s theory of cultural materialism, the realms of thought and action, either of the scientific observer or of the scientifically observed.
In the theory of cultural materialism, what people think contrasted with what people do.
As understood by Claude Lévi-Strauss, the view that structures of thought cause culture, a view that Lévi-Strauss himself denies.
microcosmic study of populations
According to Eric R.Wolf, the study of one culture with the intent of having that culture represent all cultures of the same sort.
microscopic ethnographic description
The small-scale, concrete focus that according to Clifford Geertz should be the basis of ethnographic interpretation.
Midwestern Taxonomic Method
The archaeological classification used in culture-historical archaeology.
military mindset and purpose
According to David B. Edwards, the American military preoccupation with fulfilling missions that is at loggerheads with the open-ended and opportunistic nature of traditional ethnographic fieldwork.
For Victor Turner, a dominant ritual symbol of the Ndembu people of Zambia.
Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown’s term for treating abstractions, such as society, as if they were concrete realities.
Perceived gaps in the evolutionary record.
A part of the American military mindset and preoccupation that according to David B. Edwards is at loggerheads with the open-ended and opportunistic nature of traditional ethnographic fieldwork.
According to postmodern theorists, the Enlightenment-inspired, invented tradition of dispassionate scientific inquiry.
The Western practice of transforming non-capitalist, preindustrial economies into capitalist, industrial economies.
According to Eric R.Wolf, sociological theory favouring societies considered to be modern and being critical of societies thought to be not-yet modern.
The doctrine that human races constitute a single biological species with a common origin and with differences produced over time; contrasted with polygenesis.
The belief in a single deity; contrasted with polytheism.
moral content of religion
The dimension of religion that according to Michel Foucault makes religion an instrument of social domination and control.
According to Charles Darwin, the evolved qualities of people and animals that allow them to reflect on past actions and approve or disapprove of those actions.
Moroccan drama (1912)
An event, recounted in 1968, that Clifford Geertz uses to illustrate the need for a thick description of culture.
The time scale of human history derived from biblical Old Testament genealogies.
The pair bond that Sally Slocum considers to be more basic to human nature than the male-female pair bond.
The myth that a mysterious people other than Native Americans built impressive earthen mounds throughout the American Midwest.
According to James Clifford, the constantly shifting vantage point that makes it difficult to maintain a single framework for evaluating ethnographic representations.
Descriptively, a term that refers to the coexistence of a multiplicity of cultures, adopted by many nation-states, including Canada and India, as a formal aspect of public policy, seeking to promote and deepen it as a social and political attribute.
According to Max Weber, culture change occurring in fits and starts in different historical contexts; according to Julian Steward, “branching” cultural evolution; contrasted with universal and unilineal cultural evolution.
The quality of having more than one possible meaning or interpretation.
Pertaining to museology, the academic discipline focusing on museum organization, management, and cultural representation.
myth and moral offence
A phrase representing Edmund Leach’s view that myths are about moral offence and can be analyzed accordingly.
A term used by Edmund Leach to describe his view that myths do not occur in iso¬lation but instead are structural transformations of one another.
A disparaging term used to describe unfounded assertions about the inheritance of human behaviour.
Edward W. Said’s term for Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt in 1798.
According to certain psychological anthropologists, the dominant personality of a nation.
A sovereign territorial entity, according to Akhil Gupta and Aradhana Sharma a product of transnational cultural forces threatening that sovereignty.
native point of view
The view of culture sought by Bronislaw Malinowski through his ethnographic method of participant-observation.
The early theological conception of “primitive” peoples as capable of “improvement” and conversion to Christianity.
Charles Darwin’s mechanism for biological evolution, involving struggle for existence and survival of the fittest.
The early theological conception of “primitive” peoples as innately imperfect and subservient to European Christians.
In the context of the nature versus nurture debate, the source of human behaviour from heredity rather than environment.
nature and culture
Core binary opposites in the structuralist theory of Claude Lévi-Strauss.
Translated “natural sciences”; contrasted with geisteswissenschaften.
Key participants in the dominant milk-tree ritual analyzed by Victor Turner.
According to Leslie White, the opposite of entropy, or the creation of universal order in the organic realm.
Twentieth-century anthropologists who revived and reformulated nineteenth-century classical cultural evolutionism.
A form of political-economic ideology in which governments promote competition among businesses within a capitalist market theoretically free of state oversight.
Or New Stone Age, the period of prehistory characterized by polished stone tools and the domestication of animals and plants.
Geologists who proposed that the principal agent of major geological change was the subsidence of water; contrasted with Vulcanists.
According to Sigmund Freud, disturbed psychological states resulting from maladjustment to the demands of civilization.
The nomothetic archaeology advocated by Lewis Binford; also called processual archaeology.
A name for cognitive anthropology focusing on the methodologies of ethnoscience and ethnolinguistics.
New Physical Anthropology
The name for physical anthropology committed to the synthetic theory of evolution.
New Stone Age
The perspective that traditional values and beliefs are fundamentally uncertain and that existence is at base nonsensical.
no crisis in anthropology
According to Aleksandar Bošković and Thomas Hylland Eriksen, the attitude of anthropologists in peripheral nations, contrasted with the postmodern angst characteristic of anthropologists in the core nations of the United States, Britain, and France.
The romanticization of “primitive” life.
The philosophical doctrine that general concepts are not real but exist only as names (nominalism), contrasted with the philosophical doctrine that general concepts are real and not merely names (realism).
A Zulu domestic ritual analyzed by Max Gluckman as a ritual of rebellion.
Generalizing; contrasted with idiographic.
According to Thomas Kuhn, science conducted within a scientific paradigm.
norms of conduct
According to Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, the behavioural expectations of people in specified social relationships.
Sherry B. Ortner’s term for various anthropological theories united primarily by their wish to be seen as non-Marxist.
In the context of the nature versus nurture debate, the source of human behaviour from environment rather than heredity.
Deliberate obfuscation or vagueness aimed at preventing facts or details about something from becoming known.
According to Sigmund Freud, the troublesome psychological state of boys induced by their sexual desire for their mothers; contrasted with the Electra complex.
Old Stone Age
The circumstance when a spoken word sounds like what it represents.
The biological growth of an individual.
According to Sigmund Freud, an ideal of civilization based on sublimation of natural human instincts to the contrary.
organic (or organismic) analogy
Likening society to an organism, a conceptual device of numerous anthropological theorists.
According to Émile Durkheim, social cohesion maintained by differences and interdependence among individuals; contrasted with mechanical solidarity.
Broadly, pertaining to the geographical and cultural East, or Orient, contrasted with the geographical and cultural West, or Occident.
Edward W. Said’s term for the culturally constructed characterization of British colonies, notably Egypt, as incapable of functioning properly without colonial oversight.
The Christian idea that early sin resulted in the expulsion of humanity from the Garden of Eden.
The idea that biological evolution operates in one direction, usually leading to Homo sapiens.
Edmund Leach’s term for the continuing existence of social structure, even against the backdrop of constant social change.
A postmodern-era label for the people anthropologists study, anthropologists being labelled Self.
other people’s anthropologies
Alexandar Bošković and Thomas Hylland Eriksen’s term for national traditions of anthropology other than those of the core nations of the United States, Britain, and France.
Or Old Stone Age, the period of prehistory characterized by chipped and flaked stone tools and hunting and gathering.
According to Thomas Kuhn, an intellectual framework for “normal” science, which is superseded by another paradigm in a scientific “revolution.”
In some schemas of cultural evolution, similarities that evolve independently in different locations.
In Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistics, reference to language as actually used in speech, often deviating from the abstract structural system of language, or langue.
The grand, synthetic, and abstract theory of sociologist Talcott Parsons, out of favour in postmodern times.
James Clifford’s characterization of ethnographic truth, owing to his view that ethnographies are inherently incomplete.
The style of anthropological fieldwork requiring the fieldworker to see things from both the “native” and the fieldworker’s points of view.
An unofficial, provincial, non-prestigious, or marginal language variant.
According to Max Weber, social structures that generate authority based on normal economic routine, similar to bureaucratic structures and contrasted with charismatic governance.
A social group governed exclusively by males or groups of males.
patrilateral cross-cousin marriage
Marriage to a child of one’s father’s sister; contrasted with matrilateral cross-cousin marriage.
Unilineal kinship systems reckoned through the male line.
pattern of wealth
As described by Edward Sapir, the unconscious organization of the distribution of economic resources that differ from culture to culture.
peacock theory of primitive man
Robert Lowie’s term for acknowledging that so-called primitive cultures value individuality more than is commonly supposed.
people without history
Eric R.Wolf’s phrase for non-literate people studied as if they had no history of political-economic involvement with Western colonial powers or global capitalism.
The idea that humankind is capable of progressing or evolving into some desired end point.
One of several terms for national traditions of anthropology outside the core nations of the United States, Britain, and France.
In world-system theory, non-Western regions dominated economically and politically by Western regions; contrasted with core.
Michel Foucault’s term for the condition wherein, through internalized guilt and shame, insane people are always disapproved of both by themselves and by others.
In the psychological anthropological model of John Whiting and Irvin Child, the equivalent of Abram Kardiner’s basic personality structure without Freudian components.
The product of gene action, often affected by environment.
Following Paul Feyerabend, someone who believes that all scientific paradigms are logically equivalent, with no logical way to choose among them.
Minimally contrasting pairs of sounds that create linguistic meaning.
The study of linguistic meaning created by sounds.
The study of linguistic sounds that create meaning.
The evolutionary growth of a species.
The branch of anthropology that investigates the organic, or biological, dimensions of humanity.
Pertaining to piety, or religious reverence and devotion.
Pinel, Philippe (1745–1826) and La Salpêtrière
French physician Philippe Pinel and the hospital, La Salpêtrière, where he supervised mentally ill patients, studied by Michel Foucault.
A philanthropic organization dedicated to advancing the “scientific study of heredity and human differences,” said by its detractors to be tinged with biological determinism and racism.
According to Sigmund Freud, living libidinously, as directed by the id; contrasted with reality principle.
polarization of meaning
According to Victor Turner, the property of dominant ritual symbols whereby they possess both ideological and sensory, or emotional, meanings, which can vary.
An anthropological perspective viewing sociocultural form at the local level as penetrated and influenced by global capitalism.
As referred to by Pierre Bourdieu, a vehicle for the creation of legitimate language.
politically correct body
According to Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a body that conforms to a dominant cultural norm, such as a lean and muscular body in a culture that values achievement and hard work.
According to Mary Douglas, aspects of the world unexplained by a society’s basic categories of understanding, thereby threatening the social order; contrasted with purity.
Mating or marriage involving one woman and more than one man.
The doctrine that human races constitute separate species with separate origins and innate differences; contrasted with monogenesis.
Variation in phenotype affected by the action of many genes.
Polynesian theory of divine kingship
A theory that according to Marshall Sahlins is part of the structural explanation of the killing of Captain James Cook by Native Hawaiians.
Having more than one meaning or significance.
The belief in multiple deities; contrasted with monotheism.
The view that science is objective and value-free.
The scientific philosophy of Auguste Comte.
States that have participated in the network of historical and cultural interconnections between colonizers and the colonized.
The anthropological study of how the legacy of colonialism has altered both the former colonizing and the former colonized states.
Pertaining to postmodernism, the intellectual stance that experience is subjective and no one version of it can be authoritative.
postmodernity and globalization
According to George E. Marcus, the two sequential foci of anthropological theory since the 1980s.
Postmodern-era archaeology critical of the New Archaeology; also called contextual archaeology.
An adjective that expresses disenchantment with static, mechanistic, and controlling models of culture, with a consequent interest in social process and agency.
A Pacific Northwest Native ceremony characterized by conspicuous exchange and consumption of goods.
The computer program widely used to format presentations, according to David B. Edwards the centrepiece of military briefs and incompatible with the presentation of anthropological insights.
practice (or praxis)
According to Pierre Bourdieu, the concept that society is constructed by purposeful, creative agents who bring society to life through talk and action.
According to Sherry B. Ortner, the critical nexus by which different practice, or praxis, theories can be evaluated.
A school of linguists based in Prague that pioneered the analysis of phonemes.
According to Bronislaw Malinowski, undesirable bias, not to be confused with theoretical preparation, an important guide to ethnographic fieldwork.
The period of human existence before writing.
prescriptive and performative structures
According to Marshall Sahlins, two different ways that structures are realized in culture, the prescriptive more by form and the performative more by action.
In Sigmund Freud’s hypothetical primeval family, the killing of the father by his sons.
primary cultural institutions
In psycho-dynamic anthropology, institutions that affect how children are raised and that shape basic personality structure.
In Sigmund Freud’s reconstruction of human history, the first family form—monogamous, nuclear, and patriarchal.
In some versions of Marxism, the view that past primitive peoples lived in a state to which future communism will, in a fashion, return.
According to Émile Durkheim, a religion found in a simply organized society that can be explained without reference to other religions.
Benedict Anderson’s term for the power unleashed by the invention of print media, which led to mass literacy and a global trade in ethnic identities.
A name post-processual archaeologists use for the nomothetic New Archaeology.
production fetishism and fetishism of the consumer
According to Arjun Appadurai, in a globalized world, the illusion that production is local (production fetishism), and the illusion that the consumer is an agent of consumer demand rather than a chooser of what culture has to offer (fetishism of the consumer).
According to Émile Durkheim, that which is routine, mundane, impure, and “of the world”; contrasted with the sacred.
The movement of humanity from a perceived inferior toward a perceived superior state.
In the psychological anthropological model of John Whiting and Irvin Child, the equivalent of Abram Kardiner’s secondary cultural institutions without Freudian components.
In Marxist theory, when workers appropriate the bourgeois means of production for themselves, ushering in socialism and ultimately communism.
In the lexicon of Marxism, the working class.
The scientific study of posture as a form of non-verbal communication, sometimes called “body language.”
According to Sigmund Freud, the subconscious, comprising the id, ego, and superego.
The medical profession that treats abnormal behaviour, thought by Ruth Benedict to be ethnocentric in its definition of abnormal and by Michel Foucault to be an instrument of social control and conformity.
The doctrine that all peoples have the same fundamental capacity for change.
The analytic method of Sigmund Freud by which the social behaviour of adults is traced back to early childhood experience, according to Franz Boas of limited analytic value.
Pertaining to the school of psychological anthropology that adopted certain elements of the psychology of Sigmund Freud; often called Freudian anthropology.
Anthropology concerned with the relationship between cultures and personalities.
According to Ruth Benedict, the toll on individuals suffering in cultures that consider their behaviour abnormal.
An anthropology primarily and directly engaged with public issues.
public controversies about anthropology
Instances where the ethical conduct of anthropologists has been scrutinized in ways that have engaged the public, four of which are identified by George E. Marcus.
According to Clifford Geertz, all culture, whose prime characteristic is that it is acted out in public.
publishing in English
An anthropological trend increasing with globalization, according to Aleksander Bošković and Thomas Hylland Eriksen an impediment to anthropologists in peripheral nations engaging with their own publics.
Three cultures whose normative personality configurations were contrasted by Ruth Benedict in Patterns of Culture.
A person deemed to be authoritative who renders opinions publicly, frequently by way of the mass and electronic media.
According to Mary Douglas, the ideal of a seamless social order symbolically excluding that which threatens a society’s basic categories of understanding; contrasted with pollution.
A four-legged animal, such as the primate thought by Charles Darwin to have been ancestral to people.
According to Charles Darwin, distinctive groups of humanity thought to have been evolved primarily by sexual selection.
According to Sigmund Freud, the subconscious awareness of the history of the human psyche.
A variously defined label for views that differences among human races are relatively fixed by nature and can be ranked from inferior to superior.
Philosophers who favour a priori logic over experience as the source of human mental categories, synonymous with apriorists.
According to Max Weber, evolved through the systematization of ideas, corresponding norms of behaviours, and motivational commitment to those norms.
According to Sigmund Freud, the principle of realizing that acting on the pleasure principle is dangerous and immature.
The exercise of human cognitive functions independent or semi-independent of experience.
rebellion and revolution
Max Gluckman’s distinction between cathartic protest against a political authority’s inappropriate behaviour (rebellion), and a protest against the position of authority itself (revolution).
In sociobiology, the “Biological Golden Rule,” said to account for altruistic behaviour among non-relatives.
According to Marcel Mauss, the elementary principle of exchanging gifts; according to Claude Lévi-Strauss, the elementary principle of exchanging women.
A popular postmodern analytical strategy of reflecting on the biases and assumptions that inform one’s own theories and perspectives.
relations of production
In Marxist theory, the class-based social organization of how people make a living in the material world.
A phrase coined by Max Weber to describe those socio-economic classes in complex societies most prone to the creation of new social forms.
An integrated system of meanings and practices that seeks to connect humankind and nature with a divine or metaphysical order.
According to Claude Lévi-Strauss, the exchange of women between two kinship groups.
A term coined by Anthony F.C. Wallace to describe the spontaneous evolution of culture that occurs when communities experience conditions of extreme social and economic duress or marginalization.
The literary device of argument and persuasion, thought by some postmodern theorists to characterize ethnographic writing.
A research institute in Zambia that conducted much ethnographic research in the final years of British colonialism, later called the Zambian National Research Institute.
Any form of prescribed behaviour that is periodically repeated and links the actions of the individual or group to a metaphysical order of existence.
Arnold van Gennep’s term for the tripartite nature of ritual, involving separation from society, transition to a new social status, and a new incorporation into society.
According to Victor Turner, the smallest units of rituals defined as formal behaviours for occasions not connected with technological routine that retain the essential properties of those rituals.
rituals of rebellion
A phrase coined by Max Gluckman to describe the socially constructive role of ritual in helping to avoid real conflict.
rituals of resistance
A concept associated with Pierre Bourdieu and referring to individuals’ symbolic resistance to symbolic domination, used by Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes to characterize some expressions of illness and distress.
According to George E. Marcus and Michael M.J. Fischer, three strategies of literary emplotment designed to circumvent the ironic mode characteristic of some postmodern ethnographic writing.
In the theory of dialectical materialism, the class that controls the means of production.
Rushton, J. Philippe (1943–2012)
Canadian researcher known for his hereditarian views on human races, criticized by Jonathan Marks.
Russian social anthropology
A term now used by some Russian anthropologists to distinguish current social and cultural research in the region from the outmoded Soviet ethnology, which imposed a framework of dialectical materialism on all research.
According to Émile Durkheim, that which is pure, powerful, and supernatural; contrasted with the profane.
Ethnography motivated by the need to obtain information about cultures threatened with extinction or assimilation.
According to Max Weber, escape from worldly capriciousness and evil through social arrangements rationalized in accordance with a divine plan, typically revealed by charismatic prophets.
The Polynesian island where Margaret Mead conducted her first, famous, and later controversial fieldwork.
The proposition of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf that the structure of language conditions the nature of cultural meaning.
A term, used by Marshall Sahlins, referring to Ferdinand de Saussure’s focus on synchronic rather than diachronic linguistic regularities.
Lewis Henry Morgan’s tripartite schema for the universal evolution of humanity.
A formerly common, unflattering label for Native people that, according to Bronislaw Malinowski, has been superseded by more respectful terms based on understanding achieved through ethnographic fieldwork.
A system of thought that prioritizes nature contrasted with humankind and with a divine or metaphysical order.
science of culture
According to Edward Burnett Tylor, the idea that culture evolves regularly and predictably in ways that condition human thoughts and actions.
science of man
Alfred Louis Kroeber’s definition of anthropology.
Jonathan Marks’s term for ideas presented with a scientific gloss that either misrepresent science or do not hold up to closer scientific scrutiny.
Improper or incorrect science that actively or passively supports racism.
According to Thomas Kuhn, the replacement of one scientific paradigm with another.
secondary cultural institutions
In psychodynamic anthropology, social institutions that are projections of basic personality structure and help people cope with the world.
second law of thermodynamics
The scientific proposition that the universe is running down, thereby increasing disorder, or entropy.
A body of research and theory within sociology and political science that assumes the demise of religion in a modernizing world.
self and other
The distinction between an anthropologist (self), and the people an anthropologist investigates (other), defined differently in different national traditions of anthropology.
Pertaining to semantics, the study of linguistic meaning.
A mental domain of cultural meaning that is the focus of inquiry in cognitive anthropology.
Pertaining to the relationship between symbols and what they represent.
According to the archaeological principle of seriation, or relative dating by the evolution of artifact style.
Charles Darwin’s evolutionary mechanism whereby members of one sex compete for the attention of members of the opposite sex.
According to Max Weber, the extraordinary, trance-like behaviour of shamans that is a basis for their claim to charismatic authority.
Magico-religious specialists who communicate with ancestral ghosts and other spirits.
shreds and patches
Robert Lowie’s enigmatic characterization of culture to be found in the final paragraph of Primitive Culture.
In Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistics, the pair formed in the relation of a signifier to a signified, the essence of relations among meaningful units in a language.
In Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistics, one of two units making up the sign, the concept generated in our minds when represented by a sound or image, the signifier.
In Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistics, one of two units making up the sign, the word or image that represents a concept, the signified.
According to Susan Gal, a condition that in relations between women and men can represent power or resistance to symbolic domination.
Margaret Mead’s term for so-called primitive cultures that an anthropologist can expect to be able to understand in a relatively brief period of time.
situational suppression of conflict
According to Victor Turner, the property of dominant ritual symbols whereby they keep feelings of social dissatisfaction from coming to the surface and causing real social conflict.
According to Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, the study of social structure and organization.
In the critical-interpretive medical anthropology of Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the use of the body to symbolize nature, society, and culture.
The theory that sociocultural phenomena are products of historically situated interpersonal negotiation accomplished through patterned language and activity.
A loosely used term referring to social philosophies based on Darwinian evolutionism, especially the mechanism of natural selection.
In Positivism, the study of social change.
According to Herbert Spencer, the evolution of society conceptualized as analogous to the evolution of organisms; according to Robert Lowie, the concept of the evolution of society, opposed to the concept of diffusion.
Émile Durkheim’s name for social phenomena, his units of sociological analysis.
In British social anthropology, the contribution of a part of society to the whole of society; sometimes called social physiology.
According to Charles Darwin, the evolved capability of people and animals to feel love and sympathy for their own kind.
In British social anthropology, according to the organismic analogy, the study of social structure.
Herbert Spencer’s term for society conceptualized as analogous to an organism.
According to Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, an arrangement of social activities related to one another through a larger social entity.
In British social anthropology, according to the organismic analogy, the study of social function.
According to late structural-functionalism, social change as the ongoing creation of a fluid, dynamic social structure.
According to Robert Lowie, the mistaken idea that social evolution can be seen to be progressive.
In Positivism, the study of social stability.
In British social anthropology, the social matrix of behaviour; sometimes called social morphology.
According to Edward Sapir, unconsciousness ascribed to groups of individuals, all with essentially the same mental functions.
According to Max Gluckman, what is achieved when rituals of rebellion relieve social threats brought on by the perception that social unity is absent.
In the cultural evolutionary schema of Lewis Henry Morgan, the kind of society based on personal relations, contrasted with civitas.
According to Herbert Spencer, a real entity comprising a collection of individuals, analogous to a real organism comprising a collection of body parts; according to Alfred Louis Kroeber, an aggregation of individuals, including people, with culture.
According to Ruth Benedict, a false dualism, because culture provides the raw material from which people make up their lives.
An investigation of the biological basis of social behaviour using the evolutionary principles of kin selection and inclusive fitness.
According to Alfred Louis Kroeber, the branch of anthropology that investi¬gates the supeorganic dimension of humanity.
According to Eric R.Wolf, the study of social relations without reference to their political-economic context.
sociology of language and sociology of education
According to Pierre Bourdieu, two inseparable sociologies pertaining to legitimate language.
The idea that the individual self is the only reality and that the external world exists only in one’s imagination.
According to Max Weber, the process by which charismatic authorities settle disputes based on their perceived wisdom, like that of King Solomon of ancient Israel.
An ancient Greek school of thought that attached greater importance to practical skills and social effectiveness than to the search for objective knowledge and absolute truth.
A group of German philosophers who differentiated human sciences, or geisteswissenschaften, and natural sciences, or naturwissenschaften.
A group of organisms whose members can reproduce only with one another.
In the cultural evolutionary schema of Marshall Sahlins and Elman Service, the study of how cultures differentiate by adapting to local environments.
specification of discourses
The concern in post-modern ethnographic writing to specify who is writing the ethnography, when, where, and under what historical and institutional constraints.
According to Marvin Harris, acts that can be regarded either emically or etically, depending on the circumstances.
A variously defined geopolitical entity traditionally linked to the nation, according to Akhil Gupta and Aradhana Sharma, in the era of globalization, challenging the territorial sovereignty of the nation-state.
state in transnational context
In the postcolonial analytic framework of Akhil Gupta and Aradhana Sharma, the state viewed in the context of neoliberal, globalizing forces that threaten nation-state sovereignty.
According to Edward Burnett Tylor, the correlation of cultural events and attributes, demonstrating that the study of culture can be scientific.
In the schema of Henry Maine, societies that are family-oriented, hold property in common, and maintain control by social sanctions; contrasted with contract societies.
An ancient school of thought that believed that nature and society are intrinsically orderly, allowing particular societies to be compared and contrasted in accordance with universal principles.
The Old Stone Age, or Paleolithic, and the New Stone Age, or Neolithic.
The archaeological dating of artifacts relative to their placement in systematically layered earth.
A Mountain Crow band member whose complex social relations, according to Robert Lowie, illustrate why theories of social evolution are simplistic.
In British social anthropology, the synchronic concern with social structure and social function.
As understood by Edmund Leach, the school of linguistics that views speech as a manifestation of grammatical and phonological structures, not as a simple response to a linguistic stimulus.
Proponents of a theoretical blend of Marxism, dialectical philosophy, and French structural anthropology.
structural matter and structural form
According to Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, the individuals, or matter, and institutions, or form, that constitute society, the matter changing and the form remaining the same.
In British social anthropology, the synchronic concern with social structure, sometimes called social morphology; in French structural anthropology, the concern with the elementary forms of minds and cultures.
According to Edmund Leach, a patterning of internally organized relationships, subject to multiple forms of expression and transformation.
structure as historical object
A phrase describing Marshall Sahlins’s idea that cultural structures are rooted in and change through historical events.
structure of the conjuncture
Marshall Sahlins’s phrase describing the space of intersection between different cultural structures, where contingency produces historical change.
struggle for existence
Charles Darwin’s view that evolution by natural selection involves competition for limited resources and results in survival of the fittest.
According to Sigmund Freud, the part of the mind that is the seat of the psyche, of which people are aware only unconsciously.
A condescending colonialist term for people thought to need colonial rule for their own good.
According to Sigmund Freud, to rechannel libidinous desires into culturally acceptable thoughts and behaviours.
The means by which a people feeds, clothes, and shelters itself.
Economic anthropologists who maintained that Western economic concepts do not apply to non-Western economies; contrasted with formalists.
In its own realm, or on its own terms.
According to Sigmund Freud, the part of the psyche, sometimes called conscience, that monitors the id and mediates between the ego and the outside world.
The idea that culture is distinct from and “above” biology.
survival of the fittest
In Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, the adaptive outcome of the struggle for existence.
Edward Burnett Tylor’s name for nonfunctional cultural traits that are inherited from past generations.
The observation in Charles Darwin’s time that small variations would always be diluted by heredity and therefore could not increase or intensify through natural selection.
The anthropological school, associated with Victor Turner, espousing the view that social solidarity is a function of the systems of symbolic logic that connect people.
According to Pierre Bourdieu, the body of meanings, representations, and objects held to be prestigious or valuable to a social group.
According to Pierre Bourdieu, the tendency of dominant social groups to create and sustain a world view in which all members of a society, including subjugated members, participate.
A sociological theory that focuses on the decision-making strategies of individuals in social situations; similar to transactionalism.
According to Franz Boas, the overemphasis by Freudian psychologists on cultural entities as projections of unconscious psychological preoccupations.
symbols and signs
For Victor Turner, the best possible expressions of unknown facts (symbols), and analogous or abbreviated expressions of known facts (signs).
Magic that can affect an object through a similar object.
Concerned with the present more than the past; contrasted with diachronic.
A law pertaining to contemporaneous events.
Pertaining to syntax, the ways in which words form phrases and sentences.
syntagmatic chains and metaphor
According to Edmund Leach, sequential speech sounds that, when combined in other sequences, generate linguistic meaning through metaphor.
The all-encompassing philosophy of Herbert Spencer based on the premise that homogeneity is evolving into heterogeneity everywhere.
Synthetic Theory of Evolution
The twentieth-century theoretical synthesis of Darwinian evolutionism and Mendelian genetics.
Culturally prescribed prohibitions.
Translated “blank slate,” the idea that the mind acquires knowledge through experience rather than recognizes knowledge that is innate.
A group of Islamist Pushtun tribesmen in Afghanistan, formerly in control of the country but ousted in 2001 by an invasion of American and coalition military forces, becoming an insurgent enemy of those forces.
According to Pierre Bourdieu, internalized symbolic representations that make the social world what it is for people who live in it.
technological features of culture
According to Robert Lowie, tools, the evolution of which can be seen to be progressive.
The idea that biological evolution adheres to a long-term purpose or goal.
In the interpretive anthropology of Clifford Geertz, the equivalent of culture, interpreted through a process of thick description.
Pertaining to theism, the view that God created the universe and remains active in its day-to-day operations; contrasted with deistic.
A Christian term used by Max Weber to describe the explanation of evil in the world despite the existence of an omnipotent, just, and loving God.
theory of motivation
According to Sherry B. Ortner, what is needed for a theory of agency, self-interest being the perceived dominant motivation.
E × T > P, or energy times technology yields cultural product, the nomothetic basis of Leslie White’s culturology.
The study of conversion of energy in the universe, a fundamental part of culturology as expressed in the second law of thermodynamics.
In dialectical materialism, Friedrich Hegel’s form for dialectical change.
In the interpretive anthropology of Clifford Geertz, the process of interpreting culture as text.
The theology of Thomas Aquinas, which unified scientific, humanistic, and religious ways of knowing.
Three Age system
The archaeological ages of Stone, Bronze, and Iron.
Or technology, according to Leslie White the means by which people capture and transform energy, producing culture.
Objects of collective cultural veneration, according to several anthropological theorists, that are central to the maintenance of social stability.
The anthropological theory of Fredrik Barth that focuses on the decision-making and economic-maximizing strategies of individuals; similar to symbolic interactionism.
The concept of ancient Greek philosopher Plato that the pure ideas of objects are more real than the varied individual manifestations of those ideas.
In the structuralist theory of Claude Lévi-Strauss, the connection between binary opposites that serves as the basis for structural transformations of those opposites.
The view that a small number of distinctive contrasting features of the sounds of language accounts for all languages, according to Edmund Leach the basis of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s theory of binary oppositions.
To pass into another body after death, as do spirits and ghosts.
In Claude Lévi-Strauss’s analysis of Northwest Coast Native American myths, a figure who is structurally transformed from one myth to another.
The South Pacific islands where Bronislaw Malinowski conducted his pioneering ethnographic fieldwork.
Embellishing figures of speech sometimes encountered in ethnographic writing.
A satirical term coined by television personality Stephen Colbert to describe the implicit acceptance of a proposition where logic dictates otherwise or where there is a seeming lack of supporting evidence.
Tuke, Samuel (1784–1857) and the Retreat
Quaker physician Samuel Tuke and the institution, the Retreat, where he treated insane patients, studied by Michel Foucault.
turtles all the way down
The punch line of an Indian story recounted by Clifford Geertz to show that the process of thick description has no final end point.
twitching and winking
Two names for a behaviour that Clifford Geertz uses to illustrate the need for a thick description of culture.
Thinking of biological groups as homogeneous or pure when in fact they are heterogeneous and mixed.
An Arabic word for “community,” often used to designate the global diasporic Islamic “nation,” a community of the faithful.
According to Edward Sapir, behaviour in accordance with a generalized mode of conduct that people engage in intuitively and unknowingly.
A condition that in the opinion of many political economists is actually caused rather than ameliorated by international development initiatives.
unification of disparate significata
According to Victor Turner, the property of dominant ritual symbols whereby they interconnect disparate meanings by analogy or association.
The doctrine that gradual geological agents of change have operated throughout the past; contrasted with catastrophism.
Pertaining to the view that cultural evolution proceeds along the same lines everywhere, as in classical cultural evolution; contrasted with multilineal and universal evolution.
unilineal kinship systems
Kinship systems reckoned through one parental line, either matrilineal or patrilineal.
The idea that cultural evolution proceeds through the same necessary stages everywhere.
Pertaining to a single schema for global cultural evolution; contrasted with unilineal and multilineal evolution.
Enlightenment thinkers who promulgated laws of human history.
In cultural materialism, the levels of culture-infrastructure, structure, and superstructure—with emic and etic and mental and behavioural dimensions.
As referred to by Susan Gal, the study of linguistic variables correlated with the sex of the speaker.
The idea that biological evolution is self-motivated or willed.
Translated “spirit of the people,” according to some early theorists the ethnographic essence of a people.
Geologists who proposed that major geological changes were caused by the elevation of land brought about by volcanic heat; contrasted with Neptunists.
A label for cultural materialists who, according to their critics, ignore dialectical thinking.
According to Max Weber, a chieftain who achieves charismatic authority through heroic acts of hunting and warfare, predecessor of the charismatic king.
weapons of mass destruction
Or WMDs, the euphemistic term for weapon technologies with the potential to cause casualties on a massive scale, for example, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.
welfare and empowerment
In the postcolonial analytic framework of Akhil Gupta and Aradhana Sharma, two different approaches to government social programs, one traditional (welfare), and the other neoliberal (empowerment).
Western scientific medicine
Sometimes called biomedicine, the positivistic form of ethnomedical knowledge and practice dominant in Western societies, contrasted by Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes with critical-interpretive medical anthropology.
A white, or European, guide, someone Bronislaw Malinowski recommends that ethnographic fieldworkers avoid as much as possible.
David B. Edwards’s term for quick-and-dirty ethnography necessarily conducted by American military personnel in the field.
woman the gatherer
Sally Slocum’s counterproposal to the Man the Hunter concept, lacking male bias and based on scientific reasoning and research.
A term referring to the existence or potential existence of different forms of anthropological theory and professional practice, rooted in different cultural and linguistic traditions around the world.
According to political economists, the global expansion of Western capitalism, creating a world-system of unequal commodity exchange.
Immanuel Wallerstein’s theory that core nation-states are engaged in the systematic exploitation of peripheral nation-states for labour and natural resources.
writing culture critique
The postmodern-era critique of ethnographic writing, specifically in the book Writing Culture.
Pertaining to xenophobia, the fear and dislike of foreigners.
A northern California Native American language that uses single words to express thoughts that in English can be expressed only by multiple words, cited by Edward Sapir as an example of unconscious language patterning.
The human chromosome that largely determines genetic maleness, inherited from father to son.
Marshall Sahlins’s term for the structuralist concept of paired binary oppositions.
The focus of certain African rituals of rebellion analyzed by Max Gluckman.
The agents of certain African rituals of rebellion analyzed by Max Gluckman.
A Pueblo Indian settlement in New Mexico, subject to differing ethnographic and psychological characterizations.