Tag Archives: culture

Where is the Anthropology? April 2008: Tal’Afar, Iraq

Tal’Afar, Iraq is April’s picture!  Good guessing.




This image was taken by a soldier who spent a tour in Iraq and has seen a very different world than many people. This soldier was kind enough to let me use one of the pictures taken of everyday life currently in Iraq to help show some middle eastern anthropology and to get a soldiers view of the Iraq culture, customs, and history.




“Tal’Afar is located in the Middle East in Iraq. It is approximately “30 miles west of Mosul and 120 miles north west of Kirkuk”, which are major cities in Iraq. While no official census has been taken, the city’s population was estimated to be approximately 420,000 people prior to the war. With current U.S. occupations, the assessment is closer to 200,000, nearly all of whom are Iraqi Turkmen. The population is “mostly Sunni Muslims with a Shiite presence. While most residents do speak Arabic, a dialect of Turkish is used nearly universally throughout the city.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_Afar)


During the Ottoman Empire reign of power, the Ottoman Turkish Army founded the city on a hill as a military outpost. “Remains of the fortress can still be seen today. Also garrisoned at the fortress were Turkmen members of the Daloodi tribe who following the withdrawal of the Ottoman Army became the first civilian occupants of the town build around the fortress. … Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Tal Afar became part of Iraq.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_Afar)


Over the years, much of the original fortress has been destroyed and rebuilt as needs of the people, military and governments have dictated. “Local history states that British administrators augmented the structure of the original fortress. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fortress was further augmented and made to house the city’s mayoral, municipal and police headquarters.” The castle continues to be used by military forces occupying the city. The local Iraqi military headquarters is also located there. The British occupied this area for years, further evidence of this can be seen in a large defensive structure just east of town and in the genetic features of the younger generation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tal_Afar)


Though Iraq is consider by some to be the “cradle of civilization”, it has not advanced much since then. There are modern convinces found among the city. Many of the citizens have cell phone, as they are relatively inexpensive to get and use. Cars are used, but not everyone can afford them, hence why they continue to use donkey carts for everyday needs. Indoor pluming is virtually nonexistent in this city and raw sewage runs down the street freely. Few residences have computers and internet access. In a region that can reach temperatures of 130 degrees, central air is few and fair between.


The culture here is very different from the American way of life. The men there are allowed to have more than one wife and the women there are not treated the same as in America. It is common to see a man walking from the market with a few women trailing behind him carrying everything and the guy just strolling along smoking a cigarette.


The unemployment rate is really high. When asked what he did all day, one resident responded he plays volleyball or soccer. When asked why he does not work, he said why bother. He gets everything he needs for living from the government. The thought process is just completely different, the items Americans use everyday and think are necessary for life are considered major luxuries.


The young boys are pretty bold in asking for things from the soldiers, a little to often. The girls on the other hand stay back. They are very timid and when the boys are around they will not come near. If a girl did get anything from a solider with boys around, the boys would often take it away as fast as they could and the girls would not be able to do anything about it. Because of this, for at least this soldier, he would try to give things to the girls because they were less annoying and it was more rewarding.”



Written by a Soldier



These are some of the stories and experiences this soldier had personally during the soldier’s tour in Iraq.  This added understanding, showed cultural differences and allowed the soldier to see into a different world that is normal closed off to the masses.




Editor-Adrienne Elder


How many Wives did he have? Polygyny Polyandry Polygamy: Food for Thought

Why might POLYGAMY be as common as it is?

The general term “polygamy” is often used as is in the form of a man married to many women.  In truth, there are several forms of alternative marriage arrangements in the world.  Three most common ones are when one man is married to many women (Polygyny), one woman is married to many men (Polyandry), or when several men and women are married together to one person (Polygamy).  Most societies (Middle East countries, African Nations, Tibet, South American, and Asian cultures) outside of industrialized western societies, gain economic, better survival, and religious moral values and expressions in such family organized arrangements.  Most societies have reasons for their motivation and social acceptances, which provides benefits to the adults and children.  This ensures a higher survival rate and better living conditions to many groups world wide, than if more societies practices monogamous relationships. 

Besides many of the industrialized western societies, monogamous relationships end in separation, divorce, or unfaithfulness, seeming to lack suitability for durability within those societies.  This could bring up the idea and understanding of monogamous relationships into question since currently the divorce rate in general is raising and marriage decreasing or happens later in life.   

I think polygamy might go beyond cultural beliefs; there were many accounts of evidences that could have supported the idea of polygamy as a better way to ensure human survival and success outside of westernized societies.  Social structure of marriage does become a part of someone’s believes form birth.  If a form of polygamist family structure is all ones knows, it is practiced for a reason; cultural, economical, religious, survival, improved living conditions, land, politics, etc. that then becomes the social “norm” and is accepted for what it is: Family.

What do you think?


Wikipedia has a good page about Polygamy if you want to further your general understanding of this form of marriage.





Appling Applied Anthropology in the Real World


            Applied anthropologists use anthropological methods and tools of research and data retrieval as professional consultants to solve real world problems and issues.  Applied anthropology involves applying the study of human culture, behavior, language, and biology.  Anthropologist’s help humans using observation, ethnography, and collecting research and data.  These tools of applied anthropology help people understand the “other”, an individual or group of people that are different then the observer, and provide comparisons, differences, and evolutionary information to gain a holistic perspective on a different way of human life.  The Society for Applied Anthropology has stated applied anthropology is the “scientific investigation of the principles controlling the relations of human beings to one another, and the encouragement of the wide application of these principles to practical problems ” (Griffith 2008). 

            Applied anthropology takes the four subfields of anthropology: ethnology (cultural), archeology, biology or physical, and linguistic, and finds ways to apply these subfields to societal problems in order to find possible solutions.  Applied anthropologists are involved in government, corporate organizations, social, political and economic fields, including world business, creating public policy, law enforcement, the communication field, and medicine (Nanda 2007, 10-14).  These types of anthropologists provide anthropological perspective to areas not previously considered relevant to anthropology.  Traditional anthropology focuses on tribal studies and extinct or dying peoples and cultures throughout history.  The skills and data retrieved through in-depth human studies using anthropologic analysis allows the developing world to realize what the affects might be, have been, and currently are from continued advancement and improved technology.  

            There are four different types of applied anthropology that are currently in effect; basic research for specified goals, corporate employee assignments, program development and administration, and consultants as cultural brokers (Mullooly 2007).  There are three approaches to anthropology when studying the human race.  The first is holistic, the analysis of human biological and cultural development, provides realizations giving an expanded perspective of the studied culture.  The comparative approach would take one of two different directions.  One example would be to examine the differences between two or more different cultural groups to show or examine external and internal differences between members of the same cultural group.  The last of the three is evolution approaches.  The basic concept of evolution culturally, biological and with language communication is the idea that humans are continually changing and adapting (Mullooly 2007).

            Anthropology has evolved.  The study of man for the sake for learning about cultures is basic anthropology.  The other is applied anthropology, which studies the human motivation from external forces or objectives.  This generally considered motives of improving, sustaining, and influences human life.  Anthropology, as Franz Boas has stated, is “documenting the diversity of human lifestyles” using cultural Relativity and Ethnography/Participant Observation (Mullooly 2007).  By “applying” anthropology, ethnographic techniques within the field of anthropology, anthropologist can evaluate the current world instead of the past.  This allows client groups to have a better understanding of their workforce and competitors.  In short, it allows anthropologists to enter the corporate arena as business consultants.

            The term “applied anthropology” was first coined by a man named Daniel Brinton in 1896 and by the 1930’s the term started to give rise to the ideas and concepts of applying anthropology (Sillitoe 2006, 6).  This form of anthropology came into practice during the 1920’s and 1930’s, and had a rocky ride into the next century for practical application.  The British were the first to apply anthropology skills for “Native American reservation administration and problems” based on their colonial control and conquest of savages and raw materials enriching the lands of Africa and the America’s (Bennett 1996, 26).  Anthropologists were used to help British colonial authorities to conduct “indirect rule”, while believing that they were of little use to the British government (Sillitoe 2006, 4).  The American background of applied anthropology however, is based off interdisciplinary research and ideas stemming from the origins of the Native American reservations, social cultural studies of industrial organization, economics, and rural agriculture (Bennett 1996, 26).  These avenues of anthropology gave birth to applied anthropologists’ way of assisting by researching and advising the impact of modernization on culture and humanity.

While the founders of the society for anthropology saw anthropology as a multidiscipline, they also believed “anthropology [to be] one single-but-multi-discipline” subject (Bennett 1996, 26).  Applied anthropology is able to uses other disciplines such as history, psychology, sociology, and physiology within the anthropology umbrella of studying humans.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, anthropologists started to reject the multidisciplinary view causing more focus on classic fieldwork methodology (Bennett 1996, 27-28).  Lucy Mair, an anthropologists in the 1960’s and 1970’s, stated, “anthropology’s benefit is more likely to be felt as the indirect result of its gradual diffusion among persons having administrative responsibility, increasing their understanding of the situations with which they are dealing, than in direct recommendations on policy” (Sillitoe 2006, 8).  Moreover, anthropology was under scrutiny by other academic fields after the social blunder towards the Japanese-Americans and Jews from the world wars and during the civil rights movement because of the destructive results to those groups, the anthropologists had believed they helped them and the government.  Still, anthropologists applied their skills to societal problems, working to make a difference despite the adversity to their work and the lack of validation of the subject effectiveness of applying anthropology.             

            Understanding other people is necessary in functioning and interacting with others.  Applied anthropology benefits humanity by looking at diverse groups and finding commonalities amongst them.  The worlds’ numerous peoples change because of the influences of other cultures and changes in their environment.  Applied anthropology allows for an open-minded perspective into the unknown, shunned, or misunderstood cultural worlds of “others” – peoples and cultures different from one’s own.  Anthropological analyze has been turned onto the cultures of today, including urbanized environments where many sub cultures thrive. 

Anthropologists take a more active role in their own complex culture when utilizing applied anthropology it actively finds answers to hard questions, such as Philippe Bourgois, Claire Sterk, and Peggy Mclntosh’s work on drugs, prostitution, and racism (Podolefsky 2007, xv-xvi).  These anthropologists are a few examples of how anthropologists have delved into society’s underworld to reveal how the American dream is still attainable.  To understand our cultures complexity, anthropologists look at the subcultures to help understand the whys and history of the subcultures existence and perpetual longevity.  Research into the underground economy and American dream through the eyes of the socially rejected in civilized America is what anthropologists bring to the forefront of society’s attention (Podolefsky 2007, 122-137).

            One of the possible weaknesses of applied anthropology is how deeply involved the anthropologists become in their topic.  Anthropological data could be contaminated by possible assimilation of the social scientists into the culture they are studying, distorting the information being collected.  Another weakness of this form of anthropology is that a person is not researching information for long periods of time, building up trust.  Instead, they are trying to prove a client’s product or work has an affect on a group of people.  This outcome driven focus could make the anthropologist’s data unreliable because of the pressures of the conclusion driven client.  The applied anthropologist must balance both the client’s interest as well as the group being studied, which may be in conflict and may place the anthropologist in a compromising position.  World War II Japanese concentration camps are an example of how the client and the group’s needs conflicted, and how the applied anthropologists’ research was used less scientifically and more for the government’s security demands.  This resulted in many Japanese Americans losing their homes, propriety, and dignity through applied anthropologist’s advice on how best to help the country protect themselves from Japanese spies during the war.  The governments and American society’s stigma against the enemy caused a lack of cultural understanding to be applied that might have help all parties involved and prevent the Japanese concentration camps in America.  Such acts reflected poorly on the field of applied anthropology and the credibility of those reports (Embree 1945, 635-637). 

            One of the biggest criticisms of applied anthropology is from the academic world in that as a discipline, it contains no true theories of its own.  This harms applied development as an academic field, as it is often overlooked or completely ignored in academic circles and institutions (Bennett 1996, 28-32).  Another critique within anthropology, ethics is a complex issue that applied anthropology struggles to address.  The responsibility to the group being studied and the demands of the applied anthropologist’s client put the applied anthropologist in an ethical quandary.  This ethical dichotomy is left to the anthropologist to sort out.  To help minimize harm of any unanticipated consequences, applied anthropologists strive to avoid taking any jobs that would result in such an ethical predicament.  The responsibility to the employer of an anthropologist is to maintain considerable independence allowing the anthropologist to criticize a boss or the company and to defend study groups against negative consequences.  (Bennett 1996, 32-33)      

Other concerns over applied anthropology is that the definition has continued to morph over the decades making it challenging to argue applied anthropology truly exists and has practical ability of the discipline to contribute to society and anthropology (Sillitoe 2006, 9).  Yet, there are currently applied anthropologists in action, if not in defining their anthropologic title as applied, that contribute to society, the businesses they work for and the needs of the populace groups they study.  Doctor Bonnie Nardi’s job as an anthropologist at AT&T is to help researcher’s pioneer new technology of the future by examining consumer’s behavior in the home or office for their next technology need (Podolefsky 2007, 218).  Applied anthropology “translates cultural relativism into conservation of local ways and adaptations … to make sure that change is not overly punishing or that any induced change has a beneficial effect” (Bennett 1996, 28). 

Scarlette Epstein’s classic monograph reported on the difference in response of two almost identical villages regarding an irrigation system, and the affects on these two groups.  The study showed one village was affected positively in growth and advancement in the economic and agrarian world.  The other village had almost no change in their traditional life style.  The study Epstein conducted showed “that no one factor- social, cultural, or economic- could tell the whole story” (Bennett 1996, 28).  Anthropologists delve into all these aspects in a studied group to provide holistic understanding and to provide a clear picture of a particular society’s reactions to change. 

            The world is becoming more complex and globalizing with the worlds diverse cultures coming closer than ever before, applied anthropology seems to be the next step to understanding peoples needs better.  Anthropology studies human societies as a whole unit of individuals and groups trying to provide answers to social questions and concerns of others.  The harm of applied anthropology is that the anthropological advisors to the people that hired them can come into conflict with the people being studied.  The anthropologists’ goal is to help ensure the targeted populations are not negatively affected by the continuing encroachment of the modern worlds drive for evolvement and expansion.  Dealing with people on any level to be successful in understanding their perspective, and a form of anthropology analysis and observation and intervention, occurs with meeting and working with other people.  Any field of expertise a person chooses to master, applying anthropology skills can raise the success, and all humans benefit from a higher level of efficiency and effectiveness.  Applied anthropology might not be completely recognized by the scholarly world different or viable, but people that apply themselves find more success than failure in the work they achieve. 






Bennett, John W. Applied and Action Anthropology: Ideological and Conceptual Aspects.              “Current Anthropology”, Supplement: Special Issue: Anthropology in Public, vol. 37, 1    (February, 1996) s23-s53.


Embree, John F.  Applied Anthropology and Its relationship to Anthropology.  “American    Anthropologist”. New Series, Vol. 47, 4 (October –December, 1945) 635-637.


Griffith, David, Jeffrey C. Johnson, Jeanne Simonelli, Bill Roberts, and James Wallace eds.        “Mission statement”. Society for Applied Anthropology, 2008.  Retrieved on 3 February     2008 from http://www.sfaa.net/.


Mullooly, James. What is Applied Anthropology?: Humanity has problems We Find             solutions.  PowerPoint Presentation lecture notes (Fall 2007). Received 30 January 2008.


Nanda, Serena and Warms, Richard L. Cultural Anthropology Ninth Edition.  Thomson        Wadsworth (United States of America, 2007) 528.


Podolefsky, P. and Brown, P. Applying Anthropology: An Introductory Reader Eighth Edition.       McGraw-Hill (New York, 2007) 360.


Sillitoe, Paul. The search for Relevance: A brief History of Applied Anthropology.    “History and Anthropology”, vol. 17, 1 (March 2006)1-19.





Have Five Years of War Taught Americans NOTHING?: Food for Thought


From the Culture Inscribed blog, I read a write up they did on a Panel at California State University of Fresno where they had professionals and students engaging the issue of what has been learned about the five-year war in Iraq.  Go and read the blog and see if you think Americans have learned anything from the War on Terror.

I think that the topic of the Iraq war is often filled with raw emotion and not enough personal thought and research.  People want others to do the work for them in how they understand the war.  Developing thoughts and ways to “help solve and end the war” causing people to find themselves talking about other peoples opinions and other peoples facts and information.  They have not really done any real thinking about the Iraq war, war on terrorism, or America helping to rebuild Iraq.  People listen to what others say and I have found that there are many that have not talked to the soldiers or heard the people working on the different special projects in Iraq in the efforts to try to help them rebuild their great nation without the chaos of the past repeating itself.


People need to be better informed by their own efforts instead of relying on the mass media, politicians not personally involved, protestors or supporters that have nothing, but emotion drive fed by their favorite movie star.  Find the real stories from the people living it or do something about it over the past five years.  I believe that more of their voices need to be heard and considered valuable to see what people and Americans have really learned from this war.  Americans are in this war if they like it or not and too, many of them listen and learn from the masses sitting safely on the sidelines.


Mother Nature VS Mothering: food for Thought

These are other peoples understanding and arguments about this controverisal debate.  Read these Nature vs Nurture articles and see where you stand on the issues of biology and psychology influences.




What is the Nature/Nurture dichotomy? Is it helpful to discuse and what do you think?

Nature is the biological and physical aspects of human development programmed into people and will not change through education, culture or outside means.  Nurture is the cultural and behavioral knowledge and experiences a person is bombarded with through watching and interacting with others around them.  The human act of learning from others and ones environment is strong enough to change a person’s outcome within the world.  These forms of human development have been placed against each other, as the “classic dichotomy” between chemical reactions of the body and chemical reactions of the care one receives.

It is like science vs. sociology when in fact they are not as different as they try to be.  They are both a part of being human and a living species.  Biologically and socially, humans are linked to the need for social interaction for survival of the species through learned improvements.  In truth, the human development would not be important enough without the dichotomy being such a close fight.  I would say that if you behavior that humans can learn and change, they “evolve”, differently enough to make what they have learned seem biological, even to the point where it could evolve to a biological change, promoting new learned behaviors, which continue the cycle. 


It is a circle of human development both nature and nurture working together to created each other.  It might be as useful to ask another classic dichotomy: what came first, the chicken or the egg?


I think people needed to understand the dichotomy and see both sides of the coin to be able to decide where they stand on the issue.  These types are both within biological and cultural anthropology in how it is applied.  These different angles of application of anthropology have value points that help make important decisions for which a choice should go. 

On the first day, God created EVOLUTION and it was good?:Food for Thought

Article titles-(Links to the articles) These are the articles that have brought to mind the questions and debates over sciences and religion.  Who is right and who is wrong, or is it a different question all together?  You read them and desided where you stand on this anthropologic issue between the Titains.

  • Teaching Theories: The Evolution-Creation Controversy by Robert Root-Bernstein and Donald L. McEachron
  • Re-reading Root-Bernstien and McEachron in Cobb County, georgia: The controversies Continue Between Anthropology and “Intelligent Design” by Benjamin Z. Freed (none found– this article is in the Book Applying Anthropology: An introductory Reader by Aaron Podolefsky and Peter J. Brown)



Where do you stand on the debate of Evolution-Creation Controversy?


The two titans of human development seem to be in a constant state of battle.  What you point out is true about twins and their nurture and biological similarities.  I have heard this debate and I have found that it should not be “Nature vs. Nurture”, but Nature and Nurture.  There are biological truths and no amount of nurture is going to really be able to change the outcome.  Yet, nurture and culture can seem as strong or stronger then biological tendencies.  In truth, they both shape a person.

I would say that the debate has been going on far longer than when you where in 5th grade.  I would say ever since science broke away form the restrain of religious control.  When science was no longer trying to prove that the religious views were in fact correct and realized there other possibilities were plausible, such as things happening that are unrelated to “God’s will” as the article Teaching Theories: The Evolution-Creation Controversy.  The article seems to suggest that they should not even be compared to each other, like oranges and apples and they have there time and place.  Scientific theory and religious belief have there place within our understanding of the world, culture, and important value that does not require them to conflict.  They fill different arenas of an individual’s life.

I think that as a Christian, or Buddhists, Islam, Wiccan, ancestral spirits etc, a belief in creation is not wrong or invalid; it has a place and purpose.  It can be right.  On the other hand, evolution seems to be the most supported theory with scientific reasoning methods.  This does not discount the religious belief.  They can work together for some people religiously and scientifically or others can keep them separate wait to see what else is discovered or revealed through divine channels.

Personally, Evolution and my belief of creation, limited by my human ability to comprehend God, do not cause me to lose sleep over the debate.  My faith is not shaken and I have not disregard science as a man made evil for trying to make my belief impossible and illogical.  They work harmoniously to the point that I understand them and the rest I do not worry about the lack of cohesion.  I just figure God and science will work it out some day.   

What was the worst mistake in human history?:Food for Thought

 The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race” by Jared Diamond (PDF/Adobe Acrobat) View as HTML

Easter’s End by Jared Diamond- example of a study about a vanished civilization

 Do you agree with Diamond? Was the Neolithic revolution our worst mistake? Can Technology save us from ourselves?

Diamonds perspective on human civilization is that it is a ticking time bomb unless something, if there is still time, can be done to stop the destructive people of human civilization.  He put forth several books that focus on this topic and the bomb of human.  I think that the historical evidences are striking in his favor of the end of the world being produced my people.  One of Diamonds best supporting historic evidences is the Easter Islands rise and fall and destruction of what he viewed a smaller interpretation of the world.

 I can see what he means and think that his conclusion holds great amounts of truth that people should not ignore.  Massive amounts of consumption and globalization of human beings networking together has and will cause the earth’s human population to grow astronomically out of control.  Over time, just like the Easter Island people, there will be nothing left of land and resource for the type of human growth we witnessing now.  The great empires of the past did not fall into ruin quickly, but slow slipped down to extinction.      

When you look at the evidences of human health, work and relaxation and efficiency, 3 out of 4 say that hunting and gathering was the better way for humans to live, not as an agrarian society.  There are six deadly sins of “civilized” living for humans: malnutrition, starvation, epidemic disease, social class division, warfare, and autocracy.  The Neolithic revolution happened most lily form the increase in human survival rates and basic human population growth growing beyond hunter and gather sustainability causing people to turn towards farming.  I thing that it could be the beginning of a long line of worst mistake humans have made such as nuclear war, resource exploitations, chemical warfare, genocides of selected “inferior” human groups, plant and animal extinction, pollution of the world resources, greed etc.  True that many of them came after the Neolithic revolution, but it could be said to be the beginning of the end.   

Technology is a double edge sword that will get us all killed or possibly save us, depending on how we use it.  Humans are such complex animals and unique drives of survival.  I think it could but not all of us.  I would say that technology would likely destroy the majority of human life and a few would have found away to survive with the use of different technology.  Humans in a civilized world tend to be more warfare and destructive people and it only takes a few to destroy many.  Countless wars and human atrocities in our history have shown the statement to be true.  I think some can be saves through technology, but more will be lost first before we all realize the consequences of our actions.– Adrienne Elder 



Where is the Anthropology?- April 2008

Here are the monthly directions if you have been paying attention or are new to the site and want to play along.  Something that I thought might help in showing the interesting ways that anthropology is all around is to presenting picture of the month. This will be of anthropology importance; a place, activity or a person that has to do with anthropology. I will give a clue a week to give everyone an opportunity to figure out what the picture is and the anthropological importance and how it applies.


clue one:  This photo involves America politically and economically.  This country is very culturally different then typical westernized developed countries, but it is very active with them.  Where is this country and who are the native people?

clue two: In this country, you can find many Americans and a few other westernized people, but there numbers are dwindling over the years.  In this culture, all most all males are dominate, even the male children over females of all ages.  Who are these people and where in the world do they call home?

clue three: The language that the people speak is a form of Turkish, but they so not live in Turkey?  They are a small minority group in their country, but the city they live in, they are the majority.  This country is located near the beginning of human civilization.  Have you been able to guess where the picture is and who these people might be?


clue four: This is a war torn country, which Americans are starting to learn more about, but slowly.  This city has a large building structure that they have called the “castles” but the original purpose of building is unclear. 

Where is this city, what is the name of this city and who are these people? 

Which Sex is better?: Food for Thought

Is the equality between the sexes in the US? Will there ever be equality between the sexes in the US?



It is possible that in the future, there could be equality between the sexes but there would have to be a lot more equality between other differences as well.  It might not be possible since America is continuously gain new immigrants and changing since it is labeled as the land of opportunity, it always for a new group to be at the bottom of the social food chain.  With such social discrimination, gender inequality would continue since it seems to be in our society’s nature and animalistic instinct to show dominance over outsiders before allowing them social acceptances to a point within the social hierarchy.  It would be a great thing to see happen, but I do not know if it could be possible in reality, it seems to have very little chance of it existing in the future, but anything is possible.

It is true that women in our society have come a long way, I would not consider what women have today equal to men.  Hillary Clinton is a woman in a man’s world and therefore acts like a man.  Her becoming elected would add to the list of job options for women in the future, but that does not mean that women are equal to men in such positions.  Other examples of inequality for women in the work world are women surgeons, they still have a hard time with being treated equal within the mostly male dominated field.  Women that mirror male behavior are in typically male dominated position, become labelled negatively for their aggressive tendencies and arrogances.  While a man is viewed as having confidences and authority. 

Then there is the concept of gender inequality over pay.  It is true these things could change, but I do not see such a monumental shift is American social hierarchy or structure in the near future with a female President turning American society upside-down.  Anything is possible, but probability is another issue.

I was Born that Way?: Food for Thought

Garfinkel’s Agnes was a report on a project about socialized gender and what would allow Agnes to pass as a “normal” women.  This particular story will bend your mind around the idea of gender biologically, socially and personally.  Article:









What does Garfinkel’s Agnes teach us about gender?


Gender seems to be based on social acceptances and biological correlation.  The irony is that biological can be changed and adjusted for the behavioral and social acceptances of ones gender that is outwardly expressed.  Agnes story was presented in such away that the reader is to believe that Agnes is in fact a feminine women and has always been such, despite “her” male biology at birth.  The article could cause people that might normally consider Agnes a man with physiological sexual identity problems to be really a woman with unique biological abnormality.  Gender seems to be more a construction of society, cultural norms and individual identity more than true biology, which can be changed.


“That is just the way God made you” statement just does not seems to justifiable answer today’s individualism crisis of gender identity.

Where is the Anthroplology-March 2008: Strasbourg and American Tourists

Strasbourg, France


Strasbourg was a city rich in history, like many in Europe.  This now French city has maintained an exciting past being located on the borders of the French and Germany line.   After the rule of Romans and the Holy Rome Empire, a revolution in 1332 resulted in a broad-based city government Strasbourg declared itself a free republic from the Holy Rome Empire. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

The city’s famous cathedral was construction in the 12th century, was completed in 1439, and became the World’s Tallest Building.  The reason for its uniqueness to the town is that it was built with only one steeple leaving it nonsymmetrical.  The first modern newspaper was published in Strasbourg in 1605.  Johann Carolus received permission by the city to print and distribute a weekly journal written in German.  During a dinner in Strasbourg in 1792, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle composed “La Marseillaise“. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

During the French revolution, Strasbourg’s status as a free city was revoked.  In 1794, there was talk of tearing its spire down, because it violated the principle of equality.  During the Franco-Prussian War and the Siege of Strasbourg, the Prussian army heavily bombarded the city.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg) 

In 1871 after the wars ended, the city was annexed to the newly established German Empire at the treaty of Frankfurt (Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen).  As part of Germany, Strasbourg was rebuilt.  Massive fortifications were established around the city, which most of it is still stand today.  “Those forts subsequently served the French army, and were used as POW-camps in 1918 and 1945.”  Following the defeat of Germany in World War I, the city was again restored to French. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)


Having been influenced by Germanic culture, Strasbourg remained largely Alsatian speaking into the 20th century.  The fall of France in1940 during World War II, caused the city once again to be annexed by Germany.  After the war, Strasbourg was again returned to France.  The First World War did little damage to the city, but American bombers caused extensive destruction in1944.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)

“In 1920, Strasbourg became the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, previously located in Mannheim, one of the very first European institutions. In 1949, the city was chosen to be the seat of the Council of Europe with its European Court of Human Rights and European Pharmacopoeia. Since 1952, Strasbourg has been the official seat of the European Parliament”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg)


The cities lay out geographically was ideal for defenses with a river that was created to protect the center of the town.  Currently the city is larger then the town’s center, but it provided necessary defenses at the time of its construction.

In addition to this cities great history and European archaeology, any amateur anthropologist being observant to the different types of people visiting the city can currently examine cultural anthropology.  As I lived in Germany and traveled, my husband and I noticed cultural behaviors and clothing differences among American tourists, non-American tourists, European natives, and locals.  Often the people you could hear the best were Americans.  In truth, my ears picked up anyone speaking English since it was a rarity to hear.

In tourist groups with guides, American tourist seem just like any other tourists visiting the city’s sites, but there are still things that help in pointing them out.  What they choice to wear in public can often identify American tourists.  Some of the most common attire seems on these tourists are a form of athletic shoes, fanny packs, baseball hats, cowboy hats, and tourist souvenir shirts.  These clothing trademarks stand out against the European outing fashion.  When I would go out shopping for grocery’s to clothes the local people were dressed to impress.  I recall seeing many women ranging from 50-75 plus wearing fur costs, many of the other people looked like they had walked out of fashion magazines from New York City or Los Angeles.  People strutted their personalized looked when they walked out of the house.  I asked my Germany neighbor how some of the women could wear such high and pointy stilettos on the cabal stone walk ways, her reply was why would they not.  She then pointed out how easy it was to tell tourists from the locals because they would wear shoes that were athletic shoes, not matching their attire, or a more sensible shoe to allow for the walking around.   

On a deeper cultural level, American are stereotypically considered a nation where English is the most common language proving to most Americans a false security about not needing to learn as many other languages as people in other countries.  Often an American person will have taken one foreign language later in their teenage or college life and typically forgot most of that language.  Other people from different countries learn several different languages.  Germany people learn English and Germany when they are in elementary school and then learn another or two language in their teen years of schooling.  These languages are typically their weaker languages in later years, which is similar to Americans language development in secondary education. 

The significances to American typically only knowing English fluently, causes several observation notes of interest.  I have seen tourists that speak loudly to others in their party, in English.  Often these types of people might compare people, food, architecture, and culture differences to “not be as good as the things back home”.  They typically have large need for personally space around themselves in a crowd of people they do not know.  Often English comments are discussed at a volume level load enough to hear from 10-20 feet away.  These commend are herd by many of the people walking by and often those comments are in the local tongue with a disgusted “American” inserted among the words.

I asked my Germany neighbor about how they felt about American tourists in their country.  For the most part, American tourists were just like any other tourists to her.  She did note frustration to careless comments Americans often made about different cultures loudly expressed in public.  Often locals would make comments about what they said, since most people understand English if they do not speak it very well in European countries due to their required education programs.  American act as if they are the only ones that understand what they say, but the truth is that many other people pick up on those “believed to be private English comments among the foreigners”.  Add the clothing typical to ideal American family vacationing in Europe and Americans stand out.

After living in Germany for over a year, I realized these silly differences in behavior, cultural, and interpretation of American tourists throughout Europe.  My husband and I found American tourists to annoying as the locals found them at times.  I realized know how a few loud and careless remarks made by Americans in other countries added to the perpetual believe of the rude, uncultured, or stupid American cliché that give Americans a bad name.  I learned that just because you do not understand your environment or culture around you, sometime others understand you.

I hope this personal insight to my experiences in Europe, focusing on the City of Strasbourg, as an example of tourism at an annoying level to the locals, has shown you that cultural anthropology is always around you. 

The only tip I would offer to future American tourists is to be more aware of your surroundings and the things you say.  It is ok to make comments that others will not like, just say them in your friend’s ear kept it among your comrades and maybe level some of the silly tourist cloths at home, if you are looking to blend in with the natives.  

Adrienne Elder

 note: the first half of this articles information came from Wikapidia and the second and third images. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StrasbourgAll other pictures on this article came from Adrienne Elder.

Article: Cultural-Cleopatra’s Cosmetics And Hammurabi’s Heineken: Name Brands Far Predating Modern Capitalism

This article talks about commodity brands and the debates the origins possibly not coming form the western civilization.  The article blends cultural and archaeological anthropology together to arrive at the conclusion of where fashionable name brands started.  I find it interesting how fashion and brands have been cultural important for centuries, based on this article.  This brings to mind a different observation about fashion and style in different cultures and the social significances and labels that seeming become attached.  The example that I have observed is the fashion clash of Europeans and the tourists.  But then again, outsiders to a culture never look like they real fit in, something about them causes them to stick out.

The article comes across as a think piece.  So read it and think about the connections it has to what you have noticed or read, it could be anthropological without you even realizing it.  Enjoy.

ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2008) — From at least Bass Ale’s red triangle–advertised as “the first registered trademark”–commodity brands have exerted a powerful hold over modern Western society. Marketers and critics alike have assumed that branding began in the West with the Industrial Revolution. But a pioneering new study in the February 2008 issue of Current Anthropology finds that attachment to brands far predates modern capitalism, and indeed modern Western society. 

In “Prehistories of Commodity Branding,” author David Wengrow challenges the widespread assumption that branding did not become an important force in social and economic life until the Industrial Revolution. Wengrow presents compelling evidence that labels on ancient containers, which have long been assumed to be simple identifiers, as well as practices surrounding the production and distribution of commodities, actually functioned as branding strategies. Furthermore, these strategies have deep cultural origins and cognitive foundations, beginning in the civilizations of Egypt and Iraq thousands of years ago.

Branding became necessary when large-scale economies started mass-producing commodities such as alcoholic drinks, cosmetics and textiles. Ancient societies not only imposed strict forms of quality control over these commodities, but as today they needed to convey value to the consumer. Wengrow finds that commodities in any complex, large society needs to pass through a “nexus of authenticity.

Through history, these have taken the form of “the bodies of the ancestral dead, the gods, heads of state, secular business gurus, media celebrities, or that core fetish of post-modernity, the body of the sovereign consumer citizen in the act of self-fashioning.” Although capitalism and branding find in each other a perfect complement, they have distinct origins. Wengrow shows that branding has for millennia filled a deep-seated need for us humans to find value in the goods that we consume.

Sure to be provocative, “Prehistories of Commodity Branding” is necessary reading for a wide range of people, from those interested in the workings of ancient societies to anyone who is interested in understanding how marketing has developed into a powerful force in our lives.Journal reference: Wengrow, David “Prehistories of Commodity Branding” Current Anthropology 49:1 .

Adapted from materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. 

Article Cultural-Human Culture Subject To Natural Selection, Study Shows

This article is current cultural anthropology at work at Stanford over natural selection affects on human culture.  This article is a little traditional about the cultural approach, but it applies.  Often anthropology sub-fields over lap.  This article shows how biology and cultural anthropology have overlapped in gaining a better understanding of Polynesian canoe-design and the cultural significance of the seemingly natural selection of Polynesian genomes.  I hope you find the article as interesting as I have.

ScienceDaily (Feb. 20, 2008)— The process of natural selection can act on human culture as well as on genes, a new study finds. Scientists at Stanford University have shown for the first time that cultural traits affecting survival and reproduction evolve at a different rate than other cultural attributes. Speeded or slowed rates of evolution typically indicate the action of natural selection in analyses of the human genome. 

This study of cultural evolution compares the rates of change for structural and decorative Polynesian canoe-design traits. “Biological evolution of inherited traits is the essential organizing principle of biology, but does evolution play a corresponding role in human culture?” said Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California-Los Angeles and author of Guns, Germs and Steel. “This paper makes a decisive advance in this controversial field.

The Stanford team studied reports of canoe designs from 11 Oceanic island cultures. They evaluated 96 functional features (such as how the hull was constructed or the way outriggers were attached) that could contribute to the seaworthiness of the canoes and thus have a bearing on fishing success or survival during migration or warfare. They also evaluated 38 decorative or symbolic features (such as the types of carved or painted designs). They analyzed mathematically the rates of change for the two groups of canoe design traits from island group to island group.

Statistical test results showed clearly that the functional canoe design elements changed more slowly over time, indicating that natural selection could be weeding out inferior new designs. This cultural analysis is similar to analyses of the human genome that have been successful in finding which genes are under selection. The field of cultural evolution is controversial because not all historians, social scientists or even biologists agree that cultural change can be understood in an evolutionary context. Some say that human beliefs and behaviors are too unpredictable. But Nina Jablonski, chair of the Anthropology Department at Pennsylvania State University, said she is sold on the research.

“This paper is revolutionary in its approach … one of the most significant papers to be written in anthropology in the last 20 years,” she said. Authors of the study said their results speak directly to urgent social and environmental problems. “People studying climate change, population growth, poverty, racism and the threat of plagues all know what the problems are and what we should be doing to solve them,” said Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford.

Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb and other books on dilemmas facing contemporary human society, said he does not understand why more effort is not going into urgently needed solutions. “What we don’t know, and need to learn, is how cultures change and how we can ethically influence that process,” he said.Deborah S. Rogers, a research fellow at Stanford, said their findings demonstrate that “some cultural choices work while others clearly do not.”  

“Unfortunately, people have learned how to avoid natural selection in the short term through unsustainable approaches such as inequity and excess consumption. But this is not going to work in the long term,” she said. “We need to begin aligning our culture with the powerful forces of nature and natural selection instead of against them. “Examples of cultural approaches that are putting humans at risk include “everything from the economic incentives, industrial technologies and growth mentality that cause climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity, to the religious polarization and political ideologies that generate devastating conflict around the globe,” Rogers said.”

If the leadership necessary to undertake critically needed cultural evolution in these areas can’t be found, our civilization may find itself weeded out by natural selection, just like a bad canoe design.” This research is scheduled to appear Feb. 19, in the online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Deborah S. Rogers and Paul R. Ehrlich are affiliated with the Center for Conservation Biology.

Adapted from materials provided by Stanford University.

Where is the Anthropology?- March 2008

Something that I thought might help in showing the interesting ways that anthropology is all around is to have a picture of the month. This will be of anthropology importance; a place, activity or a person that has to do with anthropology. I will give a clue a week to give everyone an opportunity to figure out what the picture is and the anthropological importance and how it applies.


This image is wanting you to figure out the cultural anthropological importance’s of the people and the location significances. This image is about cultural observation of your surroundings and other people in a typical place where people congregate. Good luck on this image and I hope you enjoyed last months.


clue one: This is located in a country where English is not the dominate language used by the locals? Take note of the people in the image; this may become important in other clues.

clue two: This place has many visitors from around the world, but the most noticeable are English speaking ones.  They standout in more than one way.  This town became very important in 1952 and has a river surrounding the town.  What is the city?

clue three:  This city has been tossed between two countries for centuries.  The people that standout the most are the ones that talk loudly and have particularly weird way of dressing which is different to the way other visitors dress.  Who are the visitors and what is the name of the city?

Hint: Something red in the picture is not native to this area.

clue four: The name of the this city is a German name, but it is not in Germany.  This city has great importances to the European Union.  The people are often found in small groups scattered around the town in important buildings, restaurants, and stores.

Good luck with the final clue.