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Anthropology: Asking Questions About Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture, 2nd Edition
This general anthropology text takes a holistic approach that emphasizes critical thinking, active learning, and applying anthropology to solve contemporary human problems. Building on the classical foundations of the discipline, Anthropology: Asking Questions About Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture , Second Edition, shows students how anthropology is connected to such current topics as food, health and medicine, and the environment. Full of relevant examples and current topics–with a focus on contemporary problems and questions–the book demonstrates the diversity and dynamism of anthropology today.
What is anthropology, and how is it relevant in today’s world? Answering these core questions is the underlying goal of this book.
Anthropology is the most panoramic of the social sciences, focusing on the study of human origins, diversity, and culture, past and present. It provides a powerful framework to organize the intertwined complexities of human biology and evolution, social organization and experience, and symbolic communication and beliefs. It helps us comprehend how our species spread globally, as well as what globalization means for us in the contemporary world. The practice of anthropology also provides knowledge that helps solve some of our most pressing human problems today.
Thinking Like an Anthropologist
Unlike textbooks that emphasize the memorization of facts, Anthropology: Asking Questions About Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture teaches students how to think anthropologically. This approach helps students view cultural issues as an anthropologist might. In this way, anthropological thinking is regarded as a tool for deciphering everyday experience and what it means to be human.
A Cutting-Edge and Integrative Vision of Anthropology
The demands of disciplinary specialization mean that very few—if any—anthropologists can claim to be truly “four-field.” Yet many of anthropology’s biggest questions require a holistic perspective. Cutting-edge research areas like the biocultural synthesis and materiality—both of which are examined in detail in this book—are meeting the challenges of integration. The structuring of the book into four parts, each with its own introduction that frames the connections between the chapters, is intended to bring subfields together around common concerns.
Organized Around Key Questions Inspired by the expression “99 percent of a good answer is a good question,” each chapter opens with a contemporary story and introduces key questions that can be answered by anthropology. Each main section of a chapter is built around these questions. Through these unique chapter-opening and follow-up questions, students will see how classic anthropological concerns relate to contemporary situations. Those lessons are reinforced at the end of each section with a thought-provoking question (“Thinking Like an Anthropologist”), and at the end of each chapter in the
“Reviewing the Chapter” feature. Throughout the book, “Methods Memos”—short, insightful essays about how anthropologists go about answering their questions—also support student learning.
Solving Human Problems
At the heart of Anthropology: Asking Questions About Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture is the belief that anthropology can make a difference in the world. We explain how anthropologists have looked at a wide range of human issues over time—mediating conflict, alleviating social problems, contributing to new social policies—through concrete examples, while also recognizing the challenges that remain.
The Past Through a Contemporary Perspective
Anthropology: Asking Questions About Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture represents our effort to close the gap between the realities of the discipline today and traditional views that are also taught at the introductory level. We believe that there is much to be gained, for ourselves and our students, by strengthening the dialogue between generations and subfields of anthropologists. We endeavor to
bring classic anthropological examples, cases, and analyses to bear on contemporary questions.
Why We Wrote This Book
In view of how most academic work and life is organized and practiced today, our co-authorship is a somewhat unlikely collaboration. We come from different generations of anthropological training, have taught at different kinds of institutions, do our research in opposite corners of the world, and work on different topics in different subfields. Given the pressures and realities of regional and topical specialization within the discipline, we might not even run into each other at conferences, much less have reason to work together.
But as teachers concerned with sharing the excitement of anthropological findings and thinking with our undergraduate students, we have a lot in common. For one, we believe that there is strength in diversity, and we think our different backgrounds are representative of the breadth of the discipline and who actually teaches introductory courses in four-field anthropology. Because the three of us feel that anthropological thinking is for everyone, we wrote this textbook to appeal to instructors who blend traditional and contemporary views of anthropology and teach students of many cultural backgrounds. We do this by treating the learning experience as a process of actively asking questions about real-world problems and applying theoretical insights to understand them, as nearly all anthropologists actually do.
Four types of thematic boxes are used throughout the book to highlight key themes and principles. Classic Contributions boxes consider the history of anthropological thought on a particular topic and provide follow-up questions to promote critical analysis. Doing Fieldwork boxes draw upon actual field projects to explore the special methods anthropologists have used to address specific questions and problems.
Anthropologist as Problem Solver boxes describe cases in which anthropologists have applied disciplinary insights and methods to help alleviate social problems, mediate conflicts, and (re)define policy debates. These cases also provide insights into careers that take advantage of an anthropology background. Finally, The Anthropological Life boxes provide students with applied illustrations that demonstrate how studying anthropology can provide them with an array of useful insights and tools for living in the world, whatever one’s interests, values, or career.
New in the Second Edition
Building on the successful approach established in the first edition, the second edition of Anthropology: Asking Questions About Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture features a number of changes designed to keep the material up to date, relevant, and engaging for students. The following are the most visible changes.
Two thoroughly revised new chapters in the first section of the book, both of which display the power of anthropology’s integrative and holistic perspectives.
The new Chapter 3, “Human Biocultural Evolution,” combines elements of the first edition’s chapters on evolutionary theory and human biocultural evolution into one single, powerful framework for understanding the intersections of culture and evolution. The new Chapter 4, “Cross-Cultural Interactions,” takes elements of the first edition’s globalization chapter and integrates new material on the archaeological and historical aspects of cross-cultural interactions, arguing that such interactions are a key feature of humanity.
Two brand new features. Seven “Methods Memos,” interspersed throughout the book, take material from the first edition’s chapter on anthropological methods to explain how anthropologists go about answering the questions they pose. Separating this material into brief, vibrant memos, as opposed to presenting it in a single chapter, provides the opportunity to showcase actual research methods in more detail, and will
help students connect those methods to the relevant chapters. The “Anthropological Life” feature provides students with concrete, applied examples of anthropology’s relevance to careers, highlighting the skills, perspectives, and qualities that anthropology graduates bring to their jobs and everyday lives.
A new epilogue. The final section in this book draws together important themes that run throughout the chapters—including the importance of appreciating human diversity, embracing a holistic perspective, and rejecting ethnocentrism—to help students recognize the many ways in which studying anthropology can enrich their understanding of their world.