What is Intro-to-Anthro about?
This is an outline for an introductory course based on Anthropology: Asking Questions about Human Origins, Diversity, and Culture by Robert L. Welsch, Luis A. Vivanco, and Agustín Fuentes, published in 2017 by the Oxford University Press. The question of “What is Intro to Anthro about?” is best answered by taking an Introduction to Anthropology.
The course outline is divided into three sections. I divided most of the 19 chapters of Welsch, Vivanco and Fuentes into two parts, but left two of the shorter chapters as stand-alones. The course outline is ideal for a 14-15 week course that meets three times each week, leaving room for exams and other activities. The outline can be easily adjusted for other formats or structured for independent reading. The links in [brackets] point to related material on Living Anthropologically and previous Intro to Anthro classes.
For my current approach, using a different textbook, see Intro to Anthro 2021.
A. Key Concepts for ‘What is Intro to Anthro About?’
1. How did anthropology begin?
- Chapter 1, “Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity” (3-15). [Blog-post: What is Anthropology?]
- Miner, Horace. 1956. “Body Ritual among the Nacirema.” American Anthropologist 58(3):503-507. [Who are the Nacirema?]
- Bohannan, Laura. 1966. “Shakespeare in the Bush.” Natural History (August-September). [Shakespeare in the Bush. 2016 class: Introducing anthropology with “Shakespeare in the Bush”]
- Beckett, Greg. 2017. “The abolition of all privilege: Race, equality, and freedom in the work of Anténor Firmin.” Critique of Anthropology 37(2):160-178. See also Durba Chattaraj, “A Prescient Discipline in the Past, a Capacious Discipline for the Future” in Teaching Anthropology (May 2018).
2. How do anthropologists study?
- Chapter 1, “Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity” (15-29).
- Two Bears, Davina. 2006. “Navajo Archaeologist Is Not an Oxymoron: A Tribal Archaeologist’s Experience.” The American Indian Quarterly 30(3):381-387.
- Amuyunzu-Nyamongo, Mary. 2006. “Challenges and Prospects for Applied Anthropology in Kenya. In African Anthropologies: History, Critique and Practice, edited by M. Ntarangwi, D. Mills, and M. Babiker, 237-249. Dakar: CODESRIA.
3. What is culture in anthro?
- Chapter 2, “Culture: Giving Meaning to Human Lives” (31-39)
- Small, Meredith F. 1997. “Our Babies, Ourselves.” Natural History 106(8):41-51.
- Naveh, Danny, 2016. “Social and Epistemological Dimensions of Learning Among Nayaka Hunter-Gatherers.” In Social Learning and Innovation in Contemporary Hunter-Gatherers: Evolutionary and Ethnographic Perspectives, edited by Hideaki Terashima and Barry S. Hewlett, 125-133. Tokyo: Springer Japan. See What If Machines Could Learn the Way Children Do? by Matthew Gwynfryn Thomas and Djuke Veldhuis on Sapiens (March 2018).
4. Is culture always changing?
- Chapter 2, “Culture: Giving Meaning to Human Lives” (39-53)
- Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 2003. “Anthropology and the Savage Slot.” In Global Transformations (7-28). [Class notes: What Anthropology Inherited: The Savage Slot.]
- Latham, Susie. 2016. “The campaign against Female Genital Cutting: empowering women or reinforcing global inequity?” Ethics and Social Welfare 10(2):108-121.
5. What is evolution in anthropology?
- Chapter 3, “Evolution: Life Is Not Static” (55-66). [Evolution & Natural Selection, Anthropologically]
- Marks, Jonathan. 2012. “The Biological Myth of Human Evolution.” Contemporary Social Science 7(2):139-157. See The Evolutionary Enigma of the Human Eyebrow by Penny Spikins on Sapiens. [Biocultural Naturenurtural Human Biologies]
- Jantz, Richard L. 2018. “Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones: A 1941 Analysis versus Modern Quantitative Techniques.” Forensic Anthropology 1(2):1-16. But see Have we really found Amelia Earhart’s bones? by Jennifer Raff in The Guardian (March 2018).
6. What is the evolutionary process?
- Chapter 3, “Evolution: Life Is Not Static” (66-81). [2016-17 class: Why is evolution important?]
- Fuentes, Agustín. 2017. “Human niche, human behaviour, human nature.” Interface Focus 7(2) or also by Fuentes, The Human Niche in Orbiter (September 2018). See additionally The Biologists Who Want to Overhaul Evolution by Carl Zimmer in The Atlantic (November 2016).
- Downey, Greg, and Daniel H. Lende, 2012. “Evolution and the Brain.” In The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology, edited by Daniel H. Lende and Greg Downey. Cambridge: MIT Press.
7. What are some anthropological methods for studying the past?
- Chapter 4, “Anthropological Methods: Researching Human Beings and Their Pasts” (83-100)
- Cave, Christine. 2018. “Did Ancient People Die Young?” Sapiens August 17. See also: Feder, Kenneth L. 2013. “Help! I’m Being Followed by Ancient Aliens!” Skeptical Inquirer 37(2):March/April.
- Clarkson, Chris, et al. 2017. “Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago.” Nature 547:306. And see the discussion in The Conversation Buried tools and pigments tell a new history of humans in Australia for 65,000 years (July 2017).
8. How do cultural anthropologists conduct research?
- Chapter 4, “Anthropological Methods: Researching Human Beings and Their Pasts” (100-113)
- Lassiter, Luke Eric, and Elizabeth Campbell. 2010. “What Will We Have Ethnography Do?” Qualitative Inquiry 16(9):757-767.
- Marte, Lidia. 2018. “‘Rich Points’ and ‘Deep-hanging Out.’” Anthropology News website, April 5, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.815.
9. Why is the study of linguistic anthropology important?
- Chapter 5, “Linguistic Anthropology: Relating Language and Culture” (115-125)
- Cerrone, Mirko. 2018. “Umwelt and Ape Language Experiments: on the Role of Iconicity in the Human-Ape Pidgin Language.” Biosemiotics.
- Chávez, Alex E. 2015. “So ¿te fuiste a Dallas? (So you went to Dallas?/So you got screwed?): Language, Migration, and the Poetics of Transgression.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 25(2):150-172.
10. How does language affect culture?
- Chapter 5, “Linguistic Anthropology: Relating Language and Culture” (126-139)
- Boroditsky, Lera. 2011. “How Language Shapes Thought.” Scientific American. February. See Boroditsky’s TED Talk, How language shapes the way we think.
- Rosa, Jonathan. 2016. “Standardization, Racialization, Languagelessness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies across Communicative Contexts.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 26(2):162-183.
11. Is the world becoming more homogeneous?
- Chapter 6, “Globalization and Culture: Understanding Global Interconnections” (141-163)
- Alim, H. Samy, 2016. “Who’s Afraid of the Transracial Subject?: Raciolinguistics and the Political Project of Transracialization.” In Raciolinguistics: How Language Shapes Our Ideas About Race, edited by H. Samy Alim, John R. Rickford, and Arnetha F. Ball, 33-50. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Condry, Ian, 2017. “Japanese Rappers, 9/11, and Soft Power: Anti-American Sentiments in ‘American’ Popular Culture.” In Global Perspectives on the United States: Pro-Americanism, Anti-Americanism, and the Discourses Between, edited by Virginia R. Dominguez and Jane C. Desmond, 239-250. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
B. Becoming Human
12. Why are humans primates?
- Chapter 7, “Living Primates: Comparing Monkeys, Apes, and Humans” (167-181).
- Smuts, Barbara. 1987. “What are Friends For?” Natural History Magazine 96(2). [2016-17 class Primate Friends. For updated research on baboon friendships, see Nga Nguyen’s work reported in BBC Earth News (2009)]
- Pruetz, Jill D., and Nicole M. Herzog. 2017. “Savanna Chimpanzees at Fongoli, Senegal, Navigate a Fire Landscape.” Current Anthropology 58(S16):S337-S350. See also “Hints of Human Evolution in Chimpanzees That Endure a Savanna’s Heat” by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times (April 2018) for more on Pruetz’s work.
13. How are humans different from apes?
- Chapter 7, “Living Primates: Comparing Monkeys, Apes, and Humans” (182-193). [So Many Primates for Primatology]
- Fruth, Barbara, and Gottfried Hohmann. 2018. “Food Sharing across Borders.” Human Nature. See Bonobos Spied Sharing a Feast by Nicola Jones in Sapiens (April 2018).
- Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko, 2016. “Primates as Metaphors/Symbols.” In The International Encyclopedia of Primatology, 1-7.
- Malone, Nicholas, et al. 2014. “Ethnoprimatology: Critical interdisciplinarity and multispecies approaches in anthropology.” Critique of Anthropology 34(1):8-29. See also co-author Erin P. Riley’s work on ethnoprimatology.
14. Who are the earliest humans?
- Chapter 8, “Ancestral Humans: Understanding the Human Family Tree” (195-214)
- Kuhn, Steven L., David A. Raichlen, and Amy E. Clark. 2016. “What moves us? How mobility and movement are at the center of human evolution.” Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews 25(3):86-97.
- Haile-Selassie, Yohannes, et al. 2015. “New species from Ethiopia further expands Middle Pliocene hominin diversity.” Nature 521:483. See The Human Family Tree Bristles With New Branches by Carl Zimmer in The New York Times (May 2015).
15. How is culture important to human evolution?
- Chapter 8, “Ancestral Humans: Understanding the Human Family Tree” (214-235)
- Antón, Susan C., and Christopher W. Kuzawa. 2017. “Early Homo, Plasticity and the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis.” Interface Focus 7(5).
- Bae, Christopher J., Katerina Douka, and Michael D. Petraglia. 2017. “On the origin of modern humans: Asian perspectives.” Science 358(6368). For a well-written summary, see Humanity’s Story Has No End of Surprising Twists by Michelle Langley in Sapiens (March 2018).
16. What is biocultural evolution?
- Chapter 9, “Human Biocultural Evolution: Emergence of the Biocultural Animal” (237-249)
- Halperin, David M. 2016. “What Is Sex For?” Critical Inquiry 43(1):1-31. See also What the Archaeology of Night Reveals by Nancy Gonlin and April Nowell in Sapiens (April 2018).
- Watkins, Rachel J. 2012. “Biohistorical Narratives of Racial Difference in the American Negro: Notes toward a Nuanced History of American Physical Anthropology.” Current Anthropology 53(S5):S196-S209. See AnthroBites: Scientific Racism in Cultural Anthropology for an interview with Rachel Watkins.
17. Are modern humans evolving?
- Chapter 9, “Human Biocultural Evolution: Emergence of the Biocultural Animal” (250-261)
- Thayer, Zaneta M., and Amy L. Non. 2015. “Anthropology Meets Epigenetics: Current and Future Directions.” American Anthropologist 117(4):722-735.
- See How War Gets “Under the Skin” by Patrick Clarkin (February 2013).
18. Why do humans look different?
- Chapter 10, “Contemporary Human Biodiversity: Understanding Our Differences and Similarities” (263-274)
- M’Charek, Amade. 2013. “Beyond Fact or Fiction: On the Materiality of Race in Practice.” Cultural Anthropology 28(3):420-442. See also the 2013 interview with Amade M’charek for Cultural Anthropology.
- Ifekwunigwe, Jayne O., et al. 2017. “A Qualitative Analysis of How Anthropologists Interpret the Race Construct.” American Anthropologist 119(3):422-434. See also Ten Skeletons Bury a Right-Wing Talking Point by Duncan Sayer in Sapiens (April 2018).
19. What are the physical effects of discrimination?
- Chapter 10, “Contemporary Human Biodiversity: Understanding Our Differences and Similarities” (275-289)
- Gravlee, Clarence C. 2009. “How race becomes biology: embodiment of social inequality.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139(1):47-57. See Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis by Linda Villarosa in The New York Times (April 2018).
- Outram, Simon, et al. 2018. “Genes, Race, and Causation: US Public Perspectives About Racial Difference.” Race and Social Problems. See the March 2018 statement by Agustín Fuentes signed by 68 scientists and researchers, “How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics” or listen to the August 2018 podcast Is Your DNA You? on Sapiens.
20. What do medical anthropologists do?
- Chapter 11, “The Body: Biocultural Perspectives on Health and Illness” (291-313)
- Vega, Rosalynn Adeline. 2017. “Commodifying Indigeneity: How the Humanization of Birth Reinforces Racialized Inequality in Mexico.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 31(4):499-518. For an accessible summary, see Vega’s How Natural Birth Became Inaccessible to the Poor in Sapiens (April 2018).
- Wentzell, Emily. 2014. “‘I help her, she helps me:’ Mexican men performing masculinity through transactional sex.” Sexualities 17(7):856-871.
21. Why did humans start domesticating plants and animals?
- Chapter 12, “Early Agriculture and the Neolithic Revolution: Modifying the Environment to Satisfy Human Demands” (317-330)
- Zeder, Melinda A. 2016. “Domestication as a model system for niche construction theory.” Evolutionary Ecology 30(2):325-348. See also Following a New Trail of Crumbs to Agriculture’s Origins by Tobias Richter and Amaia Arranz-Otaegui in Sapiens (July 2018).
- April, Nowell, and Melanie L. Chang 2014. “Science, the Media, and Interpretations of Upper Paleolithic Figurines.” American Anthropologist 116(3):562-577. Or, also by Nowell and Chang, see How to make stone soup: Is the “Paleo diet” a missed opportunity for anthropologists? in Evolutionary Anthropology (2016).
- Honeychurch, William, and Cheryl A. Makarewicz. 2016. “The Archaeology of Pastoral Nomadism.” Annual Review of Anthropology 45(1):341-359.
22. How did the domestication of plants and animals change human societies?
- Chapter 12, “Early Agriculture and the Neolithic Revolution: Modifying the Environment to Satisfy Human Demands” (331-343)
- Falk, Dean and Charles Hildebolt. 2017. “Annual War Deaths in Small-Scale versus State Societies Scale with Population Size Rather than Violence.” Current Anthropology 58(6):805-813. For a summary by Dean Falk, see Is the Clock Ticking Toward Doomsday? in Sapiens (January 2018). Another possibility: Oka, Rahul C., et al. 2017. “Population is the main driver of war group size and conflict casualties.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114(52):E11101-E11110. A summary of the argument is Why human society isn’t more–or less–violent than in the past by Michael Price in Science (December 2017).
- Kohler, Timothy A., et al. 2017. “Greater post-Neolithic wealth disparities in Eurasia than in North America and Mesoamerica.” Nature 551:619.
23. What is social complexity in archaeology?
- Chapter 13, “The Rise and Decline of Cities and States: Understanding Social Complexity in Prehistory” (345-361)
- Hodder, Ian, 2010. “Probing religion at Çatalhöyük.” In Religion in the Emergence of Civilization: Çatalhöyük as a Case Study, edited by Ian Hodder, 1-31. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Wengrow, David, and David Graeber. 2015. “Farewell to the ‘childhood of man’: ritual, seasonality, and the origins of inequality.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 21(3):597-619. See also Graeber and Wengrow’s popular restatement as How to change the course of human history in Eurozine (March 2018) and a video-lecture response by Camilla Power, Did Gender Egalitarianism Make Us Human? Or, If Graeber And Wengrow Won’t Talk About Sex…
24. Did ancient civilizations collapse?
- Chapter 13, “The Rise and Decline of Cities and States: Understanding Social Complexity in Prehistory” (362-369)
- Pollard, Helen Pearlstein, 2012. “The Tarascan Empire: Postclassic Social Complexity in Western Mexico.” In The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology, edited by Deborah L. Nichols and Christopher A. Pool, 434-448. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Wilcox, Michael. 2010. “Marketing conquest and the vanishing Indian: An Indigenous response to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse.” Journal of Social Archaeology 10(1):92-117.
C. Intro to Anthro: Social Worlds
25. Is money everything?
- Chapter 14, “Economics: Working, Sharing, and Buying” (371-380)
- Kesküla, Eeva. 2018. “How capitalists think about labor dynasties and corporate ethics.” FocaalBlog.
- Weiss, Hadas. 2015. “Capitalist normativity: Value and values.” Anthropological Theory 15(2):239-253.
26. Why is capitalism different among countries?
- Chapter 14, “Economics: Working, Sharing, and Buying” (381-393)
- Materna, Georg. 2018. “‘Two tribes of capitalists’: Neoconomists and politiconomists in a Senegalese marketplace.” FocaalBlog.
- Schuller, Mark, and Julie K. Maldonado. 2016. “Disaster capitalism.” Annals of Anthropological Practice 40(1):61-72.
27. What is traditional ecological knowledge?
- Chapter 15, “Sustainability: Environment and Foodways” (395-407)
- Li, Tania Murray. 2013. “Jobless growth and relative surplus populations.” Anthropology Today 29(3):1-2.
- Dean, Erin. 2013. “Contested Ecologies: Gender, Genies, and Agricultural Knowledge in Zanzibar.” Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment 35(2):102-111. See also Western Science Is Finally Catching Up to Traditional Ecological Knowledge by George Nicholas in Sapiens (April 2018).
28. Is agriculture sustainable?
- Chapter 15, “Sustainability: Environment and Foodways” (408-419)
- Marino, Elizabeth, and Heather Lazrus. 2015. “Migration or Forced Displacement?: The Complex Choices of Climate Change and Disaster Migrants in Shishmaref, Alaska and Nanumea, Tuvalu.” Human Organization 74(4):341-350.
- McIlvaine-Newsad, Heather, and Rob Porter. 2013. “How Does Your Garden Grow? Environmental Justice Aspects of Community Gardens.” Journal of Ecological Anthropology 16(1):69-75.
29. Does every society need a government?
- Chapter 16, “Power: Politics and Social Control” (421-431)
- Leoperfido, Giacomo. 2018. “What Can Anthropology Say about Populism?” Anthropology News website. March 19, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.801.
- Yuval-Davis, Nira, 2016. “Power, Intersectionality and the Politics of Belonging.” In The Palgrave Handbook of Gender and Development: Critical Engagements in Feminist Theory and Practice, edited by Wendy Harcourt, 367-381. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.
30. Why do some societies seem more violent?
- Chapter 16, “Power: Politics and Social Control” (432-445)
- Pendle, Naomi R. 2018. “‘The dead are just to drink from’: Recycling ideas of revenge among the western Dinka, South Sudan.” Africa 88(1):99-121.
- Patel, Ashvina. 2018. “Why Aid Remains Out of Reach for Some Rohingya Refugees.” Sapiens, 17 May 2018.
31. Why do people get married?
- Chapter 17, “Kinship and Gender: Sex, Power, and Control of Men and Women” (449-459)
- Desai, Amit, 2010. “A matter of affection: Ritual friendship in Central India.” In The Ways of Friendship: Anthropological Perspectives, edited by Amit Desai and Evan Killick, 114-132. New York: Berghahn Books.
- Mariner, Kathryn A. 2017. “The Specular Un/Making of Kinship: American Adoption’s Penetrating Gaze.” Ethnos:1-17. See also When Gaming the System Is the Only Way to Parenthood by Jessaca Leinaweaver and Diana Marre in Sapiens (April 2018).
32. Are males and females different?
- Chapter 17, “Kinship and Gender: Sex, Power, and Control of Men and Women” (460-475)
- Power, Camilla, 2016. “Anthropological Perspectives on Sex.” In The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies, edited by A. Wong, M. Wickramasinghe, r. hoogland, and N.A. Naples.
- Wesp, Julie K., 2017. “Embodying Sex/Gender Systems in Bioarchaeological Research.” In Exploring Sex and Gender in Bioarchaeology, edited by Sabrina C. Agarwal and Julie K. Wesp, 99-126. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
33. Why is religion difficult to define?
- Chapter 18, “Religion: Ritual and Belief” (477-489)
- Howell, Brian M. 2015. “Anthropology and the Making of Billy Graham: Evangelicalism and Anthropology in the 20th-Century United States.” American Anthropologist 117(1):59-70. For a summary following Billy Graham’s passing in 2018, see Howell’s post in Sapiens How Billy Graham Married Evangelism and Anthropology.
- Ramberg, Lucinda. 2013. “Troubling kinship: Sacred marriage and gender configuration in South India.” American Ethnologist 40(4):661-675.
34. Are rituals important?
- Chapter 18, “Religion: Ritual and Belief” (490-501). [2017 class on Rites of Passage]
- Thommasen, Bjørn. 2012. “Notes towards an Anthropology of Political Revolutions.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 54(3):679-706.
- Álvarez Bernardo, Gloria, Nuria Romo Avilés, and Ana Belén García Berbén. 2017. “Doing gender in Spanish same-sex couples. The distribution of housework and childcare.” Journal of Gender Studies:1-11.
35. What is an artifact?
- Chapter 19, “Materiality: Constructing Social Relationships and Meanings with Things” (503-516)
- Rodseth, Lars. 2015. “Back to Boas, Forth to Latour: An Anthropological Model for the Ontological Turn.” Current Anthropology 56(6):865-882.
- Shackel, Paul A. 2017. “Transgenerational Impact of Structural Violence: Epigenetics and the Legacy of Anthracite Coal.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology.
36. Why is archaeology contentious?
- Chapter 19, “Materiality: Constructing Social Relationships and Meanings with Things” (517-528)
- Geismar, Haidy. 2015. “Anthropology and Heritage Regimes.” Annual Review of Anthropology 44(1):71-85. Check out two Engaged Anthropology Grants: Beth Scaffidi’s “Pathways to Preservation: Understanding Archaeological Looting in Arequipa, Peru Through a Cloud-based Collaborative Database and Public Outreach Film” and Asmeret Mehari’s “Decolonizing the Pedagogy of Archaeology in East Africa.”
- Barrett, Autumn R., and Michael L. Blakey, 2011. “Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in Colonial New York.” In Social Bioarchaeology, edited by Sabrina C. Agarwal and Bonnie A. Glencross, 212-251. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Additional Resources for “What is Intro to Anthro about?”
Although I do not use Welsch, Vivanco, and Fuentes, for many years I used another anthro textbook published by Oxford University Press: Anthropology: What Does it Mean to be Human? For a related anthro course outline see Anthropology 2018 – Lavenda & Schultz.
For my current approach, using a different textbook, see Intro to Anthro 2021.
To cite: Antrosio, Jason. 2018. “What is Intro to Anthro about? Anthropology via Welsch, Vivanco, Fuentes.” Living Anthropologically website, https://www.livinganthropologically.com/what-is-intro-to-anthro-about-2018/. First posted 7 Feburary 2018.