Intro to Anthro 2018 – Welsch, Vivanco, Fuentes

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.

A. Key Concepts for ‘What is Intro to Anthro About?’

1. How did anthropology begin?

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?

4. Is culture always changing?

5. What is evolution in anthropology?

6. What is the evolutionary process?

7. What are some anthropological methods for studying the past?

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?

11. Is the world becoming more homogeneous?

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?

14. Who are the earliest humans?

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?

19. What are the physical effects of discrimination?

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?

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?

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?

26. Why is capitalism different among countries?

27. What is traditional ecological knowledge?

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?

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?

32. Are males and females different?

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?”

For an overview of Intro to Anthro, see the Introduction to Anthropology page. See also What is Anthropology, the Anthropology Blogs, and the 2017 Anthropology Conference, Anthropology Matters.

Although I do not use Welsch, Vivanco, and Fuentes, I do use 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.


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.


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