American Anthropologist 1950

Bidney, David. The Concept of Myth and the Problem of Psychocultural Evolution. American Anthropologist January-March, 1950 Vol.52(1):16-26.

Bidney disagrees with cultural evolutionists in that myth is coincident with primitive realities that have anonymous origins and explanations. He uses Taylor’s notion that mythmaking comes from the “criterion of possibility” of peoples at different stages in history. Primitives abstracted reality no differently than advanced cultures, or “pragmatizer[s]” who have embodied ideas in material incidents. The evolution of mythmaking changes in conjunction with worldviews.

Bidney distinguishes between fairy and folk tales, superstitions, and beliefs that no one believes in. Non-evolutionist such as Boas and Malinowski feel that primitive cultures mistook mental symbols as objects of reality. However, this position assumes that pre-critical and irrational thoughts are not culturally representative. The narrative origin of myth remains the problem.

Bidney’s contends that myths are evolutional and, according to Lowie, can easily change from folk tales to sacred myth through religious adoption. No matter the rational content of culture, ideologies need to be critiqued for rationalizations because there is no reason to think that scientific thought will put a stop to mythmaking.

RANDY INGRAM Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

David Bidney. The Concept of Myth and the Problem of Psychocultural Evolution. American Anthropologist, 1950, Vol. 52, 16-27.

Bidney first addresses the debate between classical cultural evolutionists and other ethnologists about the definition of myth, and the importance of myth in the psychocultural context. The classical cultural evolutionists hold that mythological thought is to be identified with a more primitive way of thinking, while others feel myth represents a phase of thought that is subject to the process of evolution.

Bidney sided with classical cultural evolutionists who believe that mythological thought was subject to evolutionary development, though they assumed that the growth and spreading of scientific thought would replace the mythological way of thinking. Malinowski argues that myth, like religion, fills a “universal human need”, and classifies myth as a “post-scientific” mode of thought, a supplement to the rationalizing scientific way of thinking.

While Bidney attributes myth to being a product of the creative imagination “when confronted with the mysteries of nature and life”. Langur argues that the function of myth is not purposeful distortion of the world, but rather a form of expressive comprehension of its fundamental nature, a truth, not a figment of a “primitive” imagination. Langur considers myth to represent a metaphorical world picture that lends insight into life and considers it a primitive form of philosophy or metaphysical thought.

Boas and Malinowski have shown that “primitive” contemporary societies distinguish between the importance and function of myth and the function of stories told for entertainment. Boas classifies myths as accounts of the origin of the world, that may have taken place in a mythical period, involve the personification of natural phenomena, or referring to some prehistoric epoch, while folk tales are considered analogous to modern fiction, though they may utilize mythological concepts.

Bidney concludes that the importance of myth in a psychocultural context depends on the degree of belief of those who recount it, so “the accepted belief or subjective truth of one epoch may become a myth for the next”. The most important point the author makes is the relevance of belief to a myth, for a myth is only considered that if one does not believe it, for the believer, the account is not mythological. So, the distinction between myth, belief, and truth is there while the author recognizes the relationship of myth to belief and the accepted cultural standard of the credibility of the myth. The author concludes that “myth varies with the historical stages of cultural thought, but the process of mythmaking does not die out with the emergence of critical, scientific thought”.

ANNIE HAAS, Indiana University, Anya Royce

Collins, June McCormick. Growth of Class Distinctions and Political Authority Among the Skagit Indians During the Contact Period. American Anthropologist July, 1950 Vol.52(3):331-342.

Much of the Collins’ discussion is dedicated to understanding the lives of Native Americans and the kinship of different societal levels. Two hypotheses are investigated in Collins’ study. The first states that in a society in which social standing is wealth-influenced unequal distribution leads to greater social class distinction. The second hypothesis explores the emergence of leadership in response to contact with European settlers in regard to trade, warfare, and religion. Collins cites Native American class differences and various ethnographic studies as evidence. Two major factors are examined as the catalyst for the development of class in Native American culture: the influence of extra-cultural trade and population decline.

ANN ZILIC Illinois State University (Robert T. Dirks)

Ehrich, Robert T. Some Reflections on Archaeological Interpretation. American Anthropologist October, 1950 Vol.52(4):468-482.

Ehrich’s interpretation of archaeology reflects the importance historical research. Archaeology is a technique of historical and ethnological research. The collaboration of the two traces the course of man’s cultural development and uncovers the dynamic forces involved in cultural growth. Since archaeologist deal mostly with material culture and interpretations based upon the circumstances of findings, work necessarily rests on typology. Typologic classification narrows down interpretation.

Ehrich mentions the authors Spiers and Childe to illustrate how archaeological interpretation of culture reflects the importance of massive research. Ehrich concludes that archaeology and ethnology synthesis play a fundamental role in the reconstruction of the way of life. Although archaeologists are forced to deal with more restricted data than ethnologists, their techniques of interpretation are virtually identical.

KIMBERLY JONES Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Embree, John F. Thailand A Loosely Structured Social System. American Anthropologist April-June, 1950 Vol.52(2):181-193.

Embree notes the almost determined lack of regularity, discipline, and regimentation in Thai life. Embree believes a loosely structured social system accounts for this lacking. He supports this theory with descriptions of the Thai army, family, and poetry games. He contrasts Thai social realities with those of Japanese, Vietnamese, American, and European. Embree stresses that in contrast to Japanese, Thai lack neatness and discipline and in contrast to Americans, the Thai lack respect for administrative regularity and have no industrial time sense.

Embree suggests that Thailand managed to retain political independence while all the small countries of the Southeast Asia succumbed to European control due to the combination of good luck and clever diplomacy. He believes that just being a geographic buffer could not in itself have saved Thailand. Thai diplomacy skill was key to maintaining autonomy. Thai diplomacy is marked by delay and doubletalk and is a reflection of Thailand’s loosely structured social system. For, in Thailand to tell a lie successfully or to dupe someone is praiseworthy. Embree concludes questioning whether or not Thailand’s loosely structured social system has survival value.

ALEXANDRA ROBINSON Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Fischer, H. TH. The Concept of Incest in Sumatra. American Anthropologist April, 1950 Vol.52(2):219-224.

The conception of incest among the peoples of Sumatra illustrates taboos forbidding sexual intercourse between kindred who are either members of the same family or the same clan. Incest between members of the same family or clan this is called sumbang.

Sumbang is practiced among the following: Achinese, Gajos, Bataks, Minangkabaus, and the Mayans of southern and coastal regions. Achinese and Gajos people considered all sumbang unbecoming, indecent, immoral and god-forsaken. In contrast, Batak consider marriages between close relatives as incest. The Batak consider sexual intercourse between a widow and the elder brother of her deceased husband as sumbang. In Sumatra, incestuous sexual relations are considered serious crimes and are sometimes punished by banishment from one’s clan. Fischer believes if stronger laws are enforced among the people of Sumatra the rate of incest will decrease.

KIMBERLY JONES Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Goldschmidt, Walter. Social Class in America – A Critical Review. American Anthropologist October-December, 1950 Vol.52(4):483-498.

Although American society displays the presence of great differentials in wealth, prestige, and power, there are no clearly marked social classes. Goldschmidt addresses this issue by examining theoretical and empirical evidence of social class in American society. He focuses on the development of the previous decade and suggests some of his own conclusions about the American social scene.

Goldschmidt discusses previous research regarding the presence of American class systems. He uses evidence from different approaches, including the anthropological approach and the psychological approach. He quotes the work of many scholars such as Richard Centers, W. Lloyd Warner, and Raymond Cattell, among others.

Goldschmidt ends with his own conclusions about the American class system. He first provides several working definitions for the term “class.” He then provides evidence for the presence of an American class system that is emerging, but not yet clearly defined. Finally, he divides this class system into four classes: 1) an elite, 2) a middle class, 3) a working class or proletariat, and 4) a lower class.

NICOLE ROTH Illinois State University (Robert T. Dirks)

Gunther, Erna. The Westward Movement of Some Plains Traits. American Anthropologist April-June, 1950 Vol.52(2):174-180.

There was a westward movement of some Plains traits between the years of 1750 and 1900. Many Native Americans in the states of Washington and Oregon obtained elements of their clothing design from the Planes Native Americans. To document the movement of decorated buckskin clothing and Plains traits associated with horses, Gunther uses paintings and accounts of early explorers.

Gunther focuses on the Nez Perce of the Intermontane area. The Intermontane area is along the western side of the Rocky Mountains. The Nez Perce people took frequent expeditions eastward, and with the introduction of horses, women were included on these trips. Women were at the center of the development of Plain’s traits. The women of the Nez Perce copied the fine dresses and beadwork of the Crow women. This affiliation of the Nez Perce and the Plain’s Native Americans has been well documented. The showiness of the Plains costume was very welcome in the western area. It gave tribes a distinct way to express themselves as Native Americans in the world of the white man.

CARLY J. SCHROCK Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Hawley, Florence. Keresan Patterns of Kinship and Social Organization. American Anthropologist October-December, 1950 Vol.52(4):499-511.

Hawley compares the kinship systems of different Keresan pueblos in order to deduce a generalized pattern describing their kin grouping. She believes differing kin grouping systems in specific Keresan pueblos is a result of cultural borrowing from neighboring linguistic groups. Hawley describes the common traits and complexes of the Hopi, Zuni, Keresan, and Tanoan pueblos.

Hawley believes that her data regarding the comparison of kinship relations in different pueblos agrees with previously constructed notions of Keresan kinship. She outlines three main principles regarding kin groupings. These coincide with comparisons of social organizations and structures of authority in modern pueblos. She discusses the importance of the clan structure to different pueblos, and how in each pueblo the clan serves a different function. Hawley concludes by questioning the origin of the Keresan people.

JASON HULS Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Heinrich, Albert. Some Present-Day Acculturative Innovations in a Nonliterate Society. American Anthropologist April-June, 1950 Vol.52(2):235-242.

The main focus of Heinrich’s study is the ivory carving industry of the Diomede Eskimo of Alaska. Heinrich discovered the industry played a key role in the lives of the Diomede. His main interest centered on the transition from casual ivory carving to ivory carving for profit. The Diomede people turned Ivory carving into their main source of cash income after contact with trade goods brought into the region by white Americans.

The Diomede started to produce items that were sold to tourists as souvenirs by curio dealers who told the tourists they represented “gods” or other false icons. The white tourists that visited the area fueled the industry by spending moderate amounts of money on the small trinkets. This led to innovations in traditional products and the development of new products including figurines, paper knives, bracelets, and necklaces. Heinrich noted that the Diomede dedicated a majority of their time to the ivory carving industry, producing elaborate classification systems for the products and constructing the products with amazing intricacy and skill. Heinrich stresses the ideas of cultural borrowing, innovations, and the influence of American economics on small populations.

MATT EKLUND Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Hodgen, Margaret. Similarities and Dated Distributions. American Anthropologist October-December, 1950 Vol.52(4):445-465.

Anthropologists of the 1950’s concentrated on cultural change and dated history. Hodgen discusses anthropological methods that concentrate on diffusionism and acculturation. She describes the diffusionist theory in great detail. Hodgen uses studies, regarding the passage of certain culture traits from area to area, to note geographical distributions, dated events, and dated acceptances.

Hodgen lists the traits of glass making, coal mining, papermaking, cloth fulling, lace making, and silk making. Following the lists of traits, she makes analogies as to distribution time frames. Hodgen includes a chart and maps to show how these culture traits spread throughout England between 1100 and 1900. Finally, Hodgen mentions the obstacles faced when studying cultures using methods that concentrate on diffusion and acculturation.

MICHAEL WAHLS Illinois State University (Robert T. Dirks)

Hooton, Earnest A. George Grant MacCurdy, 1863-1947. American Anthropologist October-December, 1950 Vol.52(4):513-515.

George Grant MacCurdy studied European prehistory during the early twentieth century. MacCurdy was always abreast of recent findings and contributions to the field. He published numerous articles in the American Anthropologist as his primary means of spreading his knowledge on the subject. MacCurdy and Peabody, a fellow colleague at Harvard University, jointly developed the idea for the American School of Prehistoric Research. This school became a starting point for the dissemination of a keen interest in European prehistory. MacCurdy was responsible for generating enthusiasm for European prehistory amongst students as well as colleagues.

MacCurdy’s greatest work was Human Origins. He was involved with numerous excavations of Neanderthal remains throughout Europe and in Mt. Carmel, Palestine. MacCurdy’s work in making prehistorical studies understandable and interesting to the layman recruited new members to the field.

ROB O’BRIEN Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Lessa, William A. Ulithi and the Outer Native World. American Anthropologist March, 1950 Vol.52(1):27-52.

Lessa outlines an examination of the relationships amongst the inhabitants of the Caroline Islands of the South Pacific. Most research collected comes from the point of view of the Ulithi Islanders, and their interactions with the people of neighboring islands. The Island of Yap is the parent island to Ulithi, while Ulithi is the parent island to a group of islands known as the “Woleai.”

The Yap-Ulithi-Woleai chain of authority originates in the Gagil district of Yap. The paramount chief of the Gagil district is always from the village of Gatchepar. From this paramount chief, orders are passed down through a complicated chain of interconnected villages, and eventually from island to island. Lessa points out that the paramount chief of Ulithi is expected to make an annual voyage to Yap to discuss payments of tribute to the paramount chief of Gagil. Payments of tribute are referred to as sawei, and are the primary course of action for dealing with political considerations.

Lessa examines interactions between Ulithians and islanders outside of the Gagil sphere of influence. Most Ulithian interaction is with islands within close proximity. Places such as New Guinea and Polynesia are only known of through hearsay. Time has placed pressure on the Yap-Ulithi-Woleai chain of authority. Lessa concludes by demonstrating that the Ulithians wish to terminate their formal relationship with the Yap.

ROB O’BRIEN Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Newcomb, W. W. Jr. A Re-examination of the Causes of Plains Warfare. American Anthropologist April-June, 1950 Vol.52(2):317-330.

The author states that there are several reasons to Plains warfare, some traditional, some new. Most traditional authors have said that the warfare has been caused almost solely on the basis of economic instability or trouble. Newcomb says, however, that there are more reasons than just economic for why the native peoples were and are fighting.

The initial argument for warfare is the migration into the west that every Native American was forced to do. With the invasion of Europeans and their material culture, these people were forced to move and with this movement, they infringed upon others’ territory, initiating conflict.

A second argument for warfare was the need for the horse. The Spanish introduced the horse around the seventeenth century and the Plains people realized that it was an incredible asset. People on foot were extremely slow and the agriculturists needed them to help sustain their families when food was scarce. The need for the horse led to extreme competition between tribes to see who could own the most of them. Then, to add to the trouble, bison became scarce, which made the “horse competition” even more fierce. The bison were needed to survive and they were moving in new patterns, further and further away from these people. The horse provided a way for many people to hunt and kill these mammoth beasts.

In addition to these two arguments, the European material culture played a large part in Native American warfare. These people strived to acquire European weapons in trade for furs and hides, which caused their warfare to become even more violent. Many people had to defend their homes and families from people who were running from already ravaged and overrun homes. With this need came the opportunity for the traders to pit one tribe against another, as well as against colonial powers. Traders used this rivalry to up their sales of weapons and horses to the Indians.

Overall, the author’s argument is presented in a well-rounded outline of the most significant factors that have led to Plains Indian warfare, with examples of specific tribes that have fought for territory, such as the Ojibwa and the Sioux, and specific instances of outsiders causing more problems, like a letter found between some Canadian officials that simply states that Sieur de Noyelles should help initiate a fight between the “savage tribes” and the English because it would benefit them greatly.

VICKIE SQUIER Illinois State University (Robert Dirks).

Paul, Benjamin D. Symbolic Sibling Rivalry in a Guatemalan Indian Village. American Anthropologist April-June, 1950 Vol.52(2):205-218.

Paul discusses the ritual practices involved in sibling rivalry and symbolic cannibalism in the village of San Pedro la Laguna. Pedranos, the residents of the village, perform a ritual involving the killing of a chicken and subsequent cooking of it to ensure the survival of an expected child. The Pedranos believe that an older child in a family harbors resentful feelings towards an expected child because attention and resources are diverted. Aggressive tendencies in an older child can lead to that child “eating” the soul of the newborn by means of spirits and magic. Paul describes the healing/protection ritual in detail. He also makes cross-cultural comparisons with Mayan groups that have similar beliefs in symbolic cannibalism.

Paul analyzes the importance of this ritual to the Pedranos and describes its social functions within the community. The ritual serves as a scapegoat in a time of emotional crisis. It also acts as a way to express underlying social tensions between members of a family, most importantly between siblings.

BRAD HANSON Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Pollenz, Philippa. Changes in the Form and Function of Hawaiian Hulas. American Anthropologist April-June, 1950 Vol.52(2):225-234.

Philippa Pollenz gives a historical account of the changes that the Hawaiian hula went through, beginning with the ancient hula and ending with the hula as it exists today. Pollenz asserts that the hula is an important part of Hawaiian culture and history because despite its turbulent past, the hula is an aspect of Hawaiian culture that seems to have outlasted the culture itself.

Pollenz begins by describing the technique and role of the hula in the Classic Period of Hawaii before the arrival of Protestant missionaries. She then goes on to describe the drastic changes the dance underwent after the arrival of the Protestant missionaries forced the hula underground. Pollenz explains that in 1874, a new king came to the throne and tried to revive the hula, which resulted in the introduction of foreign elements into the dance. Finally, she describes the technique and role of the hula in contemporary Hawaii.

Pollenz concludes her article with a list of descriptions of many different types of traditional and modern hulas, as well as a list of differences between the form and function of the hula in traditional and modern Hawaii.

NICOLE ROTH Illinois State University (Robert T. Dirks)

Reichard, Glayds. Language and Cultural Pattern. American Anthropologist April-June, 1950 Vol.52(2):194-204.

Reichard states that linguists need to consider more than phonetics and phonemics of unwritten languages to understand meanings. Usages and semantics are critical for ethnographies to render accurately. In the past there has been no treatment of idiom, stem variations, and groupings of stems with different compositions. These types of linguistic studies suggested native peoples have no expressions of emotions and cannot form abstractions.

Reichard illustrates how words and worldviews are related. Words connect cosmological ideas about harmony and spirits to cultural norms. Slight word variations in different social settings are very different from literal meanings. Ideas about good and evil, familiarity, passion, adoration, and reverence are ethnographically interpretable only through words and their situational circumstances.

Words can only be understood if the ethnographer is in the culture long enough to see dynamics and relationships. For example, the Navaho will not use certain words with people until certain relationships come into play. Etymology without semantics hinders cultural interpretations. Ethnologists need to directly participate to see how words go beyond their lexical meaning. Stems without context are only partial pictures. Reichard believes that linguistic understanding is essential to ethnographic conclusions but only after relations and meanings are fully understood.

RANDY INGRAM Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Seligman, Brenda Z. The Problem of Incest and Exogamy: A Restatement. American Anthropology July-September, 1950 Vol.52(3):305-311.

Brenda Z. Seligman examines exogamy and incest. Seligman discusses the different ways societies define incest. She illustrates how certain incestuous acts are viewed more commonly as taboo than others. For example, incest with mothers is universally considered taboo. While, marrying ortho-cousins is not universally taboo. Seligman believes incest that leads fathers and sons to compete for women is more commonly tabooed than other types of incest. She refers to this taboo as having a survival value since if men spend too much time competing over women they may neglect their duties of protecting and assisting with the feeding of the group. Seligman believes that exogamy alone has little survival value since it could lead to abducting women from other groups. However, exogamy applied to balance the degree of incest in a group leads to increased social stability.

MEGHANN O’BRIEN SMITH Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Spoehr, Alexander. Observations on the Study of Kinship. American Anthropologist January-March, 1950 Vol.52(1):1-15.

Field research done on kinship and kinship terminology has shared in the new improvements of ethnographic techniques. Improvements have occurred since anthropologists set out to conduct first hand observations of native peoples. The terminology used to describe descent groups, family organizational forms, marriage types, and residence patterns, are essential in describing collected kinship data. In the area of kinship terms, a delimitation of descriptive terms is emerging, sharpening focus of interest. Spoehr mentions specific anthropologists and the work they have done to further the study of kinship. He mentions Evans-Pritchard, Radcliffe-Brown, Boas, Lowie, Rivers, and Morgan, among others.

The improvement of the precision in the terminology gives more meaningful formulation of descriptive concepts regarding kinship. This helps establish diversity between cultures and gives more emphasis to the variability in the patterns of different social organizations. Terminology is important because it is the verbal expression of the behavior of grouping and distinguishing different kinds of relatives.

CARLY J SCHROCK Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Taylor, Douglas. The Meaning of Dietary and Occupational Restrictions Among the Island Carib. American Anthropologist 1950 Vol.52:343-349.

There are many fasting rituals and food taboos practiced by the Carib in Dominica and Central America. Fasting is critical for Carib women who are menstruating, pregnant, or have just given birth. When a Carib wants to become a shaman or chief he must fast. During a critical point in life one can be affected adversely by surrounding people. The Carib believe that people at critical points in life are in danger of the “heat” from others’ bodies. The “heat” is an invisible force that emanates from pregnant or menstruating women, overfed or excited people, or anyone near those “heated” people. Fasts also give an outlet for blood-letting rituals.

ALICIA HOLMBECK Illinois State University (Robert T. Dirks)

Voegelin, Erminie. Anthropology in American Universities. American Anthropologist January-December, 1950 Vol.52(1):350-392.

In 1885, with the establishment of a chair of American Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, American anthropology became a formal academic discipline. In 1888, Clark University opened and appointed Franz Boas as the first chair of anthropology. By 1892 Boas granted the first United States Ph.D. in anthropology to A.F. Chamberlin.

The earliest survey of anthropology in American universities, conducted in 1894, shows thirteen academic institutes offered courses in anthropology. Between 1920 and 1940 interest in anthropology grew and the number universities offering anthropology courses quadrupled. A 1950 survey reveals anthropology’s continued development; the number of American universities offering courses doubled the 1940 offering. Although the number of American universities offering anthropology course work was promising in 1950, Voegelin stressed that the southern United States was in further need of academic growth. For, in 1950 only three hundred and four of the eight hundred and twenty universities offering anthropology classes were located in the South.

ALEXANDRA ROBINSON Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)

Voget, Fred. A Shoshone Innovator. American Anthropologist January-March, 1950 Vol.52(1):53-63.

Voget analyzes cultural diffusion by studying a Shoshone tribesman and his impact on Shoshone culture. The focus of his study is John Truhujo who was active in Native American and colonial American relations. Truhujo took great passion in performing the Wind River Sun Dance, a traditional form of Shoshone worship. Truhujo also practiced Christianity; this pleased the white men, and led to his appointment as chief of police on the Shoshone reservation

Voget cites an example concerning the Sun dance to illustrate cultural diffusion taking place among the Shoshone and the Crow. Truhujo learned that the chief of the Crow tribe was very ill and was expected to die. Truhujo decided that he could use the Sun dance to heal the body and spirit of the Crow chief. He proceeded to introduce the dance to the Crow, much to the dismay of the Shoshone people. When the Chief was miraculously cured the Crow gave all the credit to Truhujo and the Sun dance. However, the Shoshone people saw Truhujo as a traitor and never gave him the respect he once had. The Wind River Sun Dance diffused into the Crow culture and changed their way of life. Voget stresses that knowledge of particular socio-cultural conditions is essential for an understanding cultural diffusion.

MATT EKLUND Illinois State University (Robert Dirks)