Current Anthropology 2001
Algaze, Guillermo. Initial Social Complexity in Southwestern Asia, The Mesopotamian Advantage. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(2):199-234.
Guillermo Algaze uses this paper to explain why some of the earliest urbanized societies became prevalent in the alluvial lowlands of the Tigris and Euphrates River and not in other regions in S.W. Asia. He provides many reasons for this phenomenon. He concentrates his argument on ecological and geographical factors, and believes that the unique ecology and geography of the area gave these Mesopotamian societies important advantages in agricultural productivity and other subsistence activities. Along with these ecological advantages and their direct result on agriculture, the geographical location of the societies, in particular their proximity to the Tigris and Euphrates River, helped give them an important transportation advantage. The elite of the societies used this transportation advantage to form a trade network. They then utilized this trade network to increase the large chasm between the rich and poor of the society.
Algaze uses the work of urban expert, Jane Jacobs, to attempt to explain the social development of these societies in the late 5th and 4th millennia B.C. She believes that human economies share many characteristics with biological ecosystems. Algaze presents the similarities between them. The first is that the stability of the two depended on having a large degree of diversity. Algaze uses this model when explaining the large amount of diversity displayed by these societies in the agriculture sector. They were farmers of many kinds of products and raised domesticated animals for meat and wool production. Second, the expansion of economies and biological ecosystems depended heavily on the capturing and using external energy. And third, development of the society took place within a scheme of smaller co-developments. These co-developments were as numerous and diverse as the society. Algaze uses the models presented by Jacobs to explain many developments within the Mesopotamian societies. The developments of diverse agriculture products, trade networks and a large, skilled, and diverse work force all fit into the schemes presented by Jacobs.
Algaze also touches on the differing development between the southern polities of the Mesopotamian region and the central and northern societies. This stemmed from the southern region’s access to skilled labor, craft specialists, soldiers, and potential colonists. Increased access was due to the Southern region’s lower population and therefore greater land density for immigrants. This immigration influx spurred the overall development of the southern culture.
Many of the comments revolve around the quality of the research and the systematic way that Algaze presented and collected his data, and others commend him on writing an essay that is successful at combining many aspects of archaeology, such as environment, social parameters, and scientific evidence. Much of the criticism for his research revolves around utilizing Jane Jacobs’ model, and questions whether an economic system can truly expand in a fashion similar to a biological system. Overall, it seems people accept and agree with his findings, but question the validity of some of his outside models.
ROBERT C. STOUT University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Algaze, Guillermo. Initial Social Complexity in Southwestern Asia: The Mesopotamian Advantage. Current Anthropology April 2001 Vol. 42(2):199-233.
This article looks at the reason that Mesopotamia was the site of the earliest complex societies. Algaze purposes that social effects of trade patterns in the area caused the rapid urban growth. The first section looks at the geography of the area and talks about the advantages that this geography gave societies that started in the area. The next section talks about the combining factors that lead to the overall advantages of the area. The factors are: transportational advantages, subsistence resources provided by the environment, and the absence of other resources that were needed like metals and timber. Algaze uses other author’s models to look at the region. Algaze then looks at what growth the Southern Mesopotamia experienced and how this affected the further growth of the region. Algaze then talks about the effect of human labor and new technologies. Algaze uses a lot of ideas that other authors have presented to back up his ideas. He uses other models and then builds upon their ideas and evidence. He says at the end of the article that a lot of the evidence needed to prove this hypothesis is missing.
Most of the comments on this article are positive. A few issues are brought up about his article. One is that Algaze doesn’t look at the ideologies that gave meaning to the natural and social environment that he is looking at. Another issue that is raised is Algaze’s idea that the individuals in South Mesopotamia were less intellectually prepared to deal with complexity. Another reason may exist for why the periphery groups didn’t assimilate with the new technologies. One answer may be religion, but it isn’t that the South Mesopotamians were more intellectually prepared. Algaze doesn’t directly reply to the issues above, but he does reply to other issues. He says that some of the commentator’s are failing to understand the uniqueness of the revolution that he is looking at.
AMANDA WOODS Davidson College (Dr. Eriberto Lozada)
Callegari-Jacques, S. et al. Demography And Genetics at the Tribal Level: The Xavante as a Test Case. Current Anthropology. February, 2001 Vol. 42(1):154-161.
The overall concern of the article was developing a statistical way to study tribal dynamics and characterize the shift from tribal to non-tribal living as reflected in genetics. The study centered on Brazilian indigenous groups that had been well studied since the early 20th century. The goal was to compare the demographic data obtained from genetic testing with the demographic data obtained by anthropologists through life histories. The study focused on three indigenous tribes: the Yanomama, Merkranoti, and Ache. Researchers were looking to compare/contrast the three tribes on criterion such as life expectancy, male fertility, female fertility, reproductive fitness, and phenotypes.
Callegari-Jacques et al. argue that more studies should utilize intergeneration correlations between fertility and mortality in order to study population dynamics among communities. There are few studies that use a combination of genetic markers and anthropologic data. However, Callegari-Jacques et al. argue the need for integration between demography, cultural anthropologists and geneticists when it comes to the study of populations. This paper’s intent is to serve as a model for future research and experimental design which combines life history theory and genetic approaches.
The argument was constructed using a scientific approach. The methods of data collection were outlined and discussed in the context of other literature. Next the authors have a results section in which they present the statistical correlations and plots obtained from the indigenous populations. The statistics used are very involved and require some background in statistics in order to fully understand what the data is saying. The discussion and conclusions helped to sum up the results but without firm statistical knowledge there is no way to verify if the data supports the conclusions. For this reason, the overall clarity ranking is low. An undergraduate with limited statistical experience would have a difficult time understanding the material in this paper. However, given guidance this article would prove useful in experimental design and statistical analysis. The evidence presented in the article is mostly mathematical and fails to integrate the cultural aspect of fertility and mortality. However, as a pilot study, this may serve as a basis for cultural study given that it sets out such population dynamics as average life expectancy and reproductive rates. The information gained by the statistical analysis of genetics in the communities can add to the overall understanding of a population.
CLARITY RANKING: 3
KIMBERLY NEWTON Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Callaghan, Richard T. Ceramic Age Seafaring and Interaction Potential in the Antilles: A Computer Simulation. Current Anthropology November 2, 2001 Vol. 42(2): 308-312.
This article, by Richard T. Callaghan, uses computer simulations to examine ancient South American people’s ability to navigate and explore the sea. The study focuses on the islands of the Antilles off the coast of South America. Callaghan seeks to evaluate if, and how, these ancient Saladoids discovered the Antilles. This same computer simulation proved valuable numerous other times in previous studies. He uses two types of seafaring vessels, the platform and Stargaze canoes, in a computer program that tracks a vessels movement due to unintentional drifting or paddling. These canoes are similar to canoes still found in the areas of South America and the Caribbean that Callaghan studies. His computer simulation, which also simulates starting point and environmental factors, determines whether the Saladoids could have paddled or unintentionally drifted to the Antilles during the Ceramic Age. Callaghan collected data for his computer simulations from naval and environmental sources. He concludes that the coastal environment in and among the Antilles has probably changed little since the Ceramic Age. The Saladoids faced similar squalls and ocean currents that current travelers face.
The study concludes that chance discovery, through drifting, would have been unlikely and dangerous. Unintentional drifting would take long amounts of time and risk the death of many voyagers. Never the less, Callaghan believes chance discovery could have occurred. This chance discovery would have led the Saladoids to discover the Northern Antilles before the southernmost islands, which goes against common sense explanations. Callaghan’s article also concludes that the Saladoids could have intentionally paddled to the closer islands. The computer simulation suggested that canoes paddled in shifts could have reached the closest islands in several days with little risk of death. Callaghan indicates that the mariners could have navigated using heavy cloud cover to indicate where islands existed. The computer simulation suggests that South African peoples during the Ceramic Age could have floated or paddled from several positions on the coast, and safely reached the Antilles. Once these islands had been discovered, the Saladoids most likely could have navigated and paddled direct routes to and from the island with little danger.
CLARITY RANKING: 3
W. PAUL WORLEY Davidson College (Dr. Lozada)
Coronil, Fernando, Alan G. Fix, Peter Pels, Charles L. Briggs, Raymond Hames, Susan Lindee, and Alcida Rita Ramos. Perspectives on Tierney’s Darkness in El Dorado. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(2):265-277.
This article consists of a series of critiques of Patrick Tierney’s Darkness in El Dorado, which is a critique of Napolean Chagnon and James Neel’s scientific and social manipulation of the Yanomami of Brazil and Venezuela. His text is rooted in personal biases towards Chagnon and Neel, and attempts to link their intentions with the resulting social effects, jeopardizes the books’ intellectual value.
Tierney alludes to Neel’s supposed inclination towards eugenics and Chagnon’s insistence on the Yanomami as “fierce people,” asserting that social devastation and unethical treatment of the people were intended by the two scientists. Alan Fix concludes that Tierney believes the “Yanomami [have] suffered great harm as a result of scientific research.” A criticism made by all authors is Tierney’s inconsistency in his data, specifically material relating to the measles epidemic of 1967, which unquestionably could not have been spread by Chagnon and Neel as Tierney suggests. Tierney also lacks proper documentation and references to support such claims as well as acceptable ethnographic accounts. Many of his claims require support, and oftentimes were established in presumptions and the misreading of information. Lindee asserts “reading it [the book] is like watching someone self-destruct for a good cause. Tierney is a flaming Buddhist monk. One cannot quite turn away.”
The assumed central theme of the book, the health and status of the Yanomami, is secondary to the work of Chagnon and Neel. Tierney is quick to blame global economic conditions created by the Ministry of Health and Social Development, yet ignores the role of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and U.S. encouraged privatization (Briggs). The division of wealth created by such companies generates distressing health conditions amongst the poor. The role of anthropologists is vital here, in construing the health of the indigenous populations and not to “marginalize everyday conditions of life and death” (Briggs). Cultural images are extensive and can have negative effects on indigenous people if not viewed appropriately.
Despite heavy criticism by the authors, many of them praised Tierney for raising important issues regarding methodology and ethics in anthropology. The politics of knowledge and how one acquires knowledge are two main concerns for future anthropologists. As Tierney picked and chose his evidence against Chagnon and Neel, anthropologists must be warned against doing the same. Human rights must be maintained throughout all scientific studies, which was overlooked in Chagnon’s blood samples, cinematic exploits, and records of the names of the dead.
In short, the authors argue that Tierney’s book is lacking in sufficient documentation and an objective viewpoint to convince an educated reader of the “facts” surrounding the influence of Western scientists. His prejudices slant the information about Chagnon and Neel, while detracting from the true issue of the Yanomami. If Tierney were truly concerned about the health and social conditions of the Yanomami, he would have abandoned anthropological politics and focused on the aftermath and reality of Yanomami lives. Important ethical points were made, yet masked in underlying prejudices towards Chagnon and Neel.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
ALYSON KRAL University of Idaho (Laura Putsche).
Douglas, Bronwen. From Invisible Christians to Gothic Theatre. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(5):615-650.
“From Invisible Christians to Gothic Theatre” looks at how Christianity in Melanesia has been documented by anthropologists through history and criticizes much of the ethnographical work that was done in Melanesia before the 21st century.
Douglas begins by criticizing armchair anthropologists’ use of missionaries’ ethnographies for cultural information, and suggests that direction via correspondence and handbooks on ethnographic method are not reliable ways to train an ethnographer. She also states that most early anthropologists sympathized with the conversion of native Melanesians to Christianity. This belief held until American anthropologists in the early 20th century recognized that doing so threatened to obliterate traditional cultures. Douglas’ complaint about the second generation of anthropologists in Melanesia is that although they took full advantage of missionary support and information collected by missionaries, they equally deplored the efforts to Christianize natives and scoffed at missionaries’ ignorance of native beliefs and heritage. The third generation of anthropologist in Melanesia erred, according to Douglas, because they glossed over European influence within the culture and focused on only traditional rituals and customs in their reports, despite the fact that they had significantly integrated outside concepts into their culture. Before the 1980’s, Christianity was scarcely mentioned in ethnographies and was usually noted in the section discussing negative impacts on Melanesian tribes. Since the 1980’s ethnography in Melanesia has changed so that it considers Christianity a reality. Douglas found that anthropologists maintained skepticism about the presence of indigenous Christianity longer than most scholars. Literature on Christianity in Melanesia before 1980 came from departments of history, African studies, and religious studies. Since then, anthropologists have made significant contributions on the subject. The last section of the article provides several examples of how Christianity was invisible to ethnographers. Douglas uses examples of ethnographers who have gone back to the area they studied and reevaluated the society. She quotes their reasoning and acknowledgements that they did overlook Christianity earlier in their careers and allows their words to reinforce her point that they were mistaken by doing so.
Douglas replies to the various comments with wit and enthusiasm. She thanks Austin-Broos for information that Jamaica and Central Australia have had a similar avoidance of Christianity in historical ethnographies. As for Trompf’s comment that Douglas “neglected swaths of relevant literature on West Papua,” she responds that although they are in German and Dutch, she welcomes the significant but little known sources to help her complete her knowledge of the subject. Finally, Douglas states that Orta’s demand for more differentiated ethnographies of missionary Christianity “is well taken but is hardly central to this paper.”
DESIREE SWENSON University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Samuel Fernandex-Carriba and Angela Loeches. Fruit Smearing by Captive Chimpanzees: A Newly Observed Food-Processing Behavior. Current Anthropology Feb, 2001 Vol 43(1):143-150.
Fernandez-Carriba and Loeches begin their article expressing the need for research on primates in order to draw new conclusions about the evolutionary stages of humans. Because chimpanzees are genetically the most similar primate to humans, understanding chimpanzees may aid in the understanding human evolution. Recent research has challenged the notion that a cultural uniqueness is specific to humans by discovering 39 new behaviors in the natural habitats of wild chimpanzees. Fifteen of these behavioral patters involve food processing. Contrary to the notion that animals eat their food as it comes instead of transforming it in some way like humans, the behavior of the chimpanzees suggests that primates may process their food too. Although captivity may influence behavior, Fernandez-Carriba and Loeches’s study describes a new behavior observed by chimpanzees captive in the Madrid Zoo that is different from all other observed behaviors.
Fernandez-Carriba and Loeches observed a group of ten chimpanzees, eight of which were born in the wild. The chimpanzees were enclosed in a 200 square meter outdoor area and fed a variety of fruits and vegetables including apples, bananas, carrots, and oranges twice daily. Observations were made three times a week and with video cameras.
The processing behavior was first observed by Linda, one of two adult females who had most of her teeth removed a few months before the study. Linda took a piece of fruit and hit it against a shape edge and smeared the food against a rough surface of the wall. She then proceeded to lick the fruit and juice off of the wall and ate the remaining fruit. Soon most of the other chimpanzees imitated Linda; however, there were a few who have not shown any signs of the behavior. Additionally, most of the chimpanzees that imitated Linda’s behavior used their right hand for the processing, although one showed equal use of both hands.
Fernandez-Carriba and Loeches conclude that it was unlikely that Linda learned this behavior given her age at the time of entry to the zoo and limited time spent in the wild. Moreover, they acknowledge that the behavior spread throughout the group and was passed on through two generations. Although Linda’s missing dentition suggests that the behavior was originally functional, its imitation suggests that there may have been other reasons for chimpanzees to partake in food processing. The authors propose that chimpanzees may find the smearing of food an appealing way to eat. They conclude that the behavior must be imitation of Linda because the probability that all of the chimpanzees were learning by trial and error is very slim.
The authors summarize their article by stating that their data is an important contribution to research in behavioral and cultural characteristics of primates. They emphasize that their findings on right-handed preference is also significant. Overall their article provides new insight to the general study primates and their relation to human evolution.
KATHERINE A. YOUNGER Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada).
Finkler, Kaja. The Kin in the Gene: The Medicalization of Family and Kinship in American Society. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42 (2): 235-263.
Kaja Finkler’s article addresses the impacts that medicalization has on individuals and their ideas of family within the modern United States. The number of individuals considered kin is rapidly expanding due to biomedicine and the advances being made in genetic understanding. Contemporary American society has primarily viewed kin as those with whom we are raised, or those with whom we share experiences and histories. Today, those considered as kin is growing to include anyone with whom one may share consanguinial ties.
Finkler does an excellent job providing examples of how medicalization has changed people’s lives. She uses examples from her own research involving women with either breast cancer or a family history of the disease, and a number of adoptees who had been searching for their parents. By using personal narrative from her consultants, Finkler defends the thesis of her paper.
Genetics and family history is becoming important not only to individuals, but to corporations such as medical insurance companies. The importance of family medical history is also reflected in a recent law enacted in Oregon which allows adoptees to have access to their adoption records in order to contact birth parents to receive medical histories.
Through the discovery and acceptance of genetics, individuals are forced to begin including both distant and future relatives in their personal definition of kin and who your kin. Finkler states that “the medicalization of family and kinship forces us to establish a connectedness with kin in the wake of the weakening of family ties, whether we choose to or not.”
Finkler also points out that by placing emphasis on genetics, the question of “Why me?”, which is asked in times of medical despair can be answered. Finkler’s most compelling quote that sums up, in my opinion, the entire article is that “the ideology of genetic inheritance promises contemporary humans immortality within the flux of the postmodern world.”
The author’s reply following peer comments is thoughtful and detailed. She first answers each of the comments, and then defends her belief that although breast cancer is no more socially constructed than any other disease, the activities that occur due to the fear of breast cancer are socially constructed. She also concedes that although victims of specific disease may be genetically predetermined, their actions are socially constructed.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
JESSICA NELSON-SELLERS University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Finkler, Kaja. The Kin in the Gene: The Medicalization of Family and Kinship in American Society. Current Anthropology April, 2001 Vol.42(2):235-263.
This article is looking at the new surge in genetic research that has hit biomedicine. Kaja Finkler believes that genetics has caused kinship to be medicalized. This has changed the individual’s ideas about family and kinship. To look at this issue the article begins with an overview of the Anthropological research that surrounds kinship. The article then takes a brief look at the ideas about family and kinship in contemporary American society. The article then looks at medicalization in general before looking at the medicalization of kinship and its consequences. Kaja Finkler uses evidence from medicine, television, newspapers, and magazines to show how talking about kinship has changed. She then looks at what the change in how we talk about kinship means about the change in how we think about kinship. The article then looks at how these changes are experienced by individuals on a personal level. Evidence included in this section is from a study that Kaja Finkler did. The study is based on interviews of 35 women who had had breast cancer or were from families with a history of breast cancer and 15 individuals who were adopted and looking for their birth parents. During this section she gives quotes and ideas that she gathered from her study to support her claim that genetics has changed the way we look at kinship. In the last section Kaja Finkler looks at the consequences that the medicalization of kinship has.
The comments on Finkler’s article were mostly positive. The commentators mainly added other thought to ideas that Finkler began in her article. Hugh Gusterson reviews some of the ideas of Finkler’s that he appreciated and then gives one criticism. He doesn’t like the use of the word ‘medicalization’ because it is not adequate to describe the situation. He suggest using the word ‘geneticization. Nortin M. Hadler and James p. Evans try to use a brief commentary to prove Finkler’s argument flawed. Overall the commentators are happy with the overall idea and think that further research needs to be done. In her reply, Finkler addresses the commentators on there individual issues and is largely appreciative of the insight that they have brought to the article.
AMANDA WOODS Davidson College (Dr. Eriberto Lozada)
Gil-White, Francisco J. Are Ethnic Groups Biological “Species” to the Human Brain? Essentialism in Our Cognition of Some Social Categories. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42 (4):515-554.
Gil-White looks at how the human brain categorizes ethnie, ethnic group(s), in an attempt to show that, though they are not biological species, the human brain is so constituted that it categorizes them as species, or natural kinds. He attempts to clear up any misunderstanding of his point right at the beginning by telling the reader that ethnies are not biologically different, and that he is only discussing how our mind conceives of the categories. His many examples, such as the ugly duckling, Nazis’ view of the Jews, and the Mongolians, help to elucidate his point that the human mind does consider ethnies and natural kinds as the same type of categorization. In the Mongolian example, he claims that Mongolians believe that even if a Mongolian child is taken from birth and raised by another group, it will still grow into a Mongolian. In the Ugly Duckling example, he shows that no matter what the ducks do, they cannot turn the hatchling into anything but a swan. In the Nazi example he states that the Nazis would discriminate against Jewish descendents even to 1/8th status. These examples show that the basic view of common people is that a person’s cultural tradition is essential to his or her bloodline, and so cannot be changed even when raised in a different culture.
Gil-White’s argument relies on basic presuppositions that are held, he claims, by most, if not all, pre-modern and modern societies. One presupposition is that those from a different cultural group are inherently different, or “essentially” different. Gil-White builds on this idea by explaining why the human brain has evolved in this way. The human animal has attempted to make social interactions easier, and by everyone playing the same game they can play much longer and much more easily. Knowing that different ethnies did not play the same game by the same rules allowed humans to make general decisions or guess about out-group behavior that was “inexpensive” and easy to understand. Thinking of a different ethnie as a different species helped the explanation and understanding of different priorities, hence they could work or trade with other groups without incurring the cost of miscoordination.
Gil-White’s reply to most critics is that they have missed the point. He fully takes the blame onto himself and claims that he did not explain his position well enough. It seems, though, that he did explain his position well enough, but the presuppositions held by the critics blocked their ability to fully hear what Gil-White was attempting to say. Both Rothbart and Taylor attempt to disagree with the article, but everything they put forward appears to support what Gil-White claims. He does make a significant statement in reply to Astuti, by agreeing that further cross-cultural studies are needed to prove or disprove his hypothesis because he only really utilized a study of Mongolians.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
DANIEL HANSEN University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Hawkes, Kristen, J. F. O’Connell, and N. G. Blurton Jones. Hunting and Nuclear Families: Some Lessons from the Hadza about Men’s Work. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(5):681-709.
The authors are concerned with a problem regarding meat sharing among hunters and gatherers, which is that families of more successful hunters, and particularly the children of these families, have been found to have better nutrition. Many have concluded that this is because these men bring more meat into the home than other men of the same group. This hypothesis is questioned, and the authors cite evidence that among many hunting and gathering societies, and particularly among the Hadza, the meat resources are divided equally among the entire group.
The article looks at many other possibilities as to how, then, the children of more successful hunters have better nutrition. These other hypotheses include looking at the possibility that the husband/father of the family is also a better forager of other goods, such as plants or honey. However, these seem to not correlate with the data. Instead, the data point to some correlation between successful hunters and wives who are more successful at providing nutrients through gathering higher yields of plants. The article argues that male hunting is driven by competition within the group. While all families receive the same amount of meat, there are other food gathering activities that yield a larger quantity of food.
The authors hypothesize that competition among males translates into greater success in marriage for more successful hunters. The authors look to the Ache and Hadza for evidence of this, where they find that more successful hunters have higher fertility rates. Women who are producing more children have husbands who are more successful hunters. These men are also more likely to marry younger women, therefore producing even more children. The research among the Hadza suggests that women are more likely to want to marry better hunters, although the fact that they are better hunters does not mean that the family will have more meat. Hunting success is widely known by the entire group. Through this success, the hunter has greater access to wives who are more successful foragers, and in this way better hunters’ families are better off nutritionally.
The authors show through their analysis that Hadza hunting, along with a wide range of hunters and gatherers, is not a paternal activity, but is more of a competitive activity, and is a very important phenomena in terms of evolution. Males who are better hunters establish their achieved status, which has great impact on that hunter’s life. When others see that he is successful, the hunter will have a status that affords him other opportunities, such as wider choice of mates, more successful remarriage, and a larger number of children. He therefore has access to the wives who are the hardest working, and are better at successfully providing for their families.
In response to comments on the article, the authors reiterate the importance of big game versus small game. While there were many questions as to the extent to which big game hunting is important, and to what extent it is a competitive activity and not a paternal activity, the authors showed much data in support of their hypothesis that hunting is a competitive activity. They further look at situations of the unsuccessful hunter. They say that since it is almost impossible for a hunter, even a very successful hunter, to bring in large game days in a row, there is plenty opportunity for all hunters, even poor ones, to contribute. They point out that the best hunter in a group is normally unsuccessful.
JAMAL LYKSETT University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Hawkes, K., J. F. O’Connell, N.G. Blurton Jones. Hunting and Nuclear Families: Some Lessons From the Hadza About Men’s Work. Current Anthropology December, 2001 Vol. 42(5): 681-703.
Hawkes, O’Connell, and Jones analyze the foraging strategies of Hadza hunter-gatherers living in the East African Rift. Previous models of foraging strategy and social organization placed great emphasis on a man’s hunting skill as a survival benefit for his family. Research showed that the wives and children of the best hunters are better nourished than the rest of the population. The authors propose that because of food distribution patterns where meat is shared widely, hunters families do not receive their extra nutrition from meat brought home by the father. They suggest instead, that the foraging skills of the mother (and to some extent the children) are responsible for the nutritional success of the hunter’s family. They use this reasoning to counter arguments that men are better hunters to attract women as sexual partners, essentially trading food for sex. They reject this argument as the motivating factor behind mate selection and the development of the nuclear family.
The author’s support their argument with time allocation data of food procurement activities over a period of several seasons. They assessed the relative nutritional condition of the camp residents through periodic weighings. They controlled for seasonal variation in daylight vs. nighttime hunting hours, compared males relative hunting success, and measured their foraging effort based on the amount of food brought into camp. They calculated an overall daily average for each hunter and then compared this to data on the distribution of meat. Comparison of their data sets provided several conclusions. While the hunter might contribute a large amount of game to the group, this skill in hunting only marginally increases the nutritional resources of his family. The authors analyzed the changes in children’s weight and found that the children of the best hunters were generally better fed. However, weight changes did not correspond to the father’s seasonal hunting success. Analysis of data on women’s foraging found that women’s foraging time did not change in relation to the men’s hunting success and that children’s weights fluctuated in relation to their mother. They provide five data tables and nine graphs with detailed analysis.
In response to this data, the authors attempt to provide several alternate reasons for mate selection and the development of the nuclear family. They suggest that anthropologists look to ornithology studies as well as primate research for mate selection theory, due to the high rates of monogamy among birds. They propose male competition for mates and mate guarding as a possibility for mating choice, and competition among men as the incentive to hunt.
Commenters generally looked favorably on the information that Hawkes et. al. brought to the discussion of hunting as paternal investment. However, criticisms of the work included the idea that while men’s hunting success might not directly and immediately affect the health of their families, it favorably affected the distribution of food within the group. If a man had a lean hunting season, his family was still fed. In providing food to the group he was ensuring his family’s welfare in times of need. Other arguments included that weight gain is not an adequate measure of nutritional health, coercion rather than competition might be a social strategy, and that it is not exactly clear what the authors are arguing against.
Hawkes, O’Connell and Jones reply to the comments about the hunting hypothesis, humans as two-parent breeding species, importance of non-meat resources, and “the generality of lessons from the Hadza”. They counter that group benefits are not enough to explain individual behavior, women are the key determinant in the success of children, meat is an important dietary component but unreliable, and that the Hadza present one example of foraging strategies. They stress that their work attempts to expand the realm of possibilities and does not claim to be the solution in all hunter-gatherer societies.
ZOE MCCOY Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Inomata, Takeshi. The Power and Ideology of Artistic Creation: Elite Craft Specialists in Classic Maya Society. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(3):321-350.
Inomata proposes that the products of elite artists in Maya society may have been ideologically loaded with privileged knowledge, useful in distinguishing elites from each other, and from non-elites. After reviewing debate about the archaeological theory of craft specialization, he adds to the supporting evidence and examines its possible use in power relations. He says ideology can support a system of domination through its ‘materialization’ and suggests that the very act of creating an art form may be ideological in nature.
Advocating the use of the micro and macro scale when examining this theory, Inomata cautions that they should be used specifically; micro in examining producer and action oriented questions, and macro in examining societal analysis. He cites previous research indicating that craft specialization is found in both small-scale societies and in complex societies. Therefore, the theory is problematic when used in an evolutionary context. He warns against assuming the status of individuals based on whether they are independent or attached specialists, because evidence suggests that they may be both, in different contexts. Citing the increasing evidence of craft specialization in Classic Maya society, as it stands in contrast with other complex societies where artists are non-elites, he implies there is a difference in social and political context.
Inomata presents past research supporting the use of craft specialization as an alternative method of gaining power for members of a society who would not otherwise be heir to powerful positions. Elites have different types of capital, and he suggests that this difference plays an important role in socio-cultural relations. Not only is skill involved, but also an association with supernatural powers. Specialization involved privileged knowledge in order to encode and decode crafts. This ability is what he calls ‘cultural capital’, and he asserts that meaning can only be fully derived by someone with this knowledge. Like economic capital, cultural and ‘symbolic capital’ (prestige, reputation for taste) are unequally distributed, and symbolic capital can easily convert to political capital.
Inomata offers his archaeological research to support this theory. He reports findings from the Aguateca (Guatemala) Archaeological Project, where the central portion of a rapidly abandoned Maya site was extensively excavated. The artifacts elaborated upon were excavated from four ‘elite’ dwellings surrounding the royal palace. Painted ceramic vessels and elaborate clothing were cited, as well as signed pieces of art and texts. Inomata provided ample archaeological evidence that the dwellings were used for both domestic purposes and craft production.
In replies to comments from colleagues, Inomata revisits his definition of terms, clarifying the use of ‘cultural capital’ by stating that it refers to the knowledge required to produce and appreciate a product. He responds to questions posed by Hendon, regarding the gender assigned to elite scribes, saying that females are represented, but that it is unclear the degree to which they controlled production. Responding to debate about ‘high culture’, Inomata emphasizes his position in examining production level of art in addition to exchange theories of power relations with regard to socially constructed meaning.
CLARITY RANKING: 3
JENNIFER GATZKE University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Inomata, Takeshi. The Power and Ideology of Artistic Creation: Elite Craft Specialists in Classic Maya Society. Current Anthropology June, 2001. Vol.42(3):321-349.
Craft specialization in complex societies carries further meaning than simply economic efficiency and accommodation to environmental factors. There are inherent political and social implications of specialized production. Inomata examines these deeper ideological meanings in craft specialization among the elites in Classic Maya Aguateca. He first outlines two types of specialization developed by Earle, Brumfiel, and Costin. Independent specialization is general production with no attention towards demand. It is guided by “principles for efficiency and security.” Attached specialization is production of goods by contract for specific reason, and is a response to the desire and necessity of elites to control certain production. It is in attached specialization on a micro scale, “at the level of individual producers and actions,” that Inomata finds political and ideological implications for Mayan society.
Aguateca provides an excellent opportunity to analyze daily activities of the Maya because around A.D. 800 it was attacked and burned, leaving many tools and products in their exact usage contexts. Evidence for elite craft specialists lies in analysis of goods found in 11 structures including Palace Group royal residences and houses of nobles where “artistic production was found in all four excavated subroyal elite residences.” Production is obviously attached specialization because of the frequency in the appearance of scribes’ names on stelae and other goods, such as pottery. Inomata suggests that the combination of political and artistic roles was not the duty of scribes but instead, the political figures may have engaged in craft production for the reason that “artistic production and its products were probably important sources of political power and prestige but not their only source.” Prestige goods carry particular societal implications because of the elites’ sole access to high-status crafts, and the involvement of the elites in production carries further meaning. Gods are frequently displayed painting, carving, and sculpting and the association of elites with the realm of the supernatural emphasizes the divine right to rule. In addition, “skilled crafting can contribute to higher prestige and power in some societies.” Even the knowledge and ability to produce elite goods implies possession of a superior power.
Because of the important connotations of superiority and divine right to rule, Inomata suggests that elite craft production was attached production. Comments are praising of Inomata’s efforts and theoretical basis. Costin suggests that the social status of the artisans and the idea of attached production be kept separate because of the differences in social relations that each entails, and Bordieu’s “cultural capital” is helpful in defining valued cultural knowledge. Marcus shows that many of the patterns Inomata found at Aguateca are typical of chiefdoms, in which it is harder to classify the difference between independent and attached production. Inomata responds to Webster’s warning of different abandonment processes with faith in “detailed, innovative analysis.” He is enthusiastic about developing a stronger theory of craft specialization. Speaking on the ideological power of elites he says, “the concept of high culture does not mean that the most sophisticated aesthetics is held exclusively by elites. Without the ability to impress nonelites, high culture would lose much of its political value as a conveyor of dominant ideologies.”
MATTHEW MONSON Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Kahn, Joel S. Anthropology and Modernity. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(5):651-680.
Joel Kahn looks at the pertinence of modernity theories to the field of anthropology. He argues that conversation between anthropology and social theory needs to be reestablished. This conversation would allow the collaboration between “non-Western” and “Western” ideas of modernity, which Kahn feels has been neglected in recent years. Kahn does not suggest that this dialogue would be harmonious, only necessary for both fields. Kahn examines ways that anthropology has been more or less “forced into [encounters] with both Western modernity and Western narratives of modernization.” He uses his studies in Southeast Asia as a foundation for this examination.
Kahn’s research began in the early 1970′s in the Indonesian province of West Sumatra, and included two years of ethnography in villages in both the highlands and coastal areas of that region. At that time, the village was the central focus of most people’s lives. Since then, Indonesia and Malaysia have become “modernized”, and the focus is no longer on the village. Many members of the village move to the cities to be employed in the manufacturing industry. These people may live permanently in the city or plan to return to the village, but they all help support their families in the villages financially. This shift has “led to a new understanding of the anthropological project.” The focus is no longer solely on pre-modernity, but has moved to an anthropology of modernity.
Kahn also looks at the reflexivity, or the “discovery,” by anthropologists and their critics that knowledge produced by anthropology is not innocent. The ethnographies produced are not simply reflections of a “pre-given social and cultural reality” but are a “construction” created by a combination of the culture being studied, the ethnographer and the context both are in. Because an ethnography is created, not just from the people involved but its historic context, it must be revisited and reestablished as that culture changes within its historical context.
Kahn finally looks at the “critical musings” of the “construction problem” of anthropology as a “confrontation between ‘the West and the Rest.’ ” He observes that critical theory already precipitates similar conflicts between central-eastern Europe and northwestern Europe as well as between “cores” and “peripheries” of nations in the 19th century. Anthropology and its applications are affected by globalization and historical context the same as are cultures.
There were fifteen comments on this article including Englund and Leach, whose earlier article on modernity sparked Kahn’s interest in the subject. And, although he did not agree entirely with all their positions, they did inspire his research and expression of his own position on modernity and anthropology.
Kahn was “gratified by the number and variety of responses.” He was also “somewhat taken aback” at negative tones of some of the “more critical” comments. In general, Kahn appreciated and acknowledged the criticisms. He appreciated Rockmore’s “elegant” restatement of his assumptions. And, Goh’s comments were seen as useful in pointing out the importance of revising understands of modernity.
LISA M. BABICH University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Kahn, Joel S. Anthropology and Modernity. Current Anthropology December, 2001 Vol.42(5):651-680.
This article attempts to reposition the self-referential ethnography by detailing ethnographers’ refusal to dispense with the concept of modernity. Kahn, having worked in Malaysia for many years, writes of the disparity between theory governing ethnography’s relationship with modernity and the relationship between the two in practice. Kahn refers extensively to a piece by Englund and Leach which examines the relationship of multiple modernity narratives with ethnography. Kahn examines our understanding of modernity through academia and general interpretations and compares the two. Kahn claims that the general idea of modernity is dangerously western and forces ideas of change that are not ideal onto the developing nations. The dynamic he examines is self-referential because those ideas of modernity affect both the cultures and the ethnographies written about them, and then the ethnographies re-affect those cultural ideas of modernity. Kahn wants a more dynamic relationship with a more ethnographic version of modernity. He sees modernity as expressed differently in each locale, and he sees each locale as equally modern. At the same time those locales have their own confusing dialogues with the concept of modernity.
Kahn advocates a synchronic view of modernity: the world as it is now is modern, alongside ethnographic analysis of the relationships with the concept itself. He criticizes ethnographers’ definitions of modernity as overly evolutionary. Kahn points out that postmodernism has merely allowed for the reversal of our value judgments about modernity. Modernity itself still rules our analysis of a culture, only now it can be considered a bad development as well as a good development. Kahn uses the writing of local ethnographers and anecdotal evidence to support his claims about modernity. He generalizes that ethnographers have essentially been unable to find a balance of local versions of modernity and a valueless modernity. He seems to use a very specific definition of ethnography that denies some of the changes that might have come through due to postmodernism. The ethnographers he portrays seem to be interested and in touch with the people, but lacking in theoretical background.
The major criticisms of Kahn’s argument come against his descriptions. He is accused of generalizing and oversimplifying. At some points, it seems that he is just saying don’t do bad ethnographies. The ethnographies he complain about are those which do not conform to postmodern ideals of cultural and modernity relativism. Englund points out that much of Kahn’s argument uses a “‘traditionalist understanding’ of ethnography.” According to his critics, Kahn misses the point. He is criticizing exactly what everybody else is criticizing except when they quote it, he thinks they agree with it. He worries about definitions of modernity that the people he is responding to deal with in the same way. Essentially, they agree with his argument because his points are representative of the norm.
Kahn’s response is biting. He restates his points and chastises his critics for not wanting to move the debate forwards. He re-criticizes Englund and Leach for their disdainful rebukes, but does not change his stance. He still goes on to criticize ethnographers’ us and them relationships with their interlocutors. He doesn’t respond to the criticism that these relationships, framed in terms of us and them, are already frowned upon, and moves back to our ideas of modernity. He reassures us that we really do need to change our relationship with modernity, but doesn’t clarify why his way is different from the ways of his critics.
ARTHUR GILLETT Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Kirsch, Stuart. Lost Worlds: Environmental Disaster, “Culture Loss,” and the Law. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(2):167-198.
Stuart Kirsch is looking at the concept of cultural property, and what this means in terms of law and anthropological concepts. His main examples in the article are the Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea and the affects that the mine had on water quality for indigenous people downstream from the mine, and the Marshall Islands and the affects on the people from nuclear weapons testing on Bikini Atoll. The testing created many negative impacts for those living on Rongelap, an atoll near Bikini, including increased cancer rates, higher miscarriages and birth defects. The main concern for Kirsch in this article is the fact that it is unsafe for the people of Rongelap to live on their home island in terms of subsistence from the local vegetation, which is contaminated. The article follows the court proceedings of this case, and uses this as a discussion of cultural property rights. The author argues that there is a sense of loss when indigenous people are forced from their lifestyle or off their land, and that the concept of culture causes problems when discussing cultural property rights. To understand cultural property rights, the concept of loss is important, and Kirsch compares this to that loss one finds in death.
Finding precedence of value in culture loss was found in the Eisenring v. Kansas Turnpike Authority, where property is seen as something of more than monetary value. There is more at stake than the money value of a particular piece of land when a person’s entire life and livelihood is based on this piece of land. To explain the loss experienced by the Marshallese, Kirsch looks at several different aspects, including property as a way of knowing, value of subsistence production, place and community, and property and alienability. None of these are easily figured into a monetary structure, and Kirsch looks at how this is played out in the legal system. He argues that cultural property rights are important in that cultural loss is real through the fact that indigenous people feel this sense of loss, and they wish to return to previous ways of life, yet are not allowed to due to pressures from governments, as well as loss of land. Indigenous peoples are often tied to the land, and removal from their environment destroys this aspect of their culture, and in turn, all of their culture. Kirsch sees the testimony of the anthropologists as important to the process of understanding and dealing with the losses faced by indigenous peoples. Their testimony is key as expert witnesses in cases concerning questions of culture.
In response to comments on this article, Kirsch states that if culture loss is felt and monetary reconciliation cannot be met, it is important for those at fault to at least claim responsibility for their actions. He also looks at ideas concerning indigeneity, and possibility of this idea being used as way for indigenous groups to claim rights over lands, while other minority groups, who are tied to the land, are not given the same rights. Ideas of indigeneity should be about connection to something. There should be meaning to these claims, and in this way all of these groups have claims. Through this meaning, one’s culture becomes tied to the land.
JAMAL LYKSETT University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Lambek, Michael. The Anthropology of Religion and the Quarrel between Poetry and Philosophy. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 41(3):309-320.
Lambek offers an in-depth discussion on the focus of anthropology of religion and the role history has played in shaping ideas about power, morality and religion itself. He divides the commentary into four parts, each covering a different point. Much of Lambek’s article focuses on interpretation of Aristotle’s ideas about morality and complementary ideas offered by Rappaport.
Historically, Plato gave the first discourse in epistemology by describing the distinction, and opposition, of rational contemplation and sensual engagement. This distinction frames the prevalent Western notion of the dichotomy between objective (rational) and subjective (sensual) mind and body. Aristotle, on the other hand, offers a third line of reasoning into the equation – reasoned action (praxis) and creative production (poiesis). Lambek argues that creative and practical wisdom play a role in all human societies.
In the section titled, “From Power to Morality,” Lambek points out that power mutually gives order to religion and offers a means to challenge authority. Ritual practices demonstrate symbolic adaptations of power, while morality and power interact in a complex fashion. Morality is more than just a referee of power and desire, however. It is a way of living.
Next, in “The Scope of the Moral: Aristotle and Rappaport,” Lambek indicates the agreement of the two authors that ritual practices reflect the ideals of societies. Aristotelian morality is the balance between extremes of potential human actions, and ritual mark definitive instances of finding that balance. However, rituals can be defied if the Good is found in the contradiction. Thus, morality and ritual shape one another. Morality is not, however, just a set of rules, but rather a practical application of virtuous reasoning. Here Lambek points out that morality is not exclusive to religious practice, but transcends into everyday life.
Morality is also more than habit, as Lambek addresses in “A Dieu, Bourdieu: Morality as Disposition and as Practice.” Moral principles entail both reasoning and an understanding of virtue. Since morality deals with a continuum between extremes, there can be no science of morality. Rather it comes from within individuals who possess a practical wisdom of virtue. An incontinent individual may have the ability to rationalize moral action but will still lack moral disposition. Here again, ritual offer occasions to practice moral disposition in a culturally fashioned manner.
In conclusion, Lambek proposes that religion gives direction and means to moral practice by making individuals contemplate morality. Even though some anthropology of religion may still focus on Plato’s dichotomy and the mutual distinction between the ideal, imagined world and the everyday one, Aristotle offers reasoning that makes it possible to conjoin the contemplative and the sensual. Practice should be viewed more in terms of practical reasoning, and the study of structured, rule-bound religion should look more at moral practice rather than stated guidelines.
CLARITY RANKING: 2
AARON WILSON University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Lewis, Herbert S. Boas, Darwin, Science, and Anthropology. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(3):381-404.
In the article the author starts by setting up his intentions, some of which are telling of a new interpretation of Boas’ works, interpretation of Boas’ philosophy, and how they react with current science and beliefs of culture and behavior.
In the first section of the article some of the criticisms of Boas are put into light through exhaustive quotations of people’s dismissals of Boas and Boasian theory. But, in the next section the author counter-argues for Boas. Here he says that Boas actually understood science in a much grander scale than his detractors would give him credit for, as described in the previous section. Mainly, the author again uses many quotes of leading or prominent anthropologists to make his point. Also, he combines Ernst Mayr’s definition of science and Boas’ quotes to concrete Boas as a proponent for hard science, which is the main point of the section.
Then the author turns to Boas’ influence on pragmatism. Here the author strays away from using quotations and instead shows that Boas and some of his students wrote works that are fundamental elements in pragmatic views, such as The Dial, The Freeman, The Nation, and The New Republic.
Next, the author turns to defining pragmatism, and summarizes some of the main views of this ‘ism’. Here it is explained that pragmatism is antifoundationalist, meaning that there are not absolute truths, but instead there are theories that can always be made better. Also, pragmatism is founded on pluralism and diversity, along with contingency and chance, individual phenomena versus the whole, and the importance of the individual. All these factors were summarized in a few short paragraphs each.
Then the author turns his attention to the way Darwin influenced these ideas of pragmatism. Here he uses many quotes and excerpts from works. Also in this, the author attempts to tie together the views of Boas and Darwin.
In the next few sections the author sums up the views of Boas, along with influences on early cultural anthropology. First, the author quotes many people to demonstrate Boas’ early works, then reinterpretation of Boas is put forth to demonstrate some key issues such as individuals, process, and the like.
Finally, the author concludes the article with a synopsis of Boas and his views. The author presents four suggestions regarding why Boas should be reanalyzed: reconsideration by current generations, there was no practice theory in Boas’ time, the increasing interest in Darwinian views, and what will follow current views in anthropology.
The author first replies to Darnell’s comments by stating that they both appreciate certain authors. Also, the author replies to one specific comment of Darnell’s by stating that most commentators seem to look at the divergences of Darwin and Boas. Later, Lewis responds to two letters, Harkin’s and Price’s, by stating that these two illustrate one of the points of the article: “anthropology has never had a hegemonic center but has always been characterized by diverse perspectives- and always will be.”
THOMAS WORTMAN University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Lewis, Herbert S. Boas, Darwin, Science, and Anthropology. Current Anthropology, June, 2001. Vol. 42 (3):381-406.
This article explains a century worth of reactions to Franz Boas, and attempts to convince the reader of the relevance of Boas today. Lewis’ argument is framed or inspired by a perceived attempt to redefine anthropology after postmodernism. He explains the changing reception that Boas’ work received, and he says that it is time we came full circle. In the first half of the century, Boas’ ideas governed American anthropology, but that dominance was threatened by the attacks of Leslie White and other neo-evolutionists. Now, after postmodernity, Lewis thinks we are moving towards a balanced place supported by Boas. Lewis defines Franz Boas’ position on numerous points in order to give his readers the feel that Boas was truly a postmodernist, and presents Boas as a strong example of a post-postmodern anthropologist.
Lewis’ argument moves from Boas’ writings to those of his detractors and then to postmodern writings. The author first explains the conflict between Boas and people like White; he then outlines his understanding of Boas in order to prove that his detractors were misinterpreting him. Having established the impossibility of White et al.’s legitimacy, Lewis begins his analysis of Boas’ relationship with Darwin’s work. While Boas is obviously against any sort of social evolutionism, he does believe in analyzing the details and then attempting to generalize slightly. There are few examples of this willingness to generalize though, and it is here that Lewis’ argument starts to slow. Lewis asserts that Boas is the most accurately Darwinian because Boas does not get attracted to Social Darwinism. Lewis then expands on this point. He argues that Boas actually fits a lot of the models that Anthropology hoped to achieve (but failed) through postmodernism. Lewis mentions his frustration with postmodernism and anthropology’s willingness to continually take its direction from people writing outside the field itself, who have never even been in the field. Lewis writes that Boas is one of the greats that should provide at least part of the foundation for new anthropology.
The response to Lewis are quite straightforward in agreeing with the most basic premise of Lewis’ argument, but none of the details. The responses criticize Lewis’ one sided portrayal of Boas. Multiple articles refer to Lewis’ use of only the methodological aspects of Franz Boas’ work. They mention that this is even ironic because any theory made about Boas, with his commitment to drawing conclusions from a multitude of details, should come from his massive ethnographic work instead of from his quite sparse theoretical work. As a unified whole the responses then criticize Lewis’ characterization of Boas as a proto-postmodernist. They assert that the characterization is false because, though Boas was a relativist morally, that is very different from not believing one could even comprehend the culture or worldview of another. Boas was over-deified.
Lewis answers these criticisms with apologies. He admits to the one-sided portrayal and to the fact that Boas was not at all postmodern. He then defends his decision to argue that way. Lewis sees postmodernism undermining anthropology’s reliance on the field, and though he is grateful for the open-mindedness it brought to the discipline, he thinks there are many that crave change and influence to come from inside anthropology, thus he felt drawn to present Boas as one of the possible influences.
ARTHUR GILLETT Davidson college (Eriberto Lozada)
Lieberman, Leonard. How “Caucasoids” Got Such Big Crania and Why They Shrank From Morton to Rushton Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(1):69-95.
Lieberman has formulated a powerful and comprehensive critique of Philippe Rushton’s body of work that espouses the controversial view that cranial size, and a host of behavioral traits, can be used to determine the intellect of the three “races”. Rushton places them in a hierarchical order with Mongoloid at the top, Caucasian in the middle and Negroid at the bottom. In Lieberman’s view, this is a return to the anthropological racist views of the nineteenth century, combined with sociobiological thought about genetic determinism of the twentieth century. He begins by asking why Rushton decided to place the Mongoloid race at the top when it had for so long been in the middle. He answers his question by accusing Rushton of being overly influenced by the fact that Japanese society was, at the time (1980’s), surging ahead in its attempt to become the largest economy in the world and drawing the conclusion that Asians belonged at the top of the hierarchy.
The more important question that Lieberman raises is “how it is possible to support 19th century racism by citing late 20th century anthropological research that is opposed to the notion of race”. In answer, Lieberman reviews the history of cranioracial labeling. He begins with Morton, who, in the mid nineteenth century, established the order of C>M>N in regards to cranial capacity, which he directly related to intelligence. Although rife with methodological error this ranking was widely accepted and had a broad societal impact. But as Lieberman points out, Morton was working within the framework of society and the state of scientific knowledge at that time. Rushton is working in a time where anthropologists no longer recognize the three “races” as having any meaning, apart from a forensic application.
Lieberman contends that Rushton based his mathematical correlations on invalid measurements. “It appears that the claims made by Rushton about cranial size and IQ are based on a hodgepodge of cranial measurements and a stew of intelligence assessments that lack both content and construct validity.” He claims that Rushton has failed to utilize well-established control variables in brain measurements. Lieberman points out that although he uses IQ as a measure of intelligence, Rushton has totally ignored a large body of research relating environment, nutrition, cranial size and IQ. Lieberman particularly calls into question Rushton’s assertion that an aggregation of diverse behavioral traits assigned to different races can place each race in a hierarchy of levels of civilization.
In response to critiques the author points out that Rushton is still ignoring his critics’ data and theoretical framework and ignoring the context of the sources of his data by citing the endocranial volumes of several researchers “without acknowledging that they report a high correlation with cranial volume and latitude and a very low correlation with ‘race’ ”. He answers the observation that Rushton does not attribute inferior and superior to the behavioral traits that he lists by questioning the meaning of such terms as civilization and cultural achievement when ranked from 1 to 3. Lieberman’s largest concern is contained in his observation that it does not matter if Caucasians or Asians are number one in the hierarchy; what matters is that the hierarchy is used “to justify the exploitation of those at the bottom”
CLARITY RANKING: 4
BEN GIBSON University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Lieberman, Leonard. How “Caucasoids” Got Such Big Crania and Why They Shrank: From Morton to Rushton. Current Anthropology February, 2001. Vol.42(1):69-95.
By the end of the 20th century, anthropologists had mostly abandoned the concept of biological “race.” As anthropology rose as the study of evolution, European superiority was assumed, evident in the works of Spencer, Tyler, and Morgan. Working in the same context during the mid-19th century, Samuel G. Morton collected crania and measured volumetric capacity to conclude a hierarchy of brain size placing “Caucasoids” at the top, then “Mongoloids,” and finally “Negroids.” Now, these same issues are resurfacing in J. Philippe Rushton’s studies, although the hierarchy has been altered to Mongoloids> Caucasoids> Negroids. Lieberman asks two main questions in his paper: why has the hierarchy changed between the works of Morton and Rushton, and how can Rushton support “19th century racism” in an era in which biologically determined race has been removed from the field of anthropology? It is easy to realize that the cultural context of Morton’s work supported a ranking of intelligence correlated with cranial capacity, but Lieberman criticizes Rushton for perpetuating the justification of “the exploitation of those at the bottom.” Lieberman points out Morton’s methodical, and scientific efforts, while Rushton speaks broadly, and more importantly, cites authors out of context. Reasons that biocultural anthropologists should be concerned with Rushton’s assertions include his use of the theory of evolution as an explanation for cultural differences, and changes in ideology of writers who formerly condoned biological explanations for race. Problems with Rushton’s theories that Lieberman cites are the use of the term “race,” the unclear boundaries of “races” in his work, misrepresentation of other author’s data, incomplete reporting of methods used in fieldwork, non-consideration of particular variables, and the use of correlation as causality. Most of the responses to Lieberman’s articles are positive, reinforcing the racist element of Rushton’s work. Henry Harpending comments “we have to face the likelihood that culture areas are partially determined by gene areas” but it seems that Lieberman’s argument is more against the direct association of intelligence and brain size, and the importance of correct methodology. How would one prove that culture areas are determined by gene areas? Lieberman believes in the cultural differences before biological differences. Rushton actually responds to Lieberman, emphasizing the predictive power of his studies, which he uses to say that “race” is a valid concept. He goes on to give some of his statistics, a technique which Lieberman says “follows a familiar pattern—ignoring his critics’ data and theoretical framework, ignoring the context of the sources of his data, and citing additional data on cranial size and IQ and the alleged inferiority of Africans that depend on the same erroneous assumptions that have repeatedly been called to his attention.” Rushton even uses statements from Boas, the ultimate in cultural relativism, in support of his argument. Lieberman’s article emphasizes the necessity to fight against Rushton’s attempt to revitalize Morton’s theories in a contextually inappropriate academic environment. “The differences between human societies can only be explained by the collective efforts of anthropologists, historians, and geographers examining ecology, cultural contact, colonialism, and economic globalization.”
MATTHEW MONSON Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Magdalena Hurtado, Kim Hill, Hillard Kaplan, Jane Lancaster. The Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases Among South American Indians: A Call for Guidelines for Ethical Research. Current Anthropology June, 2001 Vol. 42 (3): 425- 432.
Hurtado, Hill, Kaplan, and Lancaster write a medically informed article directed at the American Anthropological Association (AAA), and in response to Patrick Tierney’s book Darkness in El Dorado, calling for specific policy regarding the way researchers approach and interact with the remaining indigenous peoples of the world. There paper describes extensive research and accounts of ‘first contacts’ in South America, the topic of Tierney’s book. Tierney describes one such first contact, and its disastrous outcome, and these authors respond to correct and clarify many of the sweeping claims he makes with six succinct categories for the AAA to address.
The article begins on a defensive stance to cover up for the harsh claims Tierney makes against anthropologists and others initiating first contacts with isolated groups. They conclude basically in agreement with Tierney, however. They argue that attempting contact with indigenous tribes is generally good for the health and survival of the tribes, but only with continued availability of medical care. This is evidenced by a great deal of medical explanation as well as descriptions of successful contacts including prolonged medical care.
After 500 years of European contact with natives of the Americas, the authors ask the AAA to learn from historical evidence and create guidelines for initiating contact in order to avoid more disasters like the one Tierney describes. They suggest six categories as the basis for expanding the existing highly general policy for conducting research, regarding disease prevention and medical care as well as other ways that western presence can influence a previously isolated tribe.
JAMES C. SHELTON Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Priest, Robert J. Missionary Positions: Christian, Modernist, Postmodernist. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(1):29-68.
In Missionary Positions, Priest critically examines the historical origins of the phrase “missionary position.” He acknowledges its use as an expression of face-to-face, man-on-top sexual intercourse. The assumed origins of the expression are generally thought to reflect Polynesians’, Africans’, Chinese’, Native Americans’, or Melanesians’ references to imposed missionary morals regarding sexual expression as limited to heterosexual, man-on-top intercourse. Priest explores the expression as a symbol in modernist and postmodernist discourses. It has been used to symbolize many concepts including ethnocentrism, taboos, sins, social others, anti-life/anti-pleasure, morality and power, dominance, procreative sex, and natural vs. unnatural sex.
Priest uses an impressive volume of examples to build a case against modernist methods and pretense of objectiveness. At the heart of his argument is the true history behind the expressions itself. The phrase “missionary position” was coined by Kinsey, the modernist famous for the most extensive sex-survey to date of sexual practices and activities in the U.S. Kinsey coined the phrase in his work, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, by misquoting Malinowski as using the expression to refer to the native reaction to the missionaries’ preferred sexual position. There is no account of this expression in any of Malinowski’s work. This falsification of sources and the ramifications that resulted are an example of modernism at work.
It is impossible to be objective. One’s biases and interests unavoidably influence the aspects the researcher explores and the conclusions she or he makes. Kinsey’s struggle to justify his bi-sexuality and his disenchantment with Christianity affected his research and his interpretation of other research. Priest uses the history and the overwhelming ramifications of coining the term “missionary position” to lobby for a true postmodernist approach, resulting in the inclusion of fundamentalism in academia. A postmodern approach acknowledges the biases that create and influence vision, perspectives, and motivations, unavoidably shaping research, perception, and interpretations. However, through acknowledging these biases, academia gains contributions to knowledge production, which may have been missed by scholars with other subject positions. Therefore, when religious fundamentalist scholars are banned from academia by other academics, who justify it by claiming it is because of biased fundamental thinking, in essence the fundamentalist scholars are being placed in the “missionary position.” In other words, the myth of the missionary position, in so far as academia is concerned, marginalizes, silences, dominates, and essentializes fundamentalist in an attempt to justify their exclusion.
Priest rebutts one commentator who claims to have heard the expression “missionary position” two years before the release of Kinsey’s book. Priest presents the possibility that Kinsey may have told this story in his lectures that preceded his book. One story told by Kinsey during his lectures stated the Vatican housed a pornography collection that came in second only to the Kinsey Institute. This story is false and can be traced directly to Kinsey’s lectures. The commentator’s claim, being a false memory, would in fact provide evidence for just how quickly Kinsey’s story spread.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
LORI VANBUGGENUM University of Idaho (Laura Putsche).
Priest, Robert J. Missionary Positions, Christian, Modernist, and Postmodernist. Current Anthropology Feb 2001 Vol.42(1):29-72.
Robert J. Priest’s article “Missionary Positions” details the myth of the origin of the “missionary position” expression and analyzes the implications of this false typing for Christians in modernist and postmodernist anthropology.
Priest traces the “missionary position” to an accusation by Kinsey that Malinowski coined the phrase in his studies of the Trobrianders, but no documentation of this phrase is available. Because of the lack of concrete origin, Priest concludes that Kinsey conflated several stories and instances to arrive at today’s “missionary position.”
Priest argues that the symbol’s meaning has generated discourse that links the phrase with Christians and those who once defined modernism as superior, those who considered others’ behavior irrational, essentially those without the anthropologist’s gift for cultural relativism.
Priest believes the missionary has never risen above historical stereotypes due to lack of study and quick judgment. The missionary implies one who forces the idea of sin onto a people unjustly. According to Priest, “When the myth of the missionary position is used to evoke the theme that Christian morality is really but a cover for dominance and power, it is not only patriarchy which is in view but the dominance of the missionary over the native social other,” (2001:13), a critique that renders the missionary the symbol for ethnocentrism, and one that also makes a modernist objection against Christianity.
The missionary position is also a postmodern symbol. However, the postmodernist tendency to view the body as text does little to reverse the missionary potion as a symbol of patriarchy, dominance, and power. However, Priest says, “by postmodernists this symbol [the missionary position] is employed to argue that modernism itself is a morality of negation, that it is ethnocentric, and that it lacks adequate foundations” (2001:20).
The anthropological community has excluded Christian voices on allegations of bias and illegitimacy. Even the most outside perspective has an agenda, and while one can argue that even if the origin of the symbol is faulty, its implications are real, Priest insists the “missionary position” is a tool for exclusion. Christians remain outside today, because disclosing their position to modernists discredited them.
And although postmodernism values the subject position, the problem still exists, that “if Christian subject positions are not discreditable because they alone fail to be neutral, then perhaps they are discreditable for having a unique propensity for abuse of power” (Priest 2001:27). According to Priest, the “missionary position” invoked and invokes this false analysis, and the false narrative empowers those who uphold it to create a false reality, where Christian ideas and analyses lie outside of anthropological academic discourse.
While many commentators agree Priest raised necessary arguments about the exclusion of religious contemporaries due to modernist objections, others feel Christian voices often draw on their religious subject position for authority and harbor a larger moral objective in their writing. Other critiques argue Priest uses “evangelical,” “fundamentalist,” “modern,” “postmodern,” and “myth” loosely and ineffectively. Some felt that the prevalence of the “missionary position,” was evidence enough that it holds some truth about the Christian worldview and the Christian vision. They assert that anthropology necessarily pins cultural relativism against moral convictions, which is why the term persists.
In Priest’s reply, he reaffirms the “missionary position” as a false social construct of values and motives, which qualifies as myth. While Priest admits, “there is a sense in which the symbol is more real than the real,” (2001:54) he maintains its persistence is due to modernist agitators, not true social concerns. He refutes the allegation that Christianity is always “Western,” and “projective,” as Christianity traversed the historical world, not particularly the west, and argues that modernists should be put under the same “projective” microscope that Christians are.
ERIN L. RAFFETY Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada).
Ratnagar, Shereen. The Bronze Age: Unique Instance of a Pre-Industrial World System?. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(3): 351-379.
The basic content of Shereen Ratnagar’s article deals with World-Systems theory and it’s application to the Bronze Age societies of the Middle East. The article begins as follows: “It is difficult to apply world-systems theory to the pre-capitalist economies lacking money and the market, but was the Bronze Age an exception? Her article argues that the economies of Mesopotamia, the Gulf, southeastern Iran, and South Asia during the 3d millennium B.C. were not merely simplified versions of our own, and that the concept of a world system cannot necessarily be directly applied to them.
To support this premise, the author first deals with two of the main problems presented by the assumptions of World-Systems theory. The first of these deals with the underdevelopment of the societies that are peripheral to the centre. She states that a periphery, by definition, is not merely a trade partner, but has to produce lower-ranking goods, pays lower wages, is poorer, and has a less developed level of technology. The second problem encountered when applying world systems theory to these civilizations arises from the structural differences between the economies of the past and the modern ones on which the theory is based. “The 3d-millennium Bronze Age economies were not only non-capitalist but also pre-market, lacking commodification of goods and labour, with production and exchange often being motivated by considerations other than maximization of net return.” At this point the author spends some time describing Bronze Age economies and trade networks that arose during this time. This description sets the stage for the remaining parts of her argument.
In the rest of her article, the author breaks Bronze Age economies into several different parts and examines each part independently. “To explore the applicability of the world-systems model to the Bronze Age it is essential to investigate the contrasts between trade partners in social scale and resources and the level of social organization, the shifting patterns of trade initiatives, the nature of the goods exchanged, the worldwide division of labour arising from geographic complementarity (if any) and the development of technology (especially metallurgy), and the coherence of an identified trade network.” Under each of these topics the author cites several examples of why the topic does not fit into the world-systems theory. The article concludes with a brief summary of her main points and a comment that the subject is not closed and is always open to discussion.
In response to one comment, the author states that the only thing she meant to indicate was that there was not a good fit between the Mesopotamian view of politics and our interpretation of the archaeological evidence in economic terms. We can weigh the political against the economic only within the confines of the available evidence. In response to other comments, the author admits that we must come to terms with the different types of peripheries and hinterlands. She states, however, that she does not believe that these different types necessarily invalidate the concept of the core.
CLARITY RANKING: 3
CHRISTOPHER R. ELLIOT University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Ratnagar, Shereen. The Bronze Age: Unique Instance of a Pre-Industrial World System. Current Anthropology June, 2001 Vol.42(3):351-379.
Ratnagar argues that although Wallerstien’s World system’s theory has certain similarities with the Bronze Age, the Bronze Age did not, in fact, contain a World System by Wallerstien’s definition. She uses archeological evidence that focuses on Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley but includes findings from Turkmenistan, Egypt, Iran, and the Sinai Peninsula. Ratnagar claims that during the Bronze Age, procurement of Raw materials from abroad could only be done by the political elite and that this elite was not “centered on market relations” as would need to be to fit Wallerstien’s model. Wallerstien’s model states that the periphery is somehow marginalized by the interaction they have which benefits the elite. This was not the case during the Bronze Age. Often the periphery supplying the raw material benefited in it’s contact with the further technologically developed civilization. Furthermore, the World System’s theory states that there must be some division of labor bases on wage differentials and mass production. Once again this was not the case in ancient times. Neither a system of wages nor economies of that scale were present during these times. Also, evidence has been found that the periphery traded more with other peripheries than with the centers although the extent of trade by a peripheral state is significantly less then that of the centers. This is conflicting to the World Systems model as well. Finally, Ratnagar argues that the centers were not benefiting at the expense of the periphery because they could manufacture metal products with advanced technique. It was simply a matter of that during antiquity the transfer of such knowledge would have been difficult due to geographical, linguistic, and cultural barriers. Although production occurred in the centers, there was no detriment to the periphery. Ratnagar concludes by saying that the situation during the Bronze Age was to open-ended to constitute a system and that products most likely had different value in different trading cultures.
Commentary on this article was mostly praise for Ratnagar’s work. Although several scholars did state that similar work has already been done and that it has already been proven that Wallerstien’s World System’s Theory does not, as even Wallerstien states, apply to the Bronze Age. In his comments Basa argues that it could if the model were slightly modified but Ratnagar is unwilling to do this. Bhattacharya furthers Ratnagar’s argument by making a clean distinction between the areas were metal is mined and the areas were it is utilized and transformed into material culture with associated value. Most scholars commend Ratnagar for her extensive scale of archeological research that she ties together to make her point.
Ratnagar’s reply simply states that all she intended to do was to show that there was not a fit between Wallerstien’s World System’s model and the Bronze Age. She specifically addresses several of the commentators in her reply and states that she obviously has great respect for Wallertien’s work. She makes a point to state that she doesn’t feel the theory is flawed but simply, as even Wallerstien states, apply to time before 1500. She goes on to argue specific points that she uses in her essay concerning land tenure in Mesopotamia and supports hers claims with more archeological evidence.
JEFF DONOWITZ Davidson College (Eriberto P. Lozada Jr.)
Riel-Salvatore, Julien and Clark, Geoffrey. Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic Burials and the Use of Chronotypology in Contemporary Paleolithic Research. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(4):449-480.
This article deals with showing that there is continuity between the Middle Paleolithic and the Early Upper Paleolithic, and the two divisions of Middle and Upper should not be separated so strictly. The authors question how much data really addresses the continuation of culture between the two Paleolithic times, with emphasis on papers written by Robert H. Gargett. They attempt to prove the continuation of the two eras through interpretation of burials in the respective time periods, Middle Paleolithic and Early Upper Paleolithic.
The burials under study are primarily in western Eurasia and western Russia. The 45 Middle Paleolithic burials are defined as having Mousterian technology, and that the sites could be dated past 40,000 B.P. The 32 Upper Paleolithic sites are defined by others’ accounts of dating, available absolute dates, and that the sites are defined as Chatelperronian, Aurignacian, or Gravettian.
The authors then define the following factors for observation in each burial: the skeleton’s position, sex, and age, the grave orientation, the presence of a pit or other type of burial structure or feature, the presence of grave goods, and possible pathology. These are the factors used to show some sort of continuity between the two eras, which are summed up into three tables, Middle Paleolithic Mortuary Data, Early Upper Paleolithic Mortuary Data, and Characteristics of Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic Burials Compared.
The data show the following: Middle Paleolithic burials show a lack of standardized skeleton positions, a wide range of ages and genders represented, ¾ of all burials have associated features, and variable, un-exceptional grave goods. Early Upper Paleolithic burials show standardized body positions, a lack of gender and age representation, less associated features, and a fair amount of grave goods. The authors interpret the data, summarized in the following way: The change or representation of genders and ages could be from a change in societal values of the developing cultures. Nothing can be truly said about the position change other than a possible standardization for burials. Finally, the almost no change of grave goods seems to really concrete the idea of continuation of the Middle Paleolithic and Early Upper Paleolithic.
The authors’ reply to Gargett, whose previous article was the basis for their study and one that they seemed to contradict, and his critical reaction towards their article. After stating their surprise at his apparent offense to their findings and critique of his methods, they further question his techniques, as he did theirs, and defend theirs. Another interesting reply was to Anne-Marie Tillier. Here they state that they are aware of the lack of data representing age and sex, along with the questionable data regarding the Staroselye child.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
THOMAS WORTMAN University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Julien Riel-Salvatore and Geoffrey A. Clark. Middle and Upper Paleolithic Burials and the Use of Chronotypology in Contemporary Paleolithic Research. Current Anthropology August-October, 2001 Vol.42(4):
Riel-Salvatore and Clark address the reasoning behind the distinction that many archaeologists make between Middle and Upper Paleolithic burials. They seek to counter the argument proposed by R. H. Gargett that there is not evidence of continuity between burials in the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. Further, they suggest that dividing the Upper Paleolithic into Early and Late phases might improve archaeologists’ understanding of the rise of burial practices during the Paleolithic period.
Gargett proposed that many presumed Middle Paleolithic burials might be explained as the result of natural processes rather than intentional mortuary practice. The authors agree that these burials must be examined critically, but that the same methods must also be applied to at least the earliest graves (those in the Chatelperronian, Aurignacian, and Gravettian technology complexes) of the Upper Paleolithic period. The authors question the vision of the Upper Paleolithic as an era dominated by modern humans in the midst of a “symbolic explosion”. They cite this vision as simplistic because it equates ‘culture’ with hominid types and dehumanizes Neanderthals. Riel-Salvatore and Clark posit that the earliest burials of the Upper Paleolithic would be of modern humans with some Neanderthal characteristics, suggesting both species and cultural continuity between the groups rather than replacement.
The authors analyzed data from presumed intentional Early Upper Paleolithic burials and categorized them by characteristics into ‘certain’, ‘probable’, and ‘possible’ intentional burials. The ‘possible’ category was then removed from the data set. They cite the lack of unified terminologies for the Paleolithic, cultural variation, and lack of 14C dates for many sites as problematic for their data collection. They ended up with a data set that included 45 Middle Paleolithic and 32 Upper Paleolithic burials. The authors examined grave orientation, body position, grave goods, associated features (the grave type such as pit or stone), and hominid type. They found that the Middle Paleolithi period had a higher percentage of juvenile burials and tended to underrepresent females. The Upper Paleolithic was distinguished by a greater perentage of graves with unambiguous grave goods. The authors conclude by saying that the Upper Paleolithic taken as a cohesive unit is not a good source for comparison with the Middle Paleolithic because of the large number of burials that postdate 20,000 BP.
Responses to Riel-Salvatore and Clark were very heated, including a response from Gargett himself. The commentors that gave heated responses generally rejected all of the results and material proposed by the authors. Many criticized the exclusion of taphonomy as variable in the data set and several authors questioned evidence from particular burials. Others also asked why Riel-Salvatore and Clark worked with data from such a wide geographic region and used the chronotypological periods they were attempting to refute. However, several commentors agreed that intentional burial probably did occur among Neanderthals as well as modern humans and was not limited to the Upper Paleolithic.
The authors reply by first expressing that if they had not found Gargett’s work important and his research methods commendable, they would not have taken the time to argue with his interpretation. They address each comment separatelty and attempt to defend, explain or amend their position. The overarching reply of the authors was an acknowledgment of many ambiguities in available dates and data that make analysis difficult. They also state that their goal was not to compare the Middle and Upper Paleolithic as accepted divisions, but to apply the same methods of analysis to graves of both periods and try to find patterns in continuity and change.
ZOE MCCOY Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Robbins, Joel. Ritual Communication and Linguistic Ideology: A Reading and Partial Reformulation of Rappaport’s Theory of Ritual. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42 (5):591-614.
Robbins looks at the late Roy Rappaport’s theories about communication, specifically language and ritual. He makes it apparent that Rappaport’s writings are large and multifaceted, and that he is only looking at how, for Rappaport, ritual helps to overcome the shortcomings of language. Language is used for social stability, but when individuals begin to utilize language then two main problems result. These problems are lies and alternatives: lies are false information, either accidental or purposeful, while alternatives are the ability of language to change objects (Jack is master Jill is servant, versus Jill is master Jack is servant). Robbins attempts to show how Rappaport’s theory of ritual as communication helps to relieve these shortcomings of language as communication.
First, ritual is a form of communication that can be trusted. Everyone knows what the ritual means, and this forces the participants to act truthfully or not act at all. To take part in the ritual only makes sense and does not contradict itself if it is done honestly. The example given is of ritual dances that imply the participants will ally with the dance’s host. According to Rappaport’s theory the participants will be held to their promise to ally because of the ritual they perform, while they would not be held to their promise if they had merely communicated it with language.
Second, ritual helps to remove the alternatives that language allows. Everyone within the culture knows that the ritual dance in the above example puts the participants in the category of “ally” and not “enemy.” So no matter that language can change objects (hence meanings), the ritual cannot (and so is a single path with a single accepted meaning). According to Robbins this fact of ritual is one of its most important aspects, because if it allowed for alternatives of interpretations, then the ritual dance would have no meaning for the participants or the host. If nothing else, the reader must agree that rituals (whether dance or other ceremonial participation) rely on the audience and the participants understanding an accepted meaning.
So, Robbins’ study of Rappaport’s views on ritual helps the readers to not only see language’s problems (namely lies and alternatives), but also to see how ritual overcomes these problems. Robbins’s attempt is to not only argue for Rappaport’s ideas, but to better explain them to current anthropologists, who he feels have missed some of Rappaport’s points, or overlooked their significance.
Barker, Gardner, Lambek, and Yengoyan claim that Robbins’ argument is different from Rappaport’s in that Rappaport’s view of myth is universalized and so reflects all human cultures, while Robbins’ view studies cultural variations. Robbins answers this challenge buy claiming that his view does rely on universality, and culture is only a casual variable that will change the aspects of communication, but not the communication itself.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
DANIEL HANSEN University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Robbins, Joel. Ritual Communication and Linguistic Ideology, A Reading and Partial Reformulation of Rappaport’s Theory of Ritual. Current Anthropology, Dec 2001 Vol.42(5):1-41.
In, “Ritual Communication and Linguistic Ideology,” Joel Robbins looks at Roy Rappaport’s theory of ritual, attempting to assess the synthesis between Rappaport’s ideas about the performative and communicative aspects of ritual, as well as suggest a more local view of ritual in terms of linguistic ideology and cultural constructions of communication.
Robbins begins with Rappaport’s worldview: his conception of language and its relation to ritual. Rapport values the creative potential of language, but recognizes the “disordering potential” it provides the individual. This conclusion, that language possesses the power to “lie,” fascinates Robbins; he tries to analyze its influence on Rappaport’s studies of ritual.
Rappaport holds ritual as primarily communicative, distinguishing between “self-referential” messages that describe internal states of the performers of the ritual, and “canonical” messages that are “invariant messages about the nature of the world” (Robbins 2001:4). Self-referential messages are concerned with the performance, claims that the words of a ritual really do act within ritual. Because rituals can transform reality for participants, the performance of the ritual itself communicates a changed reality.
The second self-referential message is simply that ritual is performed. Ritual iterates certain notions about social roles; in this public proclamation, people cannot go by their feelings or moods, but conform to the performance of ritual. Robbins also makes the distinction that canonical messages are not indexed like self-referential messages, but encoded in symbols, but still reach out to establish roles.
Rappaport’s theory of ritual relates to Melanesian cultures. To the Maring, speech is commonly understood as unreliable, and because of this, they value ritual as a window to truth that speech cannot provide.
Robbins attempts to apply Rappaport’s theory to a modern day phenomenon. He describes how it is not a problem for Rappaport’s theory to describe ritual as empty, but we must search for why we find empty ritual a problem in today’s world. Robbins states, “the Western concern with the emptiness of ritual arose hand in hand with changes in the understanding of language” (Robbins 2001:13).
As the Protestant Reformation presented an “anitritualist” attitude, belief in the truth of language and sincerity emerged. According to Robbins, present day charismatic Christians are altering their view of language as they return to ritual, because globalization and changing forms of communication are generating a lack of faith in language. These Christians expect rituals to reinforce their commitments to their faith and one another; language becomes empty as ritual fulfills.
Robbins’ commentators focus on several different problems in his piece. Barker, Gardner, Lambek and Yengoyan highlight the difference in intent between his theory and Rappaport’s. Others, like Basso, want Robbins to develop greater definition of ritual, perhaps “ritual musicality.” In general, commentators such as Basso, Blommaert, and Senft, are asking how broad the category of ritual should be stretched. Additionally, Toren, Keane, and Yengoyan question the delineation of ritual’s primary function as communicative.
Robbins makes a concerted effort to address each of these commentators and the larger issues they raise. In response to questions about the difference between the intent of his and Rappaport’s theories, Robbins replies that the two uphold the same performative aspect ritual, but Robbins differs from Rappaport in his assessment of how culture treats ritual and the importance of cultural variation to the theory. Robbins accepts some challenges to broaden his idea of ritual, and concludes with an understanding that anthropology remains in flux between grand theories and others that attempt to go more detailed in their explanation, but “lose something in the way of substantive generality” (2001:36). He says this tension inspired him to draw upon Rappaport’s theory, and that this tension is healthy and loaded.
ERIN L. RAFFETY Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Salomon, Frank. How an Andean “Writing Without Words” Works. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(1):1-28.
Salomon focuses on the difference between “writing”, in the Western sense, and “writing without words” amongst the indigenous people of the Andes. This stands within the context of larger theories of language: whether written words always directly signify spoken words, or can refer to more abstract cultural “things” without making reference to spoken concepts. Salomon argues that non-written forms of communication, like signs, symbols, insignias, inscriptions, and logos, belong in a common frame with writing itself. Whether or not a symbol is glottographic – that is, making direct reference to a vocalization – it carries interpreted meaning. To support this, he produces a list of non-glottographic inscriptive systems used in Western cultures, such as mathematical notation, sheet music, and computer programs.
After briefly addressing the most well known type of non-written Andean code, a type of knotted tally-cord called the khipu, he moves directly to the subject of his ethnography, what he refers to as the vara code. Consisting of a series of abstract geometric symbols carved on wooden staves, this code is used by local officials in the Tupicocha region of Peru to identify local and district officials referred to as varayuq (staff-bearers) and alguacil (deputies).
Salomon argues that the power embodied by the staves radiates inward (from Peruvian state to Tupicocha peasant ayllus) and outward (from the Tupicocha peasant ayllus toward the Peruvian state). This radiation of power establishes three concentric “zones”, each ruled by a different class. National officials rule the outer, “national” zone. The “peripheral”, zone is ruled over and administered by the representatives of the peasants who farm it. The innermost zone, the community itself, is ruled by the regidor, representative of the central community. From these facts, he draws the argument that because the staves, and the social structure they represent, must enforce both the supremacy of endogenous tradition and the domination of Andean peoples by the Peruvian state, the hierarchy between them must be vague.
The iconography on the staves represents differing authority throughout different domains. The three primary marks on the vara staves consist of aspas, peañas, and rayas, and represent three different hierarchies. The peaña hierarchy, crowned by the alcaldes de campo, represents officials with authority over boundaries. Staves containing higher numbers of aspas connote levels of jurisdictional authority. Rayas, on the other hand, represent the hierarchy amongst the offices themselves. These icons, however, are not static from year to year, and vary with the balance of power between state, local, and national government.
In his reply to comments, Salomon first addresses Araujo’s argument that the staves indicate a linear, hierarchy using a familial metaphor by making recourse to his observations: he did not observe staff-holders using familial titles while performing their duties as staff-holders. In response to Urton’s argument that the signs do not represent “writing” in any recognizable form because they do not include any recognizable sentence structure, he responds with examples of written systems that do not use coherent sentence structures, like Egyptian hieroglyphs, but rejects the hypothesis that all inscriptive systems are properly classified as “writing proper”
CLARITY RANKING: 3
ANDREAS SCHOU University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Salomon, Frank. How an Andean “Writing Without Words” Works. Current Anthropology February 2001 Vol.42(1):1-27.
In 1952, grammatologist Ignace Gelb coined the term semasiograph in reference to any inscription that is not glottographic – that is, any inscription that does not stand for a particular sound used in spoken language to name the referent but rather to the referent itself. An example of a semasiograph would be the figure “1,000” because it has the same meaning whether it is verbalized in French (“mil”), German (“tausend”) or English (“one thousand”). Other examples include musical, mathematical, and chemical notation. With the semasiograph as a point of departure, Frank Salomon explores the applicability of the concept of “writing without words” to a set of inscribed staffs used in political affairs of the Central Peruvian village of Tupicocha. By investigating this particular case, Salomon pursues the more general goal of articulating abstract linguistic and semiotic theory with specific ethnographic observations.
Drawing on several years of ethnographic fieldwork, Salomon describes the role of inscribed staffs in the process by which new officeholders are invested with their governmental responsibilities. The inscribed staffs are central to this process: they are visible symbols of official authorities (plural in reference to interlocking central, peripheral, and national spheres) and are thus carefully scrutinized when presented at the beginning of the new year. Salomon next attempts to determine the meaning behind the simple inscriptions, which always consist of a combination of three characters (a horizontal line, an X, and a “two-step pyramid surmounted by a cross”). Despite many attempts, Salomon writes that he could not obtain a consistent translation or explanation of the signs from his informants. Yet the signs (and especially the order in which they were written) apparently convey something to Tupicochans, Salomon reasons, since much time and energy is expended each year in assuring that the inscriptions are ‘correct’ for particular offices. The author concludes that staff signs do not translate language to graphical code, but rather they condense social information directly into a visual form and bypass language altogether. This explains why no native can translate the signs in any clear way – the ideas contained within them (which mostly concern political relationships) have no verbal equivalents.
Salomon continues by describing his attempts to find a metalanguage with which to discuss staff code with his informants. He reports again a lack of consistency on the part of the explanations he gathers, but he also notes that looking for a formal, ‘objective’ translation of the signs will never yield success because the signs’ meanings are dependent upon context. Inscriptions mean different things at different times, in different locales, and between different Tupicochans, yet this does not stop the signs from meaningfully encoding information. The author continues by including some of his informants’ methods of ‘reading’ the signs and by presenting a table of staff code inscriptions from recent Tupicochan history. Finally, Salomon concludes with further discussion of the theory behind “writing without words” and suggests that further applications of the concept to ethnographic data will prove fruitful.
Much of the criticism leveled at Salomon’s piece falls into two categories: the ways in which Salomon uses semiotic theory and the extent to which he connects Tupicocha’s unique staff inscriptions with larger political and economic issues in Peru. On the political side, Hilda Araujo and Walter Mignolo emphasize the importance of Alberto Fujimori’s accession of the Peruvian presidency in any attempt to ‘translate’ the staff inscriptions, a line of reasoning not extensively pursued by Salomon. For Mignolo, Salomon’s explanations of patterns in staff signs do not adequately account for the influence of neolibralism and globalization embodied in the Fujimori regime. On the theoretical side, Roy Harris describes discontent with the influence of Derrida on Salomon’s explanations, while Gary Urton wonders whether the staff signs represent a sort of political calculus rather than a unique sort of writing. In his reply, Salomon agrees that the wider political context in which the staffs exist is important, but he argues that because Tupicochans do not see themselves as indigenous people, it is inaccurate to characterize staff inscriptions as a form of resistance to the state. Theoretically, Salomon applauds Urton for his mathematical insights, while he argues that his interpretations of staff signs do not stem from an unreasonable use of Western textual criticism.
JEFFERY FOX Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Shanker, Stuart. What Children Know When They Know What A Name Is: The Non-Cartesian View of Language. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(4):481-514.
In his article, Stuart Shanker explores culture as an influencing force in language acquisition. The author, interested in the way children learn to effectively utilize language, contrasts two opposing explanations. Nativist theory and its interest in biological universals is one approach discussed by Shanker. This approach assumes the existence of some built-in knowledge of language in children, which facilitates a universal process of language acquisition all humans experience. However, the author challenges Nativism with another approach, linguistic anthropology, which supports culture as the major contributor to the development of language usage by children.
Shanker provides a succinct explanation of how these two approaches oppose one another. While Nativism tries to explain what children already know about language, linguistic anthropology endeavors to discover what children learn about language when they learn to speak it.
If an understanding of language is biologically guided, culture may be eliminated as a determining factor in this area of development. Shanker questions this notion by examining whether children actually apply skill in learning language. He points out that simple reproduction of sounds may not necessarily be tied to an understanding of meaning. Children may repeat a word because they know it will have an effect on the care-giver, it comforts them, or for any number of reasons. They may do so without making the connection with meaning, though the adult may assume the child knows what he or she is saying. And even if the child grasps the meaning, he or she may not understand the different parts of language.
To further question the existence of universals, the observations of anthropologist, Quine, are raised. Quine explains how an anthropologist may participate as closely and completely as possible with a group of people and never be completely assured that his understanding of the meaning behind their language is correct. This is even extended individuals within the same culture who share the same language, yet can never know exactly what others mean when they speak. For example, everyone may experience a different sensation, though linguistically, they remark about the event in the same patterns. With the existence of deep levels of variance, universals become irrelevant in a world of subjective individual experience. Word structure is merely standard patterns of speech which overlay this diversity, rather than stems from a universal mental structure.
Those who support the biological role in language see similarities in cross-cultural comparisons of language structure. However, Shanker disputes this, citing a shrinking list of universal language principles resulting from linguistic anthropology’s findings that children in different cultures learn grammar constructions in varying orders and at different ages.
Linguistics interprets variability, which opposes the existence of universals. It is important to note, however, that both Shanker and Quine concede that some general knowledge of the nature of language must be innate in order to begin the learning process. This would include the understanding that a sound can represent a person, or the understanding of the difference between the function of a noun and a verb.
CLARITY RANKING: 3
JOE PLOETZNER University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Shanker, Stuart. What Children Know When They Know What a Name Is. Current Anthropology August-October 2001 Vol.42(4):481-513.
Shanker’s discussion of language acquisition focuses on the opposition of what he characterizes as Cartesian and non-Cartesian theoretical orientations. In the Cartesian view, words are accessible by the analyst because they are spoken and thus in some sense ‘public,’ while the meanings to which those words refer are inscrutable because they are ‘private,’ mental phenomena. For instance, while two people can agree that an apple is “red,” they may experience different sensations when they view “red” objects. According to non-Cartesians, however, spoken words are not divorced from meaning – they do not necessarily refer to meanings, but instead are grounded in social interactions. Their ‘meaning’ stems from their use.
Shanker’s main argument concerns how children acquire language – in a Cartesian or non-Cartesian manner? On the Cartesian side, Shanker cites nativist (or generativist) linguist Noam Chomsky as a chief proponent. Chomsky has argued that children must possess information about syntax and the structure of language in order to learn how to use words, and that such information must be genetically encoded or ‘hardwired’ into the human brain. In other words, children must already ‘know’ categories like nouns, verbs, and adjectives in order to make any sense out of language they hear. Shanker argues against such innate mental structures, and instead takes the non-Cartesian view associated with recent writings in linguistic anthropology. He argues that no such structures exist, but rather that children come to acquire those categories or structures through interaction with others. The child does not infer what adults mean when they say certain things; rather, the child learns how to participate in social practices that in turn give ‘meaning’ to words.
In order to substantiate his claim, Shanker takes the case of proper names. He outlines the nativist view of the importance of proper names: for the nativist, a child experiences a “Eureka moment” when she grasps that words can name objects rather than simply refer to them in specific contexts. Yet how can an observer be certain that a child is referring to a particular person when she says his name, and not, for instance, a piece of clothing or a shape or an act associated with him? Shanker argues instead that the act of referring to a person by his name in social contexts is knowing that person’s name – that a child does not need to understand that names ‘map’ onto (or refer) to people. In essence, social action is knowledge, not a manifestation of internal, mental understanding. Shanker goes on to compare the naming traditions of Anglo-Americans with those of the Navajo. He concludes that children do not grasp ‘some underlying cognitive scheme’ when they know what naming is – instead, they understand how naming works in social interaction and how to manage names successfully.
In response to Shanker’s piece, some authors consider his characterization of the Cartesian or nativist view to be too extreme. They argue that Chomsky and others are correct in arguing for pre-existing mental structures that help children acquire langugage and that such innate structures are no different than similar (accepted) ones in the immune system, for example. Others suggest that Shanker’s version of the conflict between the two positions is much more polarized than is actually the case. Perhaps, they write, Cartesianism and non-Cartesianism are less incompatible than they seem. Still others argue that Shanker’s view of language acquisition as intimately intertwined with culture acquisition is more important than the overarching nativist/non-nativist debate.
JEFFERY FOX Davidson College (Eriberto Lozada)
Terrell, John Edward, Kelly M., and Rainbird, Paul. Foregone Conclusion? In Search of “Papuans” and “Astronesians”. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42 (1):97-124.
The authors of this article question the simple structure currently and historically in place to define the people of the Pacific Islands. It is generally accepted that the islands are inhabited of two kinds of native people: Polynesians/Austronesians and Melanesians. It is also accepted that these people settled during two separate time periods. The authors question early data relating to the people of the islands as well as introduce and query new evidence demonstrating the shortcomings in the simple two culture model accepted for the Pacific Islanders. Terrell, et al. examine the complexity of the Pacific Islanders when the culture is examined through collective research extending to all fields of current anthropology.
The article shows how the peoples of the Pacific Islands have obvious physical and cultural differences. Physically, Melanesians are of a dark complexion whereas the Polynesians are lighter. Culturally the Polynesians are considered more complex. As the authors examine the two cultures more thoroughly, there is reason to question the simple historical data of the Pacific Islanders. The article indicates that bias influenced the early stages of research and evaluation. Early research suffered from a lack of cultural understanding that influenced the simple division of the two cultures.
The authors discuss the linguistics, cell biology, and archaeology used to help reconstruct the past in that area. Linguists found the area to be the very challenging. The area is comprised of hundreds of languages that seem to cross boundaries dividing the two cultures. Archeologists focus on lapier, which is a type of pottery found in the area that has revealed some clues to the origin of the people. Cell bioligists have established that bloodlines have crossed cultural boundaries. The combined evidence of the different disciplines are inconclusive at this point, but it does demonstrate a greater complexity than had been previously theorized.
There was an agreement amongst the reviewers that the implication that contemporary anthropologists use the term “Austronesians” and “Papuan” to claim that Pacific prehistory is no more than a record of two migrations. This aside, reviewers welcomed the idea of a new framework acknowledging that the history of the Pacific Islanders has too many unanswered questions for the populations to be split into just two categories. On the other hand, others thought the simple structure in place is adequate and argued that the authors’ preferred conceptual framework is “brief and vague.”
The authors acknowledge that the scholarly history of Pacific Islanders prehistory is more complex than presented in their article, but Terrell, et al. explain that their intentions would best be described by the catch phrase “try to know whose history you are writing.”
ELIZABETH ELLIS University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Terrell, John; Kelly, Kevin; Rainbird, Paul. Forgone Conclusions: In search of “Papuans” and Austronesians”. Current Anthropology February, 2001 Vol.42(1):97-124.
Traditional anthropology of the pacific islands peoples has held to the “two peoples, two periods” paradigm. This paradigm states that there are two kinds of native peoples inhabiting the pacific islands termed the “Polynesians” or “Austronesians” and the “Melanesians” or “Papuans”. The paradigm also states that these two groups settled the islands in two distinct waves or during two periods. Terrell, Kelly, and Rainbird argue that this paradigm is overly simplistic and forces new information into a mold that it does not fit. Evidence for this argument is supplied by linguistic, genetic, and archeological study. Linguistic evidence suggests that the Polynesians and Melanesians speak native languages that are related. Genetic study on these peoples has been extensive with arguments made both for and against the “Two peoples; two periods” paradigm. Terrell, Kelly, and Rainbird argue that the genetics of the region today are simply to complex to be used as certain evidence upon which to draw any certain conclusion. Archeological work in the pacific islands has also been extensive. Although many differences were found between the bones of the different peoples, Melanesian genetic sequences were found in Polynesian corpses. Archeological findings indicate that the Melanesians might have been a founder population of Polynesians. This would explain the large genetic variation between the two groups today.
The Authors conclude that the “two peoples, two periods” paradigm is not only overly simplistic but is deficient as a framework for understanding the history of human diversity in the pacific islands. They argue that this paradigm is based on two incorrect assumptions. First, that the people of the pacific were isolated until the Austronesian speakers settled there 3,500 years ago. Second, the migration was a clear-cut event and was so distinct that researchers today are able to draw a clear picture of it. These assumptions are negated on the basis that the pacific islands can be easily navigated in a small canoe. Instead of these island being in isolation it is much more probable that throughout history there was significant contact between them.
Commentary on this article raises several concerns about the statements raised by Terrell, et al. Most commentators agree that the “two peoples, two periods” paradigm is outdated. However, Bellwood makes the point that most scholars of today no longer hold to this paradigm in full and that it no longer represents the simplistic view of prehistory in the pacific islands as Terrell, et al. state. The most common criticism is that Terrell, et al. lack and alternative to the paradigm that is grounded in valid interpretations of the archeological, genetic, and linguistic data. Biologists argue that the use of mtDNA is not useful in this because of how it is passed on. Archeologists argue that Terrell, et al. neglect much of the evidence that Austronesian speakers are indeed found in other parts of the world as well as the wide range of places that the Lapita pottery (attributed to the Austronesians) has been found. Linguists argue against Terrell, et al.’s comment that linguistic terms cannot be applied to ethnic groups because the situation in the pacific islands is to complex.
Terrell, et al.’s response is not directed. They respond by saying that the statements made in the paper are generalized. They state their purpose as trying to get at the root of who these peoples are and treat this as though it has bearing on the criticisms made, which it does only superficially. They do not address the major criticisms made in the commentary and ask the reader to consider both sides and “decide where they stand”.
JEFF DONOWITZ Davidson College (Eriberto P. Lozada Jr.).
Trouillot, Michel Rolph. The Anthropology of the State in the Age of Globalization: Close Encounters of the Deceptive Kind. Current Anthropology 2001 Vol. 42(1):125-138.
The state, according to Trouillot, has been somewhat ignored by anthropology, especially in terms of ethnographic research. This article looks at the possibility of doing anthropology of the state, and what this may mean in a time of “globalization.” Trouillot discusses the importance of the state in the present, and looks at how little the government is of importance when discussing the state. He makes it clear that the state is not government, and the government is not the state, and that at present, there are numerous organizations that are taking on state roles, although not necessarily governmental in form, or not necessarily confined by national boundaries.
The state, according to Trouillot, is also not a container for culture. The contemporary state, says Trouillot, has been transformed, and its importance is no longer that of governing, or of commerce, but more of border control. The state does put people into a spatial sphere, where they see themselves as part of a local unit. The government may have little importance on the activities of this sphere, but the sphere itself is of importance. Trouillot cited other examples for state activities. These other agents of state activity often are not constrained by the borders that do constrain people’s movement, and culture is also not constrained by these borders, as is seen among most large cities of the North Atlantic. He is therefore stating that there is no spatial site for the state. It is not locked to a particular place, nor to a government or other institution. The ideas of the state need to be reviewed, and an ethnography of the state may make it easier to see the state for what it really is.
Globalization is important to the role of the state, and to understanding what the state is. Trouillot cites many examples as to how globalization is not a form of free markets, nor a free exchange of ideas, but is more accurately a transnational form of capitalism in which agents and non-governmental state organizations become important to many parts of the globe. He discusses the confinement of globalization, or at least benefits, to a small group of North Atlantic nations and corporations. The interests of these organizations and the way they impact the world and the people in the affected areas is a possibility for ethnographic research.
In response to comments on the article, Trouillot reminds the reader that people still identify with the state in terms of its boundaries and place of origin, but there is shift in the importance and function of the state due to globalization. He uses the European Union as an example. The European Union on one hand requires nations to remain distinct, and on the other it steps over boundaries and is a transnational organization. This may seem to be a contradiction, yet it shows that the importance of the state is not disappearing, it is just changing form. Globalization has made it difficult to study the state, especially in the way social sciences claim to. It is important for this to happen, though, since it is an area of human situation that has gone relatively untouched by the main of anthropology.
JAMAL LYKSETT University of Idaho (Laura Putsche)
Wolanski, Napoleon and Siniarska, Anna. Assessing the Biological Status of Human Populations. Current Anthropology April, 2001 Vol. 42(2): 301-308.
In this article, Napoleon Wolanski and Anna Siniarska investigate alternative ways of assessing the biological status in order to more properly compare different populations. Current studies of populations living under different social, economic, or environments conditions are unable to identify single trait distinctions. Thus, they feel Anthropology is in need of revision when identifying criteria assessing biological trait variations. Rather than place positive of negative values on certain traits, they propose that the wider range of living conditions be considered. Based on data they collected on males in Poland and Mexico, they attempt to draw comparisons between biological status and a variety of living conditions.
Wolanski and Siniarska set up their investigation based on three main generalized biological trait value comparisons (morphological, physiological, and psychomotor) and three main living condition values (industrialization/ workload, environmental terrain, and social strata). Within their results, they identify differences between populations based on individual and generalized biological trait values. It is clearly illustrated that it cannot be stated that one population indicated better biological status than another based on a single trait. In fact, they argue that biological differences should be seen as interrelated, combining to create effective adaptations to specific living conditions.
In conclusion, Anthropology must take into account many factors when assessing biological status of different populations. Each, individual trait contains a certain biological value, relating to its effectiveness of adaptation to a living environment. Instead of identifying specific traits that represent improved adaptation, biological functions must be assessed as a system, including the positive and negative results. In short, there is no ideal way to define the relationships between biological traits and living conditions. Instead, this article may serve as a jumping off point for defining even more ways to assess biological status.
CLARITY RATING: 4
KATRINA L. PAPADOPOULOS Davidson College (Eriberto P. Lozada)