American Anthropologist 1975
Abrahams, Roger D. and John Szwed. Black English: An Essay Review American Anthropologist 1975. 77,2:329-335.
This article, written in the 1970’s, offers a dated, but reasonable evaluation of many books and articles on the topic of Black English. In the process of reviewing these books, Abrahams states many of his own ideas regarding the subject.
Prior to the 1960’s, Black English was often seen as “evidence of [a] cultural disability in African-Americans,” a “deviation” from American culture having no value, a “social sickness,” a “distorted stage of development”, and/or a “pathological condition.” With the rise of black pride in the 1960’s, anthropologists began to study the topic of Black English first hand as well as the dynamics of black culture, more generally.
Researchers began to realize that Black English was not an intellectual inability but, rather, a sociolinguistic dynamic needing further study. Since then, a range of authors have published extensively on the subject. Many works on the subject are reviewed in this article, including those by: Cab Calloway, Melville Herskovits, Gunnar Myrdal, Robert Park, John Szwed, Lorenzo Don Turner, Virginia Young, William Labov, and the author (Abrahams).
Differing research methods and focii have produced a plethora of diverse materials, ranging from dictionaries, field studies, and anecdotal material, to comparisons of “blacktalk” and “southern talk,” studies of African origins in “black” words, studies on the morphology and semantics of Black English and studies regarding the impact of Black English on a Black Americans test taking abilities.
In closing, Abrahams emphasizes the progress made to date in addressing the subject. While Abrahams acknowledges much research remains to be done, he asserts the field of Black English has dramatically developed in just one decade (from the 1960’s to the 1970’s).
CLARITY RANKING: 4
ERICA HIDALGO Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Abrahams, Roger D., and John Szwed. Black English: An Essay Review American Anthropologist 1975 Vol.77(2):329-335.
In their article Abrahams and Szwed discussed what has come to be known as ebonics. The format of this article is a critique of books, articles, and essays written about the dialect of African American English. The authors do an excellent job of maintaining objectivity by being neither pro-black or anti-black. This is, however, also a major factor in the articles most conspicuous fault. The authors failed to completely form an argument. Abrahams and Szwed mainly offer their opinion on the stance of others rather than conveying their own opinions.
With the rise of the “black pride” movement, black culture began receiving more attention. Previous to this movement black culture had been considered non-existent. Differences exhibited by blacks were written off as symptoms of a social pathology. With the new attention that was being given to black culture, many scholars chose to focus on the aspect of speech patterns.
The one point that the authors do stress is the progress made in the study of black culture in the 1960s and 1970s. This progress is evidenced by the abundance of authors reviewed in this article. These authors encompass a myriad of topics concerning black English. Some have studied the roots and evolution of black English, tracing the origins all the way back to Africa. Others discuss the linguistic obstacles faced by whites trying to communicate with blacks and vice versa. Their are also some who use their writings on the subject as a thinly veiled attempt to promote the black race or to indulge themselves. Abrahams and Szwed provide fair and even-handed criticism for each of the books and essays reviewed.
In conclusion the authors note the need for further study on this subject. They site problems with classroom instruction and testing as two of the most urgent problems arising from linguistic differences. The authors close by stressing the need to further explore the socio-cultural differences, and not just point them out.
CLARITY RANKING: 3
P. SHADY WRIGHT University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)
Bauman, Richard. Verbal Art as Performance. American Anthropologist 1975 Vol.77(2):290-311.
In this article, Richard Bauman is concerned with developing a conception of verbal art as a performance. Bauman’s main attempt with this article is to expand “the conceptual content of folkloric performance as a communicative phenomenon.” He develops a credible and well informed article through explaining and providing data on the nature, keying, patterning and emergent quality of performance.
Over time the verbal arts have had little truth associated with them, it is assumed that the storyteller is incapable of telling the truth, what is important is the message behind the story, not the details. It is up to the storyteller to display communicative competence and be accountable for the way the communication is carried out. Anything the performer depicts is up for evaluation and it is up to the audience then to distinguish the skill of the performer. Bauman draws data from the work of Elinor Keenan and her efforts in the Malagasy Republic, Michelle Rosaldo’s work with Ilongot of the Philippines, the style of the Japanese storyteller; these are three different types of performances that all vary distinctly.
How a storyteller gets the attention of the audience is culturally specific as to how a conversation is keyed. Keying is how the story is framed, or the way in which the frames are invoked and shifted. Bauman offers the example in the Bahamas and the cultural use of “bunday” to signify the beginning of an “old” story. Performance may also contain an opening and closing formula. He includes other techniques for keying a story such as figurative language, stylistic devices, patterns of tempo, and voice quality.
Bauman notes that members of a community may conceptualize speech activity in terms of acts rather than genres. Bauman states that performance genres, acts, events, and roles cannot occur in isolation, then he goes on to use the work of Joel Sherzer and his description of ceremonial traditions of San Blas Cuna to affirm this notion.
Bauman suggests that while there is a strong and old tradition in performance it is not an act that constricts the performer to a stale routine but invites the performer to add a personal creative flair to the act. Albert Lord and his book The Singer of Tales is a study of oral epic poetry and it is important here because it points out a unique quality of the oral arts and its ability to change with the mood of the audience, making it a more interactive art, and not as “fixative as the written word.”
In conclusion, Bauman points out that verbal art is a part of emergent culture. In the past it has fallen outside the realm of folklore but with more studies it may be the “cornerstone of folklore and help with the comprehension of the totality of the human experience.”
AMBER SCHRANDT University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)
Bauman, Richard Verbal Art as Performance. American Anthropologist. June, 1975 Vol. 77(2):290-311.
In this article Richard Bauman discusses a new way of considering the concept of performance. Rather than considering performance within its traditional folkloric constraints in which it is text-centered, he attempts to expand on the definition and utility of the concept, and suggests a more useful and flexible way of considering performance. Through numerous examples Bauman makes it clear that performance is a verbal art and a “communicative phenomenon.”
The conception of verbal art as communication is not entirely new and Bauman dates this theory back to Plato. However, crossing disciplinary boundaries, Bauman integrates theories and creates a new way of considering the study of verbal art.
The author agrees that performance is a mode of speaking. However, all modern theories and conceptions are text-centered and Bauman goes far beyond this arena. By identifying the nature of performances, he distinguishes it from other ways of speaking. The concept of performance sets up interpretive frames such as insinuation, joking, quotation, and translation and separates them from literal communication. Bauman feels it is important to recognize performance as a distinctive frame that serves as a “communicative resource” for speakers in that particular community.
Bauman discusses what an ethnography of a performance would consist of and the limitations of such an analysis. Because performances are culturally framed the performance can tell us a lot about a particular community. The ethnography of a performance can determine the culturally specific means of communication that vary from culture to culture, including explicit and implicit messages that relay instructions on how to interpret other messages being communicated. Ethnography would include the setting, institution, event, act, role, genre, participants and ground rules of a performance.
However, not all social systems will conform to this outline, and nor should they. Ethnographies tend to homogenize, and Bauman warns not to forget to recognize and appreciate the individuality of a cultural performance. This does not diminish the importance of seeing a performance in a more standardized setting.
Bauman recognizes the fact that traditionally folklore tends to define itself according to traditional practices some that can no longer even be viewed in that culture anymore. He strives to take performance from this static role, and give it more weight in a variety of disciplines. A description of an ethnographic account of a given performance allows one to realize the cultural system that a performance is structured around. He pulls performance out of the realm of Raymond Williams’ “residual culture” and combines it with the dominant culture to illustrate the emergent quality of performance. Richard Bauman suggests that performance is a combination of tradition, practice, and emergence that has been liberated from folklore. Through an understanding of performance, one is “able to comprehend much more of the totality of human experience.”
NORA BAMBRICK: University of Montana (John Norvell)
Beals, Kenneth L. and Kelso, A.J. Genetic Variation and Cultural Evolution. American Anthropologist.1975. Vol. 77: 566-579
According to Beals and Kelso, evolution is not simply a matter of systematic change through time, but also of a systematic increase in the total amount of variability through time. With evolution comes the creation of new forms of variation and a less obvious increase in variation itself For example, all societies were at one time culturally involved band levels of social organization. Today we now have not only bands, but tribes, chiefdoms and states.
Beals and Kelso propose that the breakdown in inter-group relations often leads to an increase in variation between groups. (They measure in-group variation through the rate of heterozygosis.) They note, however, that with cultural evolution – because of the increase in variation within groups – variation between groups may decrease.
In a survey of AB, MN, and Cc heterozygosis, Beals and Kelso examined 252 ethnic groups. They classified each according to their level of socio-cultural integration: band, tribe, chiefdom, and state. The authors map the geographical distribution of these variables. Individual ethic groups are organized into thirteen regions. The blood group heterozygosity for the three types investigated in the states are compared to the blood group heterozygosity in societies at lower levels of socio-cultural integration. The difference is found to be highly significant – suggesting that in-group heterozygosity increases with each stage of social evolution. The variance between groups diminishes concurrently.
The authors thus conclude that the distribution of heterozygosis is dependent upon cultural evolution. Band societies differ from states not only in their social attributes but also in their biological composition. It is possible to predict the level of socio-cultural integration of a group, the authors suggest, based solely on knowing how much heterogosis exists among with it.
MISHALLA SPEARING Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Beals, Kenneth L., and A. J. Kelso Genetic Variation and Cultural Evolution. American Anthropologist, 1975 Vol.77(3):566-579.
Beals and Kelso present in this article a hypothesis that asks the question, is there a correlation between biological variation and cultural evolution? They argue, using the social evolutionary scale of band, tribe, chiefdom, and state, that heterozygosity would increase with each stage. This then would lead to a diminished frequency within that particular group. They present their argument by testing the Laws of Biocultural Evolution.
Beals and Kelso test the Law by studying 252 ethnic groups from around the world. They use the AB, MN, and Cc heterozygosity found in the human population to determine its frequency and then apply it to the cultural evolutionary stages. They do this by dividing the sample populations geographically and then identifying them as “heterographic areas.” They suggest this designation represents “major geographical regions having substantial barriers to gene flow” (pp. 570). They argue this will provide as close as possible an independent test for each area. If the Law is correct, then it can be applied to any region in the world. They do eliminate various systems (thallasemia) and genotypes (sickle cell) due to known frequency and restricted geographical distribution.
The evidence is presented through a discussion of various blood group genes and how they fit the criteria of the study. Maps and blood type formulas round out the discussion with examples depicting the heterographic areas supporting their hypothesis. They do find that early studies of biological evolution was done by researchers specifically to establish a link between racial affinities and the historical record. They argue that this prevented genotypes from even being properly reported. Finally, they suggest that their findings of the biocultural study preformed on the various ethnic groups does support their original question of a connection between biological variation and cultural evolution.
This article’s basic format is coherent and flows well. The readability and use of biological terminology is difficult for someone who is not a biology or physical anthropology major. Term use such as “primitive” is antiquated and the cultural evolutionary “scale” Beals and Kelso use is also suspect. For the time it was written the article was a useful and insightful comparison of genetic variability as well as cultural changeability.
CLARITY RANKING: 3
DONNA EDMONDSON The University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)
Bornstein, Marc H. The Influence of Visual Perception on Culture. American Anthropologist. 1975 Vol.77: 775-798
Bornstein explores different theories for why different cultures differ in basic color categorization. How humans see color differences and how they discuss them represent topics of long-standing anthropological, linguistic, and psychological interest, Bornstein notes. Explanations for such differences include biological evolution, linguistic relativism, and semantic evolution. The essay seeks to investigate from historical, philosophical, psychological, and biological vantage points the relationship between man’s visual perception of color and cultural differences of color designation.
There are two schools of thought – what might be termed phenomenal absolutism and cultural relativism. In behavioral and psychophysical studies, natural categories of hue have been shown to exist in infrahuman species and in human infants and adults. The psychological salience of selected features of these hue categories in adult and infant human has been found to correspond to neural functioning in the brain. As evidence for the absolutism view, young human infants have been shown to see the color spectrum as if it were divided into categories of hue.
Recent psycho-physiological evidence suggests, on the other hand, that certain cultures may vary from any postulated human pattern of categorization of basic hues – that some peoples may actually perceive colors differences differently and therefore categorize them differently.
The article concludes that color is physically specifiable, reflecting a continuous physical dimension, yet is categorical in its perceptual and linguistic dynamics. One might argue that a cultural group’s categorizations shape its perceptions of nature and this, in turn, effects human physiological perceptions. But while some hold to the relativistic organization of color, color at its most basically organized level is subject to an absolutist rather than relativistic interpretation. It is rooted in human perception not in cultural differences.
MISHALLA SPEARING Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Bornstein, Marc H. The Influence of Visual Perception on Culture. American Anthropologist December, 1975 Vol.77(4): 774-795.
In his article, Bornstein examines a correlation between the visual perception of color and the cultural discrepancies of color naming. He examines historical, philosophical, psychological and biological systems of theory in his approach to this subject. Bornstein presents some background information of color perception, such as the psychological components of color, which are hue saturation and brightness, as well as the different levels of color dimensions, primary and secondary. In this analysis, primary hue categories of the highest level are used. Current hypotheses in biological and psychological adaptations of color categorization are presented at length by Bornstein, and weigh strongly in his conclusions.
The philosophical arguments for the labeling of color are built on the two theories of phenomenal absolutism and cultural relativism. Phenomenal absolutism, (a subject first seeing, then labeling what he sees according to his immediate perception of it), relates to the comparative evolutionary school in that it takes the development of vision itself into account as an effect on color categorization. Cultural relativism, on the other hand, argues that a subject applies a label to his perception of a color that is related to linguistic aspects of his particular culture. This coincides with the historical theory of relativism. Relativism holds to the idea that terms for color are associated with a certain culture’s perception of it, which is then dictated by that culture’s linguistic boundaries. Bornstein shows relationship and benefit of integration of these philosophical and historical theories.
The biological proposition is that color naming is strongly connected with physiological processes. Bornstein presents evidence for a biological cause for hue categorization. He cites a study done by himself, W. Kesson and S. Weiskopf on 4 month old infants that show hue division present before language acquisition, he thus concludes that this study proves hue categorization in linguistic and non linguistic species. Bornstein also cites the research of R.L. De Valois and his associates that establishes the existence of specific neural cells that determine chromatic information in the human field of vision. Third, Bornstein sites cross-cultural studies done by Berlin and Kay in which bilingual participants are asked to name a color in their native tongue then point to the “best example” of that color in a spectrum. A nonrandom group of foci were seen in the studies, which proves a universal perception of color divisions (hues). Bornstein concludes that this information shows a biological basis for a uniform perception of color categories which affects basic color designations or names. Bornstein goes further to explain that the differences in basic hue lexicons are attributed to a biological diversity in visual processes. He introduces proof of a discrepancy in the processing of the radiation of color by eye pigments. Pigment density is due to adaptation to sunlight and/or diet. The more ocular pigment that is present, the more insensitivity to the blue spectrum.
Bornstein incorporates the physiological and biological evidence presented in this article to conclude that basic color naming is subject to absolutist theory rather than relativistic interpretation. He states: “Although differences in languages must certainly sometimes express differences in thought, the kind of sensory apperception implied in the most basic color vision processes does not.” Bornstein sees visual perception as a basis for color categorization, not language.
DANIELLE A. MARCETTI University of Montana (John Norvell)
Brush, Stephen B. The Concept of Carrying Capacity for Systems of Shifting Cultivation, American Anthropologist December, 1975 Vol. 77 (4): 799-811.
Carrying capacity, as it is generally defined, focuses on the balance between resources and demand in relation to an optimum population size. Exceeding a region’s carrying capacity results in the degradation of the environment and/or the environment’s resources. Theoretically, the concept of carrying capacity can be applied to a range of life-systems. In practice, however, the concept’s application to human groups is difficult if not impossible (p.799).
Brush analyzes the application of the concept historically within the anthropological community and comments on the concept’s various misuses. He offers a solution to such misuses by suggesting that carrying capacity formulas, when applied, should be left open-ended so that anthropologists can add or drop variables as needed. Brush suggests the highest use value of the concept of carrying capacity is “essentially descriptive and heuristic” (p.809). Ending on a positive note, he concludes the concept of carrying capacity is marked by difficulties in the measurement of key variables. But if these can be overcome, the carrying capacity concept offers anthropologists a valuable way to compare land/human/technology dynamics.
FRANK VENTIMIGLIA JR. Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Brush, Stephen. The Concept for Carrying Capacity for Systems of Shifting Cultivation. American Anthropologist December, 1975 Vol.77(4):799-811.
In this essay Brush discussed the problems involved when dealing with the idea of carrying capacity. Brush did not think that it was possible to truly judge the carrying capacity of the land and then relate this to cultural rises and falls.
Brush started his essay by discussing several different carrying capacity equations. He wrote that the basic concepts behind each equation were very similar. However, the main differences were the variables within each equation. These variables represented the majority of the problem that Brush had with carrying capacity equations. Brush felt that anthropologists wrongfully assumed that people and nature had a stable relationship. If nature could no longer be considered a constant, this would create problems for all of the carrying capacity models. It appeared obvious to Brush that minor resources were being overlooked. He believed that these minor resources might have caused the difference between starving and survival. These items would have made it possible for a culture to manipulate its environment in order to exceed the area’s carrying capacity. To solve this problem, Brush suggested that a new open-ended equation be constructed. This equation would allow resources to be added and subtracted without interfering with the validity of the equation.
Another problem with the current models was that they did not deal with the needed technologies that would have aided in the procurement of resources. Brush argued that technology would have made it easier to be successful and would have increased the overall carrying capacity of an area.
The final topic of Brush’s essay states that a better model must be created based upon the archaeological record. This record could be used to test the different carrying capacity equations. This would result in better-constructed equations with fewer margins of error.
Overall, this essay was complex yet did not require a lot of background in anthropology. The argument is well structured and was interesting to read.
STEPHEN YATES University of Montana (John Norvell)
Cowgill, George, L. On Causes and Consequences of Ancient and Modern Population Changes. American Anthropologist, September 1975, Vol. 77 (3): 505-525
In this article George Cowgill investigates ancient and modern population changes, especially in respect to their impact on cultural development through time. He argues against the idea that population increase causes technological innovations that, in turn, spurs changes in political and social realms. Instead Cowgill argues that development might actually be inhibited by the anticipation and/or experience of resource shortages. Developmental changes are more likely to be stimulated by the prospect of new opportunities. Cowgills main concern in this article is to elaborate on how, when, and why population has both increased and decreased through time.
The author claims that such population changes are influenced by a number of factors – perhaps most prominently migration and mortality/ fertility rates. For instance, a slight increase in fertility accompanied by a slightly lower mortality would lead to a drastically higher population if continued even for just two or three generations. The author also suggests human population growth should not be assessed in absolute terms but in relationship to the circumstances in which the population is living – ecologically and historically. A region may have sudden surges of growth interspersed with declines that limited real effective growth.
Although, Cowgill does not claim to know all the reasons for population changes, he believes that if we “understand the more localized and short-term population fluctuations, we will simultaneously understand the overall growth rate.” This cannot be done, however, by examining consequences separately from causes, he notes, since one needs to observe the reciprocal relationship between the two.
Cowgill’s article sometimes repeats itself but, overall, reads well. Even though the author never gives a clear answer to why population changes occur, the article poses many good questions.
THERESA ARONSSON Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Cowgill, George L. On Causes and Consequences of Ancient and Modern Population Changes. American Anthropologist September, 1975 Vol.77 (3):505-523.
The traditional view on human population growth is that it is an inherent property of humans which has no bearing on the environment in which it occurs. It is with this view that Cowgill takes opposition and argues that population growth is something that is encouraged in some cases and discouraged in others depending upon several factors. The main thought in anthropology is that populations will keep expanding up to the point at which serious shortages of resources occur but more importantly that the anticipation of a shortage of these resources has also been a powerful factor in human history. The latter statement is the thrust of Cowgill’s argument.
He points out that in modern society, and quite likely in ancient societies, anticipation of a resource shortage is often not seen as a threat, in other words, a population will not make an effort to curb its growth until the shortage or other threat has already occurred. He attributes this tendency to the “what’s good for me is good for the system” train of thought that he argues is inherent in human nature. For example, in times of famine or crop shortages, individuals will go to great lengths to hoard food and a sharp rise in crop prices will occur. These actions actually run counter to the measures that could be taken to alleviate the crisis. In this way Cowgill emphasizes that the cause of population changes are actually due to the individual nature in which humans view the world and not due to societal views of possible threats.
Cowgill points out that anthropologists will often separate the mechanism that drove population change in the past from the mechanisms that drive it in the present. The author argues that this is not the case and the same basic principles apply for both eras. In particular, he points to the tendency in poorer nations for a family to have many more children than those in developed nations. He extends his individualist argument to account for this by stating that there is a direct economic benefit to the individual by having more children even though this is not a feasible course for the society as a whole. In this way he shows that even if there is a widespread availability of contraceptives and a strong family planning education program, these will have no effect on fertility as long as there is a good economic benefit to having many children.
DAVID TARBY University of Montana (John Norvell)
D’Andrade, R. G., E. A. Hammel, D. L. Adkins, and C. K. McDaniel. Academic Opportunity in Anthropology, 1974-90 American Anthropologist. 1975 Vol. 77: 753-773
This article projects that due to a decline in births leading to a decrease in the college student population, new faculty will not be required to the degree they once were. There will, as a result, be fewer academic positions available for college-level teachers in disciplines such as anthropology.
This situation is caused by the intersection of two variables: the rapid growth of Ph.D. and M.A. programs along with a historic downward shift in birth rates. The authors use many detailed graphs and tables to emphasize this point. The authors note that since 1960, the number of anthropology M.A.’s produced per year has doubled every five years, and the number of Ph.D.’s produced per year has doubled every six years.
Even though, presently, there is an increase in the number of students going to college, there will be, eventually, a sharp decrease in the college student population due to the above demographics.
Population figures are examined through two charts. One chart shows a decline in births of women aged fifteen to forty-four (starting around 1950). A second chart notes the decline of persons eighteen to twenty-one years old beginning around 1975. There has been a steady decline in the number of children born each year in the United States since 1960. As a result, the number of 18-21 year old adults will decline from approximately seventeen million 1980 to fourteen million in 1990.
The study also compares two projections of total enrollment in U.S. higher education in the 1970-90 period by Carter and Haggstrom. One seems more “devastating” than the other. In the judgment of the article’s authors, the number of schools granting Ph.D.’s in the United States and Canada has moved close to the saturation point. For every 100 Anthropology Ph.D.’s, only 71, will supposedly, find academic positions during the 1980s. The rest will have will have to find employment outside academia – such as in applied anthropology.
MISHALLA SPEARING Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
D’ Andrade, R. G. et al. Academic Opportunity in Anthropology, 1974-90. American Anthropologist December, 1975 Vol.77(4):753-773.
The authors of this article believed it was necessary to study the future options in the field of anthropology due to the decrease in birthrates since the 1960’s. The final prediction for anthropology looked grim in their eyes. They concluded that from 1977 onward the number of available academic positions for anthropology will decline steadily; meanwhile, the number of people seeking such positions will continue to increase. The authors focus on four main points that will affect the number of academic positions including the number of people who enter colleges and universities, the fraction who enroll in anthropology classes, the student to faculty ratios, and the number of retirements, deaths, and transfers of people already in scholastic positions.
First of all, the basis for their argument is dependent on two projections of the number of students entering colleges and universities done by Haggstrom and Cartter. Haggstrom’s projection is higher and more optimistic, so the authors rely more on this approach. Both estimates assume the percent of people entering will increase, along with the rise in the number of advanced degree students. Haggstrom believes the number of undergraduate students will proceed to increase, while graduate students will remain at the current levels. However, critics argue that new, non-college education may cut into traditional college enrollments.
Secondly, the authors address the amount of students enrolled in anthropology courses. Increases in class size usually occur first at graduate degree programs, then four-year schools, and will occur last in two-year schools. Also, there is a trend for archaeology to increase slightly at the expense of physical anthropology in undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Hammel and McDaniel conducted an enrollment survey in which they concurred that enrollment will continue to increase, but classes are beginning to level out. These estimates are derived from the approximation of teaching time and effort by professors, in addition to the level of teaching such as undergraduate or graduate courses.
Thirdly, the authors of this article focus on the amount of positions available within academia. Due to the rapid development in the anthropology field, many professors are in the younger age bracket, with 51% between 36 and 50. Consequently, the positions available will be very low until the Ph.D.’s from the 1960’s and 70’s retire. It is estimated that there will be 752 Ph.D. degrees awarded in 1982 and 1056 awarded in 1990. Further estimates demonstrate that for every 100 anthropology Ph.D.’s awarded, 71 will not be able to find academic positions.
With all of these calculations, it is believed that after 1982 over two thirds of all anthropology Ph.D.’s will have to find employment outside of academia. Some of these positions will be administrative in structure, rather than research oriented. Also, very little of the training learned in graduate school will be applicable.
REBECCA GREENE University of Montana (John Norvell)
Dennis, Phillip A. Role of the Drunk in a Oaxacan Village. American Anthropologist December, 1975 Vol. 77 (4): 856-863.
Information control devices serve to regulate the exchange of potentially disruptive information. Information and behaviors that may prove harmful to harmonious group interaction are often contained by social convention (p. 857). Adobe and cane fences, evasive public greetings, and covered shopping baskets are all noted by Dennis as information control devices (p.857). Dennis believes that inebriated individuals along with young children fill an anti-role or “out-of-role” position in the Oaxacan village, reversing the normal role expectations and information control.
Behavior exhibited by Oaxacan drunks can be seen as fulfilling a role similar to a court jester or class clown in other communities. The community benefits from the release of social tension that accompanies the inebriated individual and his “out-of-role” actions. The drunk possesses the license to state publicly the thoughts and feelings of the society that would normally go unheard for fear of social repercussions. Similarly, children are also used as spies by curious parents eager to learn their neighbor’s secrets. Both drunks and children, then, circumvent attempts at information control by members of the village (p.857). Dennis bases his views regarding the role of the drunk in an Oaxacan village on his fieldwork conducted between 1970-71 through the Cornell University Department of Anthropology. The article’s thesis is further supported by work by other anthropologists working in other Mexican villages.
FRANK VENTIMIGLIA JR. Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Dennis, Philip A. The Role of the Drunk in a Oaxacan Village American Anthropologist December, 1975 Vol.77(4):856-863.
In this article, Dennis explains the importance of the social role of Oaxacan drunks, specifically in the Amilpas village of Oaxaca. He finds that “The drunk is viewed as physically incapacitated, but socially liberated. He cannot be held responsible for what he says, since he is drunk, and he need not fear reprisal from a sober victim.” In this respect, Dennis notes that drunks have the important role of passing on tidbits of scandalous gossip as well as speaking “truths” that one could not simply proclaim unless he was inebriated. Dennis makes a note that females rarely play the part of the village drunk, but rather are seen as guardians of drunk men. They may help a drunk to remove himself when he makes a situation unpleasant.
In addition to being message bearers, drunks provide entertainment while, “he reminds those who see him that social rules are instituted for a function.” Dennis compares the role of the Oaxacan drunk to that of a renaissance jester. He writes that, “Like the drunk, the fool has license to tell the truth.” As occupying an important social role of village informer, if the drunk becomes too inebriated to articulate well, this may prevent him from playing his role effectively. Dennis finds that publicly, other village members seem to receive the drunk with embarrassment while admitting privately afterward, that they were entertained by his performance.
Dennis concludes the article with the following statement over the social role of the Oaxacan drunk, “Like the fool in a Shakespearian play, the Oaxacan drunk is accorded the special privilege of speaking the truth.”
SUMMER BEEKS : University of Montana, Missoula (John Norvell)
Dennis, Philip A. The Role of the Drunk in a Oaxacan Village. American Anthropologist 1975 Vol.77:856-863.
The study of drunkenness both within cultures and cross-culturally has traditionally been a topic that has been shunned by all of the social sciences with anthropology being no exception. However, perhaps due to the liberal era in which this article was written, Philip Dennis braved the critics and produced this study on the role of drunks in the Mexican village of Amilpas in Oaxaca. Any college student who has ever been seriously inebriated will likely find much to relate to in this article. The article however, is much more then just the stories of an anthropologist’s adventures in alcohol, rather it is a serious compilation and analysis of field reports from a number of anthropologists who have done research on this issue.
The main point that Dennis raises in this particular paper is that the drunk is not simply a byproduct of alcohol abuse. Rather in Oaxacan society, the drunk plays a key social role by allowing social pressures that are normally left unspoken, to be openly vented under the guise of drunkenness. Dennis supports this argument by citing examples of social gatherings in which drunks challenge the normal pecking order and speak their true feelings in social settings where normally it would be disadvantageous for a sober person to speak their mind. In addition to this he outlines the role of women in handling drunks, how villagers strategize in avoiding drunks, and also the role that passed-out drunks play in teaching morale lessons of how speaking the truth can have negative consequences. In true anthropological fashion, Dennis does make an attempt to document the emic perspective of how the villagers perceive the drunks. By his account, villagers believe that it is the alcohol that causes drunks to behave the way they do.
It is here where Dennis becomes controversial. Dennis seems to suggest that the villagers are in fact wrong and that in truth, drunkenness does not cause the social behavior that drunks exhibit in public. Rather, he says that it is Qaxacan society’s social expectations of such behavior that cause drunks to behave the way they do. He begins and ends his paper by comparing the Qaxacan village drunk to the Shakespearean fool who could get away with criticizing a king because he was passed off as a fool who did not know any better. Yet the fool’s criticisms stung with truth and were not overlooked. They were merely a socially acceptable way of rebelling against the social hierarchy. In this manner Dennis describes also the role of the Oaxacan drunk.
The problem with his particular paper is, of course, that Dennis does not document the many different types of drunks nor does he go into too much detail about violent drunks or how drunks behave in the privacy of their own homes. His argument taken to its logical conclusion would be that drunken men beating their wives for example, serve some kind of social function. It is in this area that Dennis also shows his lack of knowledge regarding neuropsychological studies concerning the effects of alcohol on the human brain and on behavior.
However, in defense of Dennis, his theory is not without merit. It could be more accurately stated that the social functions of drunks in a society evolved around the physiological effects of drunkenness. This I believe is clearly evident. The actual ethnographic reports he uses also seem to be fairly well written and are still relevant in the study of alcoholism in rural Mexico as part of medical anthropology research.
In conclusion, this article is well written, easy to read, and is very much relevant in both emic and cross-cultural studies concerning alcohol’s relationship to human culture.
CLARITY RANKING: 5
CHRISTOPHER J. GIESEKE University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)
Grieder, Terence. The Interpretation of Ancient Symbols. American Anthropologist December, 1975 Vol.77(4):849-854.
Mr. Grieder presents an enticing forum in which to discuss the interpretation of ancient symbols. Each society has symbolic traditions expressed partially through their material products. He discusses the two methods extant for the interpretation for interpreting these traditions that we use today. There are fundamental variations of approach between these two disciplines.
First up is the “configurational,” or the relative arrangement of parts school. This approach states an interpretation must necessarily be restricted to “iconographic clusters.” These clusters must be retained within single periods to prevent disjunction (cleavage or separation). The “ethnological” or human behavior school then uses the argument of forms being assumed to have retained their symbolic meanings. This is assuming the culture has been essentially unchanged in other respects.
After an overview of the two schools of thought in this area Mr. Grieder moves into a detailed analysis of the ethnological approach. He uses ethnological analogy (comparing the likeness of items) to open this area. This method uses an inductive reasoning process (from a part to a whole) method of reasoning. True to its inductive foundation the validity of its findings increases with the number of traits or examples known relative to the total number. The principle of disjunction (separation) is used here against the interpretation of ancient symbols.
The article then proceeds with the explanation of the two opposing forms of evidence utilized. Evidence in the forms of sculptures, pictures and other designs is what the configurational process relies on. In opposition, the ethnological method in American archaeology uses verbal evidence received through written accounts of the timeframe since European arrival. These two methods then use contrary premises to operate.
Under the configurational approach the view is that the rate of change cannot be predicted in a culture, presumed to be fairly rapid and difficult to discover. The ethnological approach’s viewpoint is that a culture would change slowly in isolation and the factors which cause change in an archaeological record can be identified. Form and meaning are and will continue to be joined is the assumption. Assuming there is a time period of cultural stability, any instability great enough to cause disjunction in the material remains will be evident.
A thorough discussion of the configurational method is also presented. It is presented that this method fills the need presented “when the symbols cannot be linked reasonably to a verbal explanation surviving in historical documents or obtained by ethnology, some other methods must be used to organize and describe them.” A better method that is independent of verbal/written records is needed. Forms and meanings, which are joined during one period, may disjoin in another, and that the more remote symbolic systems would be better studied by a method that takes this into consideration.
In summary both methods have strengths and weaknesses, which are pointed out and completely explained. After reading this article it is clear that while both methods are useful in different contexts an examiner needs to be open to using the method best suited to the particular situation. Future researches expectations relative to understanding ancient cultures through their symbols must lie somewhere between the two extremes of these methods.
DANIEL COMER University of Montana (John Norvell)
Gross, Daniel R. Protein Capture and Cultural Development in the Amazon Basin.American Anthropologist, 1974 Vol.77(3):526-549.
In this article, the author suggests that, prior to European contact, the presence of small-scale societies in the Amazon Basin was due to the lack of adequate protein in the diet. The author argues that small, dispersed villages were adaptive to the nutritional circumstances of that time. Although previous research has shown that the natural environment could support a higher carrying capacity, low protein consumption prevented higher socio-cultural structures from evolving.
Gross addresses previous research efforts to explain the Amazon Basin paradox: the natural environment could support a population of 2000 people, however, evidence for such large villages was nonexistent, meaning that Amazon societies were operating under the potential carrying capacity. Gross postulates that the supposed carrying capacity was unattainable due to the diet of the Amazon people. Staple dietary substances for the Amazon people included most root crops, such as manioc, plantains, and sweet potatoes. Unlike seed crops, these foods are high in calories and yield very little protein. Additionally, the lack of available protein sources, such as meat and fish, presented an additional problem for the Amazon people. Using the Kuikuru as an example, the author suggests that in order for this society to support 2000 people, they would require 182.5 meter tons of fish. This would necessitate access to 365 linear kilometers of waterways, which was impossible considering the technology available to Kuikuru to use and defend such a vast area. Therefore, small villages existed because the population was unable to meet the daily protein requirements.
Furthermore, the author demonstrates that specific cultural elements of the Amazon people were adaptive to the nutritional condition. First, meat was a highly prized element in these societies, and most women chose mating partners based on the male’s hunting ability. Second, the Amazon people chose to grow manioc, which is easier to cultivate and harvest than the plant’s more nutritious cousin, maize. Third, cultural traits that selected for more small, dispersed villages were favored in the Amazon Basin. Such traits included “strong political leadership, disputes over women, witchcraft accusations, and seasonal dispersals”(p. 535). More interestingly, the arrival of European settlers has influenced the development of more complex, large societies, which has led people to abandon the native, adaptive practices. This, rather than the actual presence of Europeans, has led to malnutrition and depopulation.
While the author presents a convincing argument, he also mentions areas of research that are necessary to further understand how the techno-environment influences societal structure. He stresses that archaeological evidence is needed to determine the presence of military competition and trade in the Amazon. All in all, this is a well-written article that offers an extensive literature review, great detail and data to support the author’s hypothesis, and most importantly, the use of ecological theory to explain the societal structure found in the Amazon Basin.
LAUREN E. GULBAS University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)
Jarvie, I. C. Epistle to Anthropologists American Anthropologist 1975 77, 2:253-
This article addresses two problems in anthropology: that there is currently a crisis in anthropology and what the probable causes of this crisis might be. Jarvie defines crisis, in the sense discussed here, as an “insuperable intellectual difficulty – whether recognized as such or not.”
Jarvie observes that “In 1922, [there was] evidence that a crisis existed [as well, and] the crisis was . . . ostensibly competing theories of evolution and diffusion had become so rubbery that they could be reconciled with each other and with all facts.”
The solution was, Jarvie suggests, a rebirth of anthropology sparked by the work of Radcliffe-Brown andMalinowski – to treat “societies as integrated wholes peopled by recognizably human beings.” While having a number of good points, this new approach’s “worst effect was that instead of continuing and extending the debate on traditional anthropological problems, the new anthropology dismissed them as misconceived or speculative.” In essence, the new approach became a form of “absurd radicalism,” which led anthropologists to confront the question what is anthropology. This question – the nature of the field – has become the new crisis in anthropology.
In this article, Jarvie discusses many problems arising from this current crisis while, at the same time, refuting the answers others, such as Fabian, offer. Jarvie supports objectivity – in the sense of inter-subjective testability – and emphasizes it is necessary for anthropologists to communicate their findings to one another. Jarvie continues, “unlike many anthropologists, I regard theoretical breakdown as a fundamentally healthy event. If what we want is intellectual progress, better explanation, then the breakdown of existing theories in a prerequisite: we cannot supersede a theory until we know where it goes wrong.”
Jarvie’s proposed solution to the new crisis is “to cease treating predecessors the way they accused those predecessors of treating savages, namely as backward [and] stupid.” Seeking a more objective, scientific anthropology involves building on the past rather than discarding it.
CLARITY RANKING: 3
ERICA HIDALGO Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Jarvie, I. C. Epistle to the Anthropologists. American Anthropologist, 1975 Vol.77(2):253-265.
In this article, I.C. Jarvie asks all anthropologists to consider the question: “is there a crisis in anthropology, and if there is, what caused it and what will resolve it?” Jarvie believes strongly that there is a crisis in anthropology, but unlike other anthropologists, he largely attributes this crisis to “theoretical stagnation, not to the influence of positivism.”
He goes on to explain that there are at least six major causes for the continuing crisis in anthropology, which include, “a loss of recruits (students), the loss of great men (leading anthropologists), social disorganization, intellectual disorganization, intellectual stagnation, and the loss of subject matter (untouched and simple societies).” Jarvie argues that as anthropologists we need to “renew ourselves, refresh ourselves, by reexamining assumptions, by trying to forge links to the past from which we have cut ourselves off, to recapture the identity of self and re-address ourselves to the central unsolved problems.”
In addition, we need to recognize that as human beings we all have biases and for that reason, anthropologists must disregard the early positivist arguments that “fieldwork would build an empirical science, undermine radical prejudice, and eliminate speculation about the history of mankind and the metaphysics of cognition and valuation.”
In his article, Jarvie agrees with many of the criticisms Johannes Fabian presents regarding methodology (i.e., “that the critical method was not critical enough”), however, unlike Fabian and others who would like to see anthropology radically reinvented, Jarvie believes that the solution to this crisis involves a critical reflection on the history of anthropology and our predecessors because “the poorer self-understanding will be, the more the signs of crisis will grow.”
CLARITY RANKING: 2.5
HANNAH RIVES University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)
Lebra, Takie Suguyama. An Alternative Approach to Reciprocity. American Anthropologist. 1975 Vol. 77: 550-565
Lebra explores, in this article, the social dynamics of reciprocity. Reciprocity, she suggests, is “a subset of exchange characterized by inseparability of the objects exchanged from the partners in interaction.” Lebra questions Sahlins’ model of reciprocity which entwines kinship, social proximity, solidarity, and generosity. She also is critical of Polyani who separates reciprocity from exchange.
Lebra’s suggests Sahlins’ model fails because it treats the three variables – kinship distance, sociability and generosity – as distinct but overlapping. They are, in fact, not isolated variables but flexible variables with changing values. Moreover, Sahlins’ model focuses on “single-actors” when reciprocity general involves several actors through time.
Lebra considers two types of sociability: intimacy and courtesy. Sociability she defines as “any behavior or attitude oriented toward the promotion of social interaction, and any relationship supported by such behavior or attitude.” Intimacy is generated by intensive and durable interaction through time. Courtesy is the opposite – it is expressed between A and B who find themselves at a ritual distance, one being an outsider or a superior to the other. In comparing intimacy with courtesy, Lebra suggests intimacy includes affection (but not esteem) and courtesy includes esteem (but not affection). Neither intimacy nor courtesy need remain positive: intimacy may deteriorate into a lack of affection and courtesy into a lack of esteem.
The article also considers issues of symmetry and asymmetry in reciprocity. There is commonly some form of dualism in reciprocity – an equivalence between two objects transferred in opposite directions. Asymmetry, in this context, can lead to what Lebra terms convertibility and complementarity.
Lebra extends the traditional view of reciprocity – as focused on dyads – to include triads. Triads break down the interpersonal bond in a dyad, and create an impersonal element – competition, which disrupts reciprocal rights and obligations. Seven types of triadiazation are identified: circular transference, lineal transference, unstructured transference, triadic sanction, brokerage, competition and transitivity.
MISHALLA SPEARING Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Lebra, Takie Sugiyama. An Alternative Approach to Reciprocity. American Anthropologist September, 1975 Vol.77(3):550-565.
Takie Sugiyama Lebra defines reciprocity as a “subset of exchange characterized by inseparability of the objects exchanged from the partners in interaction” and then argues for an alternative approach to the concept based on a previous model by M. D. Sahlins. Sahlins’ model contains three variables: kinship proximity, solidarity and generosity, but Lebra includes behaviors and attitudes oriented toward the encouragement of social interaction, which were lacking in the previous model. He argues that Sahlins’ model contains two major flaws. One, it doesn’t account for stealing and hiding possessions between kinsmen, and two, it doesn’t account for the generous giving that takes place between distant kin ignoring proximity. He further critiques the model by identifying particular errors made by Sahlins.
For example, Sahlins treats the three variables as if they overlap but Lebra claims they only partially overlap. Moreover, Lebra claims that kinship proximity, solidarity and generosity are qualitatively different in value, yet Sahlins only gives them a plus/minus dimension. Lastly, where Sahlins assigns action to a single participant Lebra claims that a participant’s actions are dependent upon others.
Lebra’s new model elaborates on the concept of sociability to include intimacy and courtesy. Intimacy includes partners who share each other’s private life-space. In this situation, sharing is taken for granted and hiding objects is unnecessary. However, in Sahlins’ model, intimacy is simply confined to distance. It is true that intimacy may grow weak because of a lack of distance, but Sahlins doesn’t account for the fact that intimacy may also weaken due to rude behavior.
In Sahlins’ model courtesy is contrasted to hostility or anomie. This negates a reciprocal experience. Lebra claims that courtesy can still be preserved between participants where one is superior to (or outside of) the other. Courtesy may also be downgraded to an exchange that lacks affection.
Lebra goes on to include the exchange of objects along with the partners into the concept of reciprocity and raises the question of equivalence between objects. Here is where symmetry and asymmetry are sought. A relationship may be characterized by exploitation or subordination and is therefore asymmetrical. There may also exist a double strain towards symmetry, where the debtor and creditor alternate. An X and Y-axis figure display this phenomenon. The X-axis ranges from (+) benefit to (-) injury and the Y-axis ranges from (-) injury to (+) benefit.
Lebra furthers his argument by expanding the basic unit of reciprocity of the dyad into a triad to involve even larger systems that either maintain or restrain reciprocity. Now the exchange is left open to “extra-dyadic influences.” In light of this third-party influence, there may be seven types of triadization: circular transference, lineal transference, unstructured transference, triadic sanction, brokerage, competition, and transivity.
Lebra does an excellent job of questioning a reductionist model by accounting for sociability, symmetry/asymmetry, and triadization. He establishes the hypothesis that worldwide exchanges are complex, embedded in context and vary greatly, from “steal trading” among Easter Islanders to ceremonial gift giving in the Kula Ring of the Western Pacific. Lebra’s entire argument is based on that idea that Sahlins’ model just does not hold up when applied to empirical cases.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
LAURA FORNOS University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)
Meggers, Betty J. The Transpacific Origin of Mesoamerican Civilization: A Preliminary Review of the Evidence and Its Theoretical Implications. American Anthropologist. 1975. 77,1:1-
There is dissension among anthropologists regarding the nature of transpacific contact and, related to that, the origin of civilization in the Americas. Meggers reviews several traits of the Olmec, the earliest civilization in Mesoamerica, and compares them with traits of the Shang civilization in China in order to illustrate the complexities involved in distinguishing between independent invention and diffusion.
She begins by giving archaeological evidence of Olmec as the earliest civilization in Mesoamerica, discussing their pyramids, monuments, art, calendars, trade, and religion. Characteristics of Shang civilization in ancient China, which is several centuries older than that of the Olmec, are then discussed. Inferences are made regarding both groups socio-political organizations but details regarding each’s social organization, ultimately, remains less than certain.
Among the similarities between these two societies are their writing styles, the esteemed use of and long-distance trade in jade, batons as symbols of rank, their settlement patterns as well as architectural styles, the long-range acquisition of luxury goods, possession of feline deities, and the use of cranial deformation. While these similarities vary greatly in magnitude and specificity – they are not perfect matches – their existence nonetheless point to two possibilities: either Shang immigrants civilized Mesoamerica or these two civilizations were created independently of one another and, hence, their similarities are better explained by the operation of general laws of cultural evolution.
In seeking to work her way through these two options, Meggers discusses a number of general problems including: the complexity of the diffusion process, the limitations of the archaeological evidence present in both cases, the tendency of archeologists to project modern concepts into past cultures, the modifications receiving cultures make of items acquired from others, the dynamics of independent invention, and the requirements of proof. She offers criteria for recognizing cultural diffusion, but stresses they cannot be applied in this case because of the insufficiency of the archaeological evidence.
Meggers concludes that the Shang-Olmec similarities can be used to prove either independent development or cultural diffusion. The basic difficulty we face, she notes, is that a search for cultural origins is handicapped by both unrecognized biases and limitations of data.
CLARITY RANKING: 5
SELAH GEISSLER Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Meggers, J. Betty. The Transpacific Origin of Mesoamerican Civilization: A Preliminary Review of the Evidence and its Theoretical Implications. American Anthropologist March, 1975 Vol.77 (1):1-27.
By examining two geographically separated civilizations Betty Meggers’s article attempts to provide evidence for their connected origins due to their striking similarities. By examining numerous commonalities between the first civilizations of Mesoamerica and of China, the Olmec and the Shang respectively, the theoretical argument for their connection is made. The chronological proximity of these two civilizations’ quantum rise from a village settlement, the similarities in their writing styles, the long distance trade network for jade, their patterns of settlement, social structure, worship of feline deities, and principal structures of earthen mounds oriented along a north-south axis, can all be found existing within both of these groups. The evidence used by the author ranges from stone steles and statues to huge earthen platforms.
Understanding the enormous dilemma of distance between the two civilizations the author emphasizes the lack of coincidence that these numerous similarities could have arisen in the creation of such similar civilizations. Light is shed upon the debate of independent origination versus the complexities of the diffusion process. The author argues that the criteria, which is described in the text, for recognizing a civilization that has experienced diffusion are all apparent in the archeological evidence for these two civilizations. It is also offered that the evidence used by Meggers can be used to explain independent as well as a diffusion theory of the rise of civilization in China and Mesoamerica.
The theoretical implications discussed revolve around understanding the biases in our premises when attempting to explain the origins of civilizations. Assumptions are useless while the understanding of the actuality of an occurrence is much more satisfying and useful.
JESSE ADAMS University of Montana (John Norvell)
Orans, Martin. Domesticating the Functional Dragon: An Analysis of Piddocke’s Potlatch.American Anthropologist. 1975. 77,2:312-
Orans uses Piddocke’s analysis of the Potlatch to raise broader questions about the value of functional analyses more generally. He chooses Piddocke’s analysis because of its clarity. While admitting he knows little about potlatches per se, he emphasizes Piddocke’s analysis of them allows him to analyze the strengths and limitations of the functional approach.
Orans proceeds to assess Piddocke’s functional argument point by point. Piddocke’s basic thesis stresses that the potlatch functioned to: eliminate starvation in times of food scarcity; allow for the redistribution of wealth, hierarchically and between kinship groups; maintain the subsistence of the entire population; allow access to prestige and wealth through trade in food; and facilitate the general well being of the population through the chiefly desire for prestige and wealth.
Orans finds Piddocke’s argument inadequate because, while it is based on population maintenance, it fails to offer sufficient evidence that the potlatch ever saved a starving population from demise.
Orans then examines the fundamentals of the functional argument, following a formula suggested by the philosophy Hempel. Orans finds there is no feasible way of ascertaining all possible functional equivalents and assessing their probabilities. Why, then, should we believe they are possible and/or reasonable?
Next, Orans disucsses the functional argument that, at least implicitly, a trait that is more frequent in environments presenting a particular need effectively functions to fulfill that need vis-a-vis other environments where that trait and/or need are less frequent (or do not exist). Orans goes to great lengths, citing many scholars, to suggest a trait constitutes an adaptive need operating cross-culturally, and then provides evidence that this trait has not been measured adequately enough by the functionalist to determine if, indeed, it functions that way.
Orans suggests that functional theories are intellectual rich enough to imply more than one relationship between a pair of variables and therefore need to be tested against alternatives. Furthermore, Orans observes the functional theories imply diachronic relations, but tend to be tested primarily with synchronic data.
Orans concludes that the functional argument is fundamentally pseudo-scientific. Functionalism, he fears, is diluting the progress of anthropology in quantifying humanistic problems.
CLARITY RANKING: 1
SELAH GEISSLER Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Orans, Martin. Domesticating the Functional Dragon: An Analysis of Piddocke’s Potlatch.American Anthropologist, 1975 Vol.77(2):312-328.
Martin Orans begins the article by reviewing Piddocke’s interpretation of the Kwakiutl potlatch. He chooses this rationale due to the relative clarity and valuable contributions to the understanding of the potlatch. Orans admits he is not an expert in the field of potlatches, but finds Piddocke helpful in explaining the functional argument.
Orans uses Piddocke’s statements that scarcity was necessary for the potlatch to be required. This leads us to the plausible inference that potlatches created some equalization of food resources at a time of starvation for some, and abundance for others. He also makes it clear that food could be exchanged for wealth objects and that the desire for prestige and status rivalry between chiefs was forthright in creating and maintaining potlatches. All of this was to lead to the stabilization of the community as a whole.
While making good sense, these statements do not prove if potlatching ever saved a population during a time of starvation. In this sense, Orans finds Piddocke’s assessment weak and incomplete.
Next, Orans examines the statistical interpretation of Hempel. Orans states that this functional model adds to the incompleteness of Piddocke’s. He reaches the conclusion that “virtually nothing is being asserted about the potlatch other than an alleged effect of its practice” (p. 316).
Orans then continues to discuss the functional model, citing many different scholars, all the while comparing them to Piddocke. He states problems such as cross-culturally defining potlatching and if it’s characteristics were shared locally as well as elsewhere. How they were distributed and if they were ever really effective in aiding needy communities, Orans feels is not truly represented by any of the data.
Orans finishes with fifteen steps he feels will help to domesticate the functional dragon. While agreeing with the clarity of many of the scholars he cited works, he disagrees with their methods, and lack of ability to interpret the data from different vantage points. He feels that functional theories imply diachronic relations and should therefore be better suited with tests for such data.
As an anthropologist, Orans would like to see a “kind of humanistic enquiry and presentation that utilizes non-scientific techniques and has non-scientific objectives” (p. 327). He would like to see the pseudo-scientific functional dragon domesticated. All in all, more of an anthropological approach, and less of a functional one.
DANIELLE TISSIERE University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)
Peterson, Nicolas. Hunter-Gatherer Territoriality: The Perspective from Australia. American Anthropologist. 1975. 77,1:53-
The question of whether humans are instinctively territorial is examined through an analysis of Australian hunter-gatherer societies. A functionalist perspective is offered.
First, the definition of territoriality is discussed. Peterson analyzes the most accepted definitions of territoriality in terms of animal territoriality – as defending an area through hostility because of attachment to the area. The controversy between behavioral, ecological, physical, and biological anthropologists on whether or not human territoriality is natural is discussed and the evidence examined.
The functions attributed to territoriality are spacing a species, regulating population, reducing hostility and stress among groups, protecting nests and young, stimulating breeding behavior, promoting selective breeding, and limiting the spread of disease. Peterson suggests – through a discussion of aggression, spacing mechanisms, and population control of humans – that if it can be shown to that a territorial spacing mechanism exists in hunter-gatherer societies that enables a principle of “optimum numbers” to work effectively, then territoriality might well be said to be intrinsic to the hunter-gatherer’s way of life.
The spatial organization of hunter-gatherer societies is examined and it is inferred from the examples of greeting rituals presented that these ceremonies are functionally analogous to boundary defense mechanisms that help create and maintain local groups. The tendency for groups to form bands around locales where the old and immobile wish to live (and die) results in the non-random spacing of the bands across the landscape. This is taken as evidence that the ecological aspect of territoriality is basic to hunter-gatherer way of life in Australia.
Peterson concludes that humans are naturally territorial because the defense of their space often requires aggression and aggression is innate. Furthermore, where spacing mechanisms have fundamental consequences for the long-term adaptation, survival and evolution of human communities, territorial spacing mechanisms can also be described as a basic part of the human condition.
CLARITY RANKING: 4
SELAH GEISSLER Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Peterson, Nicolas. Hunter-Gatherer Territoriality: The Perspective from Australia. American Anthropologist March, 1975 Vol.77(1):53-68
The author of the article focuses on the question of hunter-gatherer territoriality, and if it is natural or conventional. He first defines territoriality by looking at how it has been defined in the natural sciences and then expands on human territoriality. There are two prevailing schools of thought on human territoriality, one saying humans are not territorial and the other saying it is a fundamental ecological adaptation of all hunter-gatherers. The author reviews a variety of functions of territoriality, from reducing fighting to stimulating breeding behavior. His conclusion is that population pressure is the fundamental adaptation of territoriality.
Spatial organization is then discussed in relation to how hunter-gatherers define areas. He briefly touches on division of labor as an adaptation leading to a varied diet and an increased efficiency in food procurement. It becomes clear that territory in hunter-gatherer societies is not rigidly defined but flexible, adjusting to population and resource pressures, as well as a way to resolve conflict. Hunter-gatherers would be sensitive to such balances between resources and populations, through a constant number of groups within a locale, providing all people belonged to a group. Experience would then enable the members of a group to judge if more or less effort was expended on food procurement. The author cites this as the reason many ethnographers note a “core group” often consisting of elders. This leads to a brief discussion of fission and fusion of groups, sometimes moving local groups outside their territory. It is essential that there are restrictions on wanderings from one locale group to another. The practices of moving in and out of local groups is then discussed in relation to Australia. The function of local groups is critical. It is on a constant number of groups that the principle of optimum numbers relies. The consistency is maintained in two ways: either through ideologies or territory naming, associating a territory with a base.
The author concludes that hunter-gatherer territoriality is both a function of natural processes as well as a consequence of long-term adaptation. Territoriality is linked to aggression and that ( be it innate or overt) is natural. The mechanisms which territorial behavior materialize as are a part of the survival and evolution of human society, “even if they are not genetic.”
ROBERT O’BOYLE University of Montana (John Norvell)
Rightmire, G. P. Problems in the Study of Later Pleistocene Man in Africa. American Anthropologist. 1975. 77:28-
Rightmire addresses problems relating to the analysis of man’s prehistory in Africa. The first section of the article looks at middle/early upper Pleistocene assemblages. This period is reported to be a period of climatic and cultural change as well as a time early man began to both migrate and specialize. He discusses at length the shape of the skeletal fossils, mainly cranium, found across the sub-Saharan region. The major problem is that these fossils are missing parts and are difficult to date accurately.
An archaeological history of the Middle Stone Age is given and the scarcity of skeletal fossils from this time period as well as the limitations of existing ones are addressed. At one time it was believed the “Boskop race” was prevalent during this period but the dating process, for this assertion, has been questioned and this, in turn, has led to the questioning of a “Boskop race” more generally. Some scientists have claimed that this race is actually more modern and, perhaps related to the origin of Negroes. Ultimately, Rightmire observes, the real meaning of the early Boskopoid skeletons and how they relate to more modern African populations is uncertain.
The origin of the Negro “race” is then examined and many findings across Africa including bones and tools are discussed. These findings suggest that Negroes originated in West Africa and along the upper Nile. Some have suggested that it is unrewarding striving to pinpoint the origins of humanity racially, but Rightmire argues his points in a “the facts-speak-for-themselves” way. He provides a history of the evidence which centers on both fossils and linguistic data.
The author concludes that Negroes have had a long and diverse history in the eastern, central, and western parts of Africa, and that a more detailed understanding of this history can be constructed through continuing attention to the overlapping of linguistic, archaeological, and skeletal evidence.
CLARITY RANKING: 3
SELAH GEISSLER Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Rightmire G.P. Problems in the Study of Later Pleistocene Man in Africa. American Anthropologist, 1975 Vol.77(1):28-52.
In his article, Rightmire addresses the increasing discoveries of early Pleistocene men and women and the attempts to categorize them into types based on cranial measurements. Rightmire notes the reoccurring problem of poor dating techniques as well as often-small bone samples used to classify remains. Using cranial measurements taken from modern African populations, Rightmire compares them to measurements from early man in hopes of finding common morphological features and thus ancestral descent. Unfortunately, the tests showed too much dissimilarity for possible relation.
Rightmire then turns to the concept of a “Boskopoid race” which may have played a role in the evolution of the present-day African Bushmen while noting the Bushmen was a more “hybridized” version. He eventually discounts this theory based in the ancient skull’s shortened face and moderately developed brow ridges. He eventually concluded the relationship between the supposed Boskopoid skeletal remains and modern-day populations “remains a mystery.”
In conclusion, Rightmire, again using cranial measurements, reviews skeletons found in southern Africa and attempts to relate them to modern Negro populations in which he finds little success. Traditionally Negro populations are thought to originate in the West but Rightmire notes that skeletal remains with similar traits places them in the East as well. From this he presumes a diffusion of the people of the West into the East; however he cannot come up with a possible relation.
Overall Rightmire, in one way or another, searched for a linkage between modern and ancient African populations to no avail. In a sense, his search for the “missing African link” proved unsuccessful due to the lack of samples, accurate dating techniques, and the loss of site preservation for stratigraphic analysis. Though the use of numerous sites and measurements proved to be unfruitful, Rightmire provides the reader with valuable knowledge of the multitude of remains coming out of Africa. Perhaps one day, paleoarchaeologist will be able to find that missing link, however as time goes on, it seems less of an realistic reality.
ANNABELLE RANGEL University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)
Schiffer, Michael B. Archaeology as Behavioral Science. American Anthropologist December, 1977. Vol. 77: 836-847.
The author focuses on “what are the aims of archaeology as an organized discipline” or more succinctly, “is archeology primarily history or primarily science.” Schiffer notes the desire, among archeologists, for a system of laws that are primarily their own. Shiffer discusses various archeological laws of transformation to show how archeology has both borrowed methods of inquiry and subsequent laws from other sciences as well as contributed laws and methods of its own to the study of these transformations.
According to Shiffer, correlates, n-transforms and c-transforms form the basic laws that archeologists use to explain the archeological record (p.839). A correlate involves determining what manufacturing process created an object in the archeological record and/or how it may have been used. (An example of a correlate would be an archeologist attempting to create a stone tool using only the materials available in the artifact’s original environment.) N-transforms relate to post-depositional phenomena, or the ways in which an artifact has been changed by environmental conditions. N-transforms are typically borrowed from the physical sciences but archeology has sometimes generated its own n-transforms to fit archeology specific problems. C-transforms explain the cultural formation processes of the archeological record and are usually archeology specific.
The basic question of the article is answered by Schiffer in his conclusion – archeology benefits most by its hybridity. Archeology can be at times either historical or behavioral as best suits the situation. Schiffer does not see this dual nature as troublesome for the discipline and, in fact, finds it encouraging.
FRANK VENTIMIGLIA JR. Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky).
Schiffer, Michael. Archaeology as Behavioral Science. American Anthropologist December, 1975 Vol.77(4):836-845.
This article by Michael Schiffer attempts to present a logical supporting basis for the acceptance of archaeology as a behavioral science. He presents his case for archaeology as a scientific as well as a historic discipline. While the arguments for archaeology as a science are well founded, the case for it being a behavioral discipline as well is a difficult case to support. The basic foundation used for the proposition is that various laws used within archaeology such as correlates, c-transforms, n-transforms, as well as socio-cultural variability and change are not supported or borrowed from other scientific disciplines but will stand on their own merits.
The author’s premises are provided through examples given in a logical sequence covering each area listed above. A comprehensive overview leads off his argument presenting both sides of the debate. It has previously been accepted that archaeology is a law-consumer, while other disciplines, including sociology, are law-providers. He points out errors in this assumption saying archaeologists do more than the employment of scientific laws when they offer explanations for past cultural events.
Under the first supporting category of c-transforms, a study of the Seri Indians of northwest Mexico is used to demonstrate cultural formation practices followed by a more complex c-transform accounting for the quantity of an artifact type in a settlement. Next up in the supporting case are n-transforms. Here he proposes the interaction between culturally deposited materials and environmental variables and states that the questions asked by archaeologists vary from those asked by practioners of other disciplines such as chemists or geologists. It is in the archaeological frame or position that physical science laws are useful for archaeological research.
The supporting evidence constructed to this point is built upon using correlates to infer manufacturing operations producing an output or the use(s) to which it was subjected. Lastly using the laws of change, diffusion and cultural materialism are cited as forming the core of what the majority of archaeologists believe is theory within the field and consists of many supporting laws.
In closing, the arguments presented in this article vary considerably in their strength of support and clarity of construction. Completing a thorough digestion of the ideas presented will certainly cause a reader to at least seriously consider in a more favorable context the possible inclusion of archaeology in the arena of behavioral science.
DANIEL COMER University of Montana (John Norvell)
Wright, Henry and Gregory Johnson. Population, Exchange, and Early State Formation in Southwestern Iran. American Anthropologist. 1975. 77,2:267-
The authors address the problem of state origins: They evaluate competing explanations for the rise of centralized governmental institutions and develop their own explanation based on four years of archaeological research in Southwest Iran.
A state is defined here as a society with specialized control mechanisms over a range of activities including three or more levels of decision-making. The author’s research focuses on these hierarchies of control in greater Mesopotamia.
Southwest Iran’s geographic location on the fertile Susiana Plain is a key factor in the rise of such hierarchies within Mesopotamia. It constituted an irrigational nexus and, as a result, an agricultural center for surrounding villages. The archaeological excavations in the region have uncovered administrative artifacts such as seals and stamps. Also, the size and locations of various settlements provide evidence of administrative organization – especially the evidence that larger sites controlled smaller sites. The authors also percieve a pattern of changing settlement patterns correlating with changes in the technology of administration. From such evidence, Wright and Johnson conclude the origin of the state on the Susiana Plain occurred during the beginning of the Early Uruk period.
Archaeological evidence of population dynamics and inter-regional and intra-regional trade during this time period is next discussed. There is limited evidence regarding relations between societies as well as the dynamics of local production and exchange. As a result, the authors indicate a clear cause of state formation cannot be delineated.
Their data are useful, however, in evaluating a number of competing hypotheses regarding state formation. They refute two major hypotheses: that population increases lead to state formation and that trade and exchange expand just prior to state formation.
The question they pose in conclusion is: What types of changes would force, not simply the addition of a new level or regulation, but a shift from a system in which each local community was a semi-autonomous component containing many activities to one in which each activity was a semi-autonomous component operating across many communities? They point out that ceramics came to be produced in large centers and were distributed to others, and that other activities may have been similarly reorganized.
They suggest that multiple variables, which they briefly discuss, presumably led to state formation. They also discuss new methods and new data that would be useful in testing various hypotheses regarding early state formation.
CLARITY RANKING: 2
SELAH GEISSLER Hawaii Pacific University (Rob Borofsky)
Wright, Henry T. and Gregory A. Johnson. Population Exchange and Early State Formation in Southwestern Iran. American Anthropologist, 1975 Vol.77(2):267-289.
There are several competing explanations on the origin of the state. For instance it is argued that population growth as a result of warfare and conquest leads to specialized organization similar to that of the state. Another argument is that trade, both inter and intra regional, occurred as a higher demand for rare materials increased causing the leaders of ranked societies to reorganize local resources into greater craft specialization similar to that of the state. Both of these arguments are what Wright and Johnson refer to as single-variable explanations. Wright and Johnson argue that the development of the state cannot be the result of one single variable; instead it must be the result of a more complex multi-variable system. Based upon four years of multi-disciplinary research in Southwest Iran, Wright and Johnson test several single variable hypotheses and provide alternative multi-variable explanations for the development of the state.
Wright and Johnson incurred two problems when beginning their research. First, they had to define what characteristics constitute a state. Secondly, a lack of archeological evidence only allows for speculation of how variables interact, giving rise to new theories that in turn must be tested. Wright and Johnson point out how definitions of the state usually focus on features rather than total organization, which they argue, provides a larger, clearer picture. They choose to focus on the primary state defined as a society with specialized administrative, decision-making activities that encompass political and social control. In addition Wright and Johnson provide a brief overview of archeological and geographical history of the area.
The variables Wright and Johnson focus on as single-variable explanations are population growth, local craft production, and inter and intra regional exchange. After testing these variables on a single level, Wright and Johnson consider them together as interacting variables. As mentioned, lack of archeological evidence provides ambiguous relations of variables between societies, including craft production and exchange, population settlement patterns, and administrative functions. Technology is also another area of interest; Wright and Johnson argue that archeological evidence of technology in the form of seals used as a form of authorization on commodities and documents provides insight into the hierarchy of information processing that supports and enhances settlement patterns.
The heart of the article is based on an example of the fertile Susiana Plain, which Wright and Johnson assert is a center of early village development, massive production of agricultural products and the locale of state origin. During the Uruk Period, Wright and Johnson identify markers of increased settlement complexity with small and large villages and small and large centers. They identify evidence that larger sites control smaller sites and that access to larger sites can be gained through intermediate sized centers. Wright and Johnson also point out that there was a period of population decline prior to state formation thus proving incorrect the argument that population is the only cause of the development of the state because the state then would have emerged during the Susian d times when population was at a high compared to Early Uruk times. In comparison to surrounding areas such as Iraq, Wright and Johnson conclude that there was a series of emergences of individual states in a network of polities.
MARISSA SAENZ University of Texas at San Antonio (James H. McDonald)