4 short cultural anthropolgy essays

For each optional credit assignment you will write an essay between 500 and 1,000 words. For those of you who (like me) think in terms of hard copy pages, that is the equivalent of 1 to 2 pages typed on 8.5×11 paper with one inch margins on all sides.

For all the optional credit assignments your minimal bibliography will consist of one of the following:

1) one journal article and one book

2) two books

3) two journal articles

You are permitted and encouraged to exceed these requirements.


You can deal with any of the following topics:

Why is the difference between a sign and a symbol so crucial to understanding the nature of human language? Is there a relationship between a culture’s basic socio-cultural patterns and the ways in which its members use language?

2. Can you think of ways in your own lives that sex or gender have an effect on what you ordinarily do?

Optional Credit possibility: In some cultures a woman may marry another woman and a man may marry another man. What does this tell us about the relationships among sex, gender and life in society? In those societies? or in general?

3. What generalizations can you make about the relationships among environment, technology and carrying capacity? Optional Credit Possibility: Some scholars have suggested that ultimately the development of food growing technologies around 10,000 B.C.E. can be thought of as a disaster for human socio-cultural life. Put together some arguments supporting and some arguments contradicting this argumernt

4. What conditions do you think are necessary for a society to adopt large or small kin groups as a major organizing system? Optional Credit possibility: What are some of the functions of large extended kin groups in the societies in which they are found?


5. Can you suggest a factor or factors that have contributed to the emergence of stratified societies? Optional Credit possibility: What is the evidence leading to the assertion that social stratrification is not a natural outgrowth of human nature?

6. How do the ideas of Means of Production and their ownership/control help you to understand the political and economic arrangements of the contemporary world

7. You need to deal with only one of these, but, of course, you may deal with both. 1) Is there a necessary conflict between science and religion? 2) What is your response to the idea that there are peoples in the world whose local languages do not have a word that can be translated as “art,” but who still have some highly developed arts? Either one of these would be suitable for an Optional Credit essay.

8. Do you think globalization always puts emerging nations at a disadvantage? What is your evidence? Optional Credit possibility: Can you see some ways in which some of the processes we include in “globalization? are also gendered?

Lavenda, Robert H. And Emily Schultz


2010 Core Concepts in Anthropology, New York: McGraw-Hill.

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