My Sparks

Posts tagged anthropology

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The Domestication of Wild Animals and… women?

Small things are easier to control, perceived as “cute”, and are considered helpless. When I was in my anthro class last year our professor talked to us about the process of domesticating animals. He said first you take the smallest and most docile of the creatures and breed them. Small creatures are easier to manage. Of course you don’t want them TOO small or they won’t produce healthy offspring. Once a few generations have gone by and you have a group of small, sweet animals that at this point have very little in common with their wild relatives, you can breed them to be big again. 

I find it funny then that as women’s rights becomes more prevalent and accepted in the United States, women in the media and on magazine covers seem to be getting smaller. We may have a stronger voice. And having a strong presence is now an attractive quality in women to a lot of people. But we’re getting physically smaller. I dunno. I think it’s a strange connection. 

Filed under women's rights feminism anthropology spacing out in class again

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Culture Shock

This is an oversimplified, kind of amusing example I had to come up with in class for a cultural misunderstanding.

Cultural Misunderstanding: In some egalitarian societies, expressing gratitude or saying “thank you” is considered rude.

Scenario 1: Tribesperson gives you a gift

 You: “Thank you so much!”

 Tribesperson: What does she mean ‘thank you’? Is she suggesting that she thought I was too poor to give her something? Did she assume I was rude and not generous?! I’ll bet she’s calculating the exact value of my gift so she can give me something in return of even greater value and make me look like a poor person in front of everyone else!! She must think she is better than all of us!!!


Scenario 2: A tribesperson asks you to help her carry her baskets back to her house and you do it. Once you get to the house successfully…

 Tribesperson: “…” moves on with her life.

You: That was rude. She didn’t even thank me. I feel so unappreciated and used. These people are so selfish and mean. I’m not some sucker who just gives free labor.

Tribesperson: That was nice of her. We can become friends. 

Filed under culture anthropology cultural misunderstanding cultural ecology

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Taking my first linguistics class! I had my first class on Saturday (rescheduled due to Friday’s flooding issue). I had no interest in taking this course at first (it’s required for anthropology students), however the professor won me over. Within ten minutes I was interested. Now I’m falling in love! 

Filed under linguistics anthropology

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Combining Cultural Anthropology with Environmental Preservation Efforts: Seacology

Conservationists must focus on combining traditional cultural beliefs, practices, and perspectives within local communities around the world with environment conservation efforts. In order to promote global conservation of resources, each community must willingly participate and negotiate each step. Sustainable living cannot be achieved with one cultural perspective dictating the rest. Through mutual trust, respect, and understanding, communities can create a sustainable approach to conservation. Seacology is a nonprofit environmental preservation organization that works hard to protect both the environment and culture within island communities around the world. 

Filed under anthropology environment


"Kuyan": Aboriginal Australian Linguistics

KUYAN- An old linguistic study on universal emotions vs. emotions shaped by culture revealed some interesting concepts on the emotion, ‘shame’. Shame is considered positive behavior to some Indigenous Australian cultures, such as the Ngiyampaa (this name is kind of questionable, further research is necessary). The Ngiyampaa word kuyan is roughly translated to “shame” or “shyness” in English, but does not necessarily mean feeling anxious when you’ve done something wrong. 

"…Kuyan, an expression of respectful behaviour usually talked of in English as ‘Shame’ or ‘Shyness’. Its full force is liable to be missed by non-Aboriginal speakers of English for whom the words shame and shyness rarely have positive connotations… kuyan is not an uncomfortable feeling to be overcome, but an appropriate and expected reaction in many social situations…” (Kennedy and Donaldson, 1982)

URL to source:

P. 7, paragraph 2.

The Ngiyampaa may come across as shy or shameful to a foreigner, when they are merely practicing avoidance as a form of respect.

Filed under anthropology Linguistics


Anthropology: Old News Is Still Exciting

Love is ancient. Quit trying to pull the “it’s unnatural for a man to have one partner.” bullshit using ‘scientific evidence’ that does not exist. 

The Making of Families, Not War

"We now believe that social, instead of environmental, change, led to the species division," White explained. "Natural selection involves reproductive success, so Professor Owen Lovejoy of the project suspects thatArdipithecus males were probably pair-bonded to specific females, and may have aided them by gathering and carrying foods.”

Such provisioning by males would have favored those males who could best walk on two feet, according to the researchers, allowing them free hands for carrying food. Provisioned females could have “intensified their parenting” and carried their infants, which is easier to do in woodland environments when the forelimbs are free.

The reduction in canine teeth, which Lovejoy called “weapons of aggression,” further suggests thatArdipithecus males were not as physically hostile with each other as larger-canined chimpanzees are today.”

Filed under anthropology