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Anthropology Outlines

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I. Human Adaptability
Anthropology is the exploration of human diversity in time and space. Anthropology studies the whole of the human condition: past, present, and future; biology, society, language, and culture. Of particular interest is the diversity that comes through human adaptability. A. Adaptation, Variation, and Change 1. Adaptation refers to the processes by which organisms cope with environmental forces and stresses. 2. Humans use both biological and cultural means of adaptation. For example, human bodies can adapt biologically in three ways to high altitude: genetic adaptation, long-term physiological adaptation, and short-term physiological adaptation. Culturally, humans have developed technologies, such as pressurized airplane cabins equipped with oxygen masks, to deal with extreme environments. 3. As human history has unfolded, the social and cultural means of adaptation have become increasingly important. Much more recently, the spread of industrial production has profoundly affected human life.

II. General Anthropology B. The academic discipline of anthropology, also known as general anthropology or "four-field" anthropology, includes four main subdisciplines or subfields. They are sociocultural, archaeological, biological, and linguistic anthropology. This four-field approach is distinctly American. 4. There are historical reasons for the inclusion of four subfields in a single disciple, with origins tracing to the 19th century. 5. There are also logical reasons for the unity of American anthropology. Each subfield considers variation in time and space, and to each of them, a comparative, cross-cultural approach is essential.

C. Human Biological Diversity and the Race Concept 6. Historically, scientists have approached the study of human biological diversity in two main ways: a. Racial classification (now largely abandoned). b. The current explanatory approach, which focuses on understanding specific differences.

7. Racial classification attempts to assign humans to discreet categories (purportedly) based on common ancestry. c. A biological race is a geographically isolated subdivision of a species. A species is a population whose members can interbreed to produce offspring that can live and reproduce. d. Humanity (Homo sapiens) lacks such races because human populations have not been isolated enough from one another to develop into such discreet groups. e. A race is supposed to reflect shared genetic material (inherited from a common ancestor), but early scholars instead used phenotypical traits (usually skin color) for racial classification. Phenotype refers to an organism's evident traits. However, racial classifications based on phenotype raise the problem of deciding which trait(s) are most important. f. Among the many problems of using traits for racial classification is the fact that often these traits don't go together. For example, people with dark skin may be tall or short and have hair ranging from straight to very curly. Dark-haired populations may have light or dark skin, along with various skull forms, facial features, and body sizes and shapes. The number of combinations is very large, and the amount of heredity (versus environment) contributes to such phenotypical traits is often unclear. g. A final objection to racial classification based on phenotype is that phenotypical similarities and differences don't necessarily have a genetic basis (they may be caused by changes in the environment that affect individuals during growth and development).

D. Explanatory Approaches 8. Biological differences are real, important, and apparent to all of us. However, it is not possible to define human races biologically. Still, scientists have made much progress in explaining variation in human skin color, along with many other expressions of human biological diversity. We shift from classification to explanation, in which natural selection plays a key role. h. Natural selection is the process by which the forms most fit to survive and reproduce in a given environment do so in greater number than do others in the same population. i. The role of natural selection in producing variation in skin color will illustrate the explanatory approach to human biological diversity. i. Melanin, the primary determinant of human skin color, is a chemical substance manufactured in the epidermis, or outer skin layer. It screens out ultraviolet radiation from the sun, offering protection against diseases such as skin cancer. ii. Before the 16th century, most of the world's very-dark-skinned populations lived in the tropics. Outside of the tropics, skin color tends to be lighter. iii. How, aside from migrations, can we explain the geographic distribution of skin color? Natural selection provides the answer. In the tropics, with intense ultraviolet radiation from the sun, unprotected humans face the threat of severe sunburn. This confers a selective disadvantage on lighter-skinned people in the tropics. iv. An important factor affecting the geographic distribution of human skin color has to do with vitamin D. Ultraviolet radiation stimulates the manufacture of vitamin D in the human body. A shortage of vitamin D diminishes the absorption of calcium in the intestines, leading to the nutritional disease known as rickets, which softens and deforms bones. Thus, considering vitamin D production, light skin is an advantage in the cloudy north but a disadvantage in the sunny tropics. In the tropics, dark skin color protects the body against an overproduction of vitamin D that can lead to a potentially fatal condition leading to calcium deposits in the body's soft tissues. v. Another key factor explaining the geographic distribution of skin color involves the effects of UV on folate, an essential nutrient that the body produces from folic acid. Folate plays a key role in preventing neural tube defects and promoting healthy sperm production. High amounts of melanin in populations living in the tropics helps protect against the destruction of folate and thus reduce the chances of neural tube defects and complications with sperm production. vi. This discussion of skin color shows that common ancestry, the presumed basis of race, is not the only reason for biological similarities. Natural selection can produce the same results in separate and distant populations.

E. Cultural Forces Shape Human Biology 9. Anthropology's comparative, biocultural perspective recognizes that environmental factors, including cultural forces, constantly mold human biology. j. Biocultural refers to the inclusion and combination of both biological and cultural perspectives and approaches to comment on or solve a particular issue or problem. k. Culture is a key environmental force in determining how human bodies grow and develop. vii. Cultural traditions promote certain activities and abilities, discourage others, and set standards of physical well-being and attractiveness. For example, cultural standards of attractiveness and propriety influence participation and achievement in sports.

III. The Subdisciplines of Anthropology F. Cultural Anthropology 10. Cultural anthropology is the study of human society and culture, the subfield that describes, analyzes, interprets, and explains social and cultural similarities and differences. 11. Ethnography provides an account of a particular community, society, or culture. During ethnographic fieldwork, the ethnographer gathers data that he or she organizes, describes, analyzes, and interprets to build and present that account, which may be in the form of a book, article, or film. 12. It is important to keep in mind that cultures are not isolated. People everywhere increasingly participate in regional, national, and world events. 13. Ethnology examines, interprets, analyzes, and compares the results of ethnography-the data gathered in different societies.

G. Archaeological Anthropology 14. Archaeological anthropology (more simply, "archaeology") reconstructs, describes, and interprets human behavior and cultural patterns through material remains. 15. Many archaeologists examine paleoecology. Ecology is the study of interrelations among living things in an environment. Paleoecology looks at the ecosystems of the past. 16. Archaeologists are not limited to reconstructing the past. They also study the cultures of historical and even living peoples.

H. Biological, or Physical, Anthropology 17. The subject matter of biological, or physical, anthropology is human biological diversity in time and space. The focus on biological variation unites five special interests within biological anthropology: l. Human evolution as revealed by the fossil record (paleoanthropology). m. Human genetics. n. Human growth and development. o. Human biological plasticity. p. The biology, evolution, behavior, and social life of monkeys, apes, and other nonhuman primates.

I. Linguistic Anthropology 18. Linguistic anthropology studies language in its social and cultural context, across space and over time. 19. Historical linguistics considers variation in time, such as the changes in sounds, grammar, and vocabulary between Middle English (spoken from approximately A.D. 1050 to 1550) and modern English. 20. Sociolinguistics investigates relationships between social and linguistic variation.

IV. Anthropology and Other Academic Fields J. One of the main differences between anthropology and the other fields that study people is holism, anthropology's unique blend of biological, social, cultural, linguistic, historical, and contemporary perspectives. K. Paradoxically, while distinguishing anthropology, this breadth is what also links it to many other disciplines. L. Anthropology is a science—a "systematic field of study of body of knowledge that aims, through experiment, observation, and deduction, to produce reliable explanations of phenomena, with reference to the material and physical world." M. Anthropology also has strong links to the humanities, including English, comparative literature, classics, folklore, philosophy, and the arts.

V. Applied Anthropology N. Anthropology's foremost professional organization in the United States, the American Anthropological Association (AAA), has formally acknowledged a public service role by recognizing that the field has two dimensions: 21. Academic anthropology. 22. Practicing or applied anthropology.

O. Applied anthropology is the application of anthropological data, perspectives, theory, and methods to identify, assess, and solve contemporary social problems.
Applied archaeology, usually called public archaeology, includes such activities as cultural resource management, contract archaeology, public educational programs, and historic preservation.…...

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