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The Dirt Brothers
 Dirt Bro Bob 
Goes to College!

Bob's notes from lectures presented by Dr. Richard L. Warms
Texas State University -- San Marcos

Dr. Warms co-edited the textbook used in this class
Quick Jump To Lecture Dates
8/25 & 28, 2006
Continued on Pg. 2

Report Typos

August 25, 28,30 2006

What the heck is Anthropology anyway and why should anyone spend their time studying it? 

Basic questions, but good ones.

Anthropology’s definition is varied and hotly debated, but it can best be summarized as a comparative, holistic (biological, historical, shared and learned culture patterns) study of human beings in all places and times. It’s a study of cultures, human’s adaptations which help them live in real world environments, which help us all make sense of how other people live. Through Anthropology we get to look at the way culture is and has been constructed in the pan-human sense.

By studying Anthropology we are making an attempt to understand ourselves and what it means to be a human being. Perhaps, if we could study all cultures ever known and throw away all of the cultural noise, or what’s different between them, we might distill out a commonality which we could call “what it means to be a human being.” And if we study the widest range of human behaviors we can get a personal perspective of this human definition. 

It could be argued that study of Anthropology is perhaps the most valuable discipline of our time. Given the social problems we are living through now, studying cultural interaction has never been of more importance: Human culture studies could provide solutions to some survival problems! 

Anthropology has five main subdisciplines:
Physical or Biological Anthropology
Socio-Cultural Anthropology
Applied Anthropology
Linguistic Anthropology

Physical or Biological Anthropology attempts to reconstruct the evolutionary and biological history of humankind. Who we are is a result of who we’ve been throughout history. It’s a big factor in the kinds of cultures we have created as adaptations to the environment based directly upon our physical limitations as well as skills. 

It’s a measurement obsessive discipline, comprising study of human variation and differences of physiology. It’s a discipline which also focuses on that which is genetically inherited. It’s a discipline which studies biological processes and primate evolution, including humans. It’s a way to pin-down what it’s like to be “not-human.”

This brings up the matter of race. In fact, anthropology does not recognize race as a genuine human distinction. Race is a cultural construction, not a biological fact. The notion that all human groups have the same biological and mental capabilities is called biopsychological equality. This idea is not a new one, but one proposed by the father of anthropology, Franz Boas, back at the turn of the twentieth century.

Archaeology attempts reconstruction of cultures and cultural interactions from what’s “leftover”—ie, life patterns which are impressed upon material possessions.

Applied Anthroplogy has subdisciplines of its own such as Medical Anthropology which examines cultural factors affecting health and well-being and Forensic Anthropologists, who understand skeletal biology and assist in solving crimes.  Other situations which apply anthropology expertise to problems are museum curation and display, historian, foreign aid, health care delivery, and CRM works.

Linguistic Anthropology looks at language as a complex symbolic systems that people use to transmit culture. Historical linguists study how languages are related to each other. Descriptive Linguistics is the study of sounds and syntax of languages (ie.,emphasis and inflection).

Cultural Anthropology is the study of current day societies. It is a practice of fieldwork which places the researcher within cultures, as a participant, while also gathering cultural data as an observer. This technique is therefore called participant-observation, the results of which are published in an ethnography, a description of the society.

Sometimes, since anthropology is a comparative scientific discipline, many ethnographic studies will be subjected to cross-cultural analysis. This kind of analysis is called ethnology, an analysis of societies.

Important Anthropologists and Their Ideas

Early (through the 19th century) anthropologists saw other societies in context with the known classical histories of their own European backgrounds. They were affected by the ideas of Darwinian evolution and believed that a universal human culture existed and was shared, in different degrees, by all societies. They saw societies as existing within a range of evolved states from primitive savagery and barbarism toward civilization. This state was determined by through examination of a society’s technology. Modern anthropology follows the notion that culture is something possessed by all societies, and is diverse in type and munber. Two such gentleman anthropologists were Sir Edward Burnett Tyler and Lewis Henry Morgan.

The most influential anthropologist of the first half of the 20th century is also considered the father of American Anthropology, Franz Boas

Boas rejected the use of evolutionary themes for the models of society and culture and believed that no society was more evolved than another. Boas believed in hands-on fieldwork, that a researcher needed to become “one” with the culture being studied. He was a proponent of the participant-observation method.

Boas held three basic principles of anthropology:
1. Biopsychological Equality: the principle that all humans have equal mental and physical abilities;
2. Inductive Approach: Researchers need to use scientific methods, observe/record data and then make generalized statements;
3. Cultural Relativism: Notion that all cultural systems are equal and that traits must be understood within context of system in which they occur.

Boas advocated a multi-disciplinary research strategy using Cultural, Physical, Linguistic and Archaeological data called the four field approach.

September 1, 2006

Now, though there are plenty of racists in the world, most of us would not find it too difficult to agree with Boas’ ideas of biopsychological equality, but concepts such as Cultural Relativism and the Inductive Approach are ideals used for research.

For example, it would not be difficult to call a society “lesser” should it practice slavery, or other forms of racism. And it would be difficult to be entirely objective toward any other culture. So, we cannot expect ourselves to be perfect observers of societies. We must however, not stray toward having a viewpoint of too much superiority with regard to our own culture, as we would be guilty of ethnocentricity, a state which leads to things like the Holocaust. Yet, some ethnocentric notions are perhaps required for a society to stick together. History has favored ethnocentric cultures 80% of the time.

However, research needs a baseline: the Scientific Method assumes that all Nature is ordered and as such, can be observed in a consistent fashion. In such a way, anthropologists need ideal statements as baseline methods for research. In essence, this means the Ideational Approach is hands-on, participant-observation fieldwork. Before Boas, most information about cultures came from adventurers, religious organizations, collectors, military men, explorers--- all people who published books about their travels spiced up with whatever attitudes and scenes would sell more books, raise more funds. Field work needs objectivity and a lack of bias in order to be successful, and so there needs to be stated a principle such as Cultural Relativism.

Cultural Relativism should not be confused with Moral Relativism which takes the position that there are no universal moral truths and that all ethical positions are the same.

September 6. 2006

All fieldwork has its drawbacks, culture shock being one of them. Culture shock is a state of bewilderment, anxiety and depression brought about when an individual is suddenly exposed to a social and cultural environment radically different from their own. Fieldwork places the researcher in the position of a child, stripped down in status --- left to learn language and culture as a child would, indeed sounding and acting like a child.

This is a daunting thing, and many a great student has failed at fieldwork, mired down in culture shock. But in a sense the task that anthropologists set out for themselves is impossible because an outsider always remains an outsider and is never totally assimilated into the culture studied.

Some fieldwork survival tips:
1. Don’t be afraid to feel and look like an idiot;
2. Start learning the culture immediately!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Participant-Observation Methods

1. Researcher can get data outside of a research situation, i.e., the work “Is your life.”
2. Researcher can collect data not available through any other method.
3. Researcher gets a life-changing experience.

1. Researcher could end up dead.
2. Researcher works with a small number of informants and that sample might not represent the mainstream.
3. People can lie to researcher.
4. Researcher could be working with “marginals” and not the real power brokers and influential representatives of studied culture.
5. Not all life changing experiences are good for the researcher.

September 8, 2006


Human culture exists always within its biological realm and is dependent upon biological restraints and feature. In other words, things like our binocular vision, having fingernails instead of claws, etc. guarantee that what we create and how we live is a product of our biology.

Species have histories and those histories are of CHANGE.

Darwin was a child of wealth, related to the Wedgewood family. He attended Cambridge University where he studied for the ministry, but he didn’t particularly like school. He was a collector of things (butterflies, spiders, rocks, birds, flowers, etc. ---- his interests were in the natural rather than the spiritual world. He had many scientifically-oriented friends and was well-liked by professors and other students. He was a social person.

When he got the chance to go along on an expedition which was to map the coast of  South America he paid for his own passage. Mostly, he was invited to come along as a 
Naturalist, not because the mission needed one, but so the Beagle’s  Captain Fitzroy, prone to bouts of depression (he eventually killed himself) would have someone of equal social stature as company. The Beagle sailed off on its 5 year voyage on December 27, 1831. 

Darwin established his fame on the voyage through the discovery of many new species and geological formations. He was quite well-known by the time the Beagle returned to England on October 2, 1836.

Darwin was especially interested in the profusion of types of finches he found on one island area, the Galapagos. Why was there sucha profusion of kinds of finches when nearby (landside), there was but one or two varieties? He believed they flew there somehow in recent geological time and became isolated on the islands.

Upon Darwin’s return to England he eventually wrote the 5 volume Voyage of the Beagle, but not after spending a decade writing about other topics such as barnacles. He became quite famous, perhaps England’s most famous naturalist, well before he was to publish his, now, best-known works.

Not until later in his life, in 1859, did he publish his Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, and in 1871, The Descent of Man, a book he feared as so controversial that he had planned for it to be published after his death.

1. In nature there is a great variability in all species: Nothing is identical, even within a species--- i.e., no two animals, say dogs, are exactly identical.
2. In nature there is a great prodigality (a proclivity to fail)--- many are born, but few survive to reproduce.
3. Those that survive do so because they have some trait, or traits, that favor their survival.
4. Survivors are able to pass some of those traits that enabled their survivals on to the next generation.

Herbert Spencer coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest,” not Darwin, and it refers to fitness as fitness for reproduction, literally the production of offspring. This is the core of the concept of natural selection-- only traits that improve the ability to produce successful offspring matter.

September 11, 2006

Are we getting smarter? How do we evolve?
The forces of evolution, sexual reproduction, flow, and drift create variation, but its ultimate source is mutation. Mutation occurs randomly and most mutations fail. Evolution depends upon mutation--- mutation, when it involves superior traits for survival, and is able to be passed on to the next generation, is largely how evolution happens.

Primate Evolution
Primates are largely arboreal creatures—they were originally designed to live and or hang out in trees. To do this, called The Arboreal Adaptation, you need fingers to grab branches, parallax vision (slightly different views from each eye—give us 3 dimensional vision) to see where you are going as you jump from branch to branch, good eye-to-hand eye coordination, and long arms to brachiate (swing) through the branches. Since you are up high, your sense of smell and hearing are not as important in avoiding predators.

Primates are all social animals: they live in societies. Core relationships are between mothers and their offspring. Offspring learn by imitating their mother’s actions and in this way learn how to find sources of food and water and which other animals are safe or dangerous. As primates get older play becomes an important way to refine physical skills, practice solving problems and explore their world. Play is learning and, thus, learning is fun for primates.

Primate societies are male and/or female dominance societies. Theses hierarchies are created through aggression, but prevailing thought believes that this actually keeps violence down to a minimum because low-ranking individuals will rarely challenge those with more status. Status and rank offer more accessibility to sex, food and other resources. Primates offer reconciliation toward each other and can be seen grooming, lip-smacking and having symbolic sex as a means of ending a conflict.

Primates use tools. Some chimpanzee groups have been seen breaking nuts with rocks, using leaves as “sponges” to soak up small amounts of water, and “fishing” for termites with long sticks, poking them into holes and scooping out termites to eat. But since these behaviors are seen only in some groups, this proves that the behaviors are learned and not instinctive.

September 13, 2006

Presimians to Apes to Monkeys to Humans--- we share some common ancestors but split off some time ago from chimps and such. We are not directly related to chimpanzees and did not evolve from them! Our last common ancestor with the great apes was around 13 million years ago, and our last common ancestor with chimpanzees lived about 7 million years ago.

The critical adaptation of humans is BIPEDAL LOCOMOTION.
There were critical changes as humans moved to bipedal locomotion.  These included a change in the shape of the pelvis and movement in the position of the foramen magnum (where the spine meets up at the base of the skull). Only humans have butts!

Humans are within the biological family of Hominidae —  within this family, individuals are known by their genus (a group of similar species) and species (if you can mate with it, and produce fertile young, it’s within your species!).  All human ancestry seems to have come out of Africa.

There are two genera within which all humans and their ancestors belong to:
Australopithecus and Homo and each include numerous species.

AUSTRALOPITHECINES are the oldest, most agreed upon ancestors of humans. They lived 4.2mya – 1mya. The most famous example, first found by the Leakeys, was called “Lucy”. Australopithicines are only found in Africa. They were not very bright, having a cranial capacity of merely 440cubic cm, about the size of a softball. They were fully bipedal, and highly variable, with several sub-species. They were mostly vegetarian, eating fruit, but could have scavenged and/or killed small animals. A.Robustus was a “heavier” species with large jaws and thick skull and was exclusively a herbivore. A.africanus, was “lighter” (called more gracile) and an omnivore.

HOMO HABILIS lived 2.5mya to 1.6mya and was found only in Africa. It was also bipedal, was small-brained, but Habilis could make tools, and this is the critical diagnostic for this species of Homo. Tools, called OLDOWAN, were cobbles shattered to create a simple sharp vertices used to crack bone for marrow. Homo habilis was the 1st human to make tools.

HOMO ERECTUS, so called, not because it was the first human to walk erect, but because it was found before the others. Also referred to as Jave Man as it was found in Indonesia in the 1890’s. Of course this human lived in Africa too, but no one was looking in Africa. Homo erectus is the first group of humans to leave Africa and as such, as a species showed great inclination to migrate and thus to adapt to many environments. This being not a biological adaptation, but a BEHAVIORAL adaptation--- CULTURE! Homo erectus manufactured bowls, cups, and much improved lithic tools called ACHEULIAN. Homo erectus were hunters and had an omnivorous diet.

Homo erectus had a larger body frame than its predecessors and a brain size that sometimes reach modern volume (1000 - 1250 cubic cm). Their skulls were low-browed with bony ridges, possibly to protect themselves from blows to the head from animals or each other.

Examinations of Homo erectus skeletal remains shows a great variety evolving between 1mya and .5mya. It turns out we are not related to any of these varieties.

Though H.erectus left Africa and diversified, we still were in among a small group of H.erectus which remained there until expanding out of Africa some 200,000 years ago when there arose a “sapiens-like” erectus, Neanderthal.

By 35,000 years ago, there remained only Homo sapiens.

HOMO SAPIENS SAPIENS fully modern humans, were present in Africa by about 195,000 years ago. The crtitical anatomical differences between H.erectus and H.sapiens lie in the volume and shape of the skull. Sapiens skulls lack the heavy bony ridging above the eyes, and the thick bone structure. 

H.sapiens showed extraordinary sophistication in tools and culture, spreading to North America somewhere between 40,000 and 12,000 years ago. H.sapiens developed language within perhaps 100,000 years ago as best guess.

As humans evolved they developed in complexity of behavior and variability of behaviors and got more and more culture. H.sapiens developed the ability to integrate more kinds of information

September 18, 2006

There are two major theories of transition to human species:
1. Replacement Theory – Modern Humans evolved once in Africa and spread throughout the world, pushing out other species;
2. Multi-regional Theory – Humanity originated in Africa, but modern humans evolved more or less simultaneously in many areas of the world.

As humans evolved, they became dependent upon their culture as less knowledge was “hard-wired” and more became the result of learned behaviors. There rose specialist classes of people who had special knowledge.

This is a critical similarity between humans and primates. We need the physical presence and touch of others in order to be healthy individuals. We need to communicate with each other as we are inherently social animals.

Communication can be defined as the act of transmitting information that influences the behavior of another organism.

Some of the means by which animals communicate: gesture, smell, sound, body language, chemical.

Animals communicate sound-wise through call systems. Call Systems are a form of communication among non-human primates (and other animals) composed of a limited number of sounds that are tied to specific stimuli in the environment.

Properties of Animal call systems:
1. Species wide (genetically tied);
2. Tied directly to environmental stimuli;
3. Limited in the number of ideas and amount of description.

No call system is as sophisticated as human language.


Human language is unique and tied to:
1. Conventionality – The notion that words are only arbitrarily or conventionally connected to the things for which they stand (words are defined by mutual agreement);
2. Productivity – The idea that humans can combine words and sounds into meaningful utterances they had never heard before—creation of new words and sounds is always possible;
3. Displacement – The capacity of all human languages to describe things NOT happening in  the present, i.e., our language is not time-present-oriented.

Other animals (birds, gorillas and chimps for example) learn to imitate human speech but the process by which they learn is fundamentally different and speech they learn is simple.


The human brain is adapted to speech: its functionality is linked to a specific spot on the brain—there is a “speech instinct” in humans. Speech is not part of a “conceptual” intelligence, and indeed, does not correlate very well with intelligence and seems to be somewhat independent element of the brain. An example of this would be someone who has William’s Syndrome, whereby they can be severely retarded, yet speak fluently  and be impulsively outgoing.

Noam Chomsky has suggested that there is a universal grammar, or a basic set of principles, conditions, and rules that underlie all languages. Language is thus an innate property of the mind.

Humans exist through language; it is a fundamental part of being human. An inability to communicate with language threatens an individual’s humanity—this seems to be unique to humans.

September 20, 2006

Animals are born “genetically programmed” with a complete retinue of calls, whereas humans have an instinct to learn speech.


The study of the structure and content of specific languages is called descriptive or structural linguistics. 

The structure of language consists of four subsystems:
1. Phonology -- system of sounds;
2. Morphology – system for creating words from sounds;
3. Syntax – system of rules for combining words into meaningful sentences;
4. Semantics – system that relates words to meaning.

Phonetics (as defined by Wikipedia) is the study of sounds and the human voice. It is concerned with the actual properties of speech sounds (phones) as well as those of non-speech sounds, and their production, audition and perception, as opposed to phonology, which is the study of sound systems and abstract sound units (such as phonemes and distinctive features). Phonetics deals with the sounds themselves rather than the contexts in which they are used in languages. Discussions of meaning (semantics) do not enter at this level of linguistic analysis, therefore.

Language is comprised of two basic bits:
1. Phones, which a collection of all sounds humans can make;
2. Phonemes, which is a sub-set of phones which make sense in any particular language (combinations of phones). Also defined as the smallest sound unit that distinguishes meaning.

ALL people share the same set of phones, but each language has it’s own set of phonemes. All people are capable of producing all phones. Languages vary in the number of phenomes – Japanese and Hawaiian have around 20, Hmong has about 80, !Xu (S. Africa) has as many as 140, while English has 35-40. English is a relatively simple language with no genders and few phenomes (compare this to French and Spanish which have 2 genders and German which has 3 genders and Swahili, which has 6 genders.)

The prelanguage spoken by human ancestors was made by blending phones—as example of early formation of phonemes.

Humans selectively learn what sounds are useful, and learn to hear certain phones as phenomes while learning NOT to hear others. This is an unconscious process.

English, as in Spanish, has many cases in which a single phoneme may be indicated by many phones—different soundswhich do not necessarily serve to distinguish words. For example, the phoneme /t/ includes at least six different phones: stick, tick can’t, Robert, water, little. The /t/ sound in each of these words is different.

The smallest unit of a language that has meaning is called a morpheme. A word is composed of one or more morphemes and is the smallest part of a sentence that can be said alone and still retain its meaning.

In English, -s, as in dogs, means plural; un- as in undo, means “negative.” These bits, because they cannot be used by themselves, but as parts of words, or in association with another unit of meaning, are called bound morphemes. A morpheme which can stand on its own, such as automobile, or computer, is called a free morpheme.

Isolating languages, such as English or Chinese, have relatively few morphemes per word. Other languages, such as Turkish, are called agglutinating languages, which allow for many morphemes within a highly regular set of rules for combination. Synthetic languages, such as Mohawk or Inuit, have many morphemes within a word and very irregular rules for their combination.

BECAUSE words have both a phonology and a morphology, an infinite combination and number of words are possible. (i.e.--- a limited number of blended sounds can be combined into a limitless number of possible utterances) This is called Duality of Patterning.

In animal calls, one phone has exactly one meaning – i.e., there’s only one level of patterning.

September 22, 2006

SYNTAX is the arrangement of words to form phrases and sentences.  Languages differ in their syntactic structures.

In English word order is important (The man bit the dog. vs The dog bit the man.)—not so in other languages such as Latin, where word endings point out the subject regardless of the order in which words appear in sentences.

We can recognise a sentence as grammatical even if it makes no sense. A now classic example is Noam Chomsky’s:
Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
Furiously sleep ideas green colorless.
The first sentence “seems” to make sense, while the second does not because the first is in proper grammatical order (to an English speaker.)

Discussions of meaning of words is Semantics. The total stock of words in a language is called the lexicon and studies of a lexicon of any culture reflects what is most important in that culture. (An example would be the 100 or so terms for snow in the Inuit language.)

Understanding the relationship between language and ethnocentrism is an essential part of the ethnography of communication. An example is in the “Whiteman” jokes told by the Western Apache. Never told to white men, it is a speech performance which developed because of interactions between Indians and Europeans, and underscores that the anthropologist must hear people speak in their natural setting in order to grasp their full linguistic creativity.

Emotional meaning in English words is also articulated through inflection. Some cultures add endings to their words for this purpose because their inflections change literally the meaning of a word (ex. Benihanna in japanese--- red flower, red bridge, red nose, depending upon pronounciation.)

Languages and Dialects
All human groups have language and all languages are equally sophisticated and serve the needs of their speakers equally well. In a heirarchical society, the most powerful group generally determines what’s proper in language, deviations from the them are often called dialects (defined as grammatical constructions that deviate from those used by the dominant group in a society.)

Some of the most misunderstood languages are pidgins and creoles. Pidgins are defined as languages of contact and trade and are composed of features of 2 or more languages. NO ONE speaks pidgin as their first, or primary language, and the vocabulary is usually limited to terms of trade and contact interactions.

Pidgins may at times evolve into creoles, which while composed of features similar to pidgin, are indeed spoken as primary languages by their speakers. Many creoles were created as Europeans expanded into Asia and the Americas. In many cases, members of the upper classes speak the “original” European language while the lower classes speak creole. An example is in Haiti where 70-90% of people speak creole, while governmental  and administrative functions are performed in French, the language of the elite.

Some researchers, notably Labov, studies show that we judge people’s social status by the language they speak. Social crtitics of the 1960’s believed several varieties of English to be inferior, including Appalachian English, Dutchified Pennsylvania English, Hawaiian Creole, Gulla and emergent Hispanic Englishes. The most widely known stigmatized variety is African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). This form of English was heavily critisized. However research conducted in the 60’s and 70’s found that AAVE was indeed a different variety from Standard Spoken American English (SSAE).

It is assumed that people who speak AAVE and SSAE must code switch, the ability of speakers of two languages to seamlessly switch between them.

What is the relationship between language and thought?
Anthropologists have long wondered if language is an independent force, affecting how people perceive and conceptualize the world. In the 1st half of the 20th century Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Whorf made radical claims about language’s affect on culture. 

Known as the Sapir-Whorf  hypothesis proposes that the language you speak determines which things will be habitually noticed, labeled and thought about in a conscious way. In other words, we perceive the world in certain ways because we talk about the world in certain ways. These are the Morphological Effects of the hypothesis. A specific example would be the use of  doublespeak words like “peacekeeper” to stand for bombs, and pre-owned, for used.

Secondly, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis claimed that cultural ideas and behavioral norms are encoded in the language—that language can make you act or not act in a certain way. While language may influence a person’s actions, it does not have the ability to make someone think a particular way. 

Example----> Hopi time
Whorf claimed that Hopi language had only the present tense and understood action in terms of movement rather than time. 
Navajo:  I made him go home = Even though he did not want to go home, when I asked him to, he did.

Difference in the gender of words also points out a flaw in the hypothesis, for those differences tell us nothing about the difference between men and women.

There are two basic kinds of vocabularies:
1. Focal vocabularies are large and built up around ideas, material goods, or environmental concepts. An example would be the large number of synonyms for things like cars and money;
2. Core or Basic Vocabularies are made up of the 100-200 terms that designate things, actions and activities likely to be in all languages. These are the "simplest" words in the language, the words that are first learned by a child. (Words such as I, you, man, woman, blood, skin, red, green, etc.) It changes at 14% per 1000 years. By comparing basic vocabularies.  We can tell when languages (and hence the groups that speak them) diverged from each other.

One of the most compelling facts about human languages is that they do NOT represent different cognitive worlds.  Any human language can be translated into any other human language.

Chmsky states that all human languages are so similar that an alien would consider human languages all varying dialects.

September 27, 2006

Languages Change by Sound
There are systematic changes in the sounds of languages.  Jakob Grimm of Fairy Tale Fame described the changes in the sounds of languages from proto-Indo-European to modern day languages.  Collectively these transformations are known as Grimm's Law.

This explanation of Grimm's Law from http://www.finucane.de/grimm.htm

"Sound laws are rules that help you figure out what words are related to each other in different languages. For example, the "p to pf" law tells us that the English word "apple" and the Dutch word "appel" are related to the German word "Apfel". Sound laws are accepted as being true because they apply in many cases - "Pfund" for "pound", "Pfad" for "path", "Pfand" for "pawn", etc. 

The grandaddy of the sound laws is Grimm's Law, invented by the same 19th century German brothers who collected Grimm's Fairy Tales. (It was actually Jacob Grimm who invented the law). Grimm's Law shows how close Latin, Greek and Sanskrit are to the Germanic and Slavic languages. Actually this is Grimm's second Law. Grimm's first Law explains why modern German sounds so funny, as described in the first paragraph - Pf instead of p, Z (pronounced "ts") instead of t etc. 

Grimm's law tells us for example that a Latin or Greek "f" corresponds to a Germanic "b". So the Latin root "flor-" which gives us the word "flower" is related to the English word "blossom". We might symbolize this law as follows:F>B  Along the same lines, the Latin word "labium" is cognate to the English word "lip". B>P To complete the circle, the Latin "plens" ("full", "plenty") and the Greek "poly" ("many") are related to the English "full", and "flow". P>F 

The rules are more or less as follows: 

f>b, b>p, p>f 
th>d, d>t, t>th 
h>g, g>k, k>h 
Furthermore, there is a fourth law applying to "QU" so Latin "quod" corresponds to English "what". ("What" is badly spelled. It's actually pronounced more like "hwat.") 

I have simplified the law for the sake of the argument (Latin has d or sometimes an f instead of th for example)."

The Great Vowel Shift
Between 1400 and 1600, the sounds of many English vowels changed in systematic ways. Syntax also changed to the word order we read today. Before the change, “The dog bit the child.” And “The dog the child bit.” Would have the same meaning and be equally grammatical.

Language is historical and political
Language always reflects the history and politics of the people who speak it. There is no such thing as non-political language.

Change follows political patterns
Word changes following Hastings followed political patterns. Words having to do with the peasantry remained in Anglo-Saxon. Words having to do with the aristocracy became French.

Glottochronology is a statistical technique that uses core vocabulary to estimate the date of separation of related languages. 

(Image from Warms' Class Notes)

The reconstructed vocabulary contains words for trees and animals that existed in northern Europe suggesting that this may have been the home of the original Indo-Europeans.

No one knows if there is an “original” language or what it might have sounded like.

Non-Verbal Communication
In addition to words, people communicate non-verbally. Some researchers argue that up to two-thirds of communication involves non-verbal cues.

Artifacts --- things like pierced ears and or veils which have symbolic meanings;
Haptic – refers to the study of touch, which carries important meanings in all societies;
Proxemics — the study of social space, which is understood differnetly in different cultures;
Kinesics – the study of body position. Birdswhistell identified 8 parts of the body which could be used to send messages—total head, face, neck, trunk, shoulder-arm-wrist, hand, hip-joint-leg-ankle, and foot. 

September 29, 2006


What is it? 
There is no definition but different theoretical perspectives have different definitions.


1. Culture is learned behavior
There is a biological need for culture and learning is nearly 100% culture.
Eating is instinctual, but nearly all other behaviors are learned  There are a couple of reflexes which we have not lost from the dim past-- evolution is not a use it or lose it game.

Babinski' s Reflex is a "leftover" trait from our arboreal ancestry.

Babinski's reflex occurs when the great toe flexes toward the top of the foot and the other toes fan out after the sole of the foot has been firmly stroked. This is normal in younger children, but abnormal after the age of 2.

Reflexes are specific, predictable, involuntary responses to a particular type of stimulation.

Babinski's reflex is one of the infantile reflexes. It is normal in children under 2 years old, but it disappears as the child ages and the nervous system becomes more developed.

In people more than 2 years old, the presence of a Babinski's reflex indicates damage to the nerve paths connecting the spinal cord and the brain (the corticospinal tract). Because this tract is right-sided and left-sided, a Babinski's reflex can occur on one side or on both sides.

Anthropologist Clifford Gertz stated that the main purpose of anthropology is to sort out whether "it's a wink, or a blink," in other words, whether a behavior is a learned behavior, or a reflex.

2. Culture is symbolic
A symbol is something that stands for something else and all information is "stored" in symbols, ready to be communicated and stored for others to absorb.

Information storage means individuals need only to learn a fraction of this culture. Without symbols learning can only take place through direct contact or experience--- symbols extend this concept, allowing learning without direct experience.

Symbols pack great emotion, and sometimes in all directions at once: an example is a group of people's reaction to a flag, and the/or the subsequent burning of that flag.

October 2, 2006

3. Culture is shared
Culture is a collective belief and must be shared by more than one person. Sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917, France) called culture "social condensation".

4. Culture is all-encompassing
Culture must be atudied "as a whole entitiy" -- no one piece of a culture is more, or less, significant than another.

5. Culture is a patterned, integrated system
Many elements of culture combine to keep things going... 
Marx claimed cultures continue and evolve through continual conflict while Durkheim claims the continuance is due to harmony. There are many theories, but perhaps no single answer.

6. Culture is ideological
Culture forms a mental model/template of what's true which is rarely lived up to.
(For example, the Constitution is a set of goals rarely literally lived up to.)

7. Culture is adaptive
Humans, not particularly adapted to their environment, can use their culture to make up for biological adaptations they lack. Humans can learn to live in polluted environments, for example, and teach others to do the same.

October 4, 2006


People in the real world are constrained by the laws of physics--- living, reproducing, material goods, social structure, ideas, all need energy to happen. This energy is energy in terms of what the human body needs, i.e. food--- no food and societies die. Society is about the operation of human bodies and the "power" added to a "natural" body's energy needs. It all comes down to the production of calories and the amount of caloric use of a culture.

Production statistics see whether activities balance in positive caloric output -- in other words, whether activities produce a caloric surplus for use in other activities.

Things like art/music/religion (ideas) require and represent energy. Religion, for example, represents people paid or supported to think religious thoughts rather than to do other, perhaps more "practical" activities, represents societal energy expended.

A single human being requires approximately 640,000 calories per year to survive.


System Calories out per one cal input Cals/Year
Traditional Agriculture
5, 411,000
Industrial Agriculture

Industrial agriculture would seem to be the most productive system of calorie production if all we count is number of calories, supporting an incredibly complex culture with only 2% of the poipulation directly involved in means of production. But there is a flipside to it as Industrial agriculture depends upon "artificial" second-level calorie use by support industries which, for example truck the product to factories where it is further processed and/or packaged,then shipped to a complex system of final distribution.

So, there is a direct, physical relationship between production and culture and therefore, calorie output from activities determines the complexity of culture--- complex, but not necessarily better. Until a culture can generate enough calories to support them, people like religious leaders or chiefs, cannot be supported on a full-time basis.

October 6, 2006

We look to them in order to speculate about the past of our own societies. Until a mere 10,000 years ago all of us were foragers. There is no biological difference between us and our ancestors from 10,000 years ago, so, if people are adapted/evolved for any particular lifestyle, then foraging is it!  Foraging was our lifestyle for millions of years--- there has not been enough time since the adaptation of agriculture for there to have been any bodily evolutionary changes in "modern" humans.

Today, no one lives by traditionally foraging lifeways. Fifty to sixty percent of the world survives by food grown from commercial agricultural output.

Thomas Hobbes:  "No arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary: poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

Many philosophers thought that foragers were halfway between apes and humans but a more comforting vision of foragers is closer to reality.

In truth, Hobbes' comment bettrer reflects the lives of the serfs of his time who were struggling just to survive.

Studies of !Kung (the culture shown in  "God Must Be Crazy" film) in the 1950's and 60's showed them to be examples of how foraging represented the "original affluent society."

It turns out that most foragers (excluding the aborigines and Aluits) eat little meat, mostly depending upon gathering of vegetable foods. A full 80-90% of all their calories come from gathering.

Gathering basics
There was a general sexual division of labor where men hunted and women gathered--- there are many exceptions here, but this is a general rule, and to collect enough for their family to eat need spend on average only 2-3 hours per day;
Female gatherers can identify more than four times the number of edible plants than they actually eat;
Gathered food is shared by family members only.

October 9, 2006

Hunting Basics
Hunting generally done by men;
Hunting provides only small amount of total calories ingested;
Men and women know about four times the number of edible animal species than they use;
Hunted food is generally disstributed to the entire community as there was no means in hwich to either store or preserve it-- men and women were pretty equal in most ways-- perhaps their evolved a differential from this sharing of meat;
As a general rule, while hunting required travel time, way from camp area to hunt, it still did not take many hours to kill enough food for the entire camp.

Interestingly, life expectancies for foragers were higher than in later societies (at least at birth).
The average forager only worked 2 to 3 hours per day and spent a great deal of time sleeping, singing, dancing---> playing.

Costs of Foraging
1. Low population density--- foraging could only support up to 150 or so people per camp;
2. There was little , or no, ability to specialize;
3. Nomadism (no way to avoid "following the game and the plant-cycle)
4. People had a lack of material possessions (as few as 2 dz items per person);
5. There was no generation of any surplus or storage of anything.

October 11, 2006

All threads of social consistency were determined, driven, by nature of how people were fed.
Seasonal rounds, as an example, determined where people lived and for how long--- this because of the seasonality of plant foods and the migrations of hunted animals.

Foraging societiews were truly egalitarian-- all members of the society had equal access to everything. There was no reason, or provocation, to have a leader and centrism of power. Modern egalitarianism is law-oriented (America) or, concerns property access (French).

What is Power?
Power is the ability to make people do things they do not want to do and is possible becasue powerful people control things we want (such as food supply).
Authority is something else... it's weaker than power and require persuasion, which infers that the "target" has choice.

As population increases resources are depleted and people must either pump up the level of resources or slow down population growth.

Foraging populations tended to reproduce at high rates, with females having 12-13 births per female (in the best times).

BUT, if humans had continued to reproduce at that rate through time, the population of the earth would have been absurdly high, so something must have occured that would keep that from happening.

In fact, forager populations grew slowly-- this means that when faced with increasing population, foragers tended to reduce demand by reducing population.

All societies have had some means, however faulty, of birth control through contraceptives. They could also control the robustness of children by the rate of breastfeeding.  Taboos could be used to regulate sex. And finally, there's infanticide.

Under certain conditions young children (usually less than one year old) are killed or allowed to die. Infanticide is practiced in either active or passive fashion.

(Image from Warms Class Notes)

In  active infanticide, direct action is taken to kill an infant...usually a neonate (a baby who is four weeks old or younger) -- infants may be strangled, bludgeoned, or exposed to the elements. Active infanticide is not easy or taken lightly.  It's done because it's got to be done...and it's strongly backed by religious belief. 

Passive infanticide happens when children who could be saved by extra care are allowed to die. This happens most frequently to "failure to thrive" infants. 

The Ju/hoansi belief is typical: The child has not been fully born.  Some of its soul has remained in the "supernatural" world.  The portion of its soul that is here longs to be reunited with the portion that has remained in the "supernatural" world.  Efforts to save it would be torture and denial for it, and so it is killed.

When does human life begin?
There can be no scientific answer to the question of when human life begins.  Clearly different cultures have answered it in different ways...and are required by their material circumstances to do so.  In our culture it is a moral and philosophical rather than a scientific question.

And thus, infanticide was practiced by foragers in order to keep polpulations under control.

October 16, 2006

If foragers lived in intimate contact with the environment, and surely knew about seeds, why no agriculture?

Some combination of things had to occur to change society-- and it likely changed slowly, not overnight, for sure. Possibly a slow rise in population created agriculture, or a change in the environment (after the Ice Age a great deal of megafauna died off both from a lack of animals' conventional foods disappearing, and/or overhunting), and people began to move around less, perhaps because they did indeed begin to plant small gardens.

 Most people believe the domestication of crops to be one of the great inventions of humankind...maybe the invention of a single person.  BUT it's more likely that people knew how to grow crops for many years before they actually did so!  The thing is, domestication is A LOT OF WORK!


Tropical forest swiddening is by far the most common and involves slash-and-burn agriculture. Cutting down and burning forest improves otherwise poor soils by freeing nitrogen and other nutrients into the soil that would otherwise be tied up entirely within plants--  makes the soils "friable" -- it also kills off weeds and other scrub plants. 

After slash-and-burn activities are concluded, people would plant seeds from what was previously gathered and concentrate labor within the newly made "swidden" (BTW, this word is a dialectal alteration of obsolete swithen, from Old Norse svidhna, to be burned.), adding variability ot the land as different plants would be grown at one time -- ex. would be corn and beans grown together. Swiddening also created genetic change by uncoscious breeding when seeds of some plants were saved while not others. 

Swidden can be perfectly ecologically stable as long as two conditions are met:
1. There must be enough land for complete regeneration between uses (For example, if you plant an acre a year, and it takes 20 years for an acre to regenerate, you need 21 acres...20 in fallow and one planted);
2. The population must be kept relatively low-- community size can rise to about 500 people tops.

At this technology level there are few to no ways to improve soil, so land is doomed when used over a long time.

Therefore, as more land deteriorated from use, new innovations and inventions had to be developed to keep up food production-- labor needs also increased and there soon arose some animal domestication.

Implications of Swiddening and the "gardening life":
As swidden groups get larger there is a tendency to build more elaborate structures, establishing permanent villages.  There is a rise in inventory-- With the permanence of habitation and a significant increase in available food supply, it makes sense to make things-- people begin to possess more material things. They get personal property; there is art!

With gardening come seasonality and a change in lifestyle to one which is predominately sedentary.

Religion begins to take on an increasingly important role and the shamans are increasingly likely to be known for their powers to curse as well as cure.  Shamans may be known beyond their family or village.

Because of the organizational needs of gardening (and the notion that some people are better at it than others) there comes the dawning of power/leadership. Some people, for the first time ever, begin to have more possessions and food than others. Chiefs become increasingly common and, while leadership still largely stems from respect and authority, chiefs are increasingly powerful. 

October 18, 2006

Sources of Chielfly Power
Power can come from possessions:
Possessions create possibilities for power if they can't easily be carted away.

Power can come from investment:
Gardens can create power because they require time to pay off.

Power can come from threat of force: 
Live like we do or see your standard of living drop!

With increases in food availability, large gatherings become common.  Feasting is frequent but not always friendly.

Once a mass harvest is completed, one has but 2 choices of what to do with the excess:
store it, or throw a feast. Feasts can be friendly affairs among the villagers, but most of the time a feast is thrown to accomplish much more than merely feeding the "home team." 

Most of the time, a feast was more for one's enemies than friends. The feast was a whole set of events: the moment the invitees arrive they are showered with gifts... elaborate meals are served--- sometimes feasts last for days at a time! Feasting is an example of the economy of prestige.


The Feast
1970, color, Running Time: 29 Minutes. 
Filmmaker: Timothy Asch, Anthropologist: Napoleon Chagnon

The film follows events of a feast between two Yanomamö villages that had been friendly, then warred against each other, and now are tentatively, nervously, trying to reestablish friendly ties. The film shows many sorts of exchanges, none of which make much economic sense but all of which are part of gift giving. Asch was thinking very explicitly about Marcel Mauss and once said, not entirely in jest, that with this film he had illustrated The Gift.

Among the Yanomamö, the feast is a total social institution. Perhaps one could say that its main function is to create an alliance between two villages, but it does this by creating many ties between individuals. Food is given, of course, and fine cotton hammocks, bows, arrows, and dogs change hands. In most cases, the exchange is incomplete and must be continued at another feast on another day. The men parade their might in front of their guests, showing what powerful allies (or dangerous enemies) they will be. Although no one says so explicitly, one assumes that each side measures the other for possible brothers-in-law or sons in-law. Chagnon has pointed out that the goods that are exchanged are usually the special products of one village. What is interesting here is that even though each village has access to the same raw materials, each specializes in producing only some items such as hammocks, pottery, or bows. This specialization, then, encourages the intervillage trading that leads to alliances and to some degree counters the divisive factors (especially competition between men for women) that tend to split Yanomamö groups. We get a hint of how the Yanomamö themselves talk about these exchanges from the English subtitles of the film. People demand gifts, insist on generosity, and deplore stinginess. Like Americans, the Yanomamö choose to ignore at times the obligatorily reciprocal nature of gifts. 

for more infor, visit Understanding Conflict and Warfare

Having been gifted and feasted, the neighboring village population only has two options: throw a bigger feast, or accept/admit that the feast-holders are superior... of course, there's actually a third option--- attack the hosting village and take it over or destroy it.

In this kind of prestige system, leaders give everything away (chiefs in this system have the least possessions of anyone in the village).

Leaders, the chiefs, rise up to lead not by coercio, but by influencing others to tend his garden, all with the promise of the big feast at which time all would share in the prestige. This kind of organization is called "Big Man" Society.

More about the "Big Man":

"The American anthropologist Marshall Sahlins in particular has been a proponent of the big-man phenomenon. In his "Poor Man, Rich Man, Big Man, Chief: Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia" (1963) Sahlins uses analytically constructed ideal-types of hierarchy and equality to compare a larger-scale Polynesian-type hierarchical society of chiefs and sub-chiefs with a Melanesian-type big-man system.

The latter consists of segmented lineage groups, locally held together by faction-leaders who compete for power in the social structure of horisontally arranged and principally equal groupings (factions). Here, leadership is not ascribed, but rather gained through action and competition "with other ambitious men".

A big-man's position is never secured in an inherited position at the top of a hierarchy, but is always challenged by the different big-men who compete each other in an on-going process of reciprocity and (re-)distribution of material and political resources. As such the big-man is subject to a transactional order based on his ability to balance the simultaneously opposing pulls of securing his own renown through distributing resources to other big-man groups (thereby spreading the word of his power and abilities) and redistributing resources to the people of his own faction (thereby keeping them content followers of his able leadership)."

For more information see, Wikipedia and Sahlins, Marshall 1963 "Poor Man, Rich Man, Big Man, Chief: Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia" in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 5/285-303.

Gardening actually is the key to the source of warfare! A good gardener has all of the same organizational skills as a good general! Warfare was very common among swidden societies!

October 20, 2006

Warfare is non-existent among foragers (though people do fight with one another).  However, in many cases, warfare is frequent among swidden horticulturists.  About a third of deaths among the Yanomamö or the Dani in pre-colonial times was believed to be caused by warfare. Most of these were the deaths of men, aged 15-30.  That gives us a paradox: Recent Times are the Most Savage Times

The number of people killed in organized violence in the 20th century is huge; probably somewhere between 175,000,000 and 200,000,000. By way of comparison: In 1000 AD the total world population was probably between 300,000,000 and 400,000,000.
So, it may well be the case that more people died in 20th century warfare than in ALL of primitive warfare combined!

BUT a randomly chosen 20th century person had only a 1% chance of dying in warfare and even if they were in the army, they still had about the same chances of dying! 

However, one-third of all men in some swidden societies died of injuries from warfare! Even women had a 10% chance of dying from warfare. In a small village, this is a significant number of individual casualties. 

Read an interesting study guide (pdf file) from the film "The Axe Fight" ---
A partial summary of which reads like this: 
"A fight broke out in Mishimishimabowei-teri on the second day of Chagnon and Asch's stay in this village in 1971. The conflict developed between the villagers of Mishimishimabowei-teri and their visitors from another village. The visitors had formerly been part of Mishimishimabowei-teri, and many still had ties with members of that village. Their friends in Mishimishimabowei-teri had invited them to return, but other factions were not pleased with this, reflecting a persistent tension in this large village of over 250 people. The visitors refused to work in their hosts' gardens, yet they demanded to be fed. One visiting man beat a woman who refused to give him plantains from her garden. She ran screaming and crying back to the village, where her sister comforted her while her brother, her husband, and his relatives attempted to settle the dispute, first with clubs and then with axes and machetes. Eventually the fight cooled down, as one man was hurt, others placed themselves between the two groups, and women hurled insults at each other."

Does warfare serve to control population?
Certainly not in modern warfare where there is usually a baby-boom post-war. War after all, usually involves men and men don't have babies. To control population warfare must affect small girls!

In swidden societies boys are gardeners and warriors. Girls become gardeners, women, and mothers. Overall a cultural bias emerges where boys survive more than girls do!

A Model of Swidden Warfare:  Imagine that there is already a war going on.

Since men fight the wars, they are culturally more highly prized than girls.This means male babies are welcomed and female babies are less welcomed.

As a result, female babies are not as well treated as are males and they die more often.  This controls the population. When the males reach adolescence, they look for women, but since many girls have died in childhood, there is a shortage of women. They try to get around this problem by raiding for women from other villages.

This creates more warfare and reinforces the cultural preference for boys and the cycle continues. 

Society is adaptation to the environment and death and horror are as much a part of reality as peace and happiness.

With higher levels of population, there is increased demand for more food and caloric intake. In order to have a civilization (state level society), there needs to be stable field agriculture.

The most common form of food grown in this way, worldwide, is grass seed! (There are exceptions such as the Inka, who relied on potatoes.) Grass seed, while not very nutritious (compared to the foods eaten by foragers or gardeners--- and there is less variety.), nor easy to grow, is a very productive crop. It grows densely and is an efficient use of land. It is easily stored and transported. (Surplus and storage inplies wealth and power creation.)

Eventually population density requires formal agriculture and coodination of large scale labor forces which create a radical reshaping of the landscape.

October 23, 2006

Social Stratification in State-Level Societies
Civilizations are stratified societies, not egalitarian at all!
This means people have different access to resources and thus differential power.

There are always at least three social levels: Rulers, Bureaucrats, Masses 

Rulers are frequently hereditary positions and are the society's primary consumers.
Bureaucrats are anyone who is an officeholder where the office they hold is independent of the officer-- i.e.-- the office persists after the officeholder leaves the position. Examples of bureaucrats are police, soldiers, tax collectors, clergy, etc. Bureaucrats carry out the directives of the rulers.
Masses are the main producers (directly or indirectly) and consist of serfs, peasants, etc. Masses have the least power.

The big problem is how to "liberate" calories from the producers (masses). This need by the rulers, created taxation and development of record-keeping, and thus, systems of writing and numbers. There is only one alternative to taxation and that is raiding and threats-- usually leading to tribute demands.

Civilization produces massive architecture and public works which requires a large number of laborers and much organization. Civilization enabled humans to create wonders-- 99% of anything worth producing is because of civilization and all of this is because the ruling class needs to redirect assets of calories and wealth. The flipside of this, of course, is that with civilization comes great oppression and servitude. The average person was likely to be a serf or a slave, and many times it was better to be a slave!

Class and Caste
In general, stratified societies are can be understood in terms of class or caste, but these are highly imperfect concepts-- interesting "typing" of people which make thinking about them, hypothesizing about them possible.

Both castes and classes are social groups that are ranked in terms of their access to wealth, status, and power.

In theory, castes are ascribed...that is to say, caste membership is given by virtue of birth.  It is permanent and can not be changed. Castes are endogamous, meaning a member of a particular caste must marry another member of the same caste.

Class, on the other hand is ranking by wealth, power, etc. and can be achieved by an individual.

October 25, 2006

Caste Society in India

(Image from Warms Class Notes)

Traditional Indian society is caste-based --- this tradition goes back to the Hindu creation story:
It is said that the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma (Purusha, the "cosmic man"), created some humans from his mouth — they became reciters of the Veda and became the Brahmins. Then he created other humans from his arms, they became the Kshatriyas, bearers of arms, the warrior and ruling class. Brahma then created some from his abdomen, who became the Vaishyas or merchants. Finally, Brahma created humans from his feet. They served the other castes even as the feet serve the man; they came to become the Sudras (manual labourers and artisans). Thus, the whole universe is held to be one organic entity, the body of the almighty.

Caste implies that people are different from each other in a literal way, and therefore, that it is natural for there to be different rules for each caste.

Dharma and Reincarnation
"Prithivim Dharmana Dhritam" 
"This world is upheld by Dharma" 
-- (Atharva Veda) 

Dharma can be defined as the essential nature of a being. Therefore a person is meant to live according to the standards of one's place in the universe-- i.e., to live by the rules of one's caste. If one wishes to be reincarnated at a level above one's present caste, and eventually to transcend the reincarnation cycle altogether and join the nature of God (and cease being reincarnated-- the true goal of reincarnation), one must live according to one's dharma.

There are obvious political implications to the dharma concept. Caste, being a top-down economic system, dharma conveys a familiar "Stay in your place, obey the king, etc." type of message we see in other philosophies and systems.

Caste is an "essential" system, where essence here means that notion that everyone has an "essence" which is a fundamental part of them---  essence is who they are after all else-- so that a Brahman has the essence of Brahman-ness and is fundamentally different from a Shudra, who has Shudra-essence. Here "essence" does not mean "necessary".

The notion is that everyone has an essence, which is an, unchanging, unchangeable part of them.

This "essential" system works by making analogies with biology so that, therefore, a Brahman should not marry outside of his caste, as this would create offspring with unclear essence and violate dharma.

Traditionally, race in the Americas in general, and the US in particular is very much like caste.
First, while there is a biology of human variation, race, as it is most commonly understood in the US is a fallacy.

The racial fallacy is human variation understood in a totally incorrect fashion.

US Racial Model
1. There are a certain number of human races and everyone is a member of one of them. 
2. A race is a bundle of traits that is consistently found together. 
3. Races spring from geographical homelands. 
4. Members of the same race are more closely related to each other (and have more in common with each other) than people who are members of different races.

All of the above statements are obviously false.

October 27, 2006

Variations of racial traits are continuous, but ideas of race are discrete, therefore attempts to divide the world into races fail. An example is skin color-- skin color is variable and continuous in spectrum-- how black is black? All populations have a spectrum of existing color varieties. The same thing happens when one tries to look at hair type, nose size, eyecolor, or any of the other "racial traits".

Even though there are indeed discrete variations in humans (blood type, fingerprints, type of earwax), societies tend to use visible facial characteristics to sort out races. This is because people think they need to "know how to behave" toward different races. See how this sounds like caste behavior??!! We separate races because of an uneven percentage of population mix of folks from around the world. If the population mix was equal, it would be difficult to single out any one particular set of "races."

We also tend to think of "racial traits" as existing in sets of traits (i.e.-- light skin, blue eyes, blonde hair as Aryan). However, they too, tend to sort out independently-- an example would be the well-known blue-eyed, blonde aborigines of Australia. Most traits are inherited independently and thus enormous variation in traits is possible.We have the illusion that traits go together because our population is not a random sampling of humanity, but rather the result of our history.  We are the descendents of specific groups of people from specific places.

We also tend to group racial traits to homelands, such as the Aryan movement does, but this fails, as racial traits are spread across the world. People from disparate places look similar--- for example, all black people do not come from Africa-- there are black skinned people who have lived in the South Pacific for 10's of thousands of years. 

We may be able to trace the geographical origin of a single trait, but add several together and it becomes impossible.

Races are open! Even if one looks at a time depth of only 5000 years, all people have the same ancestors! All Europeans, Africans and Asians are related!

So, if it isn't Biology,  it is an essential system, a metaphor to biology.

Race provides a simple system for visually classifying people.  In fact, race is face!
Race is used to assign people their "correct" social place.  It is a shorthand way of telling what sorts of behavior are appropriate for what sorts of people. It is a way of maintaining the prerogatives of the powerful and limiting access to wealth for others. 

Race is similar to Caste
Like caste, race has traditionally divided people into groups with differential access to wealth and power.

Like caste, different racial groups have traditionally been subject to different rules and laws (or differential enforcement of them.)

Like caste, there is a pervasive belief that racial classification is in some way inextricable.  What does keeping it real mean anyway?

Theoretically, status in a class system in achieved.
Classes are understood as more-or-less temporary social ranks that are, by their nature changeable. So, at least in theory, one can be born into one class, spend one's life in another, and die in a third.

Of course, the vast majority of people do not do this.  Most people in a class-based society remain in the class to which they are born.

Many aspects of a class based society may resemble caste and vice versa.

Huge differences of wealth and power can be present in class based society, and poverty rates can be very high.  In 2003, the poverty threshold for a family of four was 18,400.  In 2002, about 12.1 percent of the US population lived in poverty.  In Texas it was 15.6 percent and in Hays County it's about 16.5 percent.

Social Inequality in the US
American Household Income, by fifths
Fifth of Population Average Income of Group (1998) Percentage of Total National Income
poorest: 9,233 4.3
next 20% 23,288 9.9
next 20% 38,962 15.6%
next 20% 60,266 23.0%
next 20% 127,529 47.2%
top 5% 222,283 20.3%
In America, "it isn't what you earn, it is what you own that counts".

October 30, 2006

Property Wealth
Real wealth is real estate, equities, jewelry, and financial instuments.
In the U.S., 2/3 of total wealth is controlled by top 5% of population.

IF the purpose of the state is "to serve the people" and since this inequity exists, then should the government permit inequality? How much? And furthermore, does inequality serve the needs of the people?  There's a need to justify inequality..

Functionalist Theory of Inequality:
Inequality serves the needs of people, since it serves competition.
Society is benefitted by inequality.
But, everyone must have an equal chance at start for the functional theory to work (an even playing field).

No modern society has an even playing field and interesting politics come from this.

continued on next page....Continued on Pg. 2

Quick Jump To Lecture Dates
8/25 & 28, 2006
10/11/06 10/16/06
Continued on Pg. 2

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