Anthropology II: More Human Mysteries Uncovered

Course Overview

Units at a glance

In this unit, we will examine the use of ethnography in anthropological research. We will learn more about what an ethnography is and examine some of the historical background of this methodology. We will also discuss some of the steps that anthropologists go through as they seek to understand groups through participant observation

In this unit, we will explore the life course of humans and the ways in which the stages of life influence humans. Anthropologists have long studied different phases in human life, as well as the transitions and rites of passage that signal a change in those phases.

In this unit, we will continue our exploration of the life course by examining how human societies handle dying and death. We will learn about death systems and the functions that these systems have for societies

In this unit, we will examine the role of art in culture. Every culture produces and creates art in some way, whether it is in the form of paintings, poetry, or sculpture. While we often consider each piece of art singularly, anthropology offers us another perspective on the creation and use of art in society. From this perspective, we will consider the role that art plays in culture and one way of classifying the art from different cultures. We will also examine several different examples of art, including music and masks, to learn more about how cultures use these aspects of art.

In this unit, we will examine cultural evolution and change. Although we often describe culture in a static, constant way, the reality is that culture is always adapting and changing in both large and small ways. From new fashions to new beliefs, culture is always in motion. In examining cultural change, we will investigate some of the factors that influence and promote cultural change, including changes in the environment, interactions with others, and acculturation to more dominant groups. We will also consider some examples of cultural change and how the changes occurred.

In this unit, we will explore a particular culture, the Maasai, in order to illustrate some of the concepts and themes that we have discussed during our study of anthropology. Although it is not possible for us to conduct an ethnography of the group itself, we can use the model of an ethnography to help us examine different aspects of the Maasai and to look at how these aspects of culture influence the lives of those within the culture. As we learn about the Maasai, we will consider cultural aspects such as their household structure, gender arrangement, rites of passage, appearance, and cultural change.

In this unit, we will continue to examine specific examples of human cultures and turn our attention to the Yanomamo. The Yanomamo, who live deep in the Amazon in the countries of Brazil and Venezuela, are often studied in anthropology because the culture has remained isolated for many years. While outsiders are increasingly moving into Yanomamo territory today, the group had been relatively untouched by the modern world until the twentieth century. In learning about the Yanomamo, we will consider aspects of their life such as the presence of warfare, funeral practices, and some of the controversies that have arisen in anthropology about the studies done examining the Yanomamo.

In this unit, we will learn more about the cultures in Indonesia and, in particular, how these cultures often reflect cultural diffusion and the influence of outside cultures. Although some Indonesian groups are relatively isolated, many others have experienced centuries of contact with traders, missionaries, explorers, travelers, and others. These individuals have left their mark on Indonesian cultures in a variety of ways. We will consider several of the areas of cultural diffusion, including religion, architecture, music, and food.

Course Highlights

Investigate how art is shaped and how it shapes culture.
Discuss the research methods anthropologists use in studying people around the world.
Explore the human life course and cultural approaches to death and dying.
Learn more about specific cultures around the world, such as the Maasai.

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