Explorations in Cross-Cultural Anthropology

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Exercise ID: 1.10
Class size: Any
Level: III
Source: Submitted by HRAF member

Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Multiple subjects specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable:
Region selection: pre-selected
Region, if applicable: Asia
Culture selection: Student chooses from pre-selected list
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable: Bali, Shan

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? Yes
Assignments for students to complete in groups? No
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No

Nicola Tannenbaum, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Lehigh University

Go to: Part 1: Syllabus | Part 2: Ethnographic Outline | Part 3: eHRAF Assignments

Part 1: Syllabus

Course Purpose

Sociocultural anthropology provides ways of seeing other peoples and cultures in their own terms. In this course, students will learn how anthropologists see the world and how anthropologists analyze and explain cultures. Through the use of the eHRAF World Cultures (or eHRAF) online database, published by Human Relations Area Files (HRAF), students will become experts in a culture and participate in the anthropological analyses of that culture. One goal of the course is to develop a sense of cross-cultural regularities.

Class Structure

Lecture, discussion, movies, group work (in class only).


Exams: Two exams, each 25% of your course grade. While exams will cover readings, lectures, and movies, most weight will be given to information from lectures. A word to the wise: class attendance is not mandatory but will be in your best interest.

Ethnographic Outline: Follow the outline to write your own two outlines: Write one outline for the Balinese culture (see below for Lansing’s work titled “Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali”) and one outline for the Shan culture (see below for Tannenbaum’s work titled “Who Can Compete Against the World?).  Each outline will count for 5% of your course grade. These outlines will provide the information you need to write two comparative essays (see below)..

eHRAF Assignments: 20% of your course grade. Through the eHRAF Assignments you will learn how to use the eHRAF World Cultures, an online cross-cultural database (compiled by Human Relations Area Files) and begin to build expertise in your culture by collecting information for the ethnographic outline of your culture. You will use the Ethnographic Outline (see above) to write the your Comparative Essays (see below). On the days the eHRAF Assignments are due, the class will be divided into world areas to discuss and compare their cultures and present reports to the whole class. Note: eHRAF Assignments are due in class on the date assigned; I will not accept late assignments.

Comparative Essays: Write two comparative essays, 3-5 pages long; each counting 10% of your course grade. Your essays must include a bibliography and you must cite your sources for all information (see below for more information).

  • Essay  #1. Focus on the cultural categories in the Ethnographic Outline when comparing the Shan culture (see below for Tannenbaum’s work titled “Who Can Compete Against the World?) to a culture (of your choice or assigned) found in the eHRAF World Cultures database. When briefly describing the cultural categories for Shan and your eHRAF culture, talk about how they are similar and different, and suggest reasons for the similarities and differences.
  • Essay #2:  Focus on the living in the world in the Ethnographic Outline when comparing the Balinese culture (see below for Lansing’s work titled “Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali”) to a culture (of your choice or assigned) found in the eHRAF World Cultures database. You need to describe how the Balinese and your eHRAF culture live in the world, talk about how they are alike and different, and suggest reasons for the similarities and differences.

Topics and Assignments

I Introduction

Week 1 Jan. 16 – 18. Basic Anthropological concepts and methods.
Readings: Kottak Chap. 1 The Exploration of Cultural Diversity, pp. 1-21.

II Cultural Categories

Week 2: Jan. 21 – 25. Discuss the Culture and Meet the eHRAF World Cultures database.
Readings: Kottak Chap. 2 Culture, pp. 22-36.
Tannenbaum Chap. 1 Introduction, pp. 1-19.
Lansing Introduction: The Gods of the Countryside, pp. 3-16.
Due: Jan. 25. eHRAF # 1: Meet the eHRAF World Cultures Database.

Week 3: Jan. 28 – Feb.1.  Language, Codes, and Categories.
Readings: Kottak Chap. 4 Language and Communication, pp.64-84.
Movie: Mon. Jan. 30, Discovering the Human Language.
Due: Feb. 1. eHRAF # 2: Subjects/Codes (OCM).

Week 4:  Feb. 4 – 8. Organizing Space
Readings: Tannenbaum Chap. 2 Awk Waa Festival, pp. 21-38.
Tannenbaum Chap. 3 Organization of Space, pp. 39-64.
Due: Feb. 8. eHRAF # 3: Cultures (OWC).

Week 5: Feb. 11 – 15. Religion and Worldview
Readings: Kottak Chap. 10 Religion, pp. 192-209.
Tannenbaum Chap. 4 Beings, pp. 65-78.
Tannenbaum Chap. 5 The Nature of Power, pp. 79-100.

Week 6: Feb. 18 – 22. Religion and Worldview, cont.
Readings: Tannenbaum Chap. 6 Shan Buddhist Sermons, pp. 101-121
Movie: Weds. Feb. 18, Feast in Dream Village.
Due: Feb. 22. eHRAF # 4:  Religion and worldview.

Week 7: Feb. 25 – March 1. Kinds of People
Readings: Kottak Chap. 6 Kinship, Descent, and Marriage, pp. 110-131.
Kottak Chap. 9 Gender, pp. 172-191.
Tannenbaum Chap. 7 Power-Protection and the Life Cycle pp. 123-144
Due: March 1. eHRAF # 5: Kinship and gender.

Week 8: March 4 – 8. No week 8: Spring Break

Week 9: March 11 – 15
Readings: Tannenbaum Chap. 8 Death and Power-Protection, pp.145-159.
Tannenbaum Chap. 9 The Bounded Nature of Space, Time, and Person, pp. 159-179.
Tannenbaum Chap. 10 Power-Protection and Buddhism, pp.179-192.

III Anthropological Methods

Week 10: March 18 – 22. Fieldwork.
Due: March 18: Ethnographic Outline for the Shan culture (parts I, II, and III).
Exam: March 20.
Movie: Weds. March 22, A Man Called Bee.

Week 11: March 25 – 29
Readings: Review Tannenbaum Chap. 1, pp. 1-20.
Tannenbaum Chap. 11 Conclusions, pp. 193-212.
Due: March 27 Comparative Essay on the Shan culture and your eHRAF culture.
Note: No class March 29 Easter/Passover Break

IV Living in the World

Week 12: April 1 – 5. Ecology and Economy.
Readings: Kottak Chap. 5 Adaptive Strategies and Economic Systems, pp. 85-109.
Lansing Chap. 1 “Income to Which No Tears Are Attached,” pp. 17-37.
Lansing Chap. 2 The Powers of Water, pp. 38-49.
Movie: Friday April 5, The Goddess and the Computer.
Note: No class April 1 Easter/Passover Break

Week 13: April 8 – 12. Economics and Production.
Readings: Lansing Chap. 3 The Waters of Power, pp. 50-72.
Lansing Chap. 4 The Temple of the Crater Lake, pp. 73-95.
Movie: Monday April 8, Onka’s Big Moka.
Due: April 8. eHRAF # 6: Ecology.
Due: April 12. eHRAF #7: Economics.

Week 14: April 15 – 19. Politics.
Readings: Kottak Chap. 7 The Political Systems of Bands and Tribes, pp.132-151.
Lansing Chap. 5 Chance Observations and the Metaphysics of Taxation, 96-110.
Lansing Chap. 6 Massive Guidance, pp. 111-126.
Lansing Conclusion: Sociogenesis, pp. 127-133.

Week 15: April 22 – 26. Production, Distribution, and Ideology.
Readings: Kottak Chap. 8 Chiefdoms and States, pp. 152-171.
Kottak Chap. 11 The World System, Industrialism, and Stratification, pp. 210-226.
Due: April 22.  Ethnographic Outline for the Balinese culture (parts I, II, and IV)
Due: April 26. eHRAF # 8: Politics.

Week 16: April 29 – May 3. The Rise of States
Readings: Kottak Chap 12 Cultural Exchange, Creativity, and Survival, pp. 227-245.
Kottak Chap. 13 Development and Innovation, pp. 245-260.
Movie: Fri., May 3, Moving Mountains.
Due: May 2. eHRAF # 9: Living in the modern world.

Week 17: May 6. Wrap-up.
No assigned readings; discussion of papers, class evaluation.

First exam: World views by peoples
Second exam during scheduled exam period.
Due: on day of second exam, your second Comparative Essay for the Balinese culture and your eHRAF culture.

Texts and Resources

Required Texts:
Kottak, Conrad   Mirror for Humanity: A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 2nd Edition. New York: McGraw Hill, 1998.

Lansing, J. Stephen   Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Tannenbaum, Nicola B.   Who Can Compete Against the World? Power-Protection and Buddhism in Shan Worldview. Association for Asian Studies Monograph Series, no. 51. Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1995.

Other Text:

Carol R. Ember and Melvin Ember  Cultural Anthropology, 10th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002.

Internet Resource:

eHRAF World Cultures, compiled by Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) at Yale University. URL for the eHRAF database is http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/ehrafe.

Film Resources:

Discovering the Human Language [videorecording] / Equinox Films ; produced, written and directed by Gene Searchinger.
Publication info: New York, NY : Ways of Knowing, c1995 [1994].
Physical description: 3 videocassettes (55 min. each) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
Series: The Human Language Series

Feast in a Dream Village / produced and directed by Laura Scherer & Janet Hoskins
Publication info: Berkeley : University of California Extension Media Center, c1989.
Physical description: 1 videocassette (VHS) (30 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in. + 1 guide (4 p. 28 cm.)
Credits: Janet Hoskins, anthropologist ; Laura Scherer, camera and film editor ; Produced at the Center for Visual Anthropology at the University of Southern California.

A Man called “Bee” [videorecording] : studying the Yanomami / Napoleon A. Chagnon and Timothy Asch.
Publication info: Watertown, MA : Documentary Educational Resources, 1987.

The Goddess & the computer [videorecording] / produced and directed by Andre Singer, Steve Lansing ; narrated by James Kremer. Publication info: Watertown, MA : Documentary Educational Resources, [199-?]

Onka’s Big Moka – this is in the Disappearing World Series
Publication info: Chicago, IL : Films Incorporated, 1974.
Physical description: 1 videocassette (VHS) (52 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
Series: Disappearing world
General note: Also known as: Ongka’s big moca. 
Credits: Anthropologist, Andrew Strathern ; research, Pattie Winter ; produced and directed by Charlie Nairn.

Moving mountains [videorecording] : the story of the Yiu Mien / produced and directed by Elaine Velazquez
Publication info: New York, NY : Filmakers Library, c1989.
Credits: Producer & director, Elaine Velazquez; camera, Eric Edwards, John Campbell, Harry Dawson ; editor, Elaine Velazquez.