A Cross-Cultural Study of Violence

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Exercise ID: 1.09
Class size: Any
Level(s): III
Source: Submitted by HRAF member

Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Single subject specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable: Violence
Region selection: open (student choice)
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from entire collection
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable:

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? No
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

Part I: Syllabus – Assignments and Topics

Course Purpose

In this course, we will examine printed and web-based literature on causes of violence.  Using the ethnographies from assigned literature and the electronic Human Relations Area Files (eHRAF World Cultures), we will explore violence cross culturally and try to determine, through careful comparisons, if there are any general explanations for violence. In the process you will learn to think anthropologically about comparing cultures, use an electronic database; create and test hypotheses; and write analytically about the experience.

Class Structure

Discussion, lectures, movies, and computer exercises.


Exams: 70% of your course grade. 

1. The first approach to comparison, 3-5 pages, due on Monday, Sept. 12, 5% .

2. Theoretical approaches to violence, aggression, and peace, due Friday, Oct. ?. Reflecting on the readings, how do you explain warfare, violence, aggression, and peace? You may choose to focus on causes of warfare or causes of violence and aggression. 20%.

3. An essay discussing your hypothesis in light of the Waorani, Yanomamo, and your eHRAF Assignments and, if necessary, modifying your hypothesis, 20%.

4. Final essay assessing your hypothesis using your data from eHRAF, 25%.

Students have the option of revising these essays. Revisions are due one week after I return the paper. The grade on the revision replaces the original grade. If you choose to do this, you must consult with me for suggestions and advice. Note: Grades can go down as well as up.

Ethnographic Outline: Follow the outline and present the relevant data, 10% of grade.

eHRAF Assignments: 15% of your course grade. While any particular eHRAF assignments may not count much, they are necessary for your essays. Do them seriously and your essays will be easier.

Class Participation

Doing the reading, coming prepared to class with questions and ready to discuss the material, plus any homework assignments, 5% of grade. Class attendance is required. You may miss no more than 3 classes without penalty. For each class after your 3, missed without an adequate excuse, your grade will go down one-third of a letter grade; e.g. if you have an “A” but you miss a total of 5 classes, your grade will be a “B+.”

Course Outline and Schedule

I Introduction

Week 1: Aug 29-31. Overview of the course and what is anthropology and why.
Readings: *Keesing & Strathern Chap. 1 The Anthropological Approach, pp. 2-11.
* Keesing & Strathern Chap. 2 Culture and People: Some Basic Concepts, pp. 14-25. From Keesing, Roger M. and Andrew J. Strathern Cultural Anthropology: A Contemporary Perspective. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998.

Week 2: Sept. 3 – 7. Warfare in Cultural Contexts.
Readings: Chagnon Preface, pp. viii-xiii and Prologue, pp. 1-4.
Chagnon Chap. 6 Yanomamo Warfare, pp.185-206.
Robarchek & Robarchek Introduction, pp. 1-6.
Robarchek & Robarchek Chap. 2 The Waorani War Complex, pp. 19-29.
Movie: Sept.7, Dead Birds.
Due: Sept. 7:  eHRAF #1: Meet the eHRAF World Cultures database

Week 3: Sept. 10 – 14. Comparing Cultures and the eHRAF ethnographies
Readings: Lewis Comparisons in Cultural Anthropology, in Moore, pp. 50-85.
Eggan Social Anthropology and the Method of Controlled Comparison, in Moore, pp. 109-129
Movie: Sept. 10, cont,  Dead Birds.
Due: Sept. 12: Warfare – How is warfare among the Yanomamo, Waorani, and Dani similar and different? Why?

Week 4: Sept. 17 – 21. Comparing Cultures, cont.
Readings: Whiting The Cross-Cultural Method, in Moore, pp. 287-300.

II Warfare, Peace, and Aggression: Causes and Explanations

Week 4: cont. Sept. 17 – 21. War and Peace
Readings: *Robarchek, C. & C. Robarchek Cultures of War and Peace: A Comparative Study of Waorani and Semai, pp. 189-213 in Silverberg, J. and J.P. Gray, eds., Aggression and Peacefulness in Humans and Other Primates. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

*Dentan The Rise, Maintenance, and Destruction of Peaceable Polity: A Preliminary Essay in Political Ecology, pp. 214-270 in Silverberg, J. and J.P. Gray, eds., Aggression and Peacefulness in Humans and Other Primates. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Week 5: Sept. 24 – 28. Human Nature: Inherently Aggressive?
Readings: *Chap. 1 On aggression, pp. 1-10.
*Chap 2 The myth of the beast within, pp. 11-32.
*Chap 4 Cultural counterpoint, pp. 52-69.
*Chap 6 As the twig is bent: themes in human development, pp. 85-102.
From Jonathan Klama Aggression: The Myth of the Beast Within. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1988.
Due: Sept. 26: eHRAF #2: OCM categories relating to violence (e.g., feud, warfare); finding cultures with ethnographic information on violence.
Due: Sept. 28:  Report on one article from popular press (Newsweek, Time, Mother Jones, any newspaper or the web) discussion human nature and causes of violence. Does your article reflect Klama’s views? No more than 2 pages.

III Ethnographies

Week 6: Oct 1- 5. The Yanomamo
Readings: Chagnon Chap. 1 Doing Fieldwork Among the Yanomamo, pp. 5-45.
Chagnon Chap. 2 Cultural Ecology, pp. 45-98.
Movie: Oct. 1,  A Man Called Bee.
Due: Oct. 1: Essay on aggression, violence, and peace.
Due: Oct. 5: eHRAF #3: Violence: Forming a hypothesis; searching for ethnographic data using the OCM subject codes.

Week 7: Oct. 8 – 12. Yanomamo, cont.
Readings: Chagnon Chap. 3 Myth and Cosmos, pp. 99-120.
Chagnon Chap. 4 Social Organization and Demography, pp. 121-154
Chagnon Chap. 5 Political Allegiances, Trading, and Feasting, pp. 155-184.
Movie: Oct. 12. The Feast.
Due: Oct. 12: eHRAF #4: Violence: Evaluating ethnographic data.
Note: No class Oct. 8, pacing break.

Week 8: Oct. 15 – 19. Yanomamo and Waorani
Readings: review Chagnon Chap. 6 Yanomamo Warfare, pp. 185-206.
Chagnon Chap. 7 Alliances with the Mishimishimabowei-teri, pp. 207-226.
Robarchek & Robarchek Chap. 3 The Fieldwork, pp. 31-72.
Robarchek & Robarchek Chap. 4 The Material Context: Environment and Technology, pp. 73-84.
Movie: Oct. 19, Nomads of the Rain Forest.
Due: Oct. 19: Ethnographic Outline for Chagnon

Week 9: Oct. 22 – 26. Waorani, cont.
Readings: Robarchek & Robarchek Chap. 5 The Historical Context, pp. 85-96.
Robarchek & Robarchek Chap. 6 The Social/Cultural Context, pp. 97-117.
Robarchek & Robarchek Chap. 7 The Individual/Psychological Context, 117-126.
Due: Oct. 26: Ethnographic Outline for your eHRAF ethnography – in my mailbox by 4:00pm.
Note: No class Oct. 26.

Week 10: Oct. 29 – Nov. 2. Waorani, cont.
Readings: Robarchek & Robarchek Chap. 8 Waorani Warfare in Context, pp. 127-150.
Robarchek & Robarchek Chap. 9 The Renunciation of Violence, pp. 151-164
Robarchek & Robarchek Chap. 10 Action in a New World: Ethnogenesis and the Return of Violence, pp. 165-174.
Robarchek & Robarchek Epilogue and Afterword, pp. 175-182.
Due: Nov. 2: Ethnographic Outline for Waorani.

Week 11: Nov. 5 – 9. Comparisons and Hypotheses
Readings: Review readings on aggression and your hypothesis
Tylor On a Method of Investigating the Development of Institutions, in Moore, pp. 1-25.
Due: Nov. 5: Notes about how well your hypothesis on violence works with the Yanomamo, Waorani, & your eHRAF cultures
Due: Nov. 9: Essay on your hypothesis on violence and the ethnographies from literature and the eHRAF database.

Week 12: Nov. 12 – 16. Revising your hypotheses and sampling issues
Readings: Murdock The Cross-Cultural Survey, in Moore, pp. 40-49.
Murdock World Ethnographic Sample, in Moore, pp. 195-220
Naroll Two Solutions to Galton’s Problem, in Moore, pp. 221-248
Due: Nov. 16: eHRAF #5: Revising & testing your hypothesis: OCM subject codes & cultures.

Week 13: Nov. 19 – 23. Data Collection and Organizing your Data
Readings: Driver Introduction to Statistics for Comparative Research, in Moore, pp. 310-336.
Due: Nov. 21: eHRAF #6: Data Collection: examples and learning coding methodologies
Note: No class Nov. 23, Thanksgiving break.

Week 14: Nov. 26 – 30. Data Collection and Analysis, cont.
Work in class (and outside class) Data Collection
Note: Nov. 28 – Dec. 2. AAA meetings, no class on the 30th.

Week 15: Dec. 3 – 7. Data Collection and Analysis, cont.
Work in class (and outside class) Data Collection
Due: Dec. 3: eHRAF #7: Collecting data and testing your hypothesis on causes of violence.
Due: Dec. 7: Draft of analysis.

Final revised essay and presentation of data on final exam date.

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.

Chagnon, Napoleon Yanomamo: Fifth Edition. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc. 1997.

Moore, Frank W. ed. Readings in Cross-Cultural Methodology. New Haven: HRAF Press. 1966.

Robarchek, Clayton and Carole Robarchek Waorani: The Contexts of Violence and War. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc. 1998.

PLUS photocopies, available in Price Hall 1. Readings marked with * are photocopies.

Other text:

Carol R. Ember and Melvin Ember  Cross-Cultural Research Methods. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2001.

Internet Resource

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

Film Resources

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

Dead birds [videorecording] : a film / photography, editing, writing, Robert Gardner.
Publication info: Carlsbad, CA : CRM Films, 1983.

The Feast [videorecording] / a film by Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon.
Publication info: Watertown, MA : Documentary Educational Resources, 199-?.

Nomads of the rain forest [videorecording] / producer, Grant G. Behrman ; director, Adrian Warren
Publication info: Berkeley, Calif. : University of Calif., Extension Media Center, 1987, c1984.

Part II: Ethnographic Outline

This outline serves as a framework for evaluating the information found in the eHRAF World Cultures database. The Ethnographic Outline must be used to complete the various sections in Part I and III of A Cross-Cultural Study of Violence. 

I  Background

1.  Title

2.  Author

3.  Date first published

4.  When was the fieldwork done

5.  Locations

II Methods

1.  How long in the field, how many trips?

2.  What methods did the anthropologist use?

3.  Kinds of information collected

III Comparative Framework

1. Economics. How do people make their livings?

2. Social organization. How is the society organized? What kinds of groups are there (households, villages, kin groups)? What sorts of things do these groups do?

3. Political organization. Who are the leaders, how are they selected, what sorts of things can leaders do?

4. What causes conflicts? Prevents conflicts? How are conflicts resolved? Who mediates the resolution?

5. What social units are involved in conflicts? Individuals, men vs. women, men vs. men, households, communities? Think about the relationships within the groups – between men & women, children & adults, women & women, men & men, in-laws, between different kin-groups. And between groups.

6. What kinds of violence? What are the consequences of violence?

7. Topics appropriate for your particular hypothesis.

Part III: eHRAF Assignments

Assignments are due in class on date assigned.  Late assignments will not be accepted.

eHRAF #1

Meet the eHRAF World Cultures database; due in class Sept. 7

How to find the eHRAF database at Lehigh University’s digital library: On the Lehigh home page, click on libraries. Click on electronic resources, click databases (you will have to logon with your account number and password).  Either scroll down or click on “G-L” to find the Human Relations Area Files (eHRAF) and click on the title. Once in the database, click on Help for explanations of OCM and OWC codes.

Answer the following questions:

1.  What does OWC stand for?  Where can it be found? What is it used for?  List one OWC code and explain how to read it.

2.  What does OCM stand for?  Where can it be found? What is it used for? List one of the OCM codes and describe its contents.

eHRAF #2

OCM categories relating to violence (e.g., feud, warfare); finding cultures with ethnographic information on violence. Due Sept. 26 in class.

Explore how the OCM subjects and their codes are organized in the eHRAF World Cultures database.  Click on Browse, then on Subjects. There you will find the A-Z Index as default screen. You can also find a list of all the available OCM categories when you click on Major Subjects.

Finding OCM subjects/codes in Browse in the eHRAF World Cultures database

Due to eHRAF’s unique indexing and search system, HRAF recommends that students view the HRAF User Guide for search methodology and examples. The User Guide and an online tutorial can also be found in the left-hand margin of the eHRAF databases.

eHRAF #3

Violence: Forming a hypothesis; searching for ethnographic data using the OCM subjects/codes. Due Oct. 5 in class.

Restate your hypothesis (first formulated in your essay, see part I, Syllabus) on causes of violence and list the appropriate OCM subject codes for investigating your hypothesis. In the eHRAF database search the ethnographic data using the OCM subjects/codes that are relevant to violence. Find four cultures with ethnographic information on causes of violence, thus supporting your hypothesis.

eHRAF #4

Violence: Evaluating ethnographic data. Due Oct. 12 in class.

In the eHRAF database select one ethnography of a culture out of the four from the last assignment (see eHRAF #3). Turn in the background information and methods from the Ethnographic Outline.

eHRAF #5

Revising & testing your hypothesis: OCM subjects/codes & cultures. Due Nov. 16.

Take your revised hypothesis on causes of violence (see eHRAF #3): what are the relevant OCM subjects/cods for testing your hypothesis? Search the eHRAF database for the OCM subjects/codes and then select 15 possible cultures to test your hypothesis.

eHRAF #6

Data collection: examples and coding. Due Nov. 21.

Check your hypothesis for five cultures. Record the information that is relevant to your hypothesis including the OCM subjects/codes and the source.

eHRAF #7

Collecting data and testing your hypothesis. Due Dec. 3.

Sampling, coding information. You need to turn in your coding sheet and the data on 15 cultures (see eHRAF #5). Is your hypothesis supported? Include the OCM subjecs/codes.


Additional Information

eHRAF World Cultures Database: http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu.

View the eHRAF User’s Guide at http://www.yale.edu/hraf/userguides.html on how to use the database.

Citing eHRAF documents
You should include a standard bibliographic reference for the material, i.e.
Appadurai, Arjun
1996 Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Don’t forget to include page numbers when citing material in the text! You should also include the basic retrieval statement for an on-line database: Retrieved [month day, year,] from [source] on-line database ([name of database], [item no.–if applicable]).