Ecological Function of a Behavioral Institution in a Pastoral or Horticultural Society

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Exercise ID: 1.13
Class size: Any
Level(s): II
Source: Submitted by HRAF member

Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? No
Subject selection: Multiple subjects specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable: Horticulturalism, Pastoralism
Region selection: open (student choice)
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from pre-selected list
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable: non-Westerns society

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? Yes

Dan Strouthes, Department of Geography and Anthropology, University of Wisconsin

Instructions for the short paper

In an effort to improve both your writing and your grasp of cultural anthropology, I have assigned a short paper as part of the requirements for this course. The paper should be approximately 3-5 typed pages in length. The subject will be cultural ecological function of a behavioral institution in a pastoral or horticultural society, and is due on or before May 4.

For purpose of this paper, the cultural ecological function of an institution refers to its ability to help the society adapt to its environment. Here are two examples from foraging societies to illustrate the point. The Eskimo peoples of northern North America, devoted much of their religious activity to ensuring hunting success. The women Bushmen of the Kalahari desert often practice abstinence from sexual intercourse to avoid having more than one young child to take care of at one time, and thus they help keep the size of the band small. This in turn helps the band survive, because it requires less food. These are, of course, examples taken from hunting/gathering or foraging societies, and cannot be used for your paper.

Any kind of a cultural ecological analysis of a pastoral or horticultural people is acceptable. Your paper will be graded upon the quality of your description and analysis.

HOWEVER, You must use data from a non-Western society (that is, a society which is not European and not culturally related to European society, such as the larger US society is). In other words, you can work with societies such as Nuer (Africa), or Yanomamo, or Creek (North American Indian), etc.

A good place to look for cases is in ethnographies, and the university library has an excellent selection of these. Use the electronic card catalog to look for ethnographies on various peoples. To search for ethnographies you must search the card catalog under the name of the people or peoples you are interested in; do not look under the term “ethnography.” You could also look for sources listed in the bibliography of the textbook. A good source for North American Indian ethnographies is the bibliography of the Handbook of North American Indians, which can be found in the library.

Also search the documents in the eHRAF World Cultures on the Web, available in the anthropology database section at the the university’s digital library, for information on kinship. Browse the Regions and Subsistence Types List for the cultures currently available in eHRAF.  Other Internet sites are usually insufficient in both quantity and quality for data for this kind of paper.

You may also be able to find some good cases in the Human Relations Area Files microfiche collection (located in the basement of McIntyre Library). The problem with the older HRAF collection is that it is on microfiche and in some cases previous users have not returned the microfiche cards to their proper locations. The key to understanding the structure of the HRAF microfiche collection and eHRAF on the Web is a thesaurus-type manual called the Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM). In the eHRAF World Cultures on the Web you can find the Outline of Cultural Materials in the Browse Subjects section.

If you cannot find any useful sources, see me and I can direct you to some good ones. Your paper must include the source or sources of your data. Papers which have obviously not been proofread will suffer an automatic 20% reduction in grade. Please submit 2 copies of your paper. I will keep one copy.

View the eHRAF User Guide on how to use the eHRAF World Cultures 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]).