Cultural Anthropology/Print version

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Cultural Anthropology is the study of human cultures, beliefs, practices, values, ideas, technologies, economies and other domains of social and cognitive organization. This field is based primarily on cultural understanding gained through first hand experience, or participant observation within living populations of humans.

This chapter will introduce you to the field of anthropology, define basic terms and concepts and explain why it is important, and how it can change your perspective of the world around you.


What is Anthropology?

Anthropology: The scientific study of human beings as social organisms interacting with each other in their environment, and cultural aspects of life. It is a scholarly discipline that aims to describe in the broadest possible sense what it means to be human. Anthropologists are interested in comparison. To make substantial and accurate comparisons between cultures, a generalization of humans requires evidence from the wide range of human societies. Anthropologists are in direct contact with the sources of their data, thus field work is a crucial component. The field of Anthropology, although fairly new as an academic field, has been used for centuries. Anthropologists are convinced that explanations of human actions will be superficial unless they acknowledge that human lives are always entangled in complex patterns of work and family, power and meaning.


Five Disciplines of Anthropology

  • Archaeology: The study and interpretation of ancient humans or animals, their history, and culture. This is done through examination of the artifacts and remains that they left behind. An example of this is the study of Egyptian culture through the examination of their grave sites and the pyramids and the tombs in the Valley of Kings. Through the examination of pyramids and tombs in which these ancient humans lived in, much about human history and Egyptian culture is learned. Archaeology is an important study in improving knowledge about ancient humans, particularly, prehistoric or the long stretch of time before the development of writing.
Excavated ruins of Mohenjo-daro, Pakistan.
  • Cultural Anthropology: Studies contemporary human cultures and how these cultures are shaped or shape the world around them. They also focus a lot on the differences in human behavior and emotions. Cultural anthropologist often conduct research by spending time living in and observing the community they study (fieldwork) and participant observation in order to increase understanding of its politics, social structures, and religion. (also: sociocultural anthropology, social anthropology, or ethnology)
  • Biological Anthropology: A subfield of Anthropology that studies humanity through the human body as a biological organism, using genetics, evolution, human ancestry, primates, and their ability to adapt. There was a shift in the emphasis on differences (with the older “physical anthropology”) due to the development of the “new” physical anthropology developed by Sherwood Washburn at the University of California, Berkley. This field shifted from racial classification when it was discovered that physical traits that had been used to determine race could not predict other traits such as intelligence and morality. Some biological anthropologists work in the fields of primatology, which studies the closest living relative of human beings, the nonhuman primate. They also work in the field of paleoanthropology, which is the study of fossilized bones and teeth of our earliest ancestors. (also: Physical Anthropology). Biological anthropologists focus heavily on comparing and contrasting the biology of humans to that of our nearest extant relatives, the primates, to discover what distinguishes humans from primates as well as primates from other mammals.
  • Linguistic Anthropology: Examines human languages: how they work, how they are made, how they change, and how they die and are later revived. Linguistic anthropologists try to understand the language in relation to the broader cultural, historical, or biological contexts that make it possible. The study of linguistics includes examining phonemes, morphemes, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. They look at linguistic features of communication, which includes any verbal contact, as well as non-linguistic features, such as, eye contact, the cultural context, and even the recent thoughts of the speaker.
  • Applied Anthropology: Includes the fields of Applied Medical Anthropology, Urban Anthropology, Anthropological Economics, Contract Archaeology and others. Applied anthropology is simply the practice of applying anthropological theory and or methods from any of the fields of Anthropology to solve human problems. For example, applied anthropology is often used when trying to determine the ancestry of an unearthed native American burial. Biological anthropology can be used to test the DNA of the body and see if the DNA of the burial has any similarities to living populations. Medical Anthropology studies illness and healthcare within specific populations in order to form healthcare solutions that are tailored specifically to populations as well as identify unique areas of susceptibility within populations.

Holism in Anthropology

Anthropology is holistic[[12]], comparative, field-based, and evolutionary. These regions of Anthropology shape one another and become integrated over time. Historically it was seen as "the study of others," meaning foreign cultures, but using the term "others" imposed false thoughts of "civilized versus savagery." These dualistic views have often caused wars or even genocide. Now, anthropologists strive to uncover the mysteries of these foreign cultures and eliminate the prejudice that it first created.''Holism is the perspective on the human condition that assumes that mind, body, individuals, society, and the environment interpenetrate and even define one another. In anthropology holism tries to integrate all that is known about human beings and their activities. From a holistic perspective, attempts to divide reality into mind and matter isolate and pin down certain aspects of a process that, by very nature, resists isolation and dissection. Holism holds great appeal for those who seek a theory of human nature that is rich enough to do justice to its complex subject matter. An easier understanding of holism is to say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts'.'

The holistic approach is a perspective that assumes interrelationships among parts of a subject including both biological and cultural aspects. This approach is used to study the thoughts, behaviors, emotional, and spiritual changes we experience as humans. Anthropologists have the opportunity to use this approach to study the way humans are interested in engaging and developing as a whole person. Page text.[1]

What is Culture?

Culture is the patterns of learned and shared behavior and beliefs of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. It can also be described as the complex whole of collective human beliefs with a structured stage of civilization that can be specific to a nation or time period. Humans in turn use culture to adapt and transform the world they live in.

Ashanti flag, note the golden stool

This idea of Culture can be seen in the way that we describe the Ashanti, an African tribe located in central Ghana. The Ashanti live with their families as you might assume but the meaning of how and why they live with whom is an important aspect of Ashanti culture. In the Ashanti culture, the family and the mother’s clan are most important. A child is said to inherit the father’s soul or spirit (ntoro) and from the mother, a child receives flesh and blood (mogya). This relates them more closely to the mother’s clan. The Ashanti live in an extended family. The family lives in various homes or huts that are set up around a courtyard. The head of the household is usually the oldest brother that lives there. He is chosen by the elders. He is called either Father or Housefather and everyone in the household obeys him.[2]

The anthropological study of culture can be organized along two persistent and basic themes: Diversity and Change. An individual's upbringing, and environment (or culture) is what makes them diverse from other cultures. It is the differences between all cultures and sub-cultures of the worlds regions. People's need to adapt and transform to physical, biological and cultural forces to survive represents the second theme, Change. Culture generally changes for one of two reasons: selective transmission or to meet changing needs. This means that when a village or culture is met with new challenges for example a loss of a food source, they must change the way they live. This could mean almost anything to the culture, including possible forced redistribution of, or relocation from ancestral domains due to external and/or internal forces. And an anthropologist would look at that and study their ways to learn from them.

Culture is:
'Learned' through active teaching, and passive habitus.
'Shared' meaning that it defines a group and meets common needs.
•'Patterned' meaning that that there is a recourse of similar ideas. Related cultural beliefs and practices show up repeatedly in different areas of social life.
•'Adaptive' which helps individuals meet needs across variable environments.
•'Symbolic' which means that there are simple and arbitrary signs that represent something else, something more.

"Petty apartheid": sign on Durban beach in English, Afrikaans and Zulu (1989)

Originally the overlap of the two concepts had a positive effect, especially during colonial times; it helped spread the idea that vulnerable seemingly “primitive” and “uncivilized” cultures had some intrinsic value and deserved protection from other more dominating cultures. However, the drawback of this is it assumes first that culture is a static thing that it can be preserved, unchanged by the changing people and times it runs into. It also assumes that the people accept at face value and do not wish to change their patterns or ways of life. If people then do change, often they are criticized by member from within and outside their own culture for not valuing ‘authenticity’ and tradition. This relates to the "Culture" vs. "culture" in that field of anthropology’s focus and appreciation of Culture and how it develops differently can be twisted when talking about Cultural relativism or human rights. Appreciation and defense of Culture does not imply blind tolerance to all aspects of all cultures.

Levels of Culture

Familial culture

How you express culture as a family through traditions, roles, beliefs, and other areas, is what describes this aspect of culture. It is passed down from generation to generation. This means that familial culture is both shared and learned. Familial culture is shared because as a family grows, new generations are introduced to traditional family practices. This results in that culture forming routines for the new generation. Familial culture is learned by means of enculturation which is the process by which a person learns the requirements of the culture that he or she is surrounded by. With enculturation, an individual will also learn behaviors that are appropriate or necessary in their given culture. The influences of enculturation from the family will then direct and shape the individual.

The Royal Family of Great Britain is deeply set in family tradition

The present Royal family of Great Britain is a good example of family tradition, as each male member of the royal family has served in the armed forces. This tradition began with the Duke of Edinburgh enlisting in Great Britain's Royal Navy prior to World War II, and the tradition has continued through the generations.

Micro or Subculture

Micro or Subculture are distinct groups within a larger group that share some sort of common trait, activity or language that ties them together and/or differentiates them from the larger group. A micro or subculture is also not limited to how small it can be, it could be defined similarly to a clique. An example of this could be Mexican-Americans within the U.S. society. They share the same language, but they are found in a larger whole. This is also similar of the subculture of an African American. African Americans are fully accepted in the American culture but are also capable of maintaining an individual, smaller culture. An example of a micro-culture would be the Japanese hip hop genba (club site) that is becoming more and more popular throughout Japanese cities.[3] Although rap began in the United States, it has created its own unique appearance and style in the Japanese youth today. The physical appearance of rappers may be the same to those in the States, however, the content of the music differs along with the preservation of Japanese traditions.

Cinco de Mayo dancers greeted by former Pres. George W. Bush."The holiday, which has been celebrated in California continuously since 1863, is virtually ignored in Mexico."[4]

Cultural universals

Cultural universals ( which has been mentioned by anthropologists like George Murdock, Claude Levi-Strauss, Donald Brown and others) are common elements that exist in every human culture yet varies from different ethnic groups. This includes attributes such as values and modes of behavior. Examples of elements that may be considered cultural universals are gender roles, the incest taboo, religious and healing ritual, mythology, marriage, language, art, dance, music, cooking, games, jokes, sports, birth, and death because they involve some sort of ritual ceremonies accompanying them, etc. Many anthropologists and socialists with an extreme perspective of cultural relativism deny the existence or reduce the importance of cultural universals believing that these traits were only inherited biologically through the known controversy of “nurture vs. nature”. They are mainly known as "empty universals" since just mentioning their existence in a culture doesn't make them any more special or unique. The existence of these universals has been said to date to the Upper Paleolithic with the first evidence of behavioral modernity.

A woman dancing folklórico in the traditional dress of Jalisco

Among the cultural universals listed by Brown are:
• Language and cognition - All cultures employ some type of communication, symbolism is also a universal idea in language.
• Society - Being in a family, having peers, or being a member of any organized group or community is what makes society.
• Myth, Ritual, and aesthetics - Different cultures all have a number of things in common, for example, a belief system, celebration of life and death, and other ceremonial events.
• Technology - There are worldwide variations in clothing, housing, tools and techniques for getting food through different types of technology.

Residents of Vanuatu making fire. The use of fire for cooking is a human cultural universal

Two Views of Culture

  • Etic

An etic view of a culture is the perspective of an outsider looking in. For example, if an American anthropologist went to Africa to study a nomadic tribe, their resulting case study would be from an etic standpoint if they did not integrate themselves into the culture they were observing. Some fields of anthropology may take this approach to avoid altering the culture that they are studying by direct interaction. The etic perspective is data gathering by outsiders that yield questions posed by outsiders. One problem that anthropologists may run in to is that people tend to act differently when they are being observed. It is especially hard for an outsider to gain access to certain private rituals, which may be important for understanding a culture. Etic ethnographic works often use exotic language when describing the "other".

  • Emic

An emic view of culture is ultimately a perspective focus on the intrinsic cultural distinctions that are meaningful to the members of a given society. This is often considered to be an 'insider’s' perspective. While this perspective stems from the concept of immersion in a specific culture; the emic participant is not always a member of that culture or society. Studies done from an emic perspective often include more detailed and culturally rich information than studies done from an etic point of view. Because the observer places themselves within the culture of intended study, they are able to go further in-depth on the details of practices and beliefs of a society that may otherwise have been ignored. However, the emic perspective has its downfalls. Studies done from an emic perspective can create bias on the part of the participant, especially if said individual is a member of the culture they are studying, thereby failing to keep in mind how their practices are perceived by others and possibly causing valuable information to be left out. The emic perspective serves the purpose of providing descriptive in-depth reports about how insiders of a culture understand their rituals, beliefs, and traditions.


Enculturation is a process by which we obtain and transmit culture and is experienced universally among humans. It describes how each individual is affected by prohibited behaviors and beliefs, which are 'proscribed', rather than encouraged behaviors and beliefs, which are 'prescribed'. Parents and other authority figures in young children’s lives are usually the initiators of this process, steering the children toward activities and beliefs that will be socially accepted in their culture. Through this process, these authority figures definitely shape the child’s view on life. Enculturation results in the interpretation of these ideals established by our culture and the establishment of our own individual behaviors and beliefs. In general, enculturation is a refereed journal devoted to contemporary theories of rhetoric, writing, and culture, and invites submissions on rhetoric, composition, media, technology, and education.

Cultural Transmission

Barack Obama shows multi-cultural respect by hosting a Seder dinner. Seder is a Jewish tradition passed down through families for generations.

Cultural Transmission is the passing of new knowledge and traditions of culture from one generation to the next, as well as cross-culturally. Cultural Transmission happens every day, all the time, without any concept of when or where. Everything people do and say provides cultural transmission in all aspects of life. In everyday life, the most common way cultural norms are transmitted is within each individuals' home life. Each family has its own, distinct culture under the big picture of each given society and/or nation. With every family, there are traditions that are kept alive. The way each family acts and communicates with others and an overall view of life are passed down. Parents teach their kids every day how to behave and act by their actions alone. Outside of the family, culture can be transmitted at various social institutions. Places of worship, schools, even shopping centers are places where enculturation happens amongst a population.

Social Institutions

Social institutions are a framework of social relationships that link an individual to the society, through participation. The forms of these social relationships can vary greatly across political, economic, religious, and familial platforms. Cross culturally, these relationships require understanding of the norms, values, and traditions that make them functional. Cultural transmission takes place within these relationships throughout an individual's lifetime.

Examples of these relationships range from marriage to participating in church. The complexities that govern this relationship are unique and highly culturally bound. Often external factors such as economics and health issues come into play. Studies were done in rural Malawi that discuss these issues further: [5]

Symbols within Culture

The Rosetta stone has several different languages carved into it

A symbol is an object, word, or action that stands for something else, depending on the culture. Everything one does throughout their life is based and organized through cultural symbolism, which is when something represents abstract ideas or concepts. Some good examples of symbols/symbolism would be objects, figures, sounds, and colors. They could also be facial expressions or word interpretations. Symbols can represent a group or organization that one is affiliated with. Symbols mean different things to different people, which is why it is impossible to hypothesize how a specific culture will symbolize something. Some symbols are gained from experience, while others are gained from culture. One of the most common cultural symbols is language. For example, the letters of an alphabet symbolize the sounds of a specific spoken language. Hawaiian culture presents a good example of symbols in culture through the performance of a Lua which is a symbol of their land and heritage through song and dance [6]

Symbols are mostly used to show affiliation in a group or an organization. Symbols can have good or bad meanings depending on how others interpret them. For example, the Swastika shown on the German Flag back in World War 2 means good fortune in some religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism and often used on designs, but after World War 2 the meaning of the Swastika shifted to a negative side among Americans. Street gangs have used colors and gang signs to show their affiliation to a gang. For Example, bloods are a street gang that are usually associated with red and have a gang sign that resembles the word ‘blood’.

Religions heavily use symbols to show affiliation to a certain religion. Churches, mosques and temples are places where people gather to practice a shared belief or faith and establish relationships based on this commonality. However many of these individuals will spend most of their time at school, work or other places where they are not amongst people with the same belief so they often wear a symbol of their religion to express belief. For example, a cross is usually associated with Christianity as churches often have them on their buildings to identify it as a setting of Christian worship so many Christians will wear that symbol in the form of jewelry. The star of David is associated with the Jewish religion. Other associations with the Jewish religion are wearing a yamaka and celebrating Hanukkah.

Language is the most often used form of symbolism. There are 6,912 known living languages, and the diversity is caused by isolation. Most languages have a different "symbol" for each letter, word, or phrase. The use of symbols is adaptive, which means that humans can learn to associate new symbols to a concept or new concepts with a symbol. An example may be drawn from two populations who speak different languages that come into contact with one another and need to communicate. They form a language that has a large degree of flexibility in using either language's symbols (in this case patterns of sound) or a hybrid set of symbols to communicate messages back and forth. This contact language, or pidgin gradually gives way to a creole with a more formal set of symbols (words), grammatical rules for their organization, and its own native speakers who transmit the language from generation to generation.

It is important for anthropologists to consider their own cultural background when looking at symbolism in a different culture. This is because many symbols, though similar in appearance, can mean drastically different things. These symbols can best be understood or interpreted through the eyes of the culture that they pertain to, otherwise they may lose their unique significance. One example of a misinterpreted cultural symbol is the “whirl log” symbol commonly used in Southwestern Native American blanket weaving. This symbol is almost identical to the Nazi Swastika, and therefore brings a negative response from many Americans. Although the Native American symbol has nothing to do with Nazi or Germanic symbolism, this design is rarely used on blankets today because of misinterpretation of the symbol. [7]


"Colonization of New England" - Early settlers cut and saw trees and use the lumber to construct a building, possibly a warehouse for their supplies. This is the first scene painted entirely by Costaggini.

Ethnocentrism is the term anthropologists use to describe the opinion that one's own way of life is natural or correct. Some will simply call it cultural ignorance. Those who have not experienced other cultures in depth can be said to be ethnocentric if they feel that their lives are the most natural way of living. Some cultures may be similar or overlap in ideas or concepts. However, some people are in a sense, shocked to experience differences with individuals culturally different than themselves. In extreme cases, a group of individuals may see another culture's way of life and consider it wrong, because of this, the group may try to convert the other group to their own ways of living. Fearful war and genocide could be the devastating result if a group is unwilling to change their ways of living.

Ethnocentrism is seen throughout Asia, the way of eating is to use chopsticks with every meal. These people may find it unnecessary to find that people in other societies, such as the American society, eat using forks, spoons, knives, etc. Since these countries use chopsticks to eat every meal, they find it foolish for other cultures to not use utensils similar to chopsticks; however, they do accept the fact that they use different utensils for eating. This example is not something extreme that could lead to genocide or war, but it is a large enough gap between these cultures for people to see their way of eating as the natural or best way to typically eat their food.

Another example of ethnocentrism is colonialism. Colonialism can be defined as cultural domination with enforced social change. Colonialism refers to the social system in which the political conquests by one society of another leads to "cultural domination with enforced social change". A good example to look at when examining colonialism is the British overtake of India. The British had little understanding of the culture in India which created a lot of problems an unrest during their rule.[8]

"Statue of Gandhi" - Gandhi was an important figure in the struggle to end the period of British colonial rule in India, he fought for peace and understanding during this time of unrest.

Ethnocentrism may not, in some circumstances, be avoidable. We often have instinctual reactions toward another person or culture's practices or beliefs. But these reactions do not have to result in horrible events such as genocide or war. In order to avoid conflict over culture practices and beliefs, we must all try to be more culturally relative. Ethnocentrism is one solution to the tension between one cultural self and another cultural self.

Affect on Anthropology: In many instances Anthropologist have allowed ethnocentrism to determine research and influence analyses. For example Ajami is a language created centuries ago by Islamic teachers and used throughout Sub Saharan Africa that combines Arabic script and another language (such as Swahili, Wolof, Hausa or Berber)[9]. The origin and historic use of the language is powerful and significant since it served as a form of resistance against colonialism, inspired self- sufficiency and propagated Islam. Many African historical documents are in Ajami. However, there are some historians and anthropologist who have refused to acknowledge African history due to ethnocentric views and do not value the information those historical documents may reveal. This is just one of the many examples where personal views have interfered with the understanding of other cultures and societies.

Cultural Relativism

The Cross-Cultural Relationship is the idea that people from different cultures can have relationships that acknowledge, respect and begin to understand each others diverse lives. People with different backgrounds can help each other see possibilities that they never thought were there because of limitations, or cultural proscriptions, posed by their own traditions. Traditional practices in certain cultures can restrict opportunity because they are "wrong" according to one specific culture. Becoming aware of these new possibilities will ultimately change the people that are exposed to the new ideas. This cross-cultural relationship provides hope that new opportunities will be discovered but at the same time it is threatening. The threat is that once the relationship occurs, one can no longer claim that any single culture is the absolute truth.

Cultural relativism is the ability to understand a culture on its own terms and not to make judgments using the standards of ones own culture. The goal of this is promote understanding of cultural practices that are not typically part of one's own culture. Using the perspective of cultural relativism leads to the view that no one culture is superior than another culture when compared to systems of morality, law, politics, etc. [10] It is a concept that cultural norms and values derive their meaning within a specific social context. This is also based on the idea that there is no absolute standard of good or evil, therefore every decision and judgment of what is right and wrong is individually decided in each society. The concept of cultural relativism also means that any opinion on ethics is subject to the perspective of each person within their particular culture. Overall, there is no right or wrong ethical system. In a holistic understanding of the term cultural relativism, it tries to counter ethnocentrism by promoting the understanding of cultural practices that are unfamiliar to other cultures such as eating insects, genocides or genital cutting.

There are two different categories of cultural relativism:

  • Absolute: Complete acceptance and tolerance for any type of cultural practice.
  • Critical: Critiquing cultural practices in terms of human rights.

Absolute cultural relativism is displayed in many cultures, especially Africa, that practice female genital cutting. This procedure refers to the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other trauma to the female reproductive/genital organs. By allowing this procedure to happen, females are considered women and then are able to be married. FGC is practiced mainly because of culture, religion and tradition. Outside cultures such as the United States look down upon FGC as inhumane, but are unable to stop this practice from happening because it is protected by its culture.

A Chinese woman with her feet unbound

Cultural relativism can be seen with the Chinese culture and their process of feet binding. Foot binding was to stop the growth of the foot and make them smaller. The process often began between four and seven years old. A ten foot bandage would be wrapped around the foot forcing the toes to go under the foot. It caused the big toe to be closer to the heel causing the foot to bow.[4]In China, small feet were seen as beautiful and a symbol of status. The women wanted their feet to be “three-inch golden lotuses”三寸金蓮[3] It was also the only way to get married. Because men only wanted women with small feet, even after this practice was banned in 1912, women still continued to do it. To Western cultures the idea of feet binding might seems like torture, but for the Chinese culture it is symbol of beauty that has been ingrained the culture for hundreds of years. The idea of beauty differs from culture to culture.

Qualitative Method

The Qualitative Method is an anthropological research method designed to map out detailed descriptions of social activities within a culture. A specialist such as an anthropologist enters a foreign/home culture and observe whatever he or she wants to investigate with tools that arrange from taking notes to interviews. The observation(s) may include social norms, activities, religious rituals, cultural ideology and etc. This method doesn’t require any statistical or mathematical measurements (which is the Quantitative Method), but only the written observation of culture within a certain ethnic group.

The reasons behind the observation can vary depending on the intention of the anthropologist. For example, if there’s a social problem within a culture, anthropologists may launch an investigation to figure out the source of the problem. Anthropologists might also apply the qualitative method to create improvements in a social environment. This can take a variety of forms; such as fighting poverty, improving medical care, building new estates and so on. Curious anthropologists often take advantage of the qualitative method. While some might actually use the method to resolve social issues, others might use to learn more about a certain society or group. If someone wanted to learn more about a culture, he or she can observe the lifestyle and find out the opinions of the people to retrieve more information.

Anthropology Today

This image shows participants in Diana Leafe Christian's 'Heart of a Healthy Community' seminar circle during an afternoon session at an O.U.R. Ecovillage


The word Ethnography comes from these two Greek words:"Ethnos," meaning people and "Graphein," meaning writing. Wolcott (1999) defines ethnography as a description of “the customary social behaviors of an identifiable group of people”. Ethnography is often referred to as "culture writing," and is a type of documentation often employed by Anthropologists in their field work. This genre of writing uses detailed first-hand written descriptions of a culture based on first-hand research in the field.

Ethnographies often reflect the anthropological desire for holism, the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. In the case of ethnography, holism refers to the fact that a culture can be best understood through the understanding of as many aspects of the cultural context as possible.

Cultural anthropologists who write ethnographies are called ethnographers and they often use a research method known as participant-observation. Participant Observation is a technique of field research used in anthropology by which an anthropologist studies the life of a group by sharing and participating in its activities.

Ethnographic information can take many different forms. Articles, journals, recordings, statistical data, and documentaries are just a few of the many forms that ethnographic information can be conveyed. A very common form is a book written by the person participating in the research or observation. A great example of a book would be "Waiting For An Ordinary Day" by Farnaz Fassihi because as a journalist traveling to Iraq during the Iraq war, she participates in Iraqi daily life and documents her description of it, because of her methods and style of writing although Fassihi may not consider herself an anthropologist, her book Waiting for an Ordinary Day is ethnographic. Eventually, she turns all of her journalistic notes into a book which describes certain events that help her define the Iraqi culture. She uses the participant-observation method and also uses the concept of holism to explain the whole of Iraqi culture, rather than just small aspects of it.

Anthropologists, scientists, philosophers, historians and most social scientists have been reexamining assumptions about what science is and how it works. They have challenged the traditional distinction between hard sciences (such as physics, chemistry, and biology) and soft sciences (psychology, sociology, and anthropology). They think they have more in common than previously believed. Anthropologists aid in the effort to study and reconsider what science is all about through gathering information about diverse cultural views on the process of explanation gained during participant-observation-based fieldwork.


Ethnology is the comparative study of two or more cultures. It utilizes the data taken from ethnographic research and applies it to a single, cross-cultural topic. The Ethnology approach can be used to identify and attempt to explain cross-cultural variation in elements such as marriage, religion, subsistence practices, political organization, and parenting. Ethnology often compares and contrasts various cultures. Anthropologists who focus on one culture are often called ethnographers while those who focus on several cultures are often called ethnologists. The term ethnology is credited to Adam Franz Kollár who used and defined it in his Historiae ivrisqve pvblici Regni Vngariae amoenitates published in Vienna in 1783.[11]

Deconstructing Race and Racism

The concept of race was produced long ago by the process of racialization in order to separate humans from different areas on the globe to justify enslaving and belittling certain groups. Since its creation, there has been a slow but steady attempt to deconstruct it. Of course, there have been many speed bumps along the way.

Deconstructing the social concept of race has been a major interest of Cultural Anthropology at least since Franz Boas's work on race and immigration in the early 1900's. The concept of race is important in many different areas of the discipline including cross-cultural studies, the way we look at ourselves vs. people we feel are different from us and many other areas. Race is not biological but it's supposed to be a way to classify biological differences by grouping people according to different characteristics that they have [12]. However it's important to remember that race is not based on genetic features. There is no biological part of race, it is strictly a concept created by humans to try to better understand differences between other people. The history of the relationship between anthropology and the concept of race is long and interesting (see Race in Science web resources for more information).

Race has often been used in societies as a factor of ascribed status, the status given at birth and assigned rather than earned. In many cases it has affected individual's access to wealth, power and certain resources in their society as the concept has generated issues such as discrimination, prejudice and unearned privilege.


Technology is an important aspect of Cultural Anthropology. Anthropologists have studied the examples of material life established in different human civilizations. Some examples of these universal differences are in the shelter, attire, tools and methods for acquiring food and producing material goods. Some anthropologists focus their main concern on studying technology in diverse societies or the progression of technology. Individuals concerned with material life also illustrate the primary environment for which technologies have been revolutionized. In Anthropology, technology is often studied in relationship to the natural environment that it was developed in.

Personal Computer 774.JPG

Some anthropologists analyze the ways in which technologies and settings shape each other, and others analyze the way non-Western civilizations have reacted in regards to political and economic strife of colonialism and capitalist industrialized technology. With globalization, all people increasingly consume material goods and technologies manufactured beyond their own culture. Anthropologists have proven that non-Western inhabitants do not mindlessly imitate Western customs for the use of technology; instead they utilize Western technologies in creative ways, which are often unforeseen and can be adaptive or maladaptive. A cargo cult could be considered an example of the creative use of new technology.

Technology in todays culture, has tons of effect on our daily and social lives, it affects us in a way that the methods we used to use to interact with one another in the past are not capable of being seen at the current moment, it has become less physical than it was before where nowadays it can all be done online via multimedia and other methods of technology. For example, we can see our community gathering together at coffee shops but most the time they don't seen to be interacting with each other, but they seem to be using most of their time in front of screens of light wasting time on social media instead of enjoying the company of their friends and family. Constant communication through use of technology is changing the way people think of themselves and how they communicate. They can get attention, always be heard, and never have to be alone. Connecting electronically can also lead to isolation. With technology evolving day after day, we do not know what is to come in the future from flying cars to robots, all we know is that our future will never be the same.


  1. Link text
  2. "African People & Culture - Ashanti". 
  3. "Japanese Hip Hop and the Globalization of Popular Culture" Ian Condry
  4. Southern California Quarterly "Cinco de Mayo's First Seventy-Five Years in Alta California: From Spontaneous Behavior to Sedimented Memory, 1862 to 1937" Spring 2007 (see American observation of Cinco de Mayo started in California) accessed Oct 30, 2007
  7. Barton Wright Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
  8. Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology : A Perspective on the Human Condition. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated,
  9. Jahnke, Art
  10. Philosophy Home, 2009.
  11. Zmago Šmitek and Božidar Jezernik, "The anthropological tradition in Slovenia." In: Han F. Vermeulen and Arturo Alvarez Roldán, eds. Fieldwork and Footnotes: Studies in the History of European Anthropology. 1995.
  12. American Anthropological Association Statement on "Race"(May 17, 1998)
  1. ^ Peter L. Berger, Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective, Anchor, 1963, ISBN 0385065299
  2. ^ C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Oxford University Press, 1961, ISBN 0195133730
  3. ^ Louisa Lim, Painful Memories for China's Footbinding Survivors
  4. ^ James A. Crites Chinese Foot Binding,
  5. ^
  6. ^ Justin Marozzi, The son of the Father of History, 2007,
  7. ^ Introduction to The Journey of Friar John of Pian de Carpine to the Court of Kuyuk Khan, 1245-1247, as translated by William Woodville Rockhill, 1900,
  8. ^ Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology A Perspective on the Human Condition. 7th ed. New York: Oxford UP.
  9. ^ "RACE - The Power of an Illusion . What Is Race |." PBS. 08 Mar. 2009 <>.
  10. ^ Miller, Barabra. Cultural Anthropology. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson Education Inc., 2007.
  11. ^ Lorber, Judith. "Night to His Day": The Social Construction of Gender." From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A text and Reader. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008. 617-30.
  12. ^ Bourgois, Philippe. "Workaday World, Crack Economy." The Nation (1995): 706-11.
  13. ^ Farley, Edward. Deep Symbols : Their Postmodern Effacement and Reclamation (1). New York, US: Trinity Press International, 2010. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 28 November 2016.

14- Digital Nations. A PBS documentary. Retrieved from Griffen, E., (2012) Communication: A first look at communication theory. McGraw Hill Company, chap 10 (pp. 125-137). New York, N.Y. 15- enculturation is published under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons License.

This page also draws upon the following wikipedia resources:

External links

  • What is Anthropology? - Information from the American Anthropological Association
  • SLA- Society for Linguistic Anthropology
  1. ^ Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology : A Perspective on the Human Condition. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated,
  1. ^ Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology : A Perspective on the Human Condition. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated, 2009. pgs. 332-333

History of Anthropological Theory


Early Cultural Studies


Bust of Herodotus

Herodotus could be considered one of the earliest anthropologists in Western tradition, and his work can be regarded as some of the earliest anthropological studies. He “sought to understand other people and cultures by traveling far and wide.” [6] Even though he did not practice anthropology like it is practiced today, he created a rather unbiased, truthful recording of other cultures’ legends and lifestyles by using second-hand and third-hand accounts relating to his primary subjects, as well as traveling throughout the Mediterranean.

“Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvelous deeds- some displayed by Greeks, some by barbarians- may not be without their glory.” –Opening sentence, The Histories, Herodotus

In his nine scrolls known as The Histories, written in the later period of his life (430 BCE), Herodotus describes the conflict between the Greeks and the Persians, but he often digresses from his topic to describe what he had learned through interviews of the Scythians, who lived near the Black Sea. He learned about and recounted information on how the Scythians lived, and he also learned about nomads who lived further north than the Scythians. Even though the information he recounts was translated many times before transcribed, artifacts similar to the ones he describes have been found in modern excavations in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Friar John of Pian de Caprine

The Journey of Friar John of Pian de Caprine to the Court of Kuyuk Khan, 1245-1247, is another very early cultural anthropological study. Written by Friar John of Pian de Caprine, this is one of the most descriptive, in-detail accounts of Mongols in the thirteenth century. Friar John had been sent by Pope Innocent IV to the Court of Kuyuk Khan, to witness the swearing in of a new Khan. Despite his Christian background, Friar John’s description of the Mongols is surprisingly unbiased.[7]

A Look Into History

19th Century

Modern cultural anthropology has its origins in, and developed in reaction to, 19th-century "ethnology", the comparative study of cultures; it presents analytical generalizations about human culture. Scholars like E.B. Tylor and J.G. Frazer in England worked mostly with materials collected by others – usually missionaries, traders, explorers, or colonial officials – this earned them their current sobriquet of "arm-chair anthropologists".

Many people found it very interesting how people living in different places often had similar beliefs and customs

Ethnologists had a special interest in why people living in different parts of the world often had similar beliefs and practices. In addressing this question, ethnologists in the 19th century divided into two schools of thought. Some, like Grafton Elliot Smith, argued that different groups must somehow have learned from one another, however indirectly; in other words, they argued that cultural traits spread from one place to another, or "diffused". This way of thinking could be better understood in the context of the school playground; everyone wants to be like the "cool" kid-they see what he has and they want it. This idea can be expanded to an entire culture, people see another group of people doing something better than them, and so they learn the new, more effective way of living.

Other ethnologists argued that different groups had the capability of inventing similar beliefs and practices independently. Some of those who advocated "independent invention", like Morgan, additionally supposed that similarities meant that different groups had passed through the same stages of cultural evolution. Morgan, in particular, acknowledged that certain forms of society and culture could not possibly have arisen before others. For example, industrial farming could have been invented before simple farming, and metallurgy could have developed without previous non-smelting processes involving metals (such as simple ground collection or mining). Morgan, like other 19th century social evolutionists, believed there was a more or less orderly progression from the primitive to the civilized.

20th Century

20th-century anthropologists largely reject the notion that all human societies must pass through the same stages in the same order, on the grounds that such a notion does not fit the empirical facts. Some 20th-century ethnologists, like Julian Steward, have instead argued that such similarities reflected similar adaptations to similar environments.

Others, such as Claude Lévi-Strauss (who was influenced both by American cultural anthropology and by French Durkheimian sociology), have argued that apparent patterns of development reflect fundamental similarities in the structure of human thought (see structuralism). By the mid-20th century, the number of examples of people skipping stages, such as going from hunter-gatherers to post-industrial service occupations in one generation, were so numerous that 19th-century evolutionism was effectively disproved.[1]

In the 20th century most cultural (and social) anthropologists turned to the crafting of ethnographies. An ethnography is a piece of writing about a people, at a particular place and time. Typically, the anthropologist actually lives among another society for a considerable period of time, simultaneously participating in and observing the social and cultural life of the group. This way of studying a culture is much more of an unbiased view of the culture. As apposed to the previous method of the arm chair anthropologists, these scholars are there interacting with the people. As a way of learning about a culture, these ethnographies are a great resource.

However, any number of other ethnographic techniques have resulted in ethnographic writing or details being preserved, as cultural anthropologists also curate materials, spend long hours in libraries, churches and schools poring over records, investigate graveyards, and decipher ancient scripts. A typical ethnography will also include information about physical geography, climate, and habitat. It is meant to be a holistic piece of writing about the people in question, and today often includes the longest possible timeline of past events that the ethnographer can obtain through primary and secondary research.

Bronisław Malinowski (who conducted fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands and taught in England) developed this method, and Franz Boas promoted it. Boas's students drew on his conception of culture and cultural relativism to develop cultural anthropology in the United States. Simultaneously, Malinowski and A.R. Radcliffe Brown´s students were developing social anthropology in the United Kingdom. Whereas cultural anthropology focused on symbols and values, social anthropology focused on social groups and institutions. Today socio-cultural anthropologists attend to all these elements.

Although 19th-century ethnologists saw "diffusion" and "independent invention" as mutually exclusive and competing theories, most ethnographers quickly reached a consensus that both processes occur, and that both can plausibly account for cross-cultural similarities. But these ethnographers pointed out the superficiality of many such similarities, and that even traits that spread through diffusion often changed their meaning and functions as they moved from one society to another.

Accordingly, these anthropologists showed less interest in comparing cultures, generalizing about human nature, or discovering universal laws of cultural development, than in understanding particular cultures in those cultures' own terms. Such ethnographers and their students promoted the idea of "cultural relativism", the view that one can only understand another person's beliefs and behaviors in the context of the culture in which he or she lived.

In the early 20th century socio-cultural anthropology developed in different forms in Europe and in the United States. European "social anthropologists" focused on observed social behaviors and on "social structure", that is, on relationships among social roles (e.g. husband and wife, or parent and child) and social institutions (e.g. religion, economy, and politics).

American "cultural anthropologists" focused on the ways people expressed their view of themselves and their world, especially in symbolic forms (such as art and myths). These two approaches frequently converged (kinship, for example, and leadership function both as symbolic systems and as social institutions), and generally complemented one another. Today almost all socio-cultural anthropologists refer to the work of both sets of predecessors and have an equal interest in what people do and in what people say.

Present Day

Today ethnography continues to dominate socio-cultural anthropology. Nevertheless, many contemporary socio-cultural anthropologists have rejected earlier models of ethnography which they claim treated local cultures as bounded and isolated. These anthropologists continue to concern themselves with the distinct ways people in different locales experience and understand their lives, but they often argue that one cannot understand these particular ways of life solely from a local perspective; they instead combine a focus on the local with an effort to grasp larger political, economic, and cultural frameworks that impact local lived realities. Notable proponents of this approach include Arjun Appadurai, James Clifford, George Marcus, Sidney Mintz, Michael Taussig and Eric Wolf.

A growing trend in anthropological research and analysis seems to be the use of multi-sited ethnography, discussed in George Marcus's article "Ethnography In/Of the World System: the Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography"]. Looking at culture as embedded in macro-constructions of a global social order, multi-sited ethnography uses traditional methodology in various locations both spatially and temporally. Through this methodology, greater insight can be gained when examining the impact of world-systems on local and global communities.

Also emerging in multi-sited ethnography are greater interdisciplinary approaches to fieldwork, bringing in methods from cultural studies, media studies, science and technology studies, and others. In multi-sited ethnography research tracks a subject across spatial and temporal boundaries. For example, a multi-sited ethnography may follow a "thing," such as a particular commodity, as it transfers through the networks of global capitalism.

Multi-sited ethnography may also follow ethnic groups in diaspora, stories or rumours that appear in multiple locations and in multiple time periods, metaphors that appear in multiple ethnographic locations, or the biographies of individual people or groups as they move through space and time. It may also follow conflicts that transcend boundaries. Multi-sited ethnographies, such as Nancy Scheper-Hughes's ethnography of the international black market for the trade of human organs. In this research she follows organs as they transfer through various legal and illegal networks of capitalism, as well as the rumours and urban legends that circulate in impoverished communities about child kidnapping and organ theft.

Sociocultural anthropologists have increasingly turned their investigative eye on to "Western" culture. For example, Philippe Bourgois won the Margaret Mead Award in 1997 for In Search of Respect, a study of the entrepreneurs in a Harlem crack-den. Also growing more popular are ethnographies of professional communities, such as laboratory researchers, Wall Street investors, law firms, or IT computer employees.[2]

Historic Cultural Anthropologists

Lewis Henry Morgan

Lewis Henry Morgan

Lewis Henry Morgan was born on November 21, 1818, near Aurora, New York. He graduated from Union College in Schenectady in 1840 and became an attorney by profession. Later in his profession, he studied the Iroquois people of western New York and gathered extensive data about the Iroquois Confederation.

His book “League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois” (1851) is considered one of the earliest objective ethnographic works of native peoples. From the book, one of the most important pioneering achievements of the first order is the study of kinship systems. What he found was that the Seneca designate their kin in a manner different from that of the Western culture. Unlike Western culture, they merge collateral relatives, such as cousins, nieces, and aunts, into the direct line, like fathers, sisters, and daughters.

E. B. Tylor

Edward Burnett Tylor

Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917), was born in Camberwell, London, England in 1832. He graduated from Grove House High School but never received a university degree due to the death of his parents. Following their death, Tylor started having symptoms of tuberculosis. He decided to leave England and travel to Central America in search for a warmer climate. This is where he first started his research on anthropology. He is considered one of the early proponents of cultural evolutionism in Anthropology.

His first book, aptly titled Anthropology (1881), is considered fairly modern in its cultural concepts and theories. In 1883, Tylor joined the University Museum at Oxford and became a professor of Anthropology from 1896 to 1909. Most of Tylor's work involved the primitive culture and the minds of the people, particularly animism. Animism is a philosophical, religious or spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist not only in humans and animals but also in plants, rocks and natural phenomena. His work has been the foundation of many universities' Anthropological major curriculum. Some of his later works include: Researches Into the Early History of Mankind (1865)and Anahuac (1861). His most important work, "Primitive Culture" (1871), which was partially influenced by Darwin’s theory of biological evolution. It developed the theory of an evolutionary, progressive relationship from primitive to modern cultures. It did this by defining "culture or civilization" as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society". This definition encouraged the idea that even primtives possessed capabilities ad habits that merited respect. Primitive stereotypes were thus changed.[3] During his travels, he met a man named Henry Christy, who was also a Quaker interested in ethnology and archaeology, which influenced Tylor's interest in these areas.

Franz Boas

Franz Boas

Franz Boas, known as the Father of American Anthropology, was born in Minden, Germany in 1858. He earned a Ph.D. in physics with a minor in geography at the University of Kiel in 1881 and later became a professor and founded the first department of anthropology in the United States at Columbia University. [4]

Boas is well known for his studies on the Native population in Northern Vancouver and British Colombia, Canada. Influenced by the writings of Charles Darwin, Boas developed the theory of cultural relativism; Cultural relativism is the interpretation of another culture using their own goals, values, and beliefs rather than our own to make sense of what people say and do, devoting much of his life’s work to discrediting the importance of racial distinction in the field. At a time when armchair anthropology and racial prejudices were rampant, Boas emphasized the importance of impartial data, the use of the scientific method in his research, and rejected the idea of Western civilization’s supposed “cultural superiority.” Boas gave modern anthropology its rigorous scientific methodology, patterned after the natural sciences. He also originated the notion of "culture" as learned behaviors. His emphasis on research first, followed by generalizations, emphasized the creation of grand theories (which were only after tested through field work) [Link: Boas]. Boas was truly the first person to develop an ethnography which is a descriptive account of anthropological studies. A few of Boas’ students include anthropologists Alfred L. Kroeber, Margaret Mead, Jules Henry, and Ashley Montagu. Boas became Professor Emeritus in 1937, after serving over 40 years as Professor at Columbia University. He died in 1942.

Ruth Benedict

Ruth Benedict.jpg

Ruth Benedict was an American anthropologist whose work was greatly influenced by her mentor and teacher Franz Boas, the father of American anthropology. She was born in New York City on June 5, 1887 and died September 17, 1949. She graduated from Vassar College in 1909 and entered graduate studies at Columbia University in 1919, studying under Franz Boas and receiving her PhD in 1923. The central idea of her book Patterns of Culture (1934), which was translated into fourteen different languages and used in universities for many years, is that each culture chooses from the “great arc of human personalities” but only dominant traits emerge in people’s characters and the overall character of society. Ruth Benedict expressed the idea that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny which holds that the growth or change of the individual is a reflection of the growth or change of the species. She desired to show that each culture had its own moral imperatives that could be understood only if one studied that culture as a whole. Benedict conducted fieldwork in New Mexico with the Native American Pueblo people and used data from Franz Boas and other colleagues like Margaret Mead to supplement her research.

Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead (1901-1979) was the oldest of five until one of her younger sisters died at just nine months of age. Mead was born on December 16th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1901. After graduating from Barnard College, she received her Ph.D. from Columbia University3. It was there where she met her greatest influences, the anthropologists Ruth Benedict and Franz Boas. She was married three times in her life, her first marriage with Luther Sheeleigh Cressman, an archeologist. Her third and longest-lasting marriage (1936–1950) was to the British Anthropologist Gregory Bateson with whom she had a daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson, who would also become an anthropologist. Margaret Mead focused mainly on child-rearing and personality traits in Samoa, New Guinea, and Bali. It was here she was able to take a positivist method to her research. Mead was also popular to mass media as a speaker and writer of her work.

In the 1930’s Margaret Mead used a method called controlled comparison, or taking hypotheses to different cultural settings. Each setting would match up to a separate experiment. This allowed anthropologists, such as Mead, to study human life by participant-observation instead of an artificial lab setting. Mead used this method when she studied four different societies in an attempt to discover the range and causes of gender role. It is still used today. Margaret Mead was known for introducing radical proposals and being an activist. One of her most memorable stances on issues was her outspoken advocacy on birth control.From her findings she was able to produce many ethnographic writings, such as Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) and Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935)3.

Julian Steward

Unidentified Native Man (Carrier Indian) (possibly Steward's informant, Chief Louis Billy Prince) and Julian Steward, 1940

Julian Steward was born on January 31, 1902 in Washington D.C. Steward attended the University of California, Berkeley and Cornell University, graduating with a B.Sc. in Zoology in 1925. He returned to Berkeley for graduate studies, earning his Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1929 with a thesis entitled The Ceremonial Buffoon of the American Indian, a Study of Ritualized Clowning and Role Reversals. Steward went on to establish an anthropology department at the University of Michigan, where he taught until 1930. The department later gained notoriety from the appointment and guidance of Leslie White, with whose model of "universal" cultural evolution Steward disagreed. In 1930, Steward moved to the University of Utah, which appealed to Steward for its proximity to the Sierra Nevadas, and nearby archaeological fieldwork opportunities in California, Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon. Steward's career reached its apogee in 1946 when he took up the chair of the anthropology department at Columbia University - the center of anthropology in the United States. Steward quickly developed a coterie of students who would go on to have enormous influence in the history of anthropology, including Sidney Mintz, Eric Wolf, Roy Rappaport, Stanley Diamond, Robert Manners, Morton Fried, Robert F. Murphy, and influenced other scholars such as Marvin Harris. Many of these students participated in the Puerto Rico Project, yet another large-scale group research study that focused on modernization in Puerto Rico. Steward left Columbia for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he continued to teach until his retirement in 1968. There he undertook yet another large-scale study, a comparative analysis of modernization in eleven third world societies. The results of this research were published in three volumes entitled Contemporary Change in Traditional Societies. Steward died in 1972.

In addition to his role as a teacher and administrator, Steward is most remembered for his method and theory of cultural ecology. During the first three decades of the twentieth century, American anthropology was suspicious of generalizations and often unwilling to draw broader conclusions from the meticulously detailed monographs that anthropologists produced. Steward is notable for moving anthropology away from this more particularist approach and developing a more nomothetic, social-scientific direction. His theory of "multilinear" cultural evolution examined the way in which societies adapted to their environment. Steward's interest in the evolution of society also led him to examine processes of modernization. He was one of the first anthropologists to examine the way in which national and local levels of society were related to one another. He questioned the possibility of creating a social theory which encompassed the entire evolution of humanity, yet also argued that anthropologists are not limited to description of specific, existing cultures. Steward believed it is possible to create theories analyzing typical, common culture, representative of specific eras or regions. Steward theorized there were decisive factors (technology and economics) and secondary factors (political systems, ideologies, religions, etc) that determine and influence the development of a given culture.

Ray Birdwhistell

Ray L. was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1918, he went on to get his Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Chicago in 1951. Later in life he began to teach at the Universities of Toronto, Louisville, and Buffalo. He then became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania where he pursued his interest in nonverbal communication and kinesics. Birdwhistell found most of his studies through observing people interactions in films. His observations concluded that people use eye movement, facial expressions, and their chest to convey information. Birdwhistell was the founder of Kinesics, the study of human environment as culturally patterned visual communication, he released two texts on Kinesics, Introduction to Kinesics, and the better known Kinesics in context. Birdwhistell was a mentor to renowned folklorist, ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. More on Kinesics in the Communication and Language Chapter.

Marvin Harris


Marvin Harris (1927-2001), was born on August 18, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York. Harris joined the U.S. Army in World War II then attended Columbia University. After graduating, Harris became an assistant professor at Columbia University, his main focus of the study was ideological features of culture. Later Harris did fieldwork in Mozambique in 1957 and started focusing more on behavioral aspects. He is also well known for his explanation on Indian cultures ‘sacred cows’. Harris did most of his fieldwork in Brazil, Mozambique, India, and Ecuador.

Harris was an American Anthropologist known for his writing and influence on cultural materialism. Harris’ studies were mostly based on Latin America and Brazil. Harris used Karl Marx and Malthus’s information to help form his own opinions and ideas. Harris had over 16 books published. After Harris’ publication, The Rise of Anthropological Theory, the American Anthropological Association had lots of talk and criticism about his theory. Harris’ work has helped anthropologists learn and gain more information about his studies.

Napoleon Chagnon

Yanomami [11] Children

Napoleon Chagnon was born in 1938 in Port Austin, Michigan. He is an American anthropologist who is best known for his ethnographic work with the Yanomamö tribe of the Amazon between Venezuela and Brazil. He was a major player in developing to the evolutionary theory of cultural anthropology. He first documented the Yanomami tribe as savages who treated him very badly, but as time progressed he gained the nickname of Shaki, meaning "pesky bee".

Through his research of the Yanomamö people, Chagnon gained information about the genealogies of these people in order to find out who was married, who was related, and cooperation and settlement pattern history. Through this research he was a pioneer in the fields of sociobiology and human behavioral ecology. He also pioneered in visual anthropology, by creating documentaries about the Yanomamö people and their society. His works include: The Yanomamo Series, in collaboration with Tim Asch, including 22 separate films on the Yanomamo Culture, such as The Ax Fight (1975), Children's Magical Death (1974), Magical Death (1988), A Man Called Bee: A Study of the Yanomamo (1974), Yanomamo Of the Orinoco (1987). He has also written a few books on the Yanomamö culture: Yanomamö: The Fierce People (1968), Chagnon, N. (1974), written at New York, Studying the Yanomamö, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Yanomamo - The Last Days Of Eden (1992).

Although much of his work was meant to document the growing of a culture, he has also been credited as a destroyer of the culture. According to Darkness in El Dorado, by Patrick Tierney, Chagnon aided the spreading of measles to the Yanomamo people. All claims by Tierney have been refuted, but it is a fact that due to exposure to other outside cultures, the people of this tribe were exposed to diseases that their bodies could not fight. Chagnon was not only known for his ethnography but he was also well known for criticism and controversy about his work and opinions.

Paul Farmer

A quite serious looking Paul Farmer.

Paul Farmer is a medical anthropologist as well as a medical doctor. He was born in 1959 and began working to provide health care to the poor populations while still in graduate school at Harvard. After graduating in 1990, he continued to work to provide health to the poor populations around the world. He specialized in infectious disease while in school and today focuses on those that disproportionately affect the poor, such as tuberculosis. Farmer has been awarded several honors; including the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, American Medical Association's International Physician Award, and the 2007 Austin College Leadership Award. Back in 1987, Farmer helped put together a nonprofit called Partners in Health. Now, the group treats 1,000 patients daily for free in the Haitian countryside. The group also works to cure drug-resistant tuberculosis among prisoners in Siberia and in the slums of Lima and Peru. Farmer has devoted his life to providing medical services to the underprivileged. He uses his anthropological knowledge and ethnographic analysis to create sustainable and practical health care services for those in need. He works to offset the negative effects in those societies caused by social and structural violence. Farmer is well known for the concept of "pragmatic solidarity", the idea of working to meet the needs of the victims while advocating for positive social change.


  1. Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs and Steel.
  2. Dissertation Abstract [1]
  3. Britannica Encyclopedia
  4. "Franz Boas". Colombia University. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 


  • 3. Del Monte, Kathleen, Karen Bachman, Catherine Klein, and Bridgette McCorp. "Margaret Mead." Celebrating Women Anthropologists. 26 June 1999. 9 Mar. 2009 <>.

4. Absolute Astronomy. "Ray Birdwhistell" 9 Mar. 2009 <>
5. NNDB: Tracking the Entire World. "Franz Boas." <> 6. “‘Sinful’ Songs of the Southern Negro.” Southwest Review XIX, 2 (Winter 1934): 105–131.

Anthropological Methods

Human Cultural Variation

Cultural interactions result in both progressive and aggressive interactions due to the evolution of those cultures being uninfluenced by one another. What may be considered good etiquette in one culture may be considered an offensive gesture in another. As this occurs constantly, cultures push each other to change.The biological variations between humans are summarized in the ideas of natural selection and evolution. Human variation is based on the principle that there is variation in traits that result for recombination of genes from sexual reproduction. These traits are variable and can be passed down generation to generation. It also relies on differential reproduction, the idea that the environment can't support unlimited population growth because not all individuals get to reproduce to their full potential.

An example of human variation can be found with a cline. A cline is a genetic variation between populations of species that are isolated in their reproduction (such as skin color variation in humans). Human skin color variation is a selective adaptation that relates to the populations' proximity to the equator. Because of pigmentation characteristics within the human population, a system and term emerged to categorize the differing variations. This category is recognized as race. Populations of humans in equatorial regions have selective advantages as a result of their darker skin pigmentation, whereas populations in more northern environments have less selective pressure to evolve darker pigmentation and have lighter skin. Other clines include differences in stature and hair type.

Map of indigenous skin color distribution in the world based on Von Luschan's chromatic scale.

Origins of Ethnography

The route of first voyage of Columbus in the Caribbean.

Ethnography is a core modern research method used in Anthropology as well as in other modern social sciences. Ethnography is the descriptive study of one culture, subculture, or micro-culture based on fieldwork. Before ethnography, immersive research, the prevailing method was unilineal. This led to colonizers feeling able to set the rules for what is a "modern" or "primitive" culture, and used these self-made justifications in order to rule over new colonies in the name of advancement for their people. This view came into question with Anthropologists like Franz Boas, offering the multilinear model for cultural evolution we have today. This model closer reflects the realities of different cultures across the world advancing in separate ways and highlights the impossibility to call one culture "primitive" in relation to another. These cultures did not evolve from one another, but evolved separately from each other.

A large part of the issue with early Anthropology was a reliance on second-party information while lacking any first hand research of cultures. "Armchair Anthropologists" would gather information from military deployments, merchants, and missionaries rather than making first-hand contact. Armchair Anthropologists usually refers to late 19th century and early 20th century scholars coming to conclusions without going through the usual anthropology motions--fieldwork or lab work. They would then create wild theories based on these accounts. This led to a high degree of bias against these cultures, more so than firsthand research, and were not scientific in the way Anthropology is today. These biases turned into stereotypes which are still prevalent today. This form of research drove much of the colonial primitive culture narrative and necessitated the adaptation of Ethnography.

Ethnography, or the enculturated experiential method of research, has lead to the dispelling of rumor and a much deeper understanding of cultures through great effort. This is seen very clearly in Brigt Dale's research on a Tobagonian Village[1], titled Lives in-between Encountering Men in a Tobagonian Village. To begin, he clearly states his bias, being a male researcher and dealing primarily with the males of that society due to a highly gendered culture found there. He explains with great care that he is not searching for what men "do" but what they "say and do to be men." His goal with the research project was to show the value of an ethnographic research project, along with his experiences within this culture and the limitations he faced in that research. He had limitations both being an outsider and being male, only being able to see how one half of these people portrayed their culture, and even then through the lense of an outsider with his own biases, stated as clearly as possible within the paper. This is the value of Ethnography, it allows researchers to further understand their research while remaining as unbiased as possible, highlighting weaknesses and need for further research from people of different genders and backgrounds.

An Ethnographic Analogy is a method for inferring the use or meaning of an ancient site or artifact based on observations and accounts of its use by living people.

Here we see an old pick, not much different from those used today

We can infer the use of an ancient tool by seeing how similar-looking tools are used in existing or recent societies. By analogy we can hypothesize the same use for the old tool.

Fieldwork Methods

In anthropology there are several types of fieldwork methods that are used while conducting research. We will go more into depth with several fieldwork methods that are used.

Observational Methods

The observational method is viewed as the least invasive method where the anthropologist minimally integrates themselves into the society they are studying and gathers data through verbal communication while attempting to remain nonintrusive of the culture.

This group of methods focuses on community interaction through language. It usually entails many open ended interviews with participants who are members of a group being studied. The researcher strives to learn as much as they can about the history of the community as well as the individuals within it in order to gain a full understanding of how their culture functions. Interviews can take place individually or with focus groups within the community based on age, status, gender, and other factors that contribute to differences within the community.

This type of research often strives to create an open dialogue, called a dialectic, in which information flows back and forth between researcher and subject. Think of this situation as a conversation between two people about homework or an upcoming exam. This dialectic poses a challenge to the objectivity of socially produced data. The challenge is dealt with through reflection on the inter-subjective creation of meaning. This leads anthropologists to value reflexive abilities in their ethnographic writing. Because many anthropologists also hope to help the communities they work with to make change on their own terms within the confines of their own culture, in some cases objectivity is abandoned in favor of community based activism and social change.

Participant Observation

Participant observation is an anthropological fieldwork method for collecting research. This method requires that an anthropologist participate in a social event that is part of a specific culture. This includes, but is not limited to, observing members of a culture by taking notes, eating the food that is provided, and participating in festivities. The goal of participant observation is to be involved in the culture like a member of that society, all while observing and studying the culture. An example of participation observation would be if an anthropologist went to a Native American Tribal gathering and took notes on the energy and traditions they were being shown. This anthropologist could participate in things like face painting or songs, and eat the food that the Natives eat. The information gathered in this observation is then recorded and reflected upon to gain further insight into the culture being studied. This observation method helps the anthropologist develop a deeper rapport with the people of the culture and can help others understand their culture further. This experience may result in the individuals opening up more to the anthropologist which allows them understand more than an etic point of view of the culture.

Non-Participant Observation

In contrast to participant observation, non-participant observation is the anthropological method of collecting data by entering within a community but with limited interaction with the people within the culture. This anthropologist can be thought of as a fly on the wall. An etic approach that researchers often use to examine the details of how the subjects interact with one another and the environment around them. Detailed research such as body behavior (e.g. eye gaze, facial expression), speech styles (e.g. pitch) can be recorded through the nonparticipant method, but usually the emic approach is preferred when observing social context. An example of data collected through non-participant research would be the an estimation of how often women in a household wear high heels due to how worn out the carpet is.

The non-participant observation, although effective in providing some research, has limitations. One being, the observer affect. This is caused by the presence of the researcher having an influence over the participants' actions. The researcher may use systematic approaches of field notes, sampling and data to ensure and increase comfortable interactions. While using the non-participant observation method the issue that the researchers opinions may oppose that of the participance is posed. The only solution to this problem and to have a fuller and unbiased take on the research is to use both non-participant and participant method.

Ethnographic Method

Cultural data assumes the form of directly observable material items, individual behaviors, performances, ideas and arrangements that exist only in people's heads. From the perspective of the culture concept, anthropologists must first treat all these elements as symbols within a coherent system and must record observations with attention to the cultural context and the meanings assigned by the culture's practitioners. These demands are met through two major research techniques: participant observation and key informant interviewing.

After the initial orientation or entry period, which may take 3 months or longer, the researcher follows a more systematic program of formal interviews involving questions related to research hypotheses and specialized topics. Several different methods of selecting informants are possible. Usually a few key informants are selected for in-depth sessions, since the investigation of cultural patterns usually calls for lengthy and repeated open ended interviews. Selection of such a small number does not allow for strict assurance of a representative sample, so the anthropologist must be careful to choose subjects who are well informed and reliable. Ethnographic researchers will also train informants to systematically report cultural data and recognize significant cultural elements and interconnections as the interview sequences unfold.

Key informant selection is known as judgment sampling and is particularly important for the kind of qualitative research that characterizes ethnography. Anthropologists will very frequently also need to carry out quantitative research from which statistically validated inferences can be drawn. Accordingly they must construct a either larger random sample or a total population census for more narrowly focused interviewing according to a closed questionnaire design. Other important quantitative data might include direct measurement of such items as farm size, crop yield, daily caloric intake, or even blood pressure, depending on the anthropologist's research focus. Aside from written observation and records, researchers will often provide ethnographic representations in other forms, such as collected artifacts, photographs, tape recordings, films, and videos.

Comparative Method

Since the beginning of anthropological studies, the Comparative Method has been a way to allow a systematic comparison of information and data from multiple sources. It is a common approach for testing multiple hypotheses on subjects including co-evolution of cultures, the adaptation of cultural practices to the environment, and kinship terms in local languages from around the world. The comparative method, may seem like an outdated form of fieldwork information gathering, however this method is still quite prevalent in modern day anthropological research. The use of this form of information gathering is intended to compare globalization, which uses a version of this method called multi-sited Ethnography by participant observation gathered from many different social settings. Another form of the comparative research method is shown through the Human Relations Area Files, which collects and organizes ethnographic texts from hundreds of societies all over the world. These files cover topics ranging from types of kinship systems, to trading practices found in all of human culture.

Anthropologists Ruth Mace and Mark Pagel explore the comparative method of anthropological research in their article The Comparative Method in Anthropology. They explain how in the past decade there have been many expansions in other branches of anthropology, including cultural diversity as a scientific endeavor. This is when the comparative method is used by those interested in cultural evolution and by those who study other human sciences. However, "cultures cannot be treated as independent for purposes of investigating cross culture trends," therefore they must instead be studied in relation to one another: How two or more cultures grow together, or how they are researched together has the ability to outline the entire premise of the comparative method. Having been used for hundreds of years, this method is still one of the main forms of research for anthropologists all over the world.


Reflexivity is the awareness of the researcher of the effect they may be having on the research. It involves a constant awareness and assessment of the researcher's own contribution to and influence on the researcher's subjects and their findings. This principle was perhaps first thought of by William Thomas, as the "Thomas Theorem". Fieldwork in cultural anthropology is a reflexive experience. Anthropologists must constantly be aware that the information they are gathering may be skewed by their ethical opinions, or political standings. Even an anthropologists' presence in that culture can affect the results they receive. Reflexive fieldwork must retain a respect for detailed, accurate information gathering while also paying precise attention to the ethical and political context of research, the background of the researchers, and the full cooperation of informants. In our everyday lives reflexivity is used to better understand ourselves by comparing our culture to others. For example, when someone talks about their religion, you may immediately disagree with specific aspects of their religion because you have not grown up believing it as they have. By being reflexive, one would be able to recognize their bias. Some anthropologists have taken this method to the extreme, Margaret Wilson, for example, wrote her book 'Dance Lest We all Fall Down' in a reflexive biographical manner; this accounted for her inability to fully integrate into Brazilian society [2].

Participatory Action Research

This specific method requires a community commitment to change. It occurs in five steps:

  1. Education on the Process or Creating a Dialogue
  2. Collective Investigation
  3. Collective Interpretation
  4. Collective Action
  5. Transformation: Self-Determination and Empowerment

Because of the intrinsic qualities of this type of research (ideally being conducted by people with close ties or membership of a community), it is usually very applicable to situations in the community. The research is an analysis of the community's behavior by the community's members. Not only are they by necessity, motivated to work on the problem, but they will already have significant rapport with other community members which allows them to better address and analyze it. The dynamic attributes of the process allow constant reevaluation and change. This cyclic tendency can develop into healthy adaptation patterns in the community without outside contributions or aid.

Triangulation Method

The triangulation method is the "combination of methodologies in the study of the same phenomenon". [3] It is used to investigate a single topic through individual perspectives or multiple methodologies. It is usually the preferred way to research because it can combine all methods of researching to get the best results. It uses qualitative and quantitative practices together. The qualitative practice gives the triangulation method its inquiry results. The quantitative practice gives it the validation results. It combines a scientific approach with an observational approach. According to the Administrative Science Quarterly, it is a "vehicle for cross validation when two or more distinct methods are found to be congruent and yield comparable data". [4] The foundation of triangulation relies on one form of research being weak and the other form stepping up to make up for it. Relying on one form of research can create a bias. The general problem with measurement data, is the individual or group being researched tends to tell you what you want to hear instead of the full truth. Triangulation helps prevent bias by giving the researcher the opportunity to participate in individual, self-reported and observational methods with those being researched. Sampling bias generally means that the researcher doesn't have time to cover the entire group they are focusing on. Or they focus on what they think the important parts of a society are and don't study the less important aspects. Triangulation can combine phone research, face-to-face interviews, and online surveys to ensure that the researcher is getting the most accurate results. In all, the triangulation method for fieldwork can combine all aspects of research to create the most accurate and detailed results, taking different perspectives and various sources to culminate into the most accurate model or a culture.

Types of Analysis

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Analysis

Quantitative research can be represented numerically, whereas Qualitative data cannot.

Quantitative research is more interested in hard data procured through things like surveys, polls and censuses. This type of research is interested in things like the percentage of people interviewed that agree with one statement versus another, the number of people in a culture that belong to a certain organization, or how many people in a country speak the native language versus how many are bilingual or only speak a foreign language. This method of research usually requires a large random sample group. It is totally concerned with the hard evidence(quantity)through statistics and recorded happenings, participants, and locations.

Qualitative research is typically descriptive, or anecdotal, and does not lend itself to analysis like quantitate data. Qualitative research is in-depth research that seeks to understand why something happens the way it does. In anthropology, qualitative research includes participating as well as observing. It often crosses disciplinary boundaries and strays from a single subject, or variable being studied. Due to the specific rapport required to obtain qualitative data, it generally requires a smaller sample size.

Positivist Approach

Made popular during the late 18th century, this was the primary anthropological method used until the 1970s. It is based around the central idea of positivism, a theory saying that theology and metaphysics are earlier imperfect modes of knowledge and that positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena with their properties and relations as verified by the scientific method.[13] The main goal of a positivist approach is to produce objective knowledge, which is knowledge about humanity that is true for all people in all times and places. The ideal positivist approach would occur with a physical scientist in a lab, producing concrete results. Anthropologists adapted this method to their own use by testing hypotheses in different cultures under similar conditions. This method was very successful in recording previously unknown data about different peoples, but it was often objective facts about a way of life in which the people of the culture at question were regarded more as lab subjects than actual human beings. Eventually this method was adapted into the reflexive method, to better demonstrate the relationships that exist within communities and the anthropologists own interactions with the informants.

The positivist approach requires the use of the scientific method. A researcher makes an observation about a social behavior or condition, constructs a hypothesis as to the reason or outcome of the observation, tests the hypothesis and then analyzes the results. [14]

Ethnographic Analysis

Spradley describes ethnography as different from deductive types of social research in that the five steps of ethnographic research: selecting a problem, collecting data, analyzing data, formulating hypotheses, and writing. All five steps happen simultaneously (p. 93-94).

In his book, Spradley describes four types of ethnographic analysis that basically build on each other. The first type of analysis is domain analysis, which is “a search for the larger units of cultural knowledge” (p. 94). The other kinds of analysis are taxonomic analysis, componential analysis, and theme analysis.

All of Spradley’s theories about ethnographic analysis hinge on his belief that researchers should be searching for the meaning that participants make of their lives. These meanings are expressed through symbols, which can be words, but can also be nonverbal cues. However, because this book is about analyzing interviews, Spradley focuses on analyzing the spoken words of the participants. He explains that words are symbols that represent some kind of meaning for an individual, and each symbol has three parts: the symbol itself, what the symbol refers to, and the relationship between the symbol and the referent. Thus, the word computer can be a symbol. It refers to many things, including an individual's own personal computer. Thus, a computer is a kind of computer in the mind, or the idea of a computer, and this shows the relationship between the symbol (computer) and the referent (an actual physical computer).

Domain analysis

A domain is a “symbolic category that includes other categories”. The category of computers is a domain that includes not only a laptop, but all the Dells, Toshibas, iMacs, and IBMs in the world. These all share the same relationship because they are all kinds of computers. There are three elements to a domain. First, the cover term, which in this example is the word “computer”. Second, there are included terms, which are all the types of computers just listed. Finally, there is the single, unifying semantic relationship, which is the idea that “X, Y, and Z are all kinds of A”.

When anthropologists complete a domain analysis, they are gaining an understanding of how people place objects within different domains. In other words how does a person, family, or culture categorize the world around them. This information can be gathered is several ways. Strict inclusion ("what is a Macbook, a computer), Domain analysis, and questioning the categorization are methods of domain analysis. To revert to the previous example, if you agree that Macs are kinds of computers, you could test this hypothesis by making a question out of this semantic statement; “Are there different kinds of computers?” You could ask a participant, and based on their answer, you would know if the cover term, included terms, and semantic relationship that you identified were correct. You could then probe with more questions like, “Why are Macs a kind of computer?” or “In what way are Macs a kind of computer?”

Taxonomic Analysis

Taxonomic Analysis is a search for the way that cultural domains are organized. Building upon the first type of analysis, this form of research is best defined as the classification of data in the form x is a kind of y (D'Andrade, 92). Used largely for the organization and grouping of plant and animal species, taxonomic analysis is not focused on the features of an organism but rather the variable genetic differences that define them. For example, scientists can refer to the common chimpanzee using the taxonomy pan troglodyte and make specific references to that species without fear of error in their classification and use of data. Taxonomic Analysis usually involves drawing a graphical interpretation of the ways in which the individual participants move, form groups, and pattern the structure of a conversation.


  1. Dale, Brigt. "Lives In-between Encountering Men in a Tobagonian Village." Anthrobase. Brigt Dale, 2004. Web. 26 Nov. 2016. <>.
  2. 'Dance Lest We All Fall Down' Margaret Wilson
  3. Administrative Science Quarterly, First Edition, Vol. 24, No. 4, Qualitative Methodology (Dec., 1979).
  4. Administrative Science Quarterly, First Edition, Vol. 24, No. 4, Qualitative Methodology (Dec., 1979).

^ "Positivism." Def. 1. Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. 2003.

^ Bourgois, Philip, In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio Cambridge University Press, 1995.

^"Emic and Etic." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

^Liu, F., & Maitlis, S. (2010). Nonparticipant Observation. In Albert J. Mills, G. Durepos, & E. Wiebe (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. (pp. 610-612). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

^ D'Andrade, Roy. "The Development of Cognitive Anthropology." 1995 92. 10 Mar 2009,M1

Symbolism and Communication


Playing is the engagement of activity or recreation for enjoyment or practical purposes. Playing serves as an important aspect of both a child's and a grown adult's development. In order for something to be defined as play, the activity must be created by the players, be enjoyable and be somehow related to the non-play world (non-play is defined as an activity not relating to recreation). In addition, play is spontaneous and intrinsically motivated. In other words, one cannot be forced to 'play' as it would then be a task one was given to do. Though the act of playing must be voluntary, multiple people can be included by inviting others to join thus giving them the choice to play or not. Sometimes play can be considered a game where there are certain goals, but other times play has no purpose at all. There are no guidelines on how to correctly play because playing is a creative experience for the participants. Play is also essential to many aspects of childhood growth.

Children and even adults train their bodies and brains for real life situation by playing. Through the act of playing, children acquire and learn many new skills which contribute to their growth and development, such as cooperation, decision-making, as well as improved ability to both think and act more creatively. According to a report by Kenneth R. Ginsburg, “play is important to healthy brain development.” The Importance of Play. Patterns and connections made between nerve cells and neurons in the brain are stimulated and influenced by the activities children engage in, such as play. Children should be encouraged to play because it can be extremely constructive to the overall development of their brains, as well as effective in forming new connections in their brains. This important development influences, “fine and gross motor skills, language, socialization, personal awareness, emotional well-being, creativity, problem-solving and learning ability,” which are all key building blocks for children’s futures as they develop.[1]Therefore, it is encouraged for children to play, and continue to play throughout their lives.

Playing also prompts children to use their brains in creative and imaginative ways, which not only develops and strengthens connections in their brains, but also allows them to experience many different aspects of the world that they may not otherwise be able to experience; these “other-worldly” experiences so to speak, can be accomplished through children’s creative and imaginative processes where they often create fictitious or “make-believe” worlds in games. These games allow the children to play and think creatively together. Psychologist Dr. Sandra Shiner says this about fantasy games: “we should encourage this in our children because creative thinkers must first fantasize about ideas before they can make these ideas reality." Thus, play can be seen as essential to cultivating generations of people who will grow to become innovators and pioneers, because without creativity, society stagnates.

Games that children have created usually have sets of rules that the players are expected to follow. These types of rule-making collaborations through play not only teach children how to logically come up with ideas and rules, but also teaches them how to interact with each other, communicate, and understand how to socialize and work in a group. Studies have also shown that, "while in free play children tended to sort themselves into groupings by sex and color". [2] For many years, most anthropologists paid little attention to the significance of human play. It wasn't until recently that modern anthropologists realized human play was an important factor and was necessary to be studied because of its massive impact on human behavior. The act of playing is now viewed by many in the field of anthropology as a universal practice and one that is significant in the understanding of human cultures. [3]

Children Playing

Play Among Children in the United States

Play is demonstrated and encouraged in the United States preschool system. In the U.S., it is common for parents to send their children to preschools, where they interact with other kids of the same age. While at preschool, the children are encouraged to socialize and play with their peers. Play is a vital aspect in almost every part of early schooling, from dress-up stations to recess, and to daily circle time. The preschoolers are presented with toys and props that encourage play, to help their socialization. These items are used so that the children are given the chance to create their own games rather than have the adults control them. In the United States parents are encouraged to send their children to preschool so that they can learn ways of play that will help them develop as the years progress and they enter the realm of higher education. Preschool and the idea of play in this context is also beneficial to young children because it teaches the life skill of sharing. At the time when children are entering preschool, they are just figuring out that the world is not centered around them and not everything belongs to them. They are learning that others have feelings too. The concept of sharing in a playing environment will encourage them to learn patience and gain friendships. [4] Preschool not only offers a sanctuary to build sharing skills, create friendships, and expand a child's imagination it also can be good for the health of some children. For example, children with special needs can go to preschool for therapeutic benefits. Play time allows for fine-motor development, relationship practice, creative thinking, and above all an opportunity for fun. Many schools devoted to special needs children utilize a technique called floor-time, which at its core, is play-time. This one-on-one play time with an adult is a great way for special needs children to explore specific areas of interest and develop a sense of self-worth based on said exploration. [5]

While interacting with an adult and gaining the benefits of the individual attention, the child also gets the experience of working alongside a peer. Because special needs students often need more intensive supervision it is nice to give them the opportunity to solely play with a friend or peer. This type of interaction is essential so the child can feel comfortable and more involved with the rest of the class. These tools that are taught in preschool will be the building blocks for the rest of the school years so it's vital that kids acquire the right tools necessary for learning and interaction.

Gender Differences in Social Play in Early Childhood

Gender differences in how children play are not consistent over time. Studies focusing on children in preschool found that girls typically develop social and structured forms of play at a younger age than boys, however males displayed more solitary play. "During solitary play, children (ranging from ages three to 18 months) are very busy with play and they may not seem to notice other children sitting or playing nearby. They are exploring their world by watching, grabbing and rattling objects, and often spend much of their time playing on their own. Solitary play begins in infancy and is common in toddlers. This is because of toddlers’ limited social, cognitive, and physical skills. However, it is important for all age groups to have some time to play by themselves" [6]. Gender Differences...Males typically catch up to females at the next developmental stage when associated and cooperative play is the primary focus. There are a number of reasons female children have an advantage when it comes to social play. Play involves communication, role taking, and cooperation. Socio-cognitive skills, such as language and theory-of-mind, are acquired at an earlier age for females. Within the first year, females show stronger social orientation responses and facial recognition, and more eye contact. These skills translate to social competence with peers. Another reason females may appear to have a higher quality of play may be related to gendered toys. A study showed that both male and female children had the greatest play complexity when they played with toys that were stereotypical female toys, compared to when they played with neutral or male stereotyped toys. The Effects Of Stereotyped Toys And Gender On Play Assessment In Children

Play Beyond Childhood

Party in Barcelona!

Throughout childhood, play is essential for children’s enculturation. As humans mature into adults, the idea of playing seems to fade. Leisure activities of intrinsic value are vital for both physical and mental health, attaining a sense of fulfillment in life, and for overall happiness.

The importance of play and leisure are constantly overlooked when combating stress. Stress has been shown to have negative effects on areas ranging from national health to the economy. A Canadian study estimated that 12 billion dollars are lost every year due to stress. 43% of Americans report suffering from job related burnout. These problems are often attributed to the lack of vacation time in America, or in other words, a lack of leisure and play.

When adults are given the time to engage in activities of play such as sports, hobbies, dancing, or various other recreational activities there are distinct benefits to their quality of life. In Jim Rice’s article “Why Play” [7] he writes about how adults often feel like “victims of time” with obligations to spend all of our time productively. What most adults don’t realize is that play and leisure are productive in the sense that they are important for overall wellbeing and reduce stress which in the long run increases productivity in other areas.

"Partying" for many adults is a way to meet new people and relieve themselves from the stressful life of work and home they engage in during the week. Just as playing helps children develop social skills, this adult version of recess allows adults to have a chance to mingle and be socially involved. Studies have shown that the social skills that people learn and obtain as children are often built upon and utilized when they become adults. These studies show that children's playtime is very important in order for individuals to grow up understanding how to socially interact with each other, as well as allowing people to feel the same enjoyment through their adult leisure activities as when they played as children. Playing stresses the importance of safe and pleasant playtime that children need in order to grow up feeling the same enjoyment through their adult leisure activities. [8]


A "sport" is a type of play that is governed by a set of rules. In most cases it is considered to be physically exertive and competitive. In almost all forms of sport the competition determines a winner and loser. Physical exertion can vary dramatically across sports--for example golf versus football. Sport tends to contain both play, work and leisure. Less physically exertive forms of the sport tend to constitute play, while more exertive and athletically demanding sports often serve as work for athletes and owners of sports teams. However, sports are generally defined by conflict where the goal is always for one opponent or team to win. This creates a different setting than real-world culture, where conflict-resolution is often the goal. This type of play, because it is defined by set rules, creates a virtual world where participants can create heroes, enemies, suffer and celebrate, all without real-world consequence. Athletes and teams exist not only to oppose each other, but to represent themselves as players, their teams, hometowns, cities, and their countries as best they can. [9] Sports often unite groups of people together for a cause. They can group teammates together to strive to compete at their best or they can unite entire countries to become fans of one particular sport or team. For example, America is united by baseball and football, sports that are considered the country's favorite pastime, whereas England is united by futball/soccer, a sport that has been played and supported for hundreds of years. Sports are an entertaining way for people to gather and learn the aspects of competition and teamwork, which can be learned anywhere from childhood to adulthood.

Sport in Culture

A goalkeeper saving a close range shot from inside the penalty area
Map showing the popularity of football around the world. Countries where football is the most popular sport are colored green, while countries where it is not are colored red. The various shades of green and red indicate the number of players per 1,000 inhabitants.


Sports hold a variety of different meanings across cultures. In a study of soccer in Brazil, Dr. Janet Lever finds that organized sports aid political unity and allegiance to the nation-state[10] . In Brazil, every city is home to at least one professional soccer team. Interestingly, different teams tend to represent different culture groups, such as different economic levels and ethnicities. This creates allegiances at a local level, but the team that represents a city in the national championships will have the support of all the people of that city, thus building political unity on a greater level. Having this firm support for the representation of teams gives people something to identify with. Their support for their team can be taken as giving support to their nation.This is even more so in World Cup championships, when the entire country of Brazil unites to support their country's official team. Brazilians fans like to boast about 'Penta' since they are the only country to win the World Cup five times; 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.[11] Soccer unifies the country of Brazil, but it is important to note that sports do not always create unity. Sports bring out a aggressive and competitive side in all athletes. However, those with those qualities are the ones to watch for they truly know how to play the sport and aren't afraid to play dirty. They also highlight inequalities, such as gender segregation between men and women. Brazilian women are far less interested in soccer, and as a result, remain separate from men in that aspect. (The last statement may not be entirely accurate as a large number of Brazilian women are some of the most passionate soccer fans in the world. Also, Brazil women's national team is among the most successful club in the sport.)[12]

In the Republic of Serbia it is thought that playing soccer enhances qualities. These aspects include aggressiveness, competition, physical strength, coordination, teamwork, discipline, and speed. These are all qualities attributed to the male gender. It is a common practice for men to watch games together in their homes, in front of local stores, etc. Women are not welcomed at these gatherings and are often asked to leave before the game starts or asked not to come until the game is over. This male dominated aspect of Serbian culture parallels the gender segregation between men and women found in Brazil.[13] Another inequality that soccer highlights is the difference between the upper class society and lower class society. Soccer was especially practiced by the poor throughout the 20th century. Many poor boys are dreaming of becoming the next Pele or Ronaldo and because of this, they promote the national soccer culture even more. Dreaming about soccer is a motivation for millions of poor children who want to escape from their poverty. In Brazilian life it's not uncommon for soccer culture to have a bigger influence than politics or economics. [14]

In Italy, “calcio” (football / soccer) is a symbol of national pride for many people. From childhood on, it is stressed that one must become a loyal supporter of the local club team. This passion can quickly ignite rivalries with neighboring towns and cities. It is not uncommon for the “tifosi” (fans) to start fights at soccer stadiums. Every four years, the World Cup Tournament unites Italians from different economic, political, and geographical backgrounds into one proud country. This strong national pride as helped the “Azzuri” win four World Cup Trophies and one European Championship. [15]


In the state of Texas, football (American) is a cultural phenomenon. It is not unusual for children to be held back in school in order to be more physically capable for football later in their schooling careers. Education has taken a back seat when compared to football, leading many parents and citizens to question the ethics of promoting football over intellectual pursuits. The fanaticism of football in Texas rivals that of the rest of the worlds obsession with soccer. [16]

Football has many widely televised games that draw a large audience every year. These games include the Super Bowl by drawing in hundreds of millions of television viewers each year in early February, and college football's multiple BCS (Bowl Championship Series) bowl games that occur around and on New Years Day. [17]

The National Football League (NFL) is the organization where there are 32 professional teams all around the United States. The NFL is becoming more popular globally. In the 2008-09 NFL season, the New Orleans Saints and the San Diego Chargers played regular season game in London. This was done to help make the NFL more global. The NFL plans to have more regular season games located outside the United States in the future. Football is a violent game, with hits at the professional level often characterized by two outstanding athletes running at full speed into one another with the sense of danger neutralized by the pads and helmet they wear for protection. Offensive and Defensive lineman, while colliding at lower speeds generally than their skills-player teammates, are equally susceptible to damage due to the cumulative effect of the low-impact, high-frequency hits they sustain on nearly every down. The aggressive nature of football is a major contributor to its popularity, with toughness and perseverance as its chief virtues. However, scientific research revealing the health issues suffered by players later in life, including CTE and Dementia, has lead to concern about whether the negative impact of playing the game out ways the positives.


Another sport that aids political, social, and economic aspects of culture is baseball. This universal sport has been the center of cultural life in the Dominican Republic, connecting Dominicans to each other, as well as to the rest of the Caribbean for over 100 years. [18] This small Caribbean island has been the home to many of the best players in Major League Baseball in the United States, where the major league is run and the world series is played. Major League Heroes such as Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez, and David Ortiz all excelled in this sport in the Dominican Republic in order to reach their ultimate goal of playing professionally in the United States. Since the Dominican Republic is an economically poor country, little boys and teenagers alike work their entire lives to try to be the best baseball player that they can be. This constant competition is a great source of entertainment, which is why baseball games are a huge part of Dominican culture. Most women are forbidden to partake in this sport. This rule is not so much sexism as it is an attempt to keep women safe. Dominicans believe that baseball is a dangerous sport for women because of the hard ball that can be hit anywhere at any given moment. Although it is not a law that women cannot play baseball, they traditionally do not partake in this cultural pastime. For women, they created a sport called Softball, it is much like baseball but with a bigger and softer ball. For men in the Dominican Republic Baseball is not only a great hobby and way to relate to each other, it is also an opportunity to strive to become the best athletes they can possibly become. Baseball has been a great part of America and has help shape sports from history. As Asia first started to play the game of baseball, America came and took over a revolution. [19]

While symbols and language are used in a wide variety of sports, they are absolutely essential to the game of baseball. In a full nine inning game of baseball, there is almost never a moment of complete silence on the field. In American culture, certain gestures and hand motions are used by the 3rd base coach to communicate a specific action for the batter to perform (Swing, bunt, take, etc.). Hand gestures and voice commands are used by players on the field to communicate position changes, the amount of outs there are, and tips about where the batter typically hits the ball. The most important use of symbols and hand gestures in baseball comes from the catcher and are directed towards the pitcher. These gestures are an essential aspect of the game because they tell the pitcher what pitch he is throwing next (Curveball, fastball, slider, etc). Commands in baseball come from different members of the team (third base coach, first base coach, head coach, players, etc.) depending on the culture and the country the game is being played in. For example, in American culture hitting signs come from the third base coach, and catching signs come from the head coach [20]. Just as baseball can not be played without a ball or a bat, it can not be played without the use of communication, symbols, and gestures.


Equally popular in the United States is basketball, which has a growing global following as well. Basketball is played with five players on each team. Basketball is played widely throughout the United States and is popular with both men and women. It is also one of the most popular and widely viewed sports in the world.

The battle for equality of woman's sports has been an ongoing struggle for many years. The WNBA wasn't started until 1997, but with stars such as Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie, Diana Taurasi, and Candace Parker made for a rise in popularity. Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper lead the Houston Comets to wins in the first four WNBA championships and were the first WNBA dynasty. The WNBA has become so popular that it's viewers had topped that of both the NHL and MLB. Title IX helped make a huge impact on the WNBA because it helped out college basketball players, allowing to give them scholarships. Besides the United States, basketball is also extremely popular in many other countries.

Basketball has been a huge part in the globalization of nations. The United States has had the largest impact on globalization within the basketball world because it has the largest and most popular professional leagues. The NBA is the largest professional basketball league in the U.S and makes a continuous effort to interact with basketball leagues around the world. This year the NBA hopes to continue its globalization efforts by having 12 teams set to play 10 games in 10 different international cities. The NBA hopes to influence more international cities to form basketball teams and leagues with these games being played in their countries and cities. [21]

The Olympics is also a way that the U.S uses to expand its basketball influence. The U.S is easily the most dominant team in the basketball world with the most tournament wins in the Olympics. The U.S tends to dominate the Olympics in the basketball world, however every year international teams continue to improve in order to compete. The U.S Olympic basketball teams consists all of NBA players, typically the best players in the league. Many watch the Olympic basketball games to see the NBA superstars all playing together. The U.S team influences every international team to improve their basketball leagues and teams, continuing the processes of globalization. [22]

Other Sports

Sports can also provide a safe alternative to political conflicts. When two conflicting countries meet in a sports arena the game can become significantly more competitive.

One of the most awesome instances of this power of sport came in the 1980 Olympics, when the United States defeated the dominant USSR in the semifinal round of hockey. Although America was in a time of crisis, the U.S. Hockey teams race for gold brought hope to an entire nation in despair.

Historically, lacrosse dominated the culture of many native American tribes. It was used to settle inter-tribal disputes, toughen the young men, celebrate festivals, and used for religious reasons. It helped keep the six nations of the Iroquois united. The Mohawk Indians called it the little brother of war. All of the able bodied men would compete on a field that could be from 500 meters to a few miles long. The games would last from sun up to sun down for up to three days.[23] Lacrosse since then has shifted away from a cultural tradition into a sport played by people of all ages.

Tae Kwon Do (Loosely translated from Korean as 'The Way of Kicking and Punching') is the national sport of South Korea. This form of martial arts has spread worldwide and is the most popular by means of people who practice this form. This form of fighting is a main part of South Korea's military training. It combines the uses of self-defense, sport, philosophy, and meditation. It is also a sport for the summer Olympics.[24]

Not traditionally a sport because it is not physically exertive, video games are becoming increasingly popular in developed regions of the world, notably The Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania and sections of the Middle East, and most notably in South Korea. A new format of professional gaming is being developed, called Major League Gaming (MLG) and is growing in aforementioned nations, where tournaments are held with the goal of winning cash prizes. These prizes can exceed 10,000 for team play, and individual play around 6,000 dollars. Alongside cash rewards, players and teams are sponsored by companies in the same manner as Nascar Drivers, Pro snowboarders and American Soccer Teams. Games such as Counterstrike and Halo, League of Legends, and Starcraft are the leading games played.

Specifically within the scene of "Multiplayer Online Battle Arena" type games (MOBAs) such as League of Legends and DoTA 2 have lent themselves to practices similar to a traditional image of sports. The 2016 International tournament had a prize pool of $20,770,640.1. The same year, the League of Legends World Tour was tuned in by more viewers than the superbowl of the same year. Communities around these types of games have coined the term 'E-Sports' (electronic sports), and have earned rights with the US government to grant sports visas to professional players. It is commonplace for players within MOBA communities to self identify their game as an E-sport, however, this opinion is not shared with the general public. This is an industry however, with its fair share of hardships. In South Korea, it is not uncommon for aspiring professional gamers to train fourteen to sixteen hour days, and the handfull of people who are successful earn substantially lower salaries than the national average.In Korea, top professional players can make $35000-$40000 a year, however, players on smaller teans average between $9000 and $10000 a year. A leading cause of this being that Korean players only take home between %10 and %30 of any tournament money won, as the majority of the funds go to the companies which sponser them.[15]

Positive Effects of Getting Involved in Sports

Becoming involved with sports is beneficial in numerous ways. It promotes a healthy lifestyle, team building opportunities, strength, perseverance, leadership, and discipline. It can also increase confidence on and off the field. These are all important characteristics that will help children grow into independent, driven individuals.There has been research behind the theory that teenage girls specifically that are involved in sports may lead safer and more productive lifestyles. [25]

Many girls who are not involved in physical activities are at higher risks of teen pregnancy, abusive relationships, and developing eating disorders. The California Women's Law Center stated that, "female athletes are more likely to have intercourse at a later age, more likely to use contraceptives, have sex less often, and have fewer sexual partners. Not surprisingly, female athletes are more than half as likely to get pregnant as female non-athletes." Girls that gain confidence and self-esteem by participating in sports are more likely to make more responsible and smart decisions that affect their life. It has also been proven that female athletes get better grades and perform better on standardized tests. For example, swimming is one of the top academic performing sports along with tennis and track and field. The habits of the sports carry over into school performance. Girls set goals that help them stay focused and in line with their physical and emotional health. Coaches and parents begin to develop subconscious expectations for the athletes that keep them from getting involved with activities that they shouldn’t be involved in. Athletes (girls AND boys) are better able to keep on task and stay organized. [26]

A test done by Russell R. Pate, PhD; Stewart G. Trost, PhD; Sarah Levin, PhD; Marsha Dowda, DrPH found that approximately 70% of male students and 53% of female students reported participating on 1 or more sports teams in school and/or nonschool settings; rates varied substantially by age, sex, and ethnicity. Male sports participants were more likely than male nonparticipants to report fruit and vegetable consumption on the previous day and less likely to report cigarette smoking, cocaine and other illegal drug use, and trying to lose weight. Compared with female nonparticipants, female sports participants were more likely to report consumption of vegetables on the previous day and less likely to report having sexual intercourse in the past 3 months. <</ref>

Participation in sports has been linked to success in math and science, subjects traditionally dominated by men. One explanation for this may be that sports help girls resist traditional gender scripts that limit persistence and competition in these areas. To explore this, we contrast the effects of sports on boys and girls in academic domains that are stereotyped as masculine (physics) and feminine (foreign language). Furthermore, we differentiate sports by those characterized as masculine or feminine to identify activities that may reinforce or challenge traditional gender norms. Overall, participation in sports have had positive effects. Compared to non-participants of the same sex, girls are more likely to take physics and foreign language, while boys are more likely to take foreign language. The sport categories reveal divergent patterns for boys and girls, where masculine sports associated with physics for girls and foreign language for boys, while feminine sports are associated only with foreign language for girls. These findings confirm prior research that sports improve academics, but suggest that sports do not have uniform effects. While some sports may potentially counteract traditional femininity and help girls persist in masculine domains, other sports may not provide the same benefits.(Crissey, S. R., Pearson, J. and Riegle-Crumb, C."Gender Differences in the Effects of Sports Participation on Academic Outcomes")

Physical exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health. Reasons for performing physical exercise include the strengthening of muscles and cardiovascular system, the honing athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance, and for enjoyment. Frequent and regular physical exercise boosts the immune system and helps prevent the "diseases of affluence" such as heart disease, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.[1][2] Childhood obesity is a growing global concern and physical exercise may help decrease the effects of childhood obesity in developed countries.[27]

[28] It also improves mental health and helps prevent depression by the release of "feel good" neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and serotonin, from the brain. When being highly involved in sports, overall health becomes a top priority as well. Learning time management skills is key when every day consists of six hours of school, sports, family time and homework because otherwise the human body would be exhausted and worn down and would not be able to perform as well as they could. When people are in better physical shape, it is much more motivating to develop healthy eating habits that will last a life time. Developing healthy eating habits give people more energy to perform well in sports and exercise, and will also help prevent diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, exercise through sports and exercise must be accompanied by a healthy overall lifestyle.

Benefits of a Team

Working with other athletes on a team creates a tight-knit community, and one learns to trust the other players and to rely on the help of others in order to obtain a common goal. The environment in a functioning team is collaborative and non-threatening; allowing for more open and focused learning. Skills such as combined effort and compromise are learned far quicker in competition. These sorts of connections can last beyond the field of play and carry into athletes’ social and business lives. For example, how one plays and communicates on the field can reflect how one communicates to members at a business meeting and how they work to obtain their goals. Working in teams can benefit a group to overcome difficult challenges because the minds and work of a group can be more powerful and successful than just one person. They allow for diversity in thought on how to approach a challenge and allow for the group to be sustained by constant support. [29] Sports can make athletes more health-conscious, motivated, focused, and energetic. Being part of a team can enable athletes to communicate much better with others, consider others needs, solve critical thinking problems and become a leader.

Negative Aspects of a Team

Although teams generally create a positive environment and learning experience, that is not always the case, especially at the high school age level. In high school, anyone is welcome to try out for sports teams whether they’re experienced or a beginner. In these tryouts, they are instructed to perform various drills to demonstrate ability and potential, which usually result in the older more experienced players being selected for the varsity team, with the less experienced but potentially good younger players on the JV and C teams. The idea is to earn your spot on the team, but this system isn't necessarily a good one. Many teenagers come into these tryouts working their hardest to prove themselves and earn a position, but many of them are extremely disappointed and discouraged when they don’t make the team. It is at this time that the coach’s interaction with them is critical. If the coach does not encourage them to try again next year, or doesn’t bother to tell them their strengths, weaknesses, and what they could work on to improve, then they are likely to come away with a bad experience with high school sports. If they are unfairly overlooked, or were recovering from an injury, they may feel cheated and frustrated. For the students that did make the team, the feeling of relief is only temporary, because although sports are all about competition- which can be healthy and motivating- the coach can turn it into competition among teammates, pitting them against each other for positions and playing time. This can easily create stress not only about doing their best to impress the coach, but also worrying about relationships with their teammates. The idea is to try to build a team with trust and support, but typically the players are doing whatever it takes to get ahead of their teammates, creating the opposite effect.

Healthy Living

There is currently an epidemic in America regarding overeating and unhealthy lifestyles. One major concern is that of the rising obesity rate in young children. Children are growing without knowledge of correct diets and exercise and by the time they mature, they have become involved in a lifestyle that is unhealthy. In comparison to other countries, America is falling behind in the movement towards a healthier world. Other reasons for this recent spike concerning obesity in America are the rapid development of technology over the past century, which has almost completely removed physical exercise from our daily routines, unless one makes a purposeful effort to exercise. Some examples of technology that are blamed are the invention of automobiles, which has taken away the aspect of walking from one place to another, and the invention of the assemble line in factories, which makes, packs, and ships food in a faster and more efficient way. [30] Also from these developments we have achieved the ability to stock grocery store shelves with inexpensive, high calorie, good tasting food produced in bulk.[31] These technological developments have allowed America as a society to grow in population, while at the same time damaging the health of its own citizens.

Healthy living and physical fitness are very important aspects in our daily lives. Being physically fit not only helps people live healthy lives, it also helps people live longer. If you are able to keep up an active lifestyle throughout your life you will be able to slow the onset of osteoporosis as well as reduce chronic disease risk. Also, people who make physical activity and exercise a part of their daily lives when they are young are more likely to keep it in their lives as they grow older and benefit from it throughout their lifespan. Physical activity is defined as any movement that spends energy. Exercise is a subset of physical activity, but it is an activity that is structured and planned. While many children engage in physical activity, usually by playing with their friends, the amount of physical activity they get as they grow into adolescents usually declines. In America, today obesity and overweight occur in over 20% of children. On top of that, inactivity and poor diet contribute to 300,000 deaths per year in America. It’s proven that significant health benefits can be obtained by including 30 min of moderate physical activity, which must be performed at a minimum of three days per week, and can even be split up into three 10 minute chunks, which will reap the same results as one 30 minute session. However more frequent exercise will certainly lead to more rapid improvements. [32] [33]

There are numerous positive effects of participating in sports. First of all, being involved in sports ingrains in you a lot of values and disciplines in the sport you are playing and also just in life. Playing in sports helps you develop team work with your teammates. Everyone on the team is striving for a common goal (to win) and it takes unselfish team play to have success in sports that have teams. It also develops a discipline of hard work. Success doesn’t come easy and in order to succeed in sports and in life, you will need to work your tail off. When you practice dedication and hard work in a sport you play, you realize how much work it takes to succeed and in the future, it is more likely for you to succeed later in life. Sports are very positive. [34]

We are currently in the middle of an obesity epidemic within our country. The rate of obese people has tripled in the past 15 years. It's been found that 60+% of American adults are not regularly active. To maintain a healthy weight and balance caloric intake you must get a minimum of 60 min of moderate to vigorous activity most if not every day of the week. If we begin to instill proper nutrition and exercise habits in adolescents we should be able to keep this epidemic from proceeding into the next generation. [35]

Sport and Globalization

It can be observed that over the decades, sport has become a vehicle for driving the effects of globalization, a worldwide process concerning the diffusing of people, ideologies, and goods across national boundaries and how it promotes the interactions between and the integration of different cultures. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world.

Globalization is not new, though. For thousands of years, people—and, later, corporations—have "been buying from and selling to each other in lands at great distances, such as through the famed Silk Road across Central Asia that connected China and Europe during the Middle Ages"[36]. Likewise, for centuries, people and corporations have invested in enterprises in other countries. In fact, many of the features of the current wave of globalization are similar to those prevailing before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

International teams and leagues and the participation in mega-sporting events fuel a cornered market that strays away from the small community ideology of sport and turns it into an industry. The some of the largest and easily recognizable examples include the Olympics and the World Cup. These events have become so incredibly massive by following marketing and business strategies rather than merely investing in the thrilling splendor of professional competition.

“Many of the accumulation strategies utilized by sports managers around the world were generally conceived in the United States”[37] — this can support the perspective that the globalization of sport is rather an Americanization of international industry. Sport as a market means that several large corporate entities have a share in the process of creating the global production. This includes the small group of mass global telecommunication networks, world renowned sports brands, transnational corporations, and international sports management firms. These groups determine the scheduling and productions of large global sporting events, take advantage of cheap overseas labor to produce sports equipment and apparel, promote certain leagues and teams internationally to sell merchandise and the franchises, and to control the careers of athletes centered around when and where they compete.

Lucie Thibault of Brock University mentions the diverse athlete origins that can be traced in professional leagues worldwide, the increase in the new participation in at international sports events by countries that had not participated before, and the increase in the number of athletes competing in sports that break many barriers of gender, religion, and climate all as positive implications of sports globalization. However, she also touches on the solidly negative truths of globalizing the sports industry. Thibault mentions the luring of athletes out of their homelands to compete for foreign countries, the overseas exploitation of third world peoples in the production of sportwear and equipment, and the ecological footprint of mega-sports events [38].

Sport is more or less a device of consumption in today’s global markets. Spectators consume all aspects of the teams or sports they are partial to and marketing engineers strategically use the demographics to create a global experience. “Media have the expertise and technical equipment to produce sport into a package that can easily be consumed by spectators” [39] and cultures around the world take part. The direction of international mega-sport and the effect it has on global economies, culture, and environment may or not be taking a turn for the worst. Some may suggests that it is creating more harm and negative impact than what it creates positive. Surely this is not massively advertised, but that does not mean all of its affects do not exist. The Olympics, the World Cups, Paralympics, and the Commonwealth Games are only a few examples of major events that fuel this industry and will continually be produced by TNCs, global telecommunications, and major sportwear and equipment companies. Athletes, teams, and leagues will be controlled, showcased, and used to promote events and brands in an effort to fuel the perpetually massive profits created by this method of globalization.

Culture Sharing Through International Competition

International competition provides a unique platform for social statements to be made. Radio, television, and streaming technology allow athletes on a world stage to communicate values directly to people all around the world. Similar to federation or league competitions, international competitions attract a large, sustained viewer base. However, international competitions have a larger global viewership. ‘Mega-events’, such as the Olympic Games, are “...important points of reference for processes of change and modernisation within and between nation-states...”. [40]

The Olympic Games in Mexico City, 1989 provided a platform for United State’s Black athletes to draw attention to the continuing racism in the states. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medalists respectively in the 200m [41], stood at the podium shoeless, in black socks and Smith in a black scarf. Each raised a black-gloved fist into the air, a symbol of both black power and black unity. The white silver medalist in the 200m, Peter Norman of Australia, showed solidarity with the cause, wearing an OPHR (Olympic Project for Human Rights) pin.[42] Smith and Carlos were condemned by the International Olympic Committee, and received death threats. Returning home, they were praised by the African-American community.


Art stems from playful creativity; something that all human beings possess. Keep in mind that those activities described as “art” are different from free play because they abide by certain rules. Art includes sports, dancing, theater arts, etc. Artistic rules direct particular attention to, and provide standards for evaluating the form of the activities or objects that artists/players produce. Although, art is ultimately subjective and governed by the culture within which it is produced and created for.

Anthropologist Alexander Alland defines art as “play with form producing some aesthetically successful transformation-representation” (1977, 39). In Alland’s definition: form is the appropriate restriction(s) put upon the type of play being organized. For example, a painting is a two-dimensional form. “Aesthetically successful” means the creator of the piece of art and/or audience “experiences a positive or negative response” from the art piece. Something aesthetically poor in quality will have an unsuccessful response resulting in an emotion of indifference towards the art piece from an audience or even from the author. The easiest way to explain the term transformation-representation is to remember that symbols represent something deeper than what is shown and thus may not have any connection with what they are representing. Since Alland suggests that transformation-representation have a dependency on one another, the two should be referred to together as well. Transformation-representation is another way of talking about a metaphor. A drawing is a metaphoric transformation of experience into visible marks on a two-dimensional surface. Also, a poem metaphorically transforms experience into concentrated and tightened language.

Art by intention includes objects that were made to be art, such as Impressionist paintings. Art by appropriation, however, consists of all the other objects that “became art” because at a certain moment certain people decided that they belonged to a category of art. Most often the category was formed by Western society and the objects or activities may not necessarily fit in that same category in another society’s culture. [43]

Anthropologist Shelly Errington argues that in order to transform an object into art, someone must be willing to display it. When Western society sees an item that fits their definition of art, it is placed on the “art” market. Errington also noted that the Western view of art tends to select objects that are: ‘portable, durable, useless for practical purposes in the secular West, and representational.’ A problem exists where Western’s definition of art begins to exploit certain cultures for their objects that offer ‘exotic’ allure. The demand for ‘exotic’ art in Western society, for example, is strong. This art is typically fashionable decoration at one moment and out of fashion next year. This “come-and-go” fashion can threaten international economic policies and resource extraction projects with the artifact bearing society. Like play, art challenges its contributors with providing alternative realities and the opportunity to comment on or change worldly views.


Art Movements


Impressionism was a term used to describe paintings that looked unfinished because they showed visible brushstrokes. The paintings depicted everyday life. In 1874, impressionist painters organized an exhibition in Paris that launched the impressionist movement. They called themselves the Anonymous Society of Artists. The most notable members were Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro.[45]

Post Impressionism

Post impressionism started in the late 1880s. Post Impressionist artists painted in a similar style as impressionist artists, but they added new ideas. They did not only paint what they saw in everyday life. They used more symbolism. The most famous members of this movement were Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Cézanne. However, they worked separately and did not see themselves as a part of a movement. [46]


A style of art pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in 1907. Cubism took ordinary shapes and broke them up into abstract geometric forms [47]. Cubism played with perspective and form and broke the long established rules of traditional western art reinvigorating the art scene of the time. Cubism is considered by many to be one of the first forms of modern art.

Dada and Surrealist

Described as anti-art, Dadaism challenged what can be considered art. Dada was a response to the chaotic times at the start of WW1, an avant-garde rebellion throughout Europe. It was anti-war and a social critique of the conformity of the time. It quickly spread to Berlin where it was facilitated by the Bauhaus art school, along with modernism and surrealism, where the movement flourished. Possibly the most famous piece of Dada art was Marcel Duchamp's 'Fountain' which was a porcelain urinal on a pillar with the name 'R. Mutt' inscribed on it. 'Fountain' was an attempt by Duchamp to shift art from a creative process to an interpretive process which was a key part of the Dada movement. Other well-known works such as those by Salvador Dali, who created 'The Persistence of Memory' featuring melting clocks and 'Un Chien Andalou' a surreal short film are still widely studied today. Dadaism and Surrealism hold international acclaim and are an integral part of art history.

Pop Art

Merging and breaking down fine art and pop culture icons pop art was a satirization of the mass production culture of America. Pop art was a stark contrast to the serious and ultra creative abstract art of the time, it was playful and ironic and didn't take itself serious. Pop art called into question the images we knew and played off them.


Above all, music is the organization of sound and silence. Beyond this, music means many things to many people, including:

  1. A sound, or the study of such sounds, organized in time in a melodious way.
  2. (figurative) Any pleasing or interesting sounds
  3. Something wonderful.
    That's music to my ears!
  4. A guide to playing or singing a particular tune; sheet music.
  5. Appreciation of or responsiveness to sounds or harmonies
    Music was in his very soul.


The creation of music dates back to prehistoric time. The "oldest song" ever discovered was in "cuneiform, dating to 4,000 years ago from Ur."[48] This indicates to historians that people in many cultures throughout time have listened to, and incorporated the creation of music into their cultures. In ancient times, the Greeks would use basic pipes to create phonic sounds and compose tunes. Although, it wasn't until later that music became true entertainment for people in their everyday lives. In the Medieval era, people began to record music through writing. The Church devoted huge amounts of money to the writing of Gregorian Chants, named for the Pope at the time. The Churches served as a valuable space for recording and saving music. With the invention of the printing press, however, more non-theistic music was able to be recorded. The powerful connection people had with each other through music only strengthened over time. It was music that brought people together during the 14th century as a result of their poor economy. As time went on, new technological advances encouraged and aided the sped up circulation of music to many different people, countries, and cultures. Music is a way to express feelings and tell stories across time by using selective lyrics and notes. Other creatures, besides humans, also use music as a way to portray an expression with either productive uses like mating songs or simple uses like a singing bird. Music changes with cultures and people who listen to it, compose it and invent it. [49]

Song and Words

Although the major discussion of text and literature is within the chapter on [Communication and Language], the anthropological study of a song, or words as art, warrants its own discussion here in the context of play and art. A quote to keep in mind when studying cultural arts such as music and dance is "There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found the time when he as an old man, to learn music and dancing, and he thought is was time well spent."- Michael De Montaigne[50]


In colloquial terms, classical music is considered any western music written or created up to the mid 1800s. Classical music is generally divided into seven different eras including Gregorian, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Early Romantic, and Romantic. Each era consists of its own stylistic components that set each apart from one another. However, while all 'classical' music is generally considered one in the same, in reality the variations among each era make each unique and distinguishable from each other.


Gregorian music was the first form of written western music. It is characterized by simple vocal patterns performed exclusively by one or two men. Of the two men, the one with the higher range would sing the melodic line while the other would sing a single drone note throughout the piece. In these pieces, very few notes were used. These notes were equivalent to the current day A, E, and D. This practice was brought about by the church who believed everything must be done in threes due to the holy trinity. Because these notes sounded the most consonant together, they were chosen to be the only ones allowed. These intervals are now known as perfect unison, perfect fourth, and perfect fifth.


Medieval music was rather similar to Gregorian music in the sense that it was still very simplistic, followed rigid rules, and was influenced immensely by the church. However, the major difference between the two is that Medieval music involved instruments. This was the first time instruments were introduced to western music. This change was largely due in part to royalty needing more sound because they were speaking to larger groups in larger areas and wanted to seem more important


The Renaissance was an incredibly influential music era known as the Golden Age. Many new additions to the era set it apart from the previous two eras including allowing women into choirs, the introduction of new instruments, and restrictions on notes were not as limited. The addition of women to choirs gave immense texture to pieces. This led to the creation of a music style called madrigals which typically involved four to six parts with one person on each part. The new addition of instruments included many primitive versions of current day instruments, fretted string instruments, and percussion instruments. This was also the first time chromatic instruments were used which expanded which notes could be played.


Baroque music was one of the most flamboyant and over the top music eras. It was often characterized by massive symphonies of 300 plus people and lengthy pieces. Many textures or parts were involved in these pieces making them incredibly difficult to interpret. Additionally, during this time woodwind instruments greatly expanded their range while brass instruments remained comparatively behind. Non-fretted string instruments such as violins and cellos were also introduced during this time.


The Classical era, in a sense, took a step back from the extravagance of the Baroque era. Comparatively, the Classical era was rather simplistic however, it was still far more elaborate than the Renaissance era and the eras proceeding that because of additional technology. During this time, symphony sizes shrunk significantly and rarely exceeded over about 150 people. Additionally, the chorus began being phased out almost entirely and mainly only served as background for certain pieces, the main focus was on instruments. This was also the first time the catholic church allowed specific minor keys to be performed. Tuning instruments had changed significantly during this time making these keys sound more coherent and smooth. By doing this, all keys were slightly out of tune which caused many previously forbidden to be acceptable. However, some minor keys were still banned as they sounded so horrid, playing them was considered blasphemous. Other technological advances included fully chromatic brass instruments, primitive snare drums were invented, and woodwind fingering was standardized. Many well-known composers created their work during this time such as Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. Their work was also well-documented due to the way in which is was recorded.

Early Romantic

The Early Romantic era was yet another transitional period. This era was all about simplification and minimization. One main focus was breaking music down to the basics. Chamber music also became incredibly important during this time. Both vocal and instrumental music experienced a newly flexible range with key signatures and scales. The only restricted musical component at this point was the major-minor scale. This happened due to advances with tuning and a less restrictive church. Another important advancement during this era was the release of concert music to the general public. In previous years, commoners were not allowed in concerts and were only exposed to folk music. No major expansions or developments of instruments occurred during this era.


One key characteristic of the Romantic era was that it drew stylistic components from various other previous eras. However, one main difference was the simplification of those styles. Similar to the Early Romantic era, the Romantic era was still highly focused on making music as basic, yet beautiful, as possible. Saxophones were also invented during the late Romantic era. Additionally, Romantic style music is the most similar to the music found in film scores and video games. The most well-known composer of this era was Gustav Holst. He wrote for the American military and massive symphonies. Some of his most famous pieces include 'the Planets,' 'the First Suite,' and 'the Second Suite'. Both of these Suites were written for the military band.

Modern Day Influences

Through this chain of development, from Baroque into Romantic, and then into modern music, what we hear in movies and video games would not be the same without all these previous influences. Many modern day composers, such as John Williams and Hans Zimmer, were heavily influenced by the Romantic era. One well-known example is found in John William's film score for the Star Wars film series. One Romantic composer William's drew from heavily was Gustav Holst: "The Planets has been mined for any number of sci-fi spectaculars, and Mars in particular has been a favorite of film composers including Williams, whose stormtroopers march to a distinctly Martian beat". [[16]] Another composer William's was influenced by was Wagner, who was also influenced by Holst. The film score that was closet to a Wagner piece was Darth Vader's iconic theme: "Where the ordinary filmgoer most conspicuously hears Wagner in Star Wars, is in the brass-laden theme for Darth Vader and his evil Empire—which is distinctively reminiscent of Wagner's music for his majestic Valkyries" [[17]]. Classical music's influence on Star Wars is only one example of many. Most every modern day composer draws ideas and influences from the music found throughout these seven eras.

Electronic Dance Music

Electronic Dance Music, also known as EDM, is an umbrella term for dance music that is electronically composed by a DJ (disc jockey) and often played in clubs, raves, and festivals. This emerged from the disco era in the 1980s. The attraction to EDM music at parties or on the dance floors is "the chemical and musical object of electronic dance music is capable of the virtualization of its immediate environment and the adjustment of the subject’s everyday life" [51]. EDM is often associated with drug use as many of their listeners partake in the use of both legal and illegal drugs (although not all people). Some of the most popular drugs to use at raves are Molly (Ecstasy), Adderall, Cocaine, Alcohol, and Marijuana. Due to the increase in drug use at raves or music festivals where EDM is most popular, anti-rave culture and laws have emerged. "As EDM cultures continue to expand globally it is necessary to adopt methodological approaches that are rooted in the local and at the same time engage with the global. Such approaches would be more fruitful and would offer a more accurate picture than focusing on one specific site of research" [52]. It is very common to see mostly young adults listening and going out to places that play EDM. Raves are often held at night when most people are going to sleep so "ravers slip into an existential void where the gaze of authority and the public do not penetrate. Electronic dance music has also been integrated into other genres by artists like Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Suicude, Afrika Bambaataa, David Bowie, and many more." [53].


Indie music is music that is produced without the help of major music labels. Indie is short for "Independent", and Indie artists usually do not associate themselves with big names labels. It is more of a "do-it-yourself" music genre. A lot of bands, not only in the US but all over the world, pride themselves in being able to make it big, without the help of a major label. Indie bands also tend to focus on the love of their music more, rather than just trying to make money. While Indie music is becoming more popular with the current generation, independent artists were first recognized in the 1980's, such as the B-52's and later Nirvana. These bands who have made a distinct name for themselves were once considered "college radio music" and made their careers through the independent music scene. [54]


There are a number of different meanings related to folk music, but it is most commonly referred to as traditional music. It has also been known as world music or roots music. The term “Traditional music” is used because it gives it a more specific meaning in order to distinguish it from the other definitions given to describe “folk music.” [55]

American Folk Music In American culture, folk music refers to the style that emerged in the 1960's. Typically folk artists use acoustic instruments and vocals to convey messages about current events, often with lyrics communicating the artist's views on social or political issues. The creation and national circulation of this music was extremely important and valuable in connecting the public to its own current events and creating a dialogue about what was going on. [56] The Folk genre exploded in the 1960’s with artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Before the 1960's explosion of folk music into popular culture, folk music thrived with artists such as Woody Guthrie [57] and Ramblin' Jack Elliot. Modern folk artists include The Tallest Man On Earth, Bon Iver, and Fleet Foxes.

It is nearly impossible to discuss folk music without mentioning Carl Sandburg. Born in 1878 in Illinois, Sandburg spent a lot of his early career traveling and working as a laborer on railroads. During this time, Sandburg acquired a vast variety of different songs and tunes. Sandburg became the first musician to be considered a "folk singer" because he performed the songs he had accumulated during his work. Sandburg compiled all of his favorite songs into what he called the American Songbag. One of his favorites from this collection was the song and symbol of the legend John Henry [58]. John Henry symbolized the power of the black worker and their struggle against machine labor and nonblack laborers. For black culture at this time, this was a big deal. Carl Sandburg was one of the first musicians to openly support black workers. Through the song and the symbol of John Henry, Sandburg was able to revolutionize folk music and spread a powerful message against the mistreatment of blacks, especially in the workplace.

Rock and Roll

Rock and Roll is a form of music that evolved in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Rock and Roll incorporates elements from many genres including doo-wop, country, soul and gospel, but it is the most closely tied to the blues, a well known example of this is Elvis Presley's music. It is from here that it gains its earliest chord progressions and lyrical style. Many artists have gone on to cover and recreate the sounds of early blues musicians such as Son House, Robert Johnson, Ledbelly, and BB King(the king of blues). This style spread to the rest of the world, causing a huge impact on society. Rock and roll is characterized by an emphasized off beat, or the 2nd and 4th beat of a four-four time signature, guitar use, electronically amplified instrumentation and lyrics that range in terms of subject matter. [59]

New York was an important center for several styles of popular music. Swing Dance bands and the crooners who sang with these bands helped keep American optimism and spirit alive through World War II. Rock music developed out of the number of different styles of music that existed in the forties and became a style of its own in the early fifties. In many ways, the popularity of rock music among both black and white musicians and fans aided the movement toward racial integration and mutual respect of people of any ethnic background. [60] Music served as a unifying common ground among citizens, especially during political, social, or economic unrest. Music was something that everyone, despite their lifestyle, could relate to and enjoy.

Post Rock

Post Rock employs basic heavy rock instrumentation and expands upon song structure basing organization around building, which is referred to as crescendo in music terminology. Post rock bands are largely instrumental (no vocals) and generally don't use a verse-chorus song structure. Instead, a typical post rock song will begin with one musical idea or melody, and build on it until the level of sound and volume are overwhelming. At that point the song is brought back down to a close.

Punk Rock

Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in garage rock and other forms of what is now known as protopunk music, punk rock bands eschewed the perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They created fast, hard-edged music, typically with short songs, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY (do it yourself) ethic, with many bands self-producing their recordings and distributing them through informal channels. This is considered to be “punk rock” style and is as much a stage show as it is a lifestyle. The ethos of this sub-culture revolves around the idea of self-identity and recognition within a world of consumerist ideology.[61] There is no shortage of bands and musicians who fit into this genre, but when looking at actual songs, genuine “punk” is considered to be loud, fast, and short. These bands generally have a drummer, guitar, and bass, but always include a vocalist which serves as their literal voice as a whole. The vocalist rarely needs classically trained singing skills and is usually not considered “punk” if they have had training in the past because it is a signal of conformity. Non-conformity is a large basis of the punk lifestyle and music. However, many punk bands are not the uneducated, drug-using, degenerates people make them out to be. A large number have a "power to the people" outlook on music and life. If there is a social, economic, or political issue going on in the society around the musicians, you will likely hear about it in the lyrics of the music. More often than not, "punk" music contains mindless non-conforming headbanging noise, yet theirs is a smart rebellious sub-culture that fuels the youth with a "stick it to the man" mindset that is necessary to any citizen-run culture. [62] [63] Punk's non-conformist ethos caused it to draw further and further into itself throughout the late 1970's and 1980's due to the media's attempts to classify it. The constant commercialization of "New Wave", as major labels and the media called it, spurred a small but incredibly influential scene called "No Wave". They continued the non-conformist ideals of Punk by making incredibly avant-garde, socially conscientious music. Bands such as Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, D.N.A. and the Contortions headed up this original group of bands. This retreat into increasingly noisy and dissonant music is a fine example of musical non-conformity in action. This scene spawned bands such as the Sonic Youth and the Pixies, both of whom cite it as a major influence. [64] Some might also say that the punk rock era,in the mid-seventies, started the new genre of indie or independent music, where bands forego signing to record labels. [65]

Hard Core

Abbreviated hXc, Hardcore started as an offshoot of punk rock music, putting out music of a very fast paced tempo. It is biggest in the US and in parts of Europe. What really sets apart hardcore from punk is the abrasive nature and technicality incorporated. These two features of hardcore gave it the uniqueness needed to branch off from its father genre and become its own, with genre offshoots underneath it. Mathcore, Metalcore, breakcore, and grindcore are all examples off offshoots of hardcore and all are linked by their abrasive nature, fast temps and use of screamed vocals.


Heavy metal started in the late 60's and 70's and began as a sub-genre of Rock music. Since then, it has grown and expanded so that Metal is its own genre along with a plethora of sub genres under it.

Metal is characterized by darker tones and heavy, loud sound. Different facets of Metal specialize in different types of sound, but, overall, Metal can be classified as heavy rock.

Black Metal

An extreme sub-genre of heavy metal, black metal uses fast tempos and screaming vocals similar to hardcore music. The term "black metal" was coined by the British band Venom with their second album Black Metal (1982). Black metal has deep roots in the US, but its well known home is in parts of Europe, particularly Norway.

Black metal has been met with great hostility from mainstream culture, mainly due to the misanthropic and anti-Christian standpoint of many artists. Moreover, a handful of musicians have been linked with church burnings, murder or National Socialism. For these reasons and others, black metal is often seen as an underground form of music.


Lil Wayne is a rap icon in the American rap scene.

Most often, rap is known as the reciting of rhymes to a rhythmic beat, but its roots extend far beyond that. The origins of rap music can be traced all the way to West Africa where it originated. Those who possessed this musical talent were held in high regards to those around them. Later, when the "men of words" were brought to the New World, a new creation of African music and American music were mixed together to create a new sound.[66] Throughout history, there have been various forms of verbal acrobatics involving rhyme schemes in which rap has manifested, including schoolyard and nursery rhymes as well as double Dutch jump rope chants. Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae music. However, reggae was not immediately accepted and thus evolved into something else entirely. One of the first artists to adopt this style was Kool Herc. [67] Early raps involved reciting improvised rhymes over instrumental or percussive sections of popular songs, often incorporating the use of common slang words. Rap grew throughout the seventies, evolving into a musical form of verbal skill and free expression. It quickly became popular among a younger crowd, giving them an outlet that allowed freedom of expression of individuality. Today, rap continues to be popular in cultures around the world, evolving and moulding itself to fit every culture that it reaches. [68] An example of the globalization of rap music is the group Orishas[[18]]. Orishas originated in Havana, Cuba, and often incorporates traditional salsa and rumba beats to their music. The members of Orishas emigrated to Paris, France, and are now extremely popular in Europe, as well as their native Cuba. Rap is a genre of music that recently became popular with the youth of the U.S.A. The rhythmic vocal characteristics are similar to spoken Japanese. This "gangster life" connotation evolved from the American dream - the ability to work your way up from the ghetto to the high life of a rap superstar. The lyrics often include acts of violence, drugs, extortion, and sex. This sub-culture, created in the early 90's, has flooded mainstream music, topping charts on popular television stations and encompassing the radio. Despite some controversial aspects of the rap music scene, it continues to grow, influencing music across the world. African hip-hop/rap groups have recently started creating more music, claiming the original rap genre for their own, where it was thought to have originated thousands of years ago. [69]

Though "gangster rap" is the wider known "rap", it is not the only type. With rap comes many subcultures, and some of these move away from this "gangster" mentality. You do not have to be a gangster, or from the ghetto to be a rap artist. People often do not think there is more content than sex, drugs, and violence in rap music because most mainstream rap and rap videos have led the majority of people to believe that is what rap is about. Rap originally stemmed as a form of protest for people who didn't have a voice before. South African youth used it as a way to rebel from the apartheid and oppression, which broke open in 1976. [70] In parts of Africa (mainly in West Africa) rap as we know it has become very popular, but with a twist. African rap artists use many American influences as to their production and song structure, but have very different vocal styles, instrumentations, and lyrics. This blend of Western rap and African music is sometimes called "High-life". [71] Rap is just a genre of music - it goes a lot deeper than what is heard on the radio. [72]

Rap plays a roll in cultures all over the world. Rap artists all over the world, and even different parts of a town or neighborhood, have their own style and originality. Although most rappers 'bite' or copy the style of another artist, they want to be known for having their own style and being unique in their own ways. In the United States, rap can be extremely influential. Rap artists can develop what is known as 'beef' with one another where they have developed a hate relationship due to problems in the rap game. They sometimes rap about their enemies as a way of retaliation without escalating into violence. However, this sometimes can induce violence and artists can lose their lives. In the case of 2pac (Tupac Shakur) and The Notorious B.I.G. (Cristopher Wallace), arguably the two best rappers in the game, resolved their beef with violence and they both were shot dead in the mid-1990's.

The violence and language in rap music has been a concern of the United States Congress. On September 25th, 2008 in a hearing convened by Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, lawmakers asked music industry executives about their company's role in the production of explicit rap, at one point inviting them to read aloud from rap artist 50 Cent’s lyrics (lyrics known to be rather explicit). Some Parents feel that their children are threatened by the violence in rap music because it makes them devalue life. Congress and society alike wish for cleaner music with a more positive message for society. [73]


Hip-hop was born in the late 1970’s in New York City as a form of street art. Hip-Hop began in South Bronx under the working class African-Americans, West Indians, and Latinos. Youth Hip-Hop is comprised of four main elements: Rap (vocal), DJ (Playing and technical manipulation of records), Graffiti (aerosol art), and B-boy or B-girl (freestyle dancing). These four components of Hip-Hop were derived from the youthful population that were trying to represent themselves through these competitive, innovative, and expressive activities [74]. This type of music has also traveled all over the world and many people in different cultures are now taking the "Hip-Hop" idea from the United States and making their own. For example in Dakar, Senegal the artists use Hip-Hop to express political views and their struggles that they experience without the right government. This was discussed in a documentary made by musicians called "Democracy in Dakar". The Hip-Hop music in Dakar is overall more controversial and political than the Hip-Hop in the United States because of the battles with their government. [75]

One could say that Hip-Hop is the Blues of the Modern Era in the sense that it is a form of expressing pain and struggle. The struggle is what makes Hip-Hop different across the globe. Different parts of the world have different pains and struggles and they can be heard and highlighted in the songs. At the surface all Hip-Hop culture may look identical (baggy clothes, fitted baseball hats, expensive Nike sneakers, bandannas, etc.), but one can notice the huge differences in the lyrical content and in the structure of the beat.

In countries that are more politically aware, Hip-Hop artists rap about the political struggles that their countries are experiencing, like in Senegal. In the United States, you can hear lyrics about both the struggle to survive in tough neighborhoods as well as political messages. Hip-Hop artists incorporate elections, war, economic struggle, and oppression into their lyrics. Some of the more mainstream artists may not have as many controversial lyrics as some of the underground artists, but the messages are still there.

Ian Condry is a cultural anthropologist who studied Japanese hip-hop for a year and half in 1995. His work showed how Japanese hip-hop originally came from the United States, but has now created it’s own identity. The Japanese hip hop culture is similar to that of the United States in that people go to clubs to listen to well known performers. However, in Tokyo, a show will start at midnight and end at 5am. In these clubs, people will not only dance, but they will also do business deals. Another difference is that well known hip hop artists live at home with their parents and live the rest of their life just like everyone else. This is much different from the United States where hip-hop artists are some of the most rich and famous people in the country.

West Coast Hip Hop/Rap

West Coast hip hop originated in California in the early 1980’s, particularly in the Bay Area. Early rappers in this genre included Too $hort, Ice T, 2pac and the N.W.A (Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre). When West Coast hip hop was originating the goals of the rappers were fame and respect, not fortune. Classified as "hardcore gangster rap", the artists emerging from California at this time wanted to contrast electric and other lighter forms of hip hop, as well as match the intensity of rap emerging from the East Coast. Although West Coast hip hop began to gain popularity in the early 80’s, it was not until the end of the 80’s that it began being successful. Ice-T’s 1989 “6’n da Mornin’” started to gain some national exposure but it was until the N.W.A’s 1988 release of “Straight out of Compton” that put West Coast on the map. [76].

Later West Coast rappers include: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Warren G, Rodney O, Mac Dre and Andre Nickatina. In the early 90’s the rivalry between the East and West Coast began to heat up and N.W.A split. All the artists began working on solo carriers, but it was Dr. Dre's revolutionary production style that continued to dominate West Coast hip hop. The style is called G-funk, but it's often grouped into Gangsta Rap in general. G-Funk can usually be recognized by heavy bass, slower tempo, and melodic synths. [77] Throughout the rest of the 90’s West Coast hip hop continued to split apart into two very different scenes. Gangsta rap and conscious hip hop, the split caused many inter-coast rivalries including the Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur rivalry. [78].

Hip-Hop in Japan

The Teriyaki Boyz, known to American's from the movie "The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift," are a popular Japanese Hip-Hop group.

Japanese hip-hop, which began in the 1980’s and continues to develop today, is an intriguing case study for exploring the globalization of popular culture. Hop-hop is but one example among many of the transnational cultural styles pushed by entertainment and fashion industries, pulled by youth eager for the latest happening thing, and circulated by a wide range of media outlets eager to draw readers and to sell advertising. In Japan, the street ethic of hip-hop remains, but it is performed most intensely in all-night clubs. In Tokyo, a particular combination of local performance sites, artists, and fans points to ways that urban areas are crucibles of new, hybrid cultural forms. [79]

Japanese dancers and artists consider certain nightclubs to be the “genba” (or “actual site”) of where Japanese hip-hop is established. These nightclubs are places where hip-hop is performed, consumed and then transformed through local language and through the society of these clubs. These nightclubs are also a place for the mingling of dancers, artists, writers and music company people. [80]

Country Music

Johnny Cash

Country music was founded in the early 1920s and descended from folk music. The music style primarily came from the southern area of the United States. Early country produced two of the most influential artists of all time: Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. Although their impact on music was not recognized until after their death, both have surely shaped the way lyrics are written and the way songs are performed in all genres of music history. In 2006, country music increased by 17.7 percent to 36 million. The music has stayed steady for decades, reaching 77.3 million adults everyday on the radio. Country music is not only a big genre in the United States, but all over the world in countries like Australia and Canada. Country has many styles and sounds that have been put in to categories. Hillbilly boogie, bluegrass, folk, gospel, honky tonk, rockabilly, country soul, country rock, outlaw, country pop, neo-country, truck driving country, and alternative country are all the types of music that country has to offer.

A cappella

A cappella is a style of only vocal performance. It is distinct in that it is vocal performance without any accompaniment. Many times, when people sing, it is done along with a piano, guitar or various other instruments. However, the a cappella style of singing is characterized by no additional instrumental performance. [81] A cappella literally translates to 'in the manner of the chapel', as music was traditionally performed without instruments in the church.

While services in the Temple in Jerusalem included musical instruments, traditional Jewish religious services after the destruction of the Temple do not include musical instruments.[citation needed] The use of musical instruments is traditionally forbidden on the Sabbath out of concern that players would be tempted to repair their instruments, which is forbidden on those days. (This prohibition has been relaxed in many Reform and some Conservative congregations.) Similarly, when Jewish families and larger groups sing traditional Sabbath songs known as zemirot outside the context of formal religious services, they usually do so a cappella, and Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations on the Sabbath sometimes feature entertainment by a cappella ensembles. During the Three Weeks use of musical instruments is traditionally prohibited. Many Jews consider a portion of the 49-day period of the counting of the omer between Passover and Shavuot to be a time of semi-mourning and instrumental music is not allowed during that time.[82] This has led to a tradition of a cappella singing sometimes known as sefirah music.[83]

Barbershop Style

Barbershop Quartet in Disney World.

"Keep the Whole World Singing" ( is the motto of the Barbershop Harmony Society. Affiliated with countries world wide such as Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Great Britain, the purpose of the Barbershop Society is to celebrate harmony in the barbershop style, promoting fellowship and friendship among men of good will.

One can find barbershop songs from a variety of time periods and genres which gives everyone the opportunity to relate to the barbershop style. Such examples are Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback", Michael Jackson's "Thriller", BYU's "Super Mario Bro.'s Melody", and "Come Fly With Me" as performed by Realtime quartet.

A common misconception is that barbershop style music is only written for and sung by men. Female barbershop quartets, sometimes called "beautyshop quartets", also exist and many thrive. A society for four-part female groups are The Sweet Adelines International ( watch youtube video ). One of the more familiar "pop" groups is The Chordettes, made famous because of their songs "Mr. Sandman" and "Lollipop". [84]

Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco Music

The influences of Cajun style and Creole music, which evolved into Zydeco, a more contemporary form, can only be found in southwest Louisiana; a blend of European, African, and Amerindian styles. This music is unique in its qualities and is claimed to have come from Nova Scotia in 1755, as the Acadie brought with them music with French origins. The stories told through the music come from European stories that have been altered to fit the lifestyles and life experiences in the south of the New World. Over time and through the 19th century the music has been transformed through the influence of African rhythms, blues, and improvisational singing as well as many singing styles and techniques derived from Native Americans. The fiddle was used for song and dances. Barry Ancelet, author of his monograph Cajun Music: Its Origins and Development, describes how Cappella dance was also used for dance, supplying the rhythm and beats through clapping and stomping [85].

Jamaica: The Mento

In 1951 the first Jamaican recording studio opened. A new type of music was formed by combining European and African folk dance music together. Disc-jockeys such as Clement Dodd (the "Downbeat") and Duke Reid (the "Trojan") traveled around the island playing there music. The people of the Jamaican ghettos were unable to afford bands, so they hired people like Dodd and Reid. By the end of the 1950’s it transformed into Caribbean music and New Orleans' "rhythm'n'blues". As time went on the music changed to a dominant bass instrument with ska.[86]


Ska is a musical genre that originated in the 1950s in Jamaica and led to the creation of rocksteady and reggae. The history of ska is typically divided into three parts, or waves. The first wave is the original ska scene that developed in Jamaica. The second is the scene that developed in Britain in the 1970s. This music is different from the original Jamaican ska because it usually possessed more well-developed compositions, faster tempos and a less-polished aesthetic. Additionally, both influences drawn from punk-rock. The Specials, a 2-Tone Ska band from Coventry, England, is typically seen as the archetypal second-wave ska band. The third wave of ska involved artists from most of the Western world. This period beginning in the late 1980s was the first time ska had become popular in the United States. Bands from the third wave include Streetlight Manifesto, Reel Big Fish, and Mustard Plug.


Bob Marley is arguably the biggest Reggae icon and is a symbol for peace and love.

Reggae music is a genre that originated in Jamaica's late 1960's and speaks to the struggle fought by grassroots warriors. Worshiping the offbeat, reggae often accents the second and fourth beats of each bar. To Jamaicans, reggae means "the king's music," and the king to whom it refers was Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia. Reggae groups used modern amplified instruments, including lead and rhythm guitars, piano, organ, drums, and electric bass guitar, along with Jamaican percussion instruments (Charlton, Katherine. "Rock Music Styles"). Common themes found in on reggae records include peace, love, religion, poverty, and/or injustice. A familiar example of a popular rock n' roll song exhibiting the reggae-style riddim is the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da". The roots of reggae are tied tightly to the Rastafari movement and sometimes encourage the praise of Jah through the smoking of marijuana.


Emerging in Japan in the early 1970s, karaoke machines are technological and cultural wonders. They allow singers to sing along to their favorite songs in a unique way. Often in social settings like bars, karaoke machines consist of 5 functional parts as described by “Karaoke Around the World: Global technology, local singing”:

  1. Sound Source
  2. Visual Source
  3. Microphone
  4. Sound and Visual Distribution
  5. Accessories (Echo chamber, automatic scoring system, etc)

Together these parts form an interactive experience that sets karaoke apart from traditional music sharing experiences like concerts. Karaoke machines mirror Japan’s passion for singing and technology. Thus it is not surprising that the karaoke industry is built on technology and invests heavily into research and development.

The first musical scholar to research karaoke was Charles Keil, an American ethnomusicologist. Visiting Japan in 1980, Keil found that Japanese were not afraid to match themselves against the perfection of the musical and vocal accompaniment. Keil was also impressed by the passion displayed by karaoke singers holding the microphone as if “charging it with their emotions”. What seemed like an isolated phenomenon quickly grew into a global sensation as karaoke machines can be found all over the world. Karaoke is a product of cultural globalization. As such it continues to evolve and adapt to meet the demands of the digital world. [87]

Karaoke is so much more popular in Japan than in the West. In Japan people are judged on participation and effort. Westerners see karaoke as a kind of talent contest, from which the less musically gifted had best abstain. The result is a reversal of the stereotype of the non-expressive, inscrutable Oriental versus the outgoing, flamboyant Westerner; instead it's the Westerner who shies away from the spotlight while the Asian takes command of the situation. The author argues that karaoke is a positive social development in that it brings people together, and provides tips on how non-Japanese businessmen can sing their way to better relations with their Japanese counterparts. [88]

Filipino Music

Western music has greatly influenced the music in the Philippines. The most logical explanation behind this is the historical fact that the Philippines are the oldest Western-colonized Asian country. They were exposed to two mainstream, western cultures for over three and a half centuries. The Mediterranean, through Spain and Anglo-Saxon and The United States of America. [89]

[19]. The classical renditions of Filipino music show the blend of varieties of culture. This is not to say that you won’t come across native compositions but just that those nuances of Western form of music like symphonies, sonatas, and concertos are too much used. Filipino music has yielded international composers like Antonio Molina, Felipe Padilla de Leon, Eliseo Pájaro and José Maceda, known to be the avant-garde composer of the country.

Filipino music is generally played with traditional and indigenous instruments like a zither with bamboo strings, tubular bamboo resonators; wooden lutes and guitars and the git-git, a wooden three-string bowed instrument. In fact you may come across Filipino communities having their individual folk songs to be sung at special events like hele, a lullaby, the talindaw, a seafaring song, the kumintang, a warrior song and the kundiman, a love song.

Karaoke is performed extensively in the Philippines as well, in many bars, restaurants, and other places of leisure throughout towns. The influence of Western music is widespread in Karaoke in the Philippines, but not dominant. Many Filipinos are familiar with both classic rock acts (such as the Beatles, the Eagles, and the Rolling Stones) and contemporary Western musical acts (such as Mariah Carey, Beyonce, and Britney Spears) but also sing songs from their own popular Filipino musical acts. A favorite among the high school students was “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston, while an older crowd might prefer “Hotel California” by the Eagles. [90]

Music in Italy

Music is a major part of Italian culture. Opera, an Italian tradition, is popular among Italians and they continued this musical tradition when they immigrated to Canada. In Italy in the 17th century, Opera music was first introduced by composer Claudio Monteverdi. Monteverdi composed his first opera named L'Orfeo in 1607. Italy is known for having some of the world’s best opera singers, conductors, and composers up to the present day. The most famous names in the contemporary world of Italian opera music are Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli. [91]


Korean pop music has been trending in South Korea since the 90s, but hasn't gone global until recent years. Also known as the 'Hallyu Wave', Korean pop has become a worldwide phenomenon earning top places on US billboard and iTunes charts. Recently popular Korean pop group BTS broke headlines ranking no.1 in worldwide albums on the billboard charts the second week of October 2016.[92] K-pop, a shorter term, has it's roots embedded in Korean society sine the early 20th century with a popular genre of music called trot with a similar sound to foxtrot. It wasn't until the 90s that pop music in Korea transformed incorporating American styles such as techno, rap, and rock. The formation of boy bands and girl bands also became a staple. This new style of K-pop gained popular interest in eastern Asian countries such as china, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan. [93]
The culture around K-pop has always been a fascinating and controversial one. Large entertainment companies hold auditions or scout out young adults ranging from the age of 10-20 years old. These teens are trained in dancing, singing, and entertainment skills for years until they are fit to debut in group. Unlike western musical groups where many bands have a lot of free will on their content, most Korean pop groups are limited on the content they create. The entertainment companies that manage these bands usually have teams that create the music, choreograph the dances, and even control the appearance of the members. Most of these groups consist of all males or all females. Many K-pop idols are not even full Korean or Korean at all. In the past several years entertainment companies have scouted and held auditions in other countries looking for foreign potential which truly places itself on a global level.


An important factor in many modern cultures is their literature. Many schools spend a great deal of classroom time reading and discussing works that are considered culturally significant by society. These books generally embody another time period when things were considerably different than they are today. This literature works to continue the understanding of what happened in the past and what effect it had on the individuals involved; while drawing connection between the past and present by identifying universal emotions. Literature can span a great number of subjects. Authors such as Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Charles Dickens are all given a significant amount of time and discussion in American schools.

Reading and literature is introduced to children in the school system starting in pre-school, all the way through graduate school. It is important to introduce literature to students and has a positive effect. "I read to my graduate students at the beginning of class…because it gives them time to get settled and to clear their minds of the day's activities," she told Education World. "As a beginning teacher," Bowman-Kruhm continued, "I quickly became aware that reading aloud to my class had benefits... my students became very quiet, they heard some good literature, and they got through an entire book. One student said it was the first book he had read in its entirety since first grade." Reading books to a classroom starting at a young age gives them a chance to get into a story and find their own like for reading. The more variety offered the better the chance for more students to connect and find a genre they personally enjoy. [94]

However, there is a great deal of culturally impacting literature that is not given time in schools. This may be because, while still telling a great story, the literature does not express the human condition in a way that is important to modern western society. Besides the “great works” discussed in schools, many authors of fiction are overlooked even though a great deal of our modern culture has been influenced by these authors.

Influential Authors

J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit book series, has been called the father of the genre of "high fantasy". [95] He has influenced a number of artists and musicians [20].

Later, Tolkien taught at Oxford University alongside fellow author CS Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia), with whom he created a writing club called The Inklings. Encouraged by his academic colleagues, he invented the fantasy world of Middle Earth, the language of the Elves, characters like Aragorn the Straddler, Tom Bombadil, and the evil Cygons. In crafting Middle Earth, Tolkien combined influence from English folklore and mythology with Norse mythology and biblical lore. Tolkien spent more than ten years writing the primary narrative and the appendixes to the Lord of the Rings series, during which he always had the support of the Inklings, most of all from his close friend Lewis.[21]. Tolkien's novels- such as The Hobbit often include coming-of-age elements and follow the Hero's Journey plot.[96] His legacy is survived by his son Christopher, who has spent his life editing his father's posthumously published works, such as The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin. [97]

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis's work, including The Chronicles of Narnia series, has been translated into more than 40 languages and has sold over 100 million copies since the series was released. The Chronicles of Narnia consist of seven books including the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which was published in 1950. It tells the story of four children: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie. They discover a wardrobe in Professor Digory Kirke's house that leads to the magical land of Narnia, which is currently under the spell of the evil White Witch. The four children fulfill an ancient, mysterious prophecy while in Narnia. The Pevensie children help Aslan and his army save Narnia from the evil White Witch, who has reigned over the kingdom of Narnia in winter for 100 years.[22]

The complete set of books from The Chronicles of Narnia in reading order are: the Magician's Nephew; the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; the Horse and His Boy; Prince Caspian; the Voyage of the Dawn Treader; the Silver Chair; and the Last Battle. C. S. Lewis is a well-renowned Christian author whose stories held strong Christian themes. The Narnia series contains much Christian content within the plot but can still be appreciated by readers of different religious backgrounds due to its enjoyable storyline.

Although often criticized for the heavy religious overtone [23], his work continues to attract an enormous fan base both religious and non-religious. The books take on a Christian theme and also adds Greek and Roman Mythological ideas. Many modern authors admit to being influenced by his work, including Daniel Handler's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter' '[24].

C.S. Lewis also wrote non-fiction pieces including "Mere Christianity" and "The Problem of Pain" and some other lesser known works of fiction such as "The Screwtape Letters" and "The Great Divorce". Lewis is known for his deep, thought provoking works of both fiction and non-fiction. [98]

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling, known most notably for her young adult fantasy novel series Harry Potter, has been an influential literary figure since her series found fame. The Harry Potter franchise has been a global and cultural phenomenon, and the novels have been popular among children, teens, and adults, becoming one of the best selling book series in history.

In creating the fantasy world of Harry Potter, Rowling drew much inspiration from various mythologies, particularly in regard to the fantastical creatures inhabiting the world, and on European folklore of witchcraft and magic.

These features of mythology and folklore make the Harry Potter series accessible to a wide audience familiar with similar stories and myths that have been a feature of western European and American culture for centuries. They are also made accessible to a wide audience by virtue of their readability, for in being young adult novels they are simple enough for children to read, but complex enough to hold the attention of adults as well.

The Harry Potter novels have thus permeated popular culture, and have been a wellspring of literary value in that they have encouraged many younger readers in literary pursuits and impacted child and teen readership over the past twenty years.

The novels can be considered a cultural influence not just in their immense popularity, but in the values they promote that are generally considered positive by western cultural standards in regard to child development of morality. Fables, mythologies, sagas, and other fantastical stories have long been used as tools to encourage behavior in children (and even adults) that adheres to cultural norms of morality—this trend is continued by the Harry Potter series, whose reach ensures that the cultural virtues presented in the novels are instilled in numerous young readers.

Chuck Palahnuik

Charles Micheal Palahnuik has written a handful for popular and unique novels. He has created novels that are categorized as horror but without containing supernatural events. His books are filed into the horror genre because his characters are shaped by society and go through traumatic events that led to their self destruction. Chucks books can create the invisible window people look through and see what society can cause people to do. It has been said that Chuck Palahniuk has been influenced by the minimalist Tom Spanbauer [99]. It was Tom Spanbauer's writing workshops that got Chuck to start his novels, such as his first one "Invisible Monster." This was rejected the first time by publishers because it was viewed as too disturbing. People find the horrible truth that Chuck reveals can be too much for the common person in society.


Plato's discussions of rhetoric and poetry are both extensive and influential. Teaching among middle school, high school, and college students, he sets the agenda for the subsequent tradition yet understanding his remarks about each of these topics—rhetoric and poetry—presents us with significant philosophical and interpretive challenges. It is not clear why he links the two topics together so closely (he suggests that poetry is kind of rhetoric). Plato's famous statement that “there is an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry” (Republic, 607b5-6) states that there is a clash of values among these two statements.. Plato is (perhaps paradoxically) known for the poetic and rhetoric qualities of his own writings, such as in The Iliad, and is represented through The Odyssey. [100]

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murikami is a Japanese writer born in Kyoto. His large influences by Western culture are often apparent in his writing. This is one of the characteristics that set him apart from other writers. Another of these characteristics would be his many references to classical music within the themes and titles of his writing. His works mainly consist of surrealist post modern fiction. Murikami has a unique way of blending his Japanese heritage with his Western influences making it both familiar yet foreign to the reader. [101]

Digital Publishing

A recent development in literature is the age of digital publishing and the rise of the e-book (electronic book). Instead of books, newspapers and magazines being printed onto paper, digital publishing has created an environmentally friendly and convenient way to read. The major difference between digital publishing and printed publishing is that in digital publishing there is no physical copy. This means that there is no paper and that no ink is needed to create the product. This is a massive change for literature.

The benefits of this change are convenience and accessibility. With e-books, literature can be accessed on any e-reader, phone, tablet or laptop and as such, they have the added convenience of large amounts of reading material per small amounts of space. For example, e-books became very popular on public transportation in Japan. Before e-books, small versions of manga, Japanese graphic novels, were carried and read on public transit. Now the small versions of manga have been replaced by their e-book counterparts. [102] Accessibility is an important improvement on how readers can get ahold of literature. Digital publishing has no limit on how much can be held, unlike libraries or bookstores. Libraries and bookstores are only going to provided books that are expected to be rented or bought. E-books create a never-ending supply of literature, from the huge hits like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings to the unknown works of a self-publisher. The author Hans Roosendaal summed up this process well when he said that digital publishing "gives authors the ability to increase the visibility of their works or makes it easier for readers to do a database search. The use of it shortens the information cycle." [103] The well known distributors of e-books are major companies like Apple iBook, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, or Google Play Bookstore. The downfall of printed literature can be seen in the decline of libraries and the bankruptcies of major bookstores that haven't adapted to the new world of e-books. [104]


Dance is moving rhythmically to music to increase enjoyment of the experience. However, if the moving is not to music than the silence is engaged to prove a point. Dance can be created by a set of sequenced steps. It is used as a form of expression, social interaction, and a way of presentation in different cultures. Dance also may be regarded as a form of nonverbal communication between humans, and is also performed by other animals. Different dances require different skill level, some may be more physically exhausting than others. Regardless of the technique or style, If the proper physics are not taken into consideration, injuries may occur.

Dance in South America

Argentine Tango

The Argentine Tango originated around 1880 in the periphery of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The dance was popularized in bars, cafés, gambling houses, and brothels. Because the original lyrics frequently referred to sex and obscenities, it is logical that the popularization took place in the underground society. During this time period, even dancing in front of each other or touching at all was considered too much, so the tango’s close embrace and cheek-to-cheek dancing was considered raunchy. Initially people of good reputation looked down on the tango and wanted no part in it. This meant that if a man wanted to practice the dance, his only possible partner was another man. The men got together and practiced the dance as a way of capturing the attention of women.

Eventually the tango slowly started to catch on in Boarding House Common Areas, where immigrants stayed. It took a while to spread, but eventually it caught on after some of the movements were “purified.” Even then the Tango was still generally something that the middle and upper class would keep secret; it was still considered shameful and sinful. It was not until the Argentine Tango made its way to Europe that it was truly accepted in higher society. After it was introduced to Parisian nobility, it became the craze of the time there. When the tango finally came back to Argentina, it was “received as the most beloved son.”—Sergio Suppa [105]

Dance in the Philippines

The traditional dances of the Philippines reflect the cultural influences of the Spaniards, Muslims, Indians, Middle Easterners, and Western Europeans. Each region of the Philippines that was influenced by a separate culture developed its own traditional style of dance. Many folk dances were also created to imitate the early lifestyle of the Filipinos and for spiritual purposes such as warding off evil spirits. [106] Some of the most traditional dances of the Philippines are the following:

Muslim Influenced Dance

Towards the end of the 12th century, traders and settlers from Borneo and the Malay Peninsula came to the Philippine Islands and brought Islam to the Filipinos. Today, there are more than 1 million Muslim Filipinos residing in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. When the Spanish came to the Philippines, the Filipino Muslims, also known as Moros, were able to resist being conquered and as a result, their Islamic lifestyle remains untouched, for the most part, even until this day, despite the completely different lifestyle of the rest of the Filipino population. There are four main Muslim ethnic groups: the Maranao, Maguindanao, Samal, and Tausug. The traditional dances in this suite make use of bright colors and rhythmic movements that represent the Middle Eastern and Indo-Malaysian influence on the culture. In this suite there is also a ribbon dance that was most likely a result of Arabian influence. Thought to be the most difficult Philippine dance is the Singkil Dance of the Maguindanao in which a woman of royal blood advertises herself to suitors by gracefully dancing with an umbrella, fan or neither while skilfully moving with bamboo poles.[107] Another dance inspired by the war between the Muslims and the Christians is the Maglalatik which originated from the Laguna province. In this dance, the Moros wear blue pants and the Christians wear red pants. In the first half of the dance, the war over the residue of coconut milk is depicted followed by the reconciliation between the two groups.[108] This suite features specific costumes: The Malong which is a tube-like dress that is worn in a variety of ways, and the Kumbong which is a traditional headdress. The instruments played in accompaniment with the dancing are: the Agong which is a brass gong with a knob at its center, and the Kulintang which is a collection of brass gongs laid on a wooden frame. [109]

Barrio Fiesta Dance

Great preparation is taken for Fiestas and special occasions. Food, music, dance, games, and traditional processions are all part of this traditional occurrence in Filipino villages. If the fiesta is for a wedding celebration called a Gala (Boholano), it is customary for the bride and groom to arrive with their friends and be entertained by the people who cater to them. The entertainment includes dance and musical performances as well as clashing of pots, pans, ladles, and utensils to create excitement through noise. It is then tradition for the guests to stick paper money to the bride and grooms clothing right before the final dance which involves the newlyweds participating in playful chasing. Another popular dance in this suite is called the Kalatong which is a dance from the province of Batangas and incorporates bamboo pipes used as percussion instruments. The last dance in this suite is the Tinikling; a dance that copies the movements of the long-legged Tikling bird which hops over the traps set by farmers among the rice stalks. When Philippine dancers do this dance, they hop over bamboo poles in complicated and highly coordinated leaps while the poles are being clashed together and slapped to the floor beneath them. The Tinikling is a playful courtship dance, as are most indigenous dances, that becomes more complicated as it progresses. Tinikling originated from the islands of Leyte and is the official Philippine national dance.[110] The costumes in this suite are the Balintawak which is a floor length dress with stiff butterfly sleeves and a vividly colored overskirt that matches the sleeves. The men wear colorful shirts called Camisa de Chinos. Props for these dances usually include an oil lamp called a Tinggoy, and wooden clogs called Bakya.[111]

The Maria Clara Dance

Maria Clara is a legendary figure in the Philippines who symbolizes the virtues and nobility of the upstanding Filipina woman. She was the main female character in a literary piece by Jose Rizal about the colonizing of the Philippines by the Spaniards. A style of dance and dress was created in honor of her, and portrays its Spanish influence. The Maria Clara dress is formal attire made of an intricately designed blouse and a flowing skirt with a panuelo (square of natural fibers) worn over the shoulders. While men are in a Barong Tagalog, which is a traditional Filipino shirt typically made of pineapple fibers with long sleeves and detailed embroidery. Props for this dance are bamboo castanets and the abanico (Asian fan). This suite consists of many different dances that mean different things to the Philippine culture.

Igorot Dance

The Igorot are a Philippine tribal people living in the central cordillera area of Northern Luzon. The six different tribes, known collectively as the Igorot, are the: Apayao, Bontoc, Ibaloy, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Kankanay. These peoples prefer to be referred to by their separate tribal names rather than simply as Igorot which was the classification word ascribed to them by the Spaniards. These tribes have religious beliefs in common that conjoin them to nature. They also honor household gods with special offerings. Dance is performed at their ceremonies as an expression of community harmony, as appeasement to their gods, in honor of their ancestors, to heal sickness, to attain the support of their gods for upcoming wars, to keep bad luck away, to seek deliverance from natural disasters, to insure a plentiful harvest, pleasant weather and to celebrate the circle of life. In these dances, women place jars and/or baskets on their heads to demonstrate the role of women in the community as food gatherers and water fetchers. For the men, there is the Manmanok dance where they use bright, woven blankets to attract the women, and the Takiling where the men dance and chant while they beat on their gangsa, brass gongs, to demonstrate their skill in weapons and hunting.

Dance in the Philippines is greatly influence by the Spanish due to the Spanish Regime. Dances and music took on the tempo and style of European dances. For example, the tempos of the Tinikling dance and the Itik-Itik acquired the tempo of the Jota and Polka. [112]Some more examples of dances that Filipinos are known for are:

Pandango Sa Ilaw: A Spanish dance which requires a good amount of balancing skills due to having to hold three oil lamps on the head and the back of each hand. This dance originated from Lubang Island, Mindoro.

Cariñosa: The name of this dance describes a woman who is affectionate, friendly and loveable. This dance includes using fans and handkerchiefs while being in a flirtatious manner.

Rigodon: This dance originated in Spain and is most commonly used at formal affairs.

Tinikling: The national folk dance involves a pair of dancers hopping between two bamboo poles, which are held just above the ground while being struck together at in relation to the music. [113] This dance imitates the agility and grace birds used to avoid the bamboo traps in the fields set by rice farmers. The dancers symbolize the birds, therefore displaying their agility through footwork, while the bamboo poles symbolize the traps. [114]

Dance in Zulu and Masai Culture


Dance is a very important part of many African cultures. This is true for the Zulu and Masai in particular. Both cultures are pastoralist and have many other cultural similarities. Despite this, they express their dance very differently. To explain this we will delve into various cultural aspects of Masai and Zulu society in which dance is used to find societal similarities as we as stylistic dance differences. To begin we must first take a look at some societal similarities between the Zulu and the Masai. This includes age sets, raiding traditions, and the importance of cattle. Emphasis of the Zulu society was on warfare and raiding. Age sets played a large role in this as young men were divided into these and at a certain age set were raiders and warriors. During raids, Zulu warriors would pick up cattle, which were a measure of wealth in their society . Shaka, the uniter of the ancient Zulu nation, gave the Zulu their pride in warfare with his dynasty. Military service was mandatory and rigorous training. He also revolutionized the style of combat with his bullhorns method and his short stabbing spear, which was also used in warrior dances. His constant invasion of other societies is what gave his empire so much power and it instilled a sense of nationalism in his people. Warriors were chosen by what age set they were in. Age sets having been a group of people within about a ten-year age span . Many times these age sets were organized into elders, warriors, and children . In the process of initiation after puberty, women had a special dance that was performed. In Shaka’s society cattle were a measure of wealth. If you didn’t own cattle you couldn’t get married or pay for luxuries . Cattle could be earned by raiding other societies or through outstanding military action . Sacrificing them was also a large part of their society; making sacrifices for a safe return from battle or in preparation for a successful one . The Masai culture, in contrast, considered themselves a purely pastoralist society and consequently placed a lot of emphasis on cattle . They were also a raiding society. Although they used hunting as a part of initiation ceremonies it was not a regular occurrence in Masai society. Like the Zulu, the Masai used cattle as a form of wealth. They found cattle so sacred that they would not eat meat from the cow and drink milk from it in the same meal because they saw it as disrespectful to mix those things taken from the living with those taken from the dead . The Masai also believed that all cattle were rightfully theirs given by God and so were justified in taking them from other tribes .

War Dance

Both the Zulu and Masai kingdoms placed an emphasis on war and raiding. It is natural then that they had a dance to accompany and portray these actions. They both had a name for these warriors. The Zulu warriors were called Indlamu and the Masai were known as the Moran. In the case of the Zulu, their dance was named after their warriors. Many times Zulu dance was characterized by its stomping movements, which had a feeling of heaviness and connection with the earth. One example of this was the Indlamu, or warrior dance. This dance was performed at weddings along with other dances. Typically the Indlamu, or Zulu war dance, was performed in a large group with the dancers entering in two by two . It was performed in unison and in some versions had three sections, the entry, and preparation followed by two routines. There was one leader who gave the cues for when to begin and when to end . This was usually characterized by a foot stomp. In the version with three sections the first section of the dance was the entry where the men are crouched and moving in a circle around the dance area; the dancers then sat as their leader did a solo . When his solo was done the leader gave the signal to start the main section of the dance, which was performed in all versions. This final section was performed using a series of stomps in rhythm to the beat of sticks, or in some cases a drum . It also included a series of kicks, which varied between tribes but usually consisted of either a leg thrust straight in front of them or thrust from the front and carried around to the side . In both instances the leg stayed bent . The dress for this occasion was usually traditional. Ostrich feathers were tied to the legs below the knees and on the upper arms in some cases . They also wore loincloths . As they danced they carried their shields and a spear. They also had a headdress that was similar in style to a crown. The Masai also had a warrior dance called the Adumu . It was a ceremonial dance done for themselves: to form a trance-like state for the warrior. This dance, unlike its Zulu counter-part, was not performed for weddings but was instead used as a mental preparation. It was a test of strength and endurance. The dance began with the warriors creating a circular formation. Unlike the Zulu, The Masai warriors started out standing around the outside of the circle swaying back and forth and then one or two came to the center to start the dance . They jumped up and down in a straight rod-like fashion with the goal of coming into a trance-like state . For the Masai when the person in the middle gets tired he is replaced with someone from the outside of the circle. The rhythm for this dance was found in a chant that the warriors forming the edges of the circle sang while the dancers in the middle jumped higher and higher into the air. During the warrior stage of life in which this dance was performed the Masai wore their hair in long braids . Their traditional clothing was made of red cotton and very conservative in comparison to the Zulu attire of a loincloth . The cloth covered them from their chest down and was sometimes similar to a dress in its appearance. There is a very obvious contrast in these two styles of warrior dance. The Zulu with their creation of this connection through their body with the earth is almost polar opposite of the Masai who are reaching up into the sky with their jumping movements. The formation of the Masai differs from that of the Zulu in that the Zulu had a very militaristic line formation to their dance while the Masai stood in a circle. There was also no specified person to begin the Masai dance while the military leader is the designated beginner in the Zulu version. The setting in which these dances were performed is another difference. The Masai dance was performed as a mental preparation and was not intended to be a public event but the Zulu dance was performed at weddings and other occasions. The source of the beat in the Zulu dance came from sticks instead of from a chant like in the Masai dance. The Masai and Zulu had very different costuming choices as well. The Zulu chose to wear loincloths. The Masai chose to wear long red robes, which is a stark contrast to the loincloth.

Wedding Dance

As previously stated both societies placed an emphasis on cattle. Once a young man earned enough cattle he could be married and there was a ceremony. During that ceremony there was dancing. This was true of both the Zulu and the Masai. The Zulu had a different dance that they perform at weddings called the Inkondlo. This dance was performed as the bride made her entrance into town. The bride and her bridal party made up of other girls from her age set performed this as they came into the village. The dance began with the bride behind her bridal party. The girls are singing the inkondlo wedding song . The party started out in a bent posture and gradually became erect . In some versions, dancers formed 2 files circling outward away from one another and wheeled back across the center to form a line at the end of their movement . This portion of movement was quick and spirited with movements back and forward. The bridal party started the next section of the dance with the bride and her bridesmaids coming out from behind the party . When in front the bride does a solo to complete the first section . The movements in this section were very proper and pleasant. The Inkondlo itself was a rhyming poem. They used this as the basis for the dance. It was performed as part of the dance. The Masai wedding dance was called a Kayamba; named after the rib-like instrument used in the accompanying music. The young girls of the tribe were the performers in the case of the Masai. The music used a repetitive melody doubled by a chorus. It was accompanied by a high-pitched bungo horn. Rattles and whistles were minor accompaniments. The Kayamba is one of these rattles; made of wood and reeds with little pebbles on the inside . This music was very dynamic with its many parts. As the young girls danced they added to the music with bells tied to their ankles . This made the dance very rhythmic. The Masai wedding dance would have been more for the entertainment of the wedding party than it’s Zulu counter part. The wedding dances of the Masai and Zulu contrast nicely. The Masai dance was very rooted in its music and performed as entertainment for the wedding party. The Zulu dance was a celebratory way of bringing the bride into town that used a simple poem chant. It is interesting to note that these dances were both named after the music used in them; the Zulu after the Inkondlo poem and the Masai after the Kayamba instrument. The Kayamba music was very dynamic and had many parts to it. The Zulu music was very simplistic with its one part chant. Performers of the wedding dances were very different as well. The young girls of the kingdom performed the Masai dance. In contrast, the bridal party performed the Zulu dance.

Coming of Age Dance

Both men and women in Masai and Zulu culture had age sets. To become part of the next age set there were rituals and ceremonies to take part in. Many times those ceremonies included dancing. In Zulu, society women had a very special ceremony, as they became women. The ritual that is most intriguing about Masai initiation comes after the killing of a lion. The Zulu women had a very interesting dance ritual as part of their initiation into womanhood. Part of their initiation was to stay isolated in their hut for a week with only their mother and one friend . After this period they came out and danced. In preparation for their dance they made grass costumes. They weaved together grass to make their outfits that would later be burned after the ceremony . The friends and sisters of the woman being initiated would also participate in the grass, costumed dance . The final ceremony was full of singing and dancing. The woman was officially initiated with her friends and sisters. The final act of the ceremony was the burning of the grass clothing that signaled the step into womanhood . As a part of their initiation into manhood, the Masai were required to go on a lion hunt . When they were successful there was a ceremony that involved the Engilkainoto dance . This dance was performed for the tribe as a celebration of the feat. The lion conquerors picked a female partner to dance with and danced in the middle of a crowd gathered to watch them celebrate . Each couple proceeded through the crowd to the center to dance together. The warriors wore ostrich feathers on their head . They also carried a spear with the paws or tail of the lion attached . Their female partners wore beaded dresses. Besides the fact that these initiation ceremonies were for different sexes there were some other contrasts in the dances performed during them. For one thing, the Zulu dance was done as a group of women as a sort of core instead of being a partner dance like the Masai. Their costumes differed in that the Masai wore their warrior uniforms and decorated their spears with the paws and tail of the lion. The girls in the Zulu dance wore grass outfits that were burned at the end of the ceremony. The girls in the Masai dance wore beaded clothing which was much more permanent.

Ethiopian Dance

Ethiopia has a lot of different dances depending on the region. The main dance is called Escista. It is mainly preformed using the shoulder and chest to make rapid movements. Another famous dance is called Gurage, which is different because leg movements are very essential. Gurage uses kick moves that go with the beat that is being played. Another big dance is Tigrenga, this dance requires the participation of a group. The group would make a circle and move in the circle according to the beat. Some people may choose to go in the middle of the circle to preform their own moves. These dances are mostly performed at weddings and holiday gatherings. A conclusion that can be drawn from this, is that the Zulu and Masai use different movements to characterize similar cultural events. Zulu dancers have a very heavy, grounded feeling to their dance while Masai dancers have a very taught and jumpy feel. By using dances about similar aspects of life it is made easier to compare their styles. Although their expressions of life aspects may be different, the things they dance about give us a sense of what is important to them.

Trance State, Dance, and Mayotte Culture

The act of being in a state of trance is by itself most widely and basically defined as any state of altered consciousness or cognizance that differs from ordinary wakeful awareness; in other words, entering a state of trance is achieved when one’s “physical body” becomes partially or completely dormant while the person’s mind stays awake. During this process of entering the trance state, as well as while actually operating in the trance state, the brain wave frequency of the individual in trance actually changes. This change in brain wave frequency is a response to the altered levels of physical and mental activity. Specifically, entering the trance state is characterized by a considerable change or difference from a beta brain-wave state. The human brain is known to have many different brain-wave states which include beta waves, delta waves, theta waves, alpha waves, mu waves, and gamma waves. All of these brain waves are always present in the human mind at all times, however certain waves are more powerful or heightened when engaged in different activities or states of consciousness. For example, beta waves in the brain are associated with wakefulness, consciousness, alertness, activeness, and concentration; so as a result, when one is awake and engaged during the day this brain wave is the strongest and most heightened while the other brain waves are put to the background or periphery. The beta brain wave is put to the background however when an individual enters into the trance state, where at that point the brain’s other frequencies are heightened and moved to the foreground.

The act of entering trance-like states is often times a ceremonial or spiritual practice in which many cultures around the world participate in. Many of these cultures and tribes across the world that participate in trance rituals often use music and, especially, dance as ways of participation in order to enter the trance state; dancing in particular is used by some cultures as a way of entering a trance state, whereas other cultures may dance as a product of being in the trance state. Different cultures across the globe use different methods and different techniques while engaging in trance-inducing rituals, however, one common theme found across many of these cultures who participate in trance rituals is the use of dance. Dance is an integral component of not only trance-inducing rituals, but the trance state itself. In many different ways the process of “trance” can be considered as and included under the categories of both art as well as dance.

One culture in particular where dance and the process of entering into trance states is a major factor in their lives is the people of Mayotte. Mayotte is an archipelago that rests between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. This archipelago is currently a region that is owned and under the influence of France, however many indigenous groups still live and practice their traditional customs on Mayotte. Many of the indigenous peoples living on Mayotte traveled from nearby African countries, including Mozambique and Madagascar, and settled on the various islands of Mayotte. Many of these original people to inhabit Mayotte believe in spirit possession and call upon spirits to possess them through dance and other rituals in order to enter the trance state. No one uniform dance is practiced during the rituals and instead many unique dances are performed by the different people involved; this is because the Mayotte people believe in and call upon many different spirits whom all have different dances associated with them, and in fact participators in the trance state often improvise and create their own dances while “possessed” by these different spirits. Rituals involving dance in Mayotte often involve participation of spectators who clap their hands while participants, possessed by a certain spirit, dance in front of them. These dances can vary from graceful movements to fast rapid dances [25] depending on the type of “spirit” the participator is possessed by; the participators are in the trance state when they are possessed.

Native American Dance

Native American dance has profound and deep spiritual meaning within their culture. A prime example of this would be the mask rituals of the Kwakiutl, a Native American tribe local to Washington state. These rituals bring together song, dance, and storytelling in a fantastic and mystical way. The story's range from story's about the origin of the Kwakiutl, to silly stories meant to scare children into being good. All of these dances are accompanied by chanting and drums, which are made primarily out of cedar and animal skins.

[115] The Ghost Dance was created and performed by Paiute in in the 1890s as a result of the harsh conditions surrounding Native Americans after half a century of dominance by another culture. One direct causes of this was the complete slaughter of buffalo herds throughout the last half of the 19th century. A depletion of their food sources meant that many Native Americans were forced to live and work on reservations carved out of the land by the U.S. government. [116] (Garth Ahern-Hendryx)

Dance, Art or Sport?

In American society, it is sometimes stereotyped as simple, or un-athletic to be a ballerina. Dance is "not a sport" but rather just a form of art. However in many places across the nation, football players are being sent to ballet class to be taught the art of balance, walking/ running through their toes and quick action pivots. Retired Steelers players Lynn Swann and Herschel Walker, along with ex-competitive bodybuilder Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had at one point incorporated ballet classes into their regular work outs. Dance of all kinds, whether it be modern, jazz, ballet, kick [117], tap, hip-hop, break dancing, krumping, salsa, waltz, foxtrot and even pole dancing all takes an extreme amount of control and strength and athletes have begun to recognize the benefits. Walker even took it a step further and performed in a show with the Fort Worth Ballet. "Despite having gone through 2-a-day training camps and getting hit repeatedly by massive linebackers, Walker called the ballet performance, 'The hardest thing I've ever done.'” Likewise dancers are training equally hard and as long as many professional athletes. The Southwest Washington Dance Ensembles company dancers rehearse up to 8 hours on Saturdays for shows starting up to 4 months before the opening, along with taking anywhere between 3 to 6 classes a week. While I was performing with the group I remember the very long and hard hours that I spent in the studio and then followed by a long shift working as a waitress. I suppose the biggest differences between dance and athletics is that stadiums do not get sold out for a single performance( the venues are incredibly smaller) and the amount of money dancers receive for their performance is much less. While football players and other professional athletes are getting paid millions of dollars a year, many professional dancers do not receive even close to that amount of money. The field is also much more competitive, as only prima ballerinas get to the lead roles. However, in other cultures such as Russia where the Moscow ballet is a much bigger deal, audiences would much rather pay high prices for a viewing of the FireBird. The lack of interest and in general recognition of the hard work that dancers put into their "sport" is a reflection of the priorities of entertainment of America. When it comes to other cultures, such as Bahia, Brazil, countries do treat dance as a form of art AND a sport. In "Dance Lest We All Fall Down," the story of anthropologist Margaret Wilson's experiences living for a time in Bahia, she discusses and participates in capoeira. Capoeira was first created in Brazil by the slaves brought from Africa. It is said to be a combination of African martial arts and Brazilian dance moves. It is also said that this form of "fighting" was a self-defense mechanism designed by the slaves to look like dance so they wouldn't get in trouble with those in control. Capoeira is similar to what we know as martial arts, only it involves a small group of people who surround the dancers in the middle as they "fight" (without ever making physical contact) to the beats of multiple instruments. The fighting stops when either player is exhausted, another player steps in or the music ends. Roda is another style in capoeira, or a cultural frame of capoeira, where the players form a circle around 2 other capoeiristas who proceed with a simultaneous capoeria battle. Roda illustrates the athletic aspect of the art of capoeira in the rhythmic battle, that only comes to an end when the beat ends or another player takes one capoeirists spot. The circle surrounding capoeiristas is also a tradition in the art and culturally symbolic to challenging oppression in Brazil. These capoeira groups travel around "playing" with different capoeira groups, or in other words competing, and the more modern version has become the National Brazilian Sport, even though it began as a mysterious and ancient form of art. Many could describe capoeira as a form of dance as well which shows that dance can be interpreted as a sport or an art depending on the cultural constructs of each country. It just so happens that here in America, dance is widely known as an art rather than a sport. Yet this does not mean dancers are not athletes.

Works Cited [118] [119] [120] [121] [122] [123] [124] [125] [126] [127] [128] [129] [130]

Visual Art

Cave Paintings

The cultural practice of painting is an art whose origins date back tens of thousands of years in the form of cave paintings. While cave paintings have been discovered all over the world, some of the earliest examples of this art occur in Africa in the region of Namibia. These paintings, which depict animals painted on stone slabs, have been dated to be nearly 30,000 years old and were speculated to have been done by the San people. Since their discovery in 1969, these paintings were thought to be the earliest known examples of cave art. However, that distinction was lost with the discovery of the Cauvet cave in 1994. The cave, which was happened upon accidentally by potholers in Southern France, contains wall paintings depicting animals from bison, horses, and deer to lions, rhinoceroses, and mammoths. Radiometric dating placed the ages of the earliest of these paintings at approximately 31,000 years old, which clearly places them as the earliest forms of cave art to be discovered so far. [131]

The actual purposes of cave art have been the source of much speculation. In studying the practices of modern tribal societies, some modern scholars have theorized that cave paintings were probably tied into the concepts of religion and magic that were held by the societies of those early painters. However, the precise reason as to why the paintings were created in the first place is still a topic of debate. Whether the paintings were made to bless the efforts of early hunters or were meant to act as a shamanic aid for tapping into the spiritual world, or were created for a wholly different reason is a question that may never be answered. However, the existence of cave paintings themselves reveals that even from earliest times, humans have been interested in being able to depict the objects and environments of the world around them. It is an interest that has continued to be prevalent within human culture across the course of history.

There were a few basic methods that prehistoric people probably used to paint these cave walls. It is theorized that they used sharp tools or spears to etch figures, mostly animals, into the rock. The paint or color that they used to decorate the cave art was most likely used from charcoal, soot, clay, or various types of berries. Basic tools to apply color could have been constructed out of straw, leaves, or hair attached to sticks or reeds. They also might have sprayed on color through hollow reeds or bones in an airbrush type fashion. [132]

Classical to Modern Painting

Graffiti by RE Krew of Chalco Baner, Arian, Greko, Higer and Septimo. Mexico City 16 September 2009

Throughout time, painting, much like most other art forms, has been used to express emotion, invention, and the change in times. The first known painting was found to be in caves in France around 32,000 years ago.[133] More familiar art work dates ancient Greek, Rome and Renaissance time period.[134] During this time, religion was the main theme of artwork and later began to depict political characters in complex and intricate portraits. Far eastern styles, such as Chinese and Japanese, were also concerned with depicting religion but with different media. While they preferred ink and silk, Western culture began adopting the lightness of watercolors and oils. African art differs greatly from Western art as they had an abundance of functional art. Masks and jewelry were important accessories that were used in ritual ceremonies symbolizing spirits and ancestors. Although murals can be dated as far back to the beginning of artwork, Muralism, or “Muarlismo”, was a movement that brought much attention to Mexican artwork in the 1900’s. The Mexican mural movement was born in the 1920s following the Revolution (1910-1917) and was part of the government's effort to promote its ideology and vision of history. The murals were done in a way to strengthen Mexican identity and artists were commissioned to create images of the cultural history of Mexico and its people. Perhaps inspired by the murals of the 20th century, the urban Graffiti on construction panels on side of the Palacio de Bellas Artes continue to decorate Mexico City.


Also known as street art, graffiti is any two-dimensional symbol or image placed in the public sphere without authorization or commission. It is relatively recent in terms of art, typically involving spray paint, but also employs other kinds of paints, and even decals. Graffiti is illegal and considered vandalism, or destruction of property. While it can be controversial or even obscene, graffiti has also come to serve as a medium for social, political, and economic commentary. With the works of notorious artists such as Banksy gaining worldwide recognition, it has become a global phenomenon. [135] Art has historically been a means of expression through creative transformation, street art and graffiti in particular has gained a reputation for outspoken opinions and a critical eye towards the status quo. Giving a voice to the 'common man', it is readily viewable by hundreds of people on the sides of buildings, train cars, subways and metros, bridges, and more, creating a dialogue without endangering the artist from persecution and arrest, so long as they don't get caught. While a major platform remains the 'tag', a series of letters, symbol(s), or a word that acts as the signature of the artist, there are increasing pictorial images that have garnered attention and redubbed 'graffiti' as 'street art'. Places of great social unrest have some of the most interesting and profound street art, such as Iran, [136] Brazil, Eastern Europe, and the like. Berlin, Germany is home to a historic (in the sense of modern-day graffiti) street art movement during the Soviet reign of East and West division post-WWII that continues today. There are countless forms of so-called graffiti, much as there are many types of other art forms, it can be large or small, explicit or implicit, contentious, engaging, or have no real meaning at all except to the artist who now has a platform to display their work; it has persisted and grown, despite the fear of retribution, and will likely continue to flourish as a new art of the streets.


Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard and/or plastic material, sound, and/or text and or light, commonly stone (either rock or marble), metal, glass, or wood. Some sculptures are created directly by finding or carving; others are assembled, built together and fired, welded, molded, or cast. They can either be constructed in the round, also known as free-standing, which allows the viewer to walk around the full sculpture and view it from any angle, or as a relief sculpture, in which the forms extend forward but remain attached to a background surface and is meant to be viewed from the front like you would observe a painting. Within these categories there are many sub-fields of low-relief or bas-relief, but as time passes we have witnessed the traditional means of sculpture manipulated and reworked to create the modern sculptures of today. [137] Sculptures are often painted. A person who creates sculptures is called a sculptor. Because sculpture involves the use of materials that can be molded or modulated, it is considered one of the plastic arts. The majority of public art is sculpture. Many sculptures together in a garden setting may be referred to as a sculpture garden. [138]

Over the ages there have been many great sculptors who have effectively personified the spirit of their time. A few of these are Michelangelo [139], Auguste Rodin [140], and Gian Lorenzo Bernini [141]


By definition, media is the means of communication, as radios, televisions, newspapers, and magazines that reach or influence people widely. This meaning of media has been around since the printing press made it easier to produce large masses of papers to spread news to the public. Today, mass media can be seen as a form of art because there are so many aspects and rules to creating an appropriate message that also must be effective to the public. Media can also be seen as a form of art because it is a form of expression that reaches out to a large sum of people. Media is a less obvious form of art compared to some fine arts such as paintings, drawings, and sculptures, but certain aspects of the media have just as much creativity and effort put into them that make the media a form of art that can be seen in everyday life.


The word photography derives from two ancient Greek words: photo, meaning "light," and graph, meaning "drawing". "Drawing with light" is a way of looking at the term photography. [142] Arguably invented in the 5th century B.C. by Mo Ti, a Chinese philosopher, photography has been a means of creating still images. Mo Ti was able to describe the pinhole camera which is the simplest type. This can be made from black paint, a blank photo, and cardboard. The idea is that with one small pinhole, light can emit to the back of the box to the photo in such a way that reflects the projected scene. Mandé Daguerre is credited for the first printed photograph. His image was processed on a copper plate coated with silver iodide and it printed clear, sharp, and had the potential to be duplicated by others. It was named the daguerrotype. [143] Photography has advanced considerably since then starting in the early 1900's with the discovery of chemical compound that permanently hold the image. [144] This new technology brought with it a new ways of recording historical documents. One of the first examples of this is the photographs of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln understood the importance of photography and in 1860 he had his portrait taken by Mathew B. Brady, the most famous professional photographer in the history of American photography. Native Americans in the past have refused to have their photograph taken for fear of losing their soul. In San Juan Chamula, Mexico it is illegal to take photographs in church. [145]


Ceramics is the art of making objects from clay. Clay is a naturally occurring material that is manipulated and decorated to create ceramic art. When dry, clay is similar to a powder, but when mixed with water it becomes a moldable, plastic material which is pinched, rolled, or shaped into forms that are then left to dry into fragile creations. After the clay is completely dried to where it is cold to the touch it must be fired in a kiln at temperatures as high as 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes its new form permanent, and changes the chemical composition of the clay so it can never be made into the moldable, plastic state again. There are many techniques used by potters to create ceramics. Slab construction (firm and soft), coil, molding in the hands, and throwing on a potters wheel are all means of forming clay into ceramic art. A major requirement for ceramic art is it must be hollow. This is because most ceramics have practical uses such as holding food or liquid, and also because thick pieces of clay, or shapes that are not correctly hollowed and vented, are difficult to dry and fire successfully without exploding in the kiln. After the clay has undergone its first firing, potters often decorate their pieces with glaze, a paint like liquid that contains a variety of minerals mixed with heavily watered down clay. If painted with glaze, the ceramic art must undergo a second firing in the kiln to permanently fuse the glaze to the clay and seal the piece so it is capable of holding liquid. [146]

The word ceramics is from the ancient Greek word, keramakos, and means "of pottery". The earliest known practice of ceramics is dated back to as early as 20,000 years ago in China. This is an art form that has been practiced by nearly every culture we know of. The culture of Pueblo people is showcased in the work of some folk potters in New Mexico. Techniques during the first stage of firing have developed over generations of Pueblo potters that transform the local red clay of New Mexico into burnished black masterpieces of ceramic art. What began as a necessary tool for Pueblo people, allowing them to gather, transport, and store food and water, has become a exquisite art form held highly in the eyes of the international fine art communities. [147]

Television and Film

It is no doubt that the roles of television and film have become more prominent in everyday life as decades have passed and improvements have been made in technology. People tend to watch television and films for entertainment or news purposes, especially since they have become more available and accessible to watch to people around the world. However, they are treated differently in different countries, from a portion of Serbia only being able to watch a certain channel to having 500 channels on every television in almost every home in America. Although television and film have become more common as years have passed, most people do not realize the work and corruption that exists through the media and is being placed in the homes of millions. [148]

Television in America

The average American household has the TV on for an average of 7 hours, 12 minutes per day. [149] This is most likely because 98% of homes in the United States have at least one television set, while the average home has between 2 and 3 televisions. As a nation, we watch 250 billion hours of television annually and almost 50% of Americans admit that they watch TV too often. TV is one of the top advertising agents because it is so common; 30% of TV broadcast time is devoted to advertisement and in a year most children will see 20,000 30 second commercials. [150] 82% of Americans believe that "most of us buy and consume far more than we need." [151]

Children that start watching TV at a very young age are more likely to be unhealthy and obese later in life. It takes away from them going outside and interacting with other kids. This can also result in weight gain due to inactivity and increased snacking. [152] In the span of 30 years (from 1963 to 1993), the percentage of American children ages 6 to 11 who were seriously overweight went from 4.5 to 14. [153]

However, television isn't necessarily all bad. Many viewers, myself included, regard TV as a much-appreciated source of relaxation and tune in to their favorite shows as a means of resting their bodies and recharging their minds after a long day at work or school. TV can also help to meet emotional needs, albeit on a somewhat superficial level, as it often functions as a source of escapism and even catharsis. In short, while I agree that watching too much television can have negative side-effects such as increasing rates of consumption and contributing to childhood obesity, I also believe that, in moderation, it is a perfectly healthy practice that can serve valuable functions in the lives of viewers.

Studies from the University at Buffalo and Miami University of Ohio have shown that television can also help stave off loneliness and rejection. It follows the 'social surrogacy hypothesis', which states that humans can use technologies to provide themselves a false sense of social belonging when there has in fact been no actual social interaction. Connecting with characters can help ease a viewer's need to connect with others, allowing a person to feel as though his/her social needs are being met. The first study found that subjects were less lonely while watching their favorite programs. The second study found that those who connected with the programs on a deeply social level described the programs at further length. The third study found that subjects just thinking about their favorite programs were buffered against drops in self-esteem and increases in negative moods and feelings of rejection. The fourth study found that those who had written about their favorite program (as referenced in the second study) felt fewer feelings of loneliness. The question remains, however, if this 'social surrogacy' actually fulfills social needs or simply suppresses them. [154]

Media and Television

From sitcoms that cover a wider range of materials overtime (such as divorce, mixed race relations, single parents etc.) to questioning the acts of politicians and government acts, media helps define what “legitimate” behavior is. In 1970, 25% of Americans reported getting their political information from the television, by 2005 that number has more than doubled to 70% getting the majority of their information from the television. Today, between 6-8 firms control over 50% of all media coverage. These firms include: Time Warner/AOL, Disney, Bertelsmann, Viacom, News Corp, and Vivendi. This number has changed drastically over the past several decades, in 1981 there were 46 major firms, in 1986 there were 24, in 1990 there were 17, and in 1996 there were 11. [155]

Video and attendance of transnational fiestas

Among the transnational Mixtec community, spanning the United States and Mexico, video has become an important form of communication across the international boundary of the border. Attendance of community fiestas associated with patron saints days, Quinceañeras and weddings is required by close kin, especially god parents. However, for many families crossing the border and traveling many miles is prohibitive to attending these fiestas. Since the late 1980s, video has been increasingly used to allow distant family members to 'participate' in the fiestas from the comfort of their living rooms. In parts of California it is common to see Tias (aunts) and comadres (friends) replaying the videotaped fiestas for years after the event occurred. [156]


Theater is a fine art which incorporates performers, props, settings, and music to exhibit a real or fictional event. It is often performed on a stage but can be displayed in other settings such as a black box, an elevated platform, or even a street corner. It is a popular means of expression that has been practiced since the early days of human civilization. The earliest example of theater can be found in the Greek city state of Athens. It was presented during festivals, religious practices, weddings, politics, etc. as a form of entertainment and news. Theatre has been localized very well in the U.S. with most towns having their own theatres, both professional and volunteer based. National Broadway tours make it to most major cities and most, if not all, high schools and colleges in the nation offer some form of theatre for students. [157]

Shakespearean Theater

The works of William Shakespeare have influenced culture in a multitude of ways, from modern reinterpretations of his works to traditional style word for word theater. Shakespeare's plays still have an effect on culture today through linguistics, with phrases such as, "... of Shakespearean proportions" to imply something of large significance, or referring to a lover who refuses to give up as a "Romeo." Modern Shakespearean Theater has a culture of it's own, with the various actors and writers forming a specific sub-culture devoted to the 400 year old works. An excellent example of this is the still operating Shakespearean Theater in Ashland Oregon, where actors and writers have gathered and created a place to express their subculture and love for the art for others. Shakespeare's works can also be seen as argument with his satirical pieces about corrupt governments and failing kings. [158] In a artistic sense this allowed Shakespeare to get away with criticizing politicians of his time, and perhaps helped bring satirical writings into the limelight to make way for later prominent satirical authors.

Improvisational Theater

Improvisational Theater, also known as “Improv,” usually consists of a group or band of “players” who join in improvised exercises or games that involve playing a part of a scene. The nature of Improv is to be spontaneous and in the moment. It is synonymous with organized flexibility. Much like regular theaters, Improvisational Theaters will perform regular shows and performances; highlighting the principle players. However, Improv Theater is unique since there is no set script to be rehearsed and memorized. There may be an outline of where the director wants the show to go, but usually not. Occasionally, music and/or other mixed visuals are added to the exercises. Often, there is a set theme involved for the exercises and/or performances: such as a musical. If a director is necessary for the Improv performance to function, an artistic director will be utilized. Often, that director is a former player or is currently involved in the exercises. The “directors or managers,” tend to work together in collaboration regarding their individual responsibilities for the group. These types of organizations differ from competition-based organizations because the competition-based organizations have a structure and organization goal preset for them. This flexible structure is intriguing to Improv Theater groups because the members can come and go to rehearsals as they please. Rehearsals for Improv groups concentrate more on honing their skills as Improv actors, compared to conventional play rehearsals.

Musical Theater

Musical Theater is a popular form of theatrical performance in which the dialogue of the characters are communicated and expressed through spoken word, song, and dance. Although music has been used in theaters for centuries to magnify the audience’s experience, Musical Theater specifically focuses on the integration of dialogue into the song and movement of the performers. Over the course of its existence, Musicals have been related to Operas. A general way to determine the difference however, can be through the delivery of dialogue. Whilst Operas are sung indefinitely, musicals will have an occasional spoken dialogue, dance, and the incorporation of popular genres of music at the time. While musical plays have been being performed since ancient Greece, modern western Musicals have only been performed since the early 20th century. <ref>

Current Musicals

Many modern musicals convey differing and distinctive messages, stories, and styles capturing the audience’s attention of curiosity such as Hamilton (2015), Book of Mormon (2011), Wicked (2003), Young Frankenstein (2007), and In the Heights (2008). A portion of Musicals have appeared in films including but not limited to Chicago (2002), Les Miserables (2012), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber (2007), Mamma Mia (2008), Love’s Labour’s Lost (2001).

Eastern Musicals

The majority of western musicals performed today derive from Greek roots in theater and performance. However, many other forms of musical theater existed to east in Asia such as Chinese, Japanese, and Taiwanese Operas. The first recorded Chinese opera was known as the Canjun Opera and was supposedly performed during the Zhoa Dynasty sometime between 319 AD – 351 AD. Another eastern form of musical theater is Noh. Noh Is the Japanese term for “talent” or “skill” and is used to describe a Japanese musical. It has been performed since the mid-14th century and is still practiced today in specific Noh theaters. Taiwanese Opera or Koa-á-hì is the only known form of drama to emerge from Taiwan as early as the 18th century. Most of the songs are stories and folktales with occasional supernatural elements.


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Ritual and Religion

Ritual, Religion and Myth

Religion across the globe changes. Different parts of the world have different rules and beliefs that make up a religion. Not all religions follow the same guidelines and practices but there are some similarities between most, if not all, religions. Religions have their own rituals attached to their beliefs. Some rituals cross religions, like fasting, and some rituals are specific to one religion. Religions also incorporate myths into how they practice and why they practice by conveying messages about the supernatural through stories or metaphors. They are all used to help express ideas and concepts as well as help the follows achieve spirituality. Religion can help people find peace of mind, give them hope, turn their life around, and change their point of view. Religion can be used to justify things as well as motivation for some. Rituals can be practice in religious events and by other groups of similar communities. A myth is something that is false, but known to be true. Many people believe in myths, until told that they are just a myth; a popular unproven theory. Many myths can't be proven and were made in the past, but somehow carry on. Other myths are not as popular, for most myths evolve from the past.

Origin of Religion

James Frazer's ethnology of religion entitled The Golden Bough, published in 1890 and again in 1922, offered a thorough review of the cross cultural variation in ideas related to magic, myth and religion that were known to Europeans at the time. Taking an evolutionary approach he proposed that human belief progressed through three stages: primitive magic, which was displaced by religion, which in turn was replaced by science.


Magic is defined as a set of beliefs and practices designed to control the visible or invisible world for a specific purpose. Magic is a platform that is used to explain what is happening around us. People can use magic to trick the audience into believing something they can make sense of, prove. Being able to complete magic means that you have talent unlike no other, making more people fond of magic and magicians.

There are two types of known magic: imitative and contagious.

  • Imitative Magic
Voodoo doll with pins in it.

Imitative magic attempts to control the universe through the mimicking of a desired event (e.g. a rain dance to bring rain to dry crops). Imitative magic is often perceived negative and only used for harm. Voodoo, a form of magic that is a great example of imitative magic, has a negative connotation because of this misconception. The Voodoo doll is one reason why Voodoo has negative connotations. The Voodoo doll is used as a symbolic representation of another person. A person that practices Voodoo magic may stick pins into a doll in order to inflict harm or put a curse on another individual; it is thought that by harming the Voodoo doll, one can manipulate the physical or emotional state of the person that the doll is meant to represent.

However, this negative light shone on Voodoo is a misconception. Voodoo is often used to heal relationships or other personal issues. An example of this is found in the book Mama Lola: A voodoo Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown. Brown studies the priestesses daily practices, and finds that Mama Lola uses imitative magic to help people's lives. An example is when she helps a young women's relationship with her husband. The husband is cheating on his wife, so Moma Lola tells her to write his name on a piece of paper, tear it up, and speak his name. By doing this, he will hear her and come back to her.

  • Contagious Magic

Contagious magic is often associated with witchcraft and sorcery. Witchcraft uses magic by casting spells, sometimes affiliated with spirits. Despite the stereotypes of European American witchcraft, most witchcraft is quite tame and does not involve the hurting of others.[1] Contagious magic is still practiced today throughout the U.S. Many people still use puppets (much like voodoo dolls) which are made with someone's personal possessions in order to draw positive energy into that person's life. The ability that a Navajo Witch has to cause you physical pain because they have a piece of your hair is an example of contagious magic. In some of the tribes in New South Wales the tooth was placed under the bark of a tree; if the bark grew over the tooth or the tooth fell out then the boy would have good health, but if the tooth was exposed he would have diseases of the mouth. The tooth was out into the care of an influential man in the tribe and passed from man to man by hand. The tooth was never to touch any magical substance because it would seep into the tooth and harm the boy/man that it came from.

Magic Changing into Religion

Anthropologists have suggested that religion was created out of a failure of magic to give a satisfying answer to the 'big questions' inherent across human civilization. Initially, the term religion was used to describe a domain of western culture and belief in the supernatural. The definition of religion has been disputed among anthropologists because some would define the 'supernatural' as something that does not exist, and some define it as something that is simply 'beyond sensed'. Recently, evolutionary biologist and psychologists have begun to look at religion in terms of it being a natural evolution of human culture over time. Much like the idea of culture itself, they believe that religion was replicated, adapted, and evolved from generation to generation in much the same way that human genes do.

Functions of Religion

Religion attempts to answer (or to help cope with) the “big questions” in life. Such questions may range anywhere from “who am I?" and "why am I here?" to "what is my purpose in life?" Religion often offers people a road map for their behavior. Although some religions do not directly answer all of these “big questions,” most religions help some individuals cope with such daunting thoughts, making the lives of followers of arguably all religions more cohesive. It allows individuals to concentrate their efforts on their day to day life, rather than worrying about yet unanswerable questions. Religion may create a foundation in life to build upon, as well as for cultures to come together. It is important to note that this concept of believing in the answers religion offers is called faith, in which an individual believes in something regardless of whether there is physical proof or not. Through the centuries there has been much debate over whether faith in a religion is positive or is a detriment to mankind. While the fourteenth-century Italian poet and philosopher Dante wrote about the virtues or religion, the nineteenth-century German philosopher Nietzsche argued that accepting a dogmatic moral code on faith alone is not only illogical, but fundamentally limits human potential.

Percentage of citizens who consider religion "very important".

It is important to note from an anthropological point of view, religion does not serve a singular purpose, but in fact serves many purposes in society. While religions may unite a society, it can also crack societies, and be the base for prejudice in culture. Religion also offer answers to those in need, while giving society rules of conduct in which adherents should live by. Most importantly religions add to and define cultures. Therefore, by studying a culture’s religion, the culture itself can be better understood.

Concepts of Supernatural Beings

There are many different ways cultures conceptualize their spiritual beings. These include, but are not limited to: Animatism, Animism, Anthropomorphism, Dualism, Euhemerism, Totemism, and Zoomorphism.


A Polynesian carving, spirits are said to be able to manifest themselves in any object.
Mana is conveyed trough tiki statues in Polynesian culture

Animatism is the belief in a supernatural power that is able to be something other than a person or animal. In this sense, it is the belief that the supernatural is all around you and could be anything. Individuals that hold these beliefs explain a powerful unseen force that can potentially be found all around us; in people, animals, plants and features of nature such as volcanoes and the ocean, for example, Mother Earth (believing in the non-living). The belief of animatism doesn't assign a spiritual identity but instead believes in a single unified power that can manifest itself into objects or be acquired by and controlled by certain individuals. The term was coined by the British Anthropologist Robert Marett as "a belief in a generalized, impersonal power over which people have some measure of control"Animatism is the cause of consciousness and personality to natural phenomena such as thunderstorms and earthquakes and to objects such as plants and stones. Inanimate objects, forces, and plants have personalities and wills, but not souls. These forces are inanimate and impersonal, This is not true for those beliefs relating to animism. In the South Pacific Polynesian cultures, the power of animatism is commonly referred to as "Mana". For them, it is a force that is inherent in all objects, plants, and animals (including people) to different degrees. Some things or people have more of it than others and are, therefore, potentially dangerous. Often a chief must have some with him at all times. Dangerous places, such as volcanoes, were considered to have concentrated amounts of mana. This impersonal power is much like the Force described in the popular Star Wars movies. Mana is a spiritual quality considered to have supernatural origin – a sacred impersonal force existing in the universe. Therefore to have mana is to have influence and authority, and efficacy – the power to perform in a given situation. Mana, Marett states, is a concentrated form of animatistic force found within any of these objects that confer power, strength, and success. For example, the Polynesians, believe in mana as a force inherent in all objects. This essential quality of mana is not limited to persons – folks, governments, places and inanimate objects can possess mana.


Animism is the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe all possess individual souls. Deriving from the Latin word anima, meaning a breath or soul, it is one of man’s oldest beliefs dating back to the Paleolithic Age and is greatly associated with primitive peoples, those without a written tradition. Sir Edward Burnett Tylor was one of the first Anthropologists to study animism, believing it to be a “minimum definition of religion”, he theorized that all globally recognized religions had some aspects of animism^ . Tylor posited that animism was birthed by primitive cultures mistaking their dreams for reality [2]. It is believed that animism was first constructed out of a need to explain natural phenomena such as sleeping, dreaming, and death. In classical animism it is said that spirits are a separate entity from the body, and cause life in humans by passing through bodies and other inanimate objects. Robert Ranulph Marett, another Anthropologist of Tylor’s time, suggested that the earliest forms of animism were created based on emotion and intuition, rather than sacred practices, and written word. He believed that the earliest animists based their religion on inanimate objects acting strangely, or uniquely giving them the illusion of life alike to humans, trees blowing in the wind for instance. Contrary to Tylor, Marett believed that animists did not separate between the body and the soul, claiming them to be a single entity living and dying as one^ .

In terms of practices, many animistic cultures worshiped plant life, including trees and plants, because of their beauty, strength, and life. It is thought that all beings, including plants, have a soul. This is why in many Native American cultures totem poles are major symbolic structures, and the main focus of many rituals. Centuries ago the Coast Salish Indian Tribe was well known for its belief in spiritual transmutation between humans and animals, a trait of animistic culture. Living in Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island they created hundreds of totem poles in order to showcase the spirits believed to be living in the animals portrayed upon the totems, and the trees the totems themselves were made out of. Now, the remnants of these totems are on display in both museums, and in their original locations in the city of Duncan, now known as “Totem City” because of the animistic art left over by the Coast Salish Indians.

Totem poles at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

As mentioned, animism is greatly associated with more primitive cultures. However, “new animism” a more symbolic and less literal form of animism is still found in many different cultures worldwide^ . This form of the religion is focused on the different types of souls in different types of people from all different cultures. It is more acutely understood as the teaching of how to have respectful relationships with human beings, as well as the natural world. It is also to be understood, that not all things have a truly human soul, including humans, and part of animism is distinguishing what/who is truly human, and what/who is not. The basic idea is that showing respect for relationships is vital to survival. ^ .


Anthropomorphism is the concept of attributing human characteristics or behaviors to a non-human being. This can mean animals, plants, and almost anything else taking on the personality of a human. Different religions have different interpretations of anthropomorphism, but in general, it is to show their God as something or someone else. For Catholics, the purpose of drawings and other forms of anthropomorphism is to reach our philosophic knowledge of God. In Greek mythology anthropomorphic animals are representations of their Gods. The Greeks show that the gods are different from us by attributing them to the features of being ‘immortal and ageless.’ [26]

In the anthropology of religion, the primary use of anthropomorphism is to embody the supernatural in human form. An example that is most defined in Western culture is in Judaism and Christianity, God has given human feelings of anger and jealousy or compassion and forgiveness. All human qualities that have been given to God in human settings that surround humanity, where these feelings are all emotions that humans have observed and none that we haven't. A functional analysis of anthropomorphism proposes that when the supernatural takes human form, it may be easier for people to relate to the concepts promoted by religion.


The term dualism was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition. A meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been more generalized in other usages to indicate a system which contains two essential parts. Bitheism/Ditheism are two forms that both involve the two gods. Bitheism implies that the gods live in peace and Ditheism implies that there is opposition. This means that a Ditheism system would have one good and one evil god or one god that listened and helped and one that ignored. A god of life and one of death is another example. An example of a Bitheism system would be something like one god is of the sky and one of the wind. It is not always easy to distinguish between the two, like a sky god who brings storms and rain and an earth god who brings fertility and tremors. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato also had a hand in dualism, but more in the sense of body and soul. In a moral sense Christianity is a dualism religion with the opposition of God and Satan. [3]


Hercules Clubs the Hydra.

Euhemerism is a rationalizing method of interpretation that was named after the Greek mythographer (compiler of myths) Euhemerus. Euhemerism is the idea that a real person can become a deity or a supernatural immortal being through the constant telling and re-telling of their stories that leads to the distortion of the actual story. For example, many people believe that Hercules was a real person but was deified through the stories of his life and after some time the embellished story became the accepted story. Therefore, Hercules was remembered as a deity. Euhemerism is the worship and belief in an ancestor or historical being who is thought to have supernatural power. Euhemerus believed that every Greek god was someone that actually lived long ago and was immortalized in myth through their actions in life. Euhemerus believed that the Gods of Greece were, in fact, humanly-conceived incarnations of important historical figures who had achieved high reputation by advancing several areas of Greek society. [4]


Victoria's "World's Tallest Totem Pole."

Totemism is a religious practice in which a family is seen to have a close kinship with a particular spiritual being, such as an animal or plant. The entity, or totem, is thought to interact with a given kin group or an individual and to serve as their emblem or symbol.[[27]] Each spirit can be associated with an animal of some kind as a symbol of power or any other type of attribute. Masks are sometimes used as well to recreate the spirit or being. Usually seen through the use of Totem poles. with Native American families in traditional societies. Though this is usually seen in Native American traditional societies, this is something that is practiced all over the world. It is not exclusively associated with those groups of people. The term totem is derived from the Ojibwa word ototeman, meaning “one’s brother-sister kin.” The grammatical root, ote, signifies a blood relationship between brothers and sisters who have the same mother and who may not marry each other. [5]


The zoomorphic deity Anubis.

Zoomorphism is the attribution of animal qualities or characteristics to a God. It is the act of attributing animal qualities to things that are not animals. Many times it is mistaken for anthropomorphism, which attributes human characteristics or qualities to things that are not human. Zoomorphic supernaturals can be found in many religions, such as Hinduism with the deity Ganesha. Other examples include images of male deities with antlers that appeared in prehistoric art in countries as far apart as France, Australia, Canada, and China. [28]

An example of zoomorphism can also be found Egyptian mythology with the god Anubis. In Egyptian mythology, Anubis was the god that protected the dead and brought them to the afterlife until Osiris took over the position and then Anubis became the gatekeeper of the dead.[29] In Egyptian Mythology Anubis has the head of a jackal with the body of a human. His head is the color black because black is the color associated with death and the rotting color of flesh and the black soil of the Nile valley. The head of a jackal is significant because in ancient times jackals would hunt at the edges of deserts near the necropolis and cemeteries and ravage the desert graves throughout Egypt.[30] Anubis was not the only zoomorphic god of Egypt. Horus was often drawn as a falcon on the shoulder of a ruler and he is typically depicted as having the head of a falcon when drawn alone. He was often used to show a ruler's connection to the Gods. Other examples in Egyptian mythology include Hathor, who is often depicted as a cow, and the warrior goddess Sekhmet, who is depicted as a lioness in human form. [6]

How Beliefs Are Expressed


The cultural myth can be defined as a guide to how to deal with critical problems that humans face as well as an explanation of things that are not understood by the natural world. Myths convey messages about the supernatural through the story itself. Myths can concern a wide variety of things, such as the purpose of living, misfortune, cruelty, love and fertility, human versus divine, magic, power, fate, war, accident, chance, creation, and the nature of the universe. [31] Often they instruct people on their place in the world and how they should relate to it, and sometimes are used to justify certain relationships. For example, Virgil’s epic poem, the Aeneid, can be seen as a justification for the Roman Empire. [32]

Perhaps as a way of distancing the modern, "civilized" culture from the past cultures, some people argue that myths have lost their place in industrialized societies today and have become merely entertaining stories. The term Myth today is often used to refer to something that is made up or not based on fact. The modern world still has many beliefs that would fit in the category of "myth," however, including its many religions, urban legends, and even the stories circulated about some of its public figures. Because the definition of myth is so broad, and because all known societies practice it in some form, it could be viewed as a cultural universal.

One of most well-known kinds of myths is creation myths, which describe how the world began, and often where people fit into this scheme. An example of this comes from the Haida, an indigenous nation located on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. According to this myth, Sha-lana ruled a kingdom high in the clouds which looked down on a vast, empty sea that stretched in all directions. When Sha-lana’s chief servant, the Raven, was cast out of the kingdom, he was so distraught that he flapped his wings in despair. By doing so, he stirred up the ocean, causing rocks to grow. He then created human beings from shells and introduced the sun and fire (which he stole from heaven). [33]


Doctrine specifically defines principle beliefs in the teachings of religious, political, scientific, and philosophic groups. This section focuses on religious doctrine, which is the oral and written body of teachings of a religious group that is generally accepted by that group. Doctrine not only focuses on large scale teachings, but daily moral codes as well, like appropriate dressing attire, or what social networks to involved in or separated from, and what kind of communication between individuals is acceptable. There are many types of religious doctrines that play a key part in shaping a religion and its beliefs. Some examples are Roman Catholicism, Islam and First Baptist.

  • Roman Catholic Doctrine

The Roman Catholic doctrine states that Jesus is the Son of God and was sent to die for the sins of the world. A person is granted eternal life only by accepting God into their lives. Additionally, penance and the Eucharist or Communion are required at least once a year. There is the trinity that consists of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The Bíblia of Christian III of Denmark, the first Danish translation, is an example of a religious doctrine.
  • Islamic Doctrine

Islam doctrine states that Allah is the one true God, and Muhammad is his prophet. People who practice the Muslim faith are also required to perform The Five Pillars of Faith. These pillars are Kalima, the testimony of faith; Salat, praying five times a day; Zakat, giving alms; Sawm, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; and Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca.

  • First Baptist Doctrine

The First Baptist Doctrine states that God is the Father for those who accept Jesus. God directly created the heavens and earth. Faith in Jesus is the only condition of salvation. Also, Jesus will return in the Rapture for sinners.

Doctrine Determined by Culture

Christina Toren is a professor at the University of St. Andrews and did a study of Christianity in Fiji. She found that although the people have morphed the doctrine that coincides with Christianity to suit their needs and culture, the basics are still there. Through participant observation, Toren was able to conclude that the adults viewed ritual Christian observance as a crucial sign of a person's belief in God. While they still believe that a person can be saved, it is not based on a person’s acceptance of God but their attendance on God, meaning that a person must be seen praying or giving money to the Church. The people who are Christian in Fiji have been able to still follow the doctrines of their religion while sticking with their cultural values that have been passed down for generations.

In contrast, the culture of the Western world views it's doctrine differently. Westernized Christianity believes that it is the acceptance of God, not just the attendance on God, that saves us. In other words, it is not by good works alone that saves or ensures an individual's place in the Heavens. While there is still an emphasis for prayer and tithing, Westernized Christianity emphasizes the importance of doing this in private as well. On prayer, the Bible says, "For where two or more gather in my name, there am I with them.”( Matthew 18:20) Meaning that when two or more are praying together, God will be with them. “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing” (1 Timothy 2:8 NIV). However, the Bible also emphasizes “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:6 NIV). The same holds true for tithing. The Bible states: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV).

While these are not the complete set of doctrines for each of the types, they help paint a picture of each religion and their belief system. This in return, gives more insight into the inner workings of religion, and the cultures' impression of that religion. In this way, religious doctrines give anthropologists more information for why people believe what they do and how it affects their lives, which could change their anthropological view from etic to emic.

Sacred Spaces

Sacred space is any place that has a special significance to a group or an individual, normally linked to religious or other cultural dogmas of an emotional nature. Knowledge concerning these special places is often passed down through generations imbued with a sense of awe and reverence and plays a significant role in the identity of a people. Sacred spaces can help connect people as they anchor them to their cultural and religious traditions by providing a focus point where the divine and the mundane intersect and interact on a ritual level.

Sacred spaces can be public places of worship and pilgrimage as well as private spaces of ancestor veneration or personal spiritual refuges. It can be a place where something of significance has happened, a place said to be the point of origin of a group of people, their burial grounds, or even individual remains of ancestors. For example, the birth or death place of a person deemed especially blessed by a divinity can be made into a shrine and place of veneration for succeeding generations. Even areas that differ significantly from its surroundings can be viewed as sacred in the proper cultural context, such as a clearing in a dense forest, a lake, or unusual rock formations.

It is interesting to note that in Europe, South America, and the Middle East, many churches have been built on top of places sacred to older rites. This shows that the importance of these spaces in the cultural memory supersedes the religious significance. They are then usually absorbed, often intentionally, into the new religious traditions that arrive and settle into an area.

Syncretism and Exclusivism


An image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Syncretism is the process by which elements of one religion are assimilated into another religion, resulting in a change in the fundamental beliefs of those religions. This change does not always result in a total fusion of the religions but bits and pieces that one religion has adopted from another. In some cases, deities or influential figures are blended and called by one name but retain attributes, images, symbols and sometimes holy sites from the original religions.

The method of spreading these customs and beliefs began with the explorers. Each time they conquered new land they imposed their customs and beliefs changing the way of life and the basic beliefs of those they encountered. Under the pressures of Christian missionaries, the people of Central America identified some of their own pre-Christian values with the Catholic Saints. There are two ways in which syncretism can be viewed: one is resisting new ideas imposed from above, and the second by introducing ideas by outsiders, making room for local beliefs within their own worldview.

An ethnographic example of syncretism is the The Virgin of Guadalupe appearing to Juan Diego, a Nahuati speaking man, at Tepeyac hill near Mexico City. This was the site of the temple or the Aztec mother goddess Tohantizin. Mary requested a church be built on that site. When Juan Diego visited the Bishop and told him what Mary had said, the Bishop requested a sign that Juan Diego was telling the truth. Juan Diego returned to the hill where Mary told him to collect roses and bring them to the Bishop. When he returned to the bishop with roses in his timla, he dropped the roses at the feet of the Bishop, and on the tilma appeared the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This merged the pre-Christian goddess Tohantizin with the Catholic saint the Virgin of Guadalupe, creating a way through which the local people could practice their faith through a Catholic conduit.


Exclusivism is the view that one's own religion is inerrant and all others are in error. Exclusivism may also relate to practice, as in the way the gods, dietys, etc. are revered, rather than mere belief.

An example of exclusivism is the Ancient Greek Religion, which combined many local deities, such as nymphs and other divinities connected to nature, into the myth system of the Greek Pantheon. The Decree of Diopithes of 430BCE forbade the worship or introduction of and the belief in deities other than the Greek Pantheon and made it an offense punishable by death.

A more subtle form of exclusivity can be seen through Christianity, by way that they do not promote syncretism, but instead contextualization. 21st Century Christians consider syncretism as a Christian exhibiting actions that do not reflect Christian beliefs, yet proclaim themselves as such. Christians discourage syncretism because Christians are supposed to live out their beliefs and lead a life that confirms their belief. Contextualization is when Christians associate with non-believers yet exhibit their beliefs, which is encouraged in place of syncretism.

In its more extreme form, religious exclusivism teaches that only the members of one religion or sect will reach Heaven, while others will be doomed to eternal damnation. The opposite of religious exclusivism is universalism, the teaching that all will eventually share in the eternal blessings of God or the heavenly realm.

Religious Specialists


Shaman from an equatorial Amazonian forest. June 2006

A shaman is a part-time religious practitioner who acts as a medium between the human and spirit world. A shaman is believed to have the power to communicate with supernatural forces to intercede on the behalf of individuals or groups. The term shaman,as defined in Schultz and Lavenda,"comes from the Tungus of eastern Siberia, where it refers to a religious specialist who has the ability to enter a trance through which he or she is believed to enter into direct contact with spiritual beings and guardian spirits for the purposes of healing, fertility, protection, and aggression, in a ritual setting [34]." Shamans are generally thought of as healers, and yet they may also be feared or mistrusted by their own people because of their supernatural capabilities. Although having the power to converse with spirits may make them subject to suspicion, shamans are usually considered to be powerful,influential and valuable members of their society. There are even some tales among the peoples of North America about shamans succeeding in bringing the souls of the dead back to earth. [35] Shamans are often prevalent among hunter-gatherer societies. A shaman must typically endure intense training which may take over a decade and involve the use of psychotropic drugs to attain an altered state of consciousness. Shamanic activity is said to take place while the shaman is in a trance. Typical methods for inducing a trance involve:

  • fasting
  • the use of psychedelic mushrooms, peyote, cannabis, ayahuasca, salvia, tobacco
  • dancing, singing or drumming to a hypnotic rhythm
  • deadly nightshade
  • sweat lodges
  • vision quests
  • incense and plants such as morning glory, sage and sweet grass

Shamans have been an integral part of hunter-gatherer societies for thousands of years. In prehistoric North America, for example, evidence of shamanic activity has been discovered in the form of rock art. Archaeologist David Whitley explains that,"shamans would often record their spiritual journeys symbolically by carving or painting rock surfaces in a sacred place. For instance,among the Numic people and in south-central California, rock art was created by shamans the morning after a vision was received, in order to preserve it for posterity. This was necessary because forgetting the details of a vision would result in the shaman's death or serious illness [36]." Whitley also points out that,"there is extensive and compelling ethnohistorical evidence from throughout far western North America that the rock art in this region was made after the conclusion of ASCs (altered state of consciousness) to portray shamans' and puberty initiates' visions of the supernatural realm [37]." Shamanic art is often characterized by geometric patterns and or images of death, flight, drowning and sexual intercourse.[38] Some researchers advocate that rock art is symbolic of the visual imagery and sensations a person experiences on hallucinogenic drugs. Shamanic activity is still practiced among North American tribes today, although it has drastically declined since European colonization (only around 500 of the 2,000 tribes remain that were present in the 17th century). [7] [8]

Priest and Priestess

A priest or priestess, male and female respectively, is a person within a religion that has special authority to perform religious rituals. Different religions have different rules about men or women being excluded from priesthood or to what degree. Priests and Priestesses differ from shamans in that it is often a full-time occupation. Being a priest is an institutional result through social aspiration and belief. Priests generally hold a higher position and status in society over those they preside over. A priest's power comes from the recognized influence of their religious organization and the hierarchy. A form of priesthood exists in many religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Shintoism, and Hinduism. For many religions being a priest or priestess is a life-long commitment and can be left only either voluntarily or by excommunication.

Priest's main duties consist of of guiding other believers in worship, knowledge of the religion, and spiritual guidance. They spread word of their religious beliefs and mediate contact between individuals and their deity. These rites are carried out for the benefit of the believers such as with healing or absolution granted by the higher powers. The priests are connected to the deity of their beliefs through numerous different systems based upon the religion. Some believe there are oracles or prophets while others achieve a connection to higher forces through direct contact.

Other societies in ancient history were affiliated with priests and priestesses. Ancient Egypt was among one of the first cultures to use priests to carry out sacred rituals rather than having a shaman. Becoming a Priest was often passed down from father and son rather than being appointed like many other cultures. Duties of Egyptian priest were to care for the gods and goddesses as well as attend to the needs of them. Unlike how priest are seen today, as only being close to the gods and having rapport with them, the job was more like an everyday job. The duties of the priest were more than just preaching and religious practices. They taught in schools, assisted artists and their works, and guided people through their problems. Egyptian priest believed in many ritual taboos, some of these were that the priest must be circumcised. Many priests also wouldn’t wear wool or any animal products because it was seen as unclean. PRIESTS also would bathe 3 to 4 times a day in scared pools, and shave of all of their body hair off. In Egyptian societies, priests were considered a stand in for Pharaohs, or the successor to the throne if anything were to ever happen to them. Pharaoh’s were seen as gods in ancient times, they were god kings of the people.

Roman Catholic priests in clerical clothing, Vienna, Austria, 2005

Pastors, Ministers, and Reverends

Pastors (also known as Ministers or Reverends) are generally known as ordained leaders within the Christian church. Unlike priests, pastors do not serve the role of mediating between a person/group and God; instead, they are in charge of leading and mentoring the church towards developing and deepening a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not only do pastors help people develop a deep relationship with Jesus, but they also help with marriage counseling and other types of counseling for everybody and anybody in the church.

If a church is already developed but does not have a pastor (or minister/reverend) yet, often the other leaders or elders of the church will determine pastoral qualifications which they feel are vital to being a good leader of the congregation. Churches may look more closely at other qualifications of the pastor, in order to find a leader who will have the same core beliefs, values, and goals that the church has already set in place.

Qualifications to be a good pastor: Love for their people, A positive attitude and approach, people skills, an intimate relationship with god, priority on teaching, leadership and focus.[[39]]


The prophet Abraham of Judaism who was to sacrifice his son for God.

The basic definition of the word "prophet" is someone who has encountered the supernatural or divine. Prophets are often regarded as someone who has a role in their society in which they are able to promote change due to their messages and/or actions. However, the word "prophet" is extremely subjective, depending on which religious context it is being used in. To some, an individual may be considered an "authentic prophet", while to others that same individual may be considered a "false prophet"(regardless of their religious background). Some religions that include the use of prophets are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, the Sybilline and Delpich Oracles practiced in Ancient Greece, and Zoroaster.

In regards to the non-religious use of the word in the late 20th century, "prophet" refers to either people who are successful in analyzing the field of economics (the "prophets of greed") or to those who are social commentators that suggest there may be an escalating crisis within their environment and society due to others' lack of compassion ("prophets of doom"). In more modern times, however, the concept of "prophets" as a whole has come under scrutiny, passing off the visions that the prophets have as cases of Schizophrenia.


Prophets are heavily intertwined with Judaism. In this religion, a prophet is an individual who is selected by God to act as a representation. The prophets intend their messages to cause social changes among people, in order to conform to God's desires for humanity. Currently, the Talmud recognizes 48 male prophets and 7 women prophets. Non-Jewish prophets have a much lower status than Jewish prophets in the eyes of those who adhere to the Jewish traditions. A few prophets that are referenced in the Jewish religion are Abraham, Job, Samuel, Miriam, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekial and Malachi. Judaism is not only about being religious and reading the Talmud, there are many cultural aspects to Judaism. For example Jewish principles consist around G-d and how you act to benefit others as yourself. It also has to do with the arrival of the messiah as well as the resurrection of the dead.


Islam was founded in 610 A.D. by a man named Mohammed. During Mohammed’s time, polytheism reigned. His people were worshipping multiple gods. During one of Mohammed’s trips as a trader, he had a vision from a being he perceived to be an angel who said, “There is only one God, and His name is Allah. Worship Him.” “Islam has seven fundamental beliefs that every Muslim must accept as a part of his/her religion (the Emanul Mufassil, or Faith Listed in Detail). Every Muslim learns this formula as a part of his/her religious training.” *


St. Anthony the Great, considered the Father of Christian Monasticism

The term "monk" is used to describe a religious specialist who conditions the mind and body in favor of the spirit. This conditioning often includes seclusion from those who do not follow the same beliefs, abstinence, silence, and prayer. Monks were originally present solely in Christianity, but through a looser definition created by modern westerners, the term has been applied to more religions (ex. Buddhism). The term is also often used interchangeably with the term “ascetic,” which describes a greater focus on a life of abstinence, especially from sex, alcohol, and material wealth. In Ancient Greece, “monk” referred to both men and women, as opposed to modern English, which uses the term “nun” to describe a female monk. Before becoming a monk in a monastery, nearly every monk must take some sort of vow, the most famous being the Roman Catholic vow of “poverty, chastity, and obedience.” It is also common to have a hierarchy within a monastery through which monks can rise over time with the growth of spiritual excellence. Monks are often confused with friars. Although they are very similar, the main difference between the two terms is the inclusion of friars in community development and aid to the poor.

While two of the more known types of monks are Orthodox and Roman Catholic, a recently created sect of monasteries is Anglican. Roman Catholic monks were common throughout England until King Henry VIII broke off from the Roman Catholic Church and later ordered the razing, demolishing or removal, of all monasteries. Centuries later during the 1840s, a Catholic revitalization movement began in England, prompting Anglicans to believe that a monastic life should become not only part of England again, but also part of the Anglican Church. John Henry Newman started the first Anglican monastery in Littlemore, near Oxford. Since then, Anglican monasteries have spread throughout England and have been known to lead a “mixed” existence by taking traditions from different religions and religious specialists. They daily recite the Divine Office in choir and follow services from the Book of Common Prayer and Breviary. The also celebrate the Eucharist daily, and like Roman Catholic monks, take a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Anglican’s service to the local community, as a friar might do, sets them apart from other monks. However, during the past century and especially the past few decades, Anglican monasteries have lost support and are becoming extinct.


Saints are individuals who have died but, in Catholicism, have lead virtuous lives and have gone through the process of canonization. Christian saints are most commonly individuals of excessive holiness who had done amazing things in their lifetime and after. Commonly have followed in the teachings of Christ, though not all were Christian. The lives and teachings of saints has been used to further the examples of the a persons faith. They are essentially experts on the ways of holiness and their lives are to be used as examples making them in a way a religious expert. Many are martyrs, exemplary people, who brought out the glory of God through their works. Some defining characteristics of saints are as follows:

  • exemplary model
  • extraordinary teacher
  • wonder worker or source of benevolent power
  • intercessor
  • selfless, ascetic behavior
  • possessor of a special and revelatory relation to the holy.[9]

There are currently over 10,000 saints. Many saints also have an associated item they are recognized for or something which they protect. Many saints also have a day associated for a feast in their honor. For the Catholic Church a saint is "recognized" by them, usually through the pope, as a saint and therefore is guaranteed passage into heaven. Then also Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Buddhism, Sufism all have saint like figures. A saint is known for doing a task that is for the better of others. Saints wants to be a good person and want to help others, as they do so in the name of a religion.


What Are Rituals?

According to Cultural Anthropology: A Perspective on the Human Condition; by Emily Shultz and Robert Lavenda, a ritual must fit into four categories. These four categories are:

  • It must be a repetitive social practice
  • It must be set off from the routines of day to day life
  • It must follow some sort of ritual schema
  • It must be encoded in myth

Rituals often have its roots in myth and religion, tying itself to ancient practices between the divine and humans. However, a ritual does not have to be religious in nature; graduation ceremonies and birthday parties are rituals as well. [10] Religion can be defined as concepts or ideas and the practices associated with them. These practices hypothesize reality beyond that which is instantly available to the senses. Religion is a type of worldview, a collective picture of reality created by members of a society, and exists in many forms. As time passes and cultures change, religions evolve and change as well. In many cultures, religion is practiced through rituals.

Every society has their own rituals; an action performed as a common practice. Some of these practices can be a result of religion beliefs, or society ideas or expectations. For example, in the United States, when a person dies, family members and friends of the person attend a funeral; a ceremony in which they honor the dead person right before they are buried or cremated. Rituals can vary by geography, culture or personality and are practiced just as varied.

Ancestor worship

Confucian temple in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Ancestor Worship is basically defined as a religious or spiritual practice which revolves around the belief that the deceased continue to have a presence after they die and contribute to the spiritual quality of their living relatives. Most religions have some form of ancestor worship, and consider the connection they have to their ancestors a significant component of their belief systems. This type of worship can often be confused with the worshiping of gods and deities, but it is an entirely separate practice. Many cultures see ancestor worship as non-religious; something that simply strengthens bonds with family and offers the proper respect for deceased loved ones. Others base a person’s social status on who their ancestors were and how high on the social hierarchy they were in life. Ancestor worship is mainly performed so that, by placating one’s ancestors, they may be taken care of in life and death. In return for the blessing by ancestors, worship insures that the ancestor’s spirits may be at peace. Other rituals that can sometimes accompany this type of worship include: sacrifice, elaborate burial ceremonies and the preparation of specific food dishes.

This is a couple at their traditional Thai wedding ceremony, an example of a commonly prevalent life-cycle ritual.

Jewish Mourning Rituals

Many different religions or cultures have varying rituals following the death of a person. Burial and mourning rituals may differ even among the same religion. The following are commonly accepted burial and mourning practices in Judaism:

After people have died, their eyes and mouths are closed. They are then placed on the floor and covered with a sheet, while a lit candle is placed by their head. The body is not to be left alone until burial, and it is seen as a good deed to sit with the body and to read psalms. Before burial the body is cleansed and clothed in a simple white shroud. The coffin is traditionally a simple cedar casket constructed without the use of metal due to the belief that people should decompose back into the earth, returning to dust after death.

The mourning process is divided into three sections, each increasing in time and lessening in intensity. The first period of mourning is called "Shiva." This period of mourning lasts seven days starting from the day of burial. This mourning period applies to the immediate family of the decease. It involves mourners rending their clothes in an outward sign of mourning. This is often the time when friends prepare meals for the family of the deceased and sit with them to comfort them. A second period of mourning is called "Sheloshim" and takes place from the 7th day after the burial till the 30th day. During this time the immediate family of the deceased should not cut their hair, shave or attend parties. The third mourning period lasts until the anniversary of the death. During this time mourners do not attend public parties or celebrations, but can cut their hair. However, mourning may be suspended during important Jewish holidays in order to take place in the celebration and prayer.[40]

The Components of Rites of Passage

The Elders, Knower’s or Guides: [that help the novice during the parts of or all throughout the liminal stages]

  • The Separation: from home or community; in route to the sacred place, in which the novice experiences his or her ordeal.
  • The Sacred Place: can be a recreation of the original archetype, it is the place where human and the spiritual will commune.
  • Trials and Tribulations: are those hardships that the novice will endure, such as disorientation, chaos, training, depravation, chanting and-or altered states of consciousness.
  • Revelation: the revealing of inner meanings, the explanation of myths and transcendental knowing.
  • Symbolic Death: the personal identity of the novice in the pre-liminal stage has been transformed, the old identity of the novice has died and no longer exists.
  • Resurrection and Rebirth: the novice has been recreated, with a new identity and status.
  • Reincorporation: where the novice returns home or enters into a new community, along with there new status.
  • A celebration is often common to commemorate the completion of the rite. [41]

In the 2002 film Whale Rider, a story of modern day rite of passage in a traditional Maori village and into the Whangara culture of modern day New Zealand. In the Whangara myth their presence on the island dates back a thousand years to one single ancestor “Paikea”, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding the back of whale to the village shore. Since then, the chiefly leadership role has been passed down to the first born male of the first born male, establishing a patriarchal society. “Pai” is the films 12 year old protagonist, who after the death of her twin brother, and her mother at childbirth is now in her own mind, destined to be the next Whangara chief. Pai’s father has exchanged his traditional culture for a life in Europe. In her quest to fulfill her destiny Pai faces the many challenges of this patriarchal tribe and all the elements of rite of passage are in the plot of the film: The “elders” or “knowers”:Pai’s elders are her grandfather, her grandmother Nanny Flowers and her uncle Rawiri.

The separation: Pai’s grandfather, "Koro" who is the tribal chief, blames her for the death of the chosen one and as the personification of the curse upon the tribe whose ancestral chain has been broken. The grandfather ignores her at home, and further alienates Pai by forbidding her from participating in the warrior rituals with the rest of the male initiates.

The sacred place: There are two sacred places in this film; the first one is the unfinished chief’s canoe of her father, and the beach. The canoe stands above land on blocks. This is where Pai seeks refuge and calls out to her ancestors. She is visited by an elder, her grandmother, Nanny who unlike her grandfather, supports Pai’s quest. The second sacred place is the beach, where she has her sacred encounter with the whale.

Trials and tribulations: Pai sets out to seek the ways of warrior by sneaking onto the training compound, only to be caught by her grandfather, and to be humiliated in front of her male initiates. In one very important scene, Pai is being honored at school and dedicates as a gesture, a traditional tribal performance to her grandfather. Her heart is broken when he fails to show up.

Revelation: A truth is revealed to her Uncle Rawiri one afternoon, as Pai retrieves the lost sacred artifact (the whale tooth) of her grandfather. (The “tooth” was tossed into the bay, during a training session with the aspiring young chiefs.) ‘The one who gets my tooth back to me, is the one” “Koro” announces (Whale Rider, 2002.)

Symbolic death: Near the end of the film, Pai has her sacred encounter with the beached whale. She climbs up onto the back of the lead whale, in an attempt to get the whale to re-enter the water. The whale responds and off she goes with the whale into deeper waters. She almost drowns and is hospitalized for a few days. This is Pai’s symbolic death. It is during this time that her family is remorseful, especially her grandfather and reconsiders his point of view on who should be chief. Resurrection and rebirth: The film fades from a lonely scene of Pai in her hospital bed, to a vibrant ceremony of Pai in the finished canoe of her father. With her grandfather by her side, the fully crewed canoe is ocean bound. Pai is dressed in traditional clothing and proudly wearing her grandfather’s whale tooth necklace.

Reincorporation & Celebration: The film stops at the re-birth stage, but the last scene in the film doubles to fulfil the stage of celebration. It is safe to assume Pai will fulfil her duties as the new chief.


A pilgrimage is a journey on behalf of ritual and religious belief. One who goes on a pilgrimage is called a Pilgrim. Often pilgrims try to obtain salvation of their soul through this physical journey. Most times the journey is to a shrine or a sacred place of importance to a person's faith. The institution of pilgrimage is evident in all world religions and was also important in the pagan religions of ancient Greece and Rome. Pilgrimages attract visitors from widely dispersed cultural backgrounds and physical locations, offering them the opportunity to be brought together because of the origins of their faith.

Relevant to so many different cultural contexts, there is no single definition to describe to the act of pilgrimage. However, similarities are noticeable. Pilgrimage usually requires separation from the common everyday world, and in displaying that separation pilgrims may mark their new identity by wearing special clothes or abstaining from familiar comforts. Frequently, pilgrimages link sacred place with sacred time (i.e. The hajj always occurs on the 8th, 9th, and 10th days of the last month of the Muslim year).

The location of sacred sites and shrines often represent some great miracle or divine appearance, they may also appropriate the places that are holy to older or rival faiths. A factor that unites pilgrimage locations across different religions is the sense, variously expressed, that a given place can provide privileged access to a divine or transcendent state. Some of the most visited religious pilgrimage sites in the world are The Vatican in RomeRoman Catholic Church, the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico Catholic Church, and Mecca in Saudi Arabia Islam.


Pilgrim at Mecca.

The hajj is the fifth pillar of faith in the Islamic faith. It occurs on the 8th to 12th day of Dhul-Hijah, which is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Members of the Islamic faith are encouraged to perform the hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their lifetime. However, religious law allow exclusions on grounds of hardship. [42] It is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world.[43] Once a person has successfully completed the pilgrimage to Mecca he/she will receive the status of Hajji. Mecca is known by Muslims as the dwelling place of Adam after his expulsion from paradise and as the birthplace of Muhammad (570–632), the prophet of Islam. [44] Its yearly observance is held on the holy day id al-adha as a memorial of Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son on Divine orders. [45]

Pilgrims converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform the following rituals:

  • They walk counter-clockwise seven times about the Kaaba, a building which acts as the Muslim direction of prayer
  • They kiss the Black Stone in the corner of the Kaaba
  • They run back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah
  • They drink from the Zamzam Well
  • They go to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil
  • They throws stones in a ritual Stoning of the Devil.
  • They shave their heads
  • They perform a ritual of animal sacrifice.
  • They celebrate the three day global festival of Eid al-Adha. [46]

The Huichol's Pilgrimage for Peyote

The Huichol are a indigenous group of maize (corn) farmers who reside in Sierra Madre of northern Mexico. Maize, along with deer and peyote-which the Huichol have linked together-are key ingredients for their way of life. "In Huichol religious thought, deer, maize, and peyote fit together: Maize cannot grow without deer blood; the deer cannot be sacrificed until after the peyote hunt; the ceremony that brings the rain cannot be held without peyote; and the peyote cannot be hunted until maize has been cleaned and sanctified." [11] Here, Schultz shows the connection between three of the most prominent cultural symbols for the Huichol; and of those items, peyote seems to act as the metaphorical backbone that triggers the Huichol's religious practice. However, a pilgrimage must be first undertaken to find the peyote; beginning an approximate 350 mile trek.

The location the pilgrims of Huichol are destined to find the peyote is a representation of "Wirikuta, the original homeland where the First People, both deities and ancestors, once lived." [12] After they have "captured" the peyote plant -shooting two arrows into it- a shaman places peyote in each pilgrims mouth and the group then begins to gather peyote for the rest of the community.

The pilgrimage for peyote is an example of a culture actively holding onto their past. Instead of allowing their traditions to fall through the cracks, the Huichol use a holistic experience to preserve their religion and culture. [13]

Rituals of Inversion

-Where the standards of everyday society are inverted and/or suspended, otherwise solid social codes are ignored. Two examples include Carnival and Halloween

Carnival The Carnival celebration occurs as a way to let loose before the strict rules of religion are set in place for lent. Typically, during Carnival everyday customs, rules, and habits of the community are inverted. Kings become servants, servants become kings, women dress as men and vice versa. The normal rules are overturned and indulgence becomes the rule. The body is granted freedom and obscenity is expected. Work and diets are omitted as people take to the streets to eat and party the days away. [47] A common thing to find during carnival are masquerade balls, where men and women can wear masks of animals, creatures, and other people and in trying to figure out who the various attendees are, risqué behaviour is to be expected.

Carnival is a festival traditionally held in Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. Regardless, many people participate in the carnival tradition today. The Brazilian Carnaval is one of the best-known celebrations today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events. Festivities are held in hundreds of different countries worldwide.

An example of Carnival in the United States is Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras occurs in February right before the season of lent. It was first introduced by the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville to the territory of Louisiane which now includes the states Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Ever since its introduction Mardi Gras has been celebrated in that area of the United States for many years. Its common to see people wearing minimal clothing, flashing for beaded necklaces, and partying in the streets. Much of this behaviour is overlooked by police who only react when it is taken to the extreme or is in the more "family friendly" areas.


Inversion on Halloween

The Celtic celebration Samhain, pronounced “sow-in”, was the yearly culmination of the summer and harvest months and the beginning of the winter season marked by cold and death [14]. This “Feast of the Sun” was a time for all Celtic clans spanning across Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France to gather comfort and support while giving thanks to their many divine beings. Traditionally, large bonfires were built and people gathered to offer food and animals as sacrifice to the many deities. The Celts, pronounced Kelts, were polytheistic and offered gifts to specific Pagan Gods throughout the year. After the celebration had ended, people would relight the hearth in their homes with fire from the communal and sacred bonfire. This fire was thought to protect the people especially on the night of October 31, when the ghosts of the dead and otherworldly spirits were believed to return to earth.

All Saints in Poland

As Christianity and Roman rule began to spread through the Celtic lands, the holiday of Samhain or “Halloween” would be reinterpreted and designated as three holidays known as the Eve of All Saints’, All Saints’, and All Souls’ Day. All Saints’ Day, November 1st, was created as a memorial for all saints and martyrs recognized by the Roman Catholic Church while All Souls’ Day, November 2nd, is a day to honor the dead. These church-sanctioned holidays were similarly celebrated with bonfires, parades, and costumes consisting of saints, angels, and devils. The idea of Satan is a Christian concept that did not exist in pagan beliefs. In order to believe in one idea of ultimate evil (the Devil) the Celts had to believe in one concrete idea of ultimate good (God), but they worshiped several Gods. These traditions went under further construction as further generations began to relocate away from ancestral grounds.

The Great Potato Famine of 1845-1850 resulted in the emigration of 1.5 million Irish. The current practice of Halloween emphasizes less of the religious aspect and emphasizes the idea of fun. Americans can be seen going door to door gathering candy from neighbors and decorating yards with grim decorations. Jack-O-Lanterns line porches, spiders and skeletons hang from doorways, and eerie music plays while young children run through the streets shouting Trick or Treat! Costumes that depict superheroes or popular icons of the year are worn by people of all ages. Small acts of vandalism include pumpkin smashing, throwing of toilet paper, and the stealing of candy. These forms of mischief may stem from the ancient Celtic belief that all trickery was done by fairies that were upset with mankind. Such antics are often very minuscule but add to the “haunting” affect that Halloween has on American culture.


A sacrifice is an offering of something of value to an invisible force, and is done in many cultures and religions. To thank the invisible or cosmic forces in hopes of getting them to perform in a certain way or to gain merit in their religious group (Shultz & Lavenda, 2009) are some reasons to perform sacrifices. Sacrifices are also made out of selfless good deeds. The word "sacrifice" in Latin means "to make sacred." Some examples of sacrifices are: Money, goods, services, animals and humans.

In pre-Columbian Mexico, the Aztecs sacrificed hundreds of humans in accordance with their ritual calendar in what is referred to as a human sacrifice.[15] It was thought that in order for the sun to shine everyday a certain amount of human hearts had to be sacrificed. The most common sacrifice was for the sun God, Huitzilopochtli, in which a knife is used to cut under the ribs to get to the human heart, which was then forcibly removed.

During the Bronze period of ancient China, sacrifices were very common in the worship of ancestors. It was believed that when a person died their fate was decided by spirits. In order to invoke these spirits a beautiful bronze vessel was filled with wine and water as an offering. It was to be placed outside of the city during a time of need as a offering to the Heavens. This is an example of a goods sacrifice.[48]

In the Hmong Shamanism tradition, shamans would sacrifice animals to try and retrieve lost souls from the clutches of evil spirits. This was because animal souls were thought to be linked with human souls. In their tradition, evil spirits, known as dabs, would steal a persons soul and make them ill. When this happens, a chicken, pig, goat, or cow would be sacrificed and the animal's soul would be given to the evil spirits in exchange for the human soul, and this would make the person well again. [16]

In Hmong funerals, animals would be sacrificed to help the soul of the dead person reach the end of its journey. The body of the animal would then be consumed during feasts that occur during the funeral

World Religions


Celebration of Ganesh, Paris.
Krishna (left), the eighth incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu or svayam bhagavan, with his consort Radha, worshiped as Radha Krishna across a number of traditions - traditional painting from the 1700s.

Hinduism [49] is also called Sanatana Dharma (Eternal religion) and Vaidika Dharma (Religion of the Vedas). Overall, adherents to Hinduism make up around 15% of the global population with over a billion members, and approximately 95% of those live in India. There are two major divisions within Hinduism: Vaishnavaism and Shivaism. Hindus believe in the repetitious Transmigration of the Soul. This is the transfer of one's soul after death into another body. This produces a continuing cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth through their many lifetimes that's called Samsara. Karma is the accumulated sum of ones good and bad deeds. Karma determines how you will live your next life. Through pure acts, thoughts and devotion, one can be reborn at a higher level. Eventually, one can escape samsara and achieve enlightenment. Bad deeds can cause a person to be reborn as a lower level, or even as an animal. Hindus body of scriptures is divided into Sruti and Smriti. Hindus organize their lives around certain activities (Purusharthas). These are called the Four aims of Hinduism or "The doctrine of the fourfold end of life." They are:

  • Dharma: righteousness in their religious life. This is the most important of the three.
  • Artha: success in their economic life; material prosperity.
  • Kama: gratification of the senses; pleasure; sensual, sexual, and mental enjoyment.

The main goal for the "Nivritti," those who renounce the world. is:

  • Moksa: Liberation from "samsara." This is considered the supreme goal of mankind.

Hinduism is unique due to the fact that there is no real distinction between beings divine and human. In Hinduism humans can appear divine, and gods human. Also, unlike most religions such as Christianity, there are two supreme gods Vishnu and Shiva, who are equal in power. Hinduism also has other gods such as Lakshmi and Parvati, who are wives to Vishnu and Shiva. A staple of Hinduism is greetings. Many times Hindu’s will bow their heads or raise heir hands as a sign of greeting and respect. It is this same raising of the hands which Hindu’s praise and worships their gods. In most pictorials of the deities, the divine are often showing this same way of greeting, showing that the divine must show respect. [17]

Hinduism today is seen and argued as being polytheistic or monotheistic. In fact they would both be right. They do worship many deities, but they believe that each one is part of a whole unity. This is the panentheistic principle of Brahman: that all reality is a unity. The entire universe is one divine entity that is at one with the universe. Strictly speaking, most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic, meaning they recognize a single deity, and recognizes other gods and goddesses as facets, forms, manifestations, or aspects of that God.

The mantra Om mani padme hum written on rocks. Chanting mantras has been a feature of Ayurveda since the Atharvaveda—a largely religious text—was compiled.[18]


Viashnavism is a tradition of Hinduism distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu or his manifestations, principally as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God. Viashnavism is seen as monotheistic, since adherents to this form of Hinduism believe in one Supreme God. They believe that the living entity (or soul) is eternal, and that the purpose of life is to be free from reincarnation through spiritual practices. Bhakti Yoga (the spiritual practice of fostering loving devotion to God) is seen as the most direct method to achieve this. Desire is seen as the root of all evil, and thus a great deal of importance is assigned to the control of the senses, mainly through meditation and yoga practice. Material nature is seen as temporary, and is said to contain 3 modes: Goodness, Passion, and Ignorance. Desire, or lust, is said to be the result of material contact with the mode of passion, which is inevitably transformed into ignorance. The Supreme Personality Of Godhead is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent. He is male, and eternal. He is the Creator and the Destroyer. It is said that He created the material world by impregnating it with His eyes. The Material Universe is said to last 311 trillion 40 billion years and then die. At this point the devastation takes place, which means that the energy manifested by the Lord is again would up in Himself. Then Creation follows, and material energy is let loose once again. This cycle repeats infinitely... [50]

The monotheistic worship of Vishnu was already well developed in the period of the Itihasas. Hopkins says "Vishnuism, in a word, is the only cultivated native sectarian native religion of India. Vaishnavism is expounded in a part of the Mahabharata known as the Bhagavad Gita, which contains the words of Krishna, one the avatars of Vishnu.

Vaishnavism flourished in predominantly Shaivite South India during the seventh to tenth centuries CE, and is still commonplace, especially in Tamil Nadu, as a result of the twelve Alvars, saints who spread the sect to the common people with their devotional hymns. The temples which the Alvars visited or founded are now known as Divya Desams. Their poems in praise of Vishnu and Krishna in Tamil language are collectively known as Naalayira (Divya Prabandha).

In later years Vaishnava practices increased in popularity due to the influence of sages like Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Manavala Mamunigal, Vedanta Desika, Surdas, Tulsidas, Tyagaraja, and many others.

Large Vaishnava communities now exist throughout India, and particularly in Western Indian states, such as Rajasthan and Gujarat and north eastern state Assam. Important sites of pilgrimage for Vaishnavs include: Guruvayur Temple, Sri Rangam, Vrindavan, Mathura, Ayodhya, Tirupati, Puri, Mayapur and Dwarka. Krishna murti with Radha Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, England

Since the 1900s Vaishnavism has spread from within India and is now practiced in many places around the globe, including America, Europe, Africa, Russia and South America. This is largely due to the growth of the ISKCON movement, founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966.

1 ^ His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivadanta Swami Prabhupada., "The Bhagavad Gita As It Is"


(Pujio) Bhai Sahib Norang Singh Ji doing Ardās.

Sikhism is a religion based in Punjab, India. It is the fifth-largest world religion. It is founded on the teachings of Guru Nanak Guru Nanak, along with ten successive Sikh Gurus. Guru Nanak founded the religion in 1469 CE. The principle belief of Sikhism is faith in Waheguru, which refers to God or Supreme Being. It means "wonderful teacher" in the Punjabi language. Sikhism promotes the idea of salvation through disciplined and personal meditation on the name and message of God. The concept of God in Sikhism is oneness with the entire universe and its spirit. Sikhs must eliminate ego to be able to find God. Sikhs do not believe in heaven or hell. "Heaven" can be attained on earth by being in tune with God while still alive. The suffering and pain caused by ego is seen as "hell" on earth. They believe that upon death, one merges back into universal nature. Sikhs view men and women as equal in the world. Women are expected to participate in the same religious life as men are. In Sikhism, every person is fully responsible for leading a moral life. Sikhs have no priestly class. Therefore, those who are educated in the ways of the religion are free to teach others about Sikhism, however, they cannot claim to have access to God. The only religious text of the Sikhs is Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which contains hymns written by Guru Nanak and the other Gurus. Sikhs believe they have no right to impose their beliefs on others or to cajole members of other religions to convert. All individuals, regardless of race, gender, or nationality, are eligible to become Sikhs.


Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest recorded monotheistic religions. It originated from Persia and is based on the teachings of Zoroaster, a prophet of the early 5th century BCE. Many present day theologians point to Zoroastrianism as the influence for many of today's monotheistic world religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism etc. Zoroaster preached the following of Ahura Mazda which equates to God. Ahura Mazda is the supreme being of good whose enemy is represented by "druj" which is the power of evil. Zoroastrianism asks its followers simply to do good and to go through life with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds as these are necessary to create happiness and to keep the "druj" at bay. Pre-Islam Iranian governments promoted the teaching of Zoroastrianism during that time. Zoroastrianism was extremely popular to the Iranian people and was considered a state religion until it was marginalized by other religions in the 7th century. However it is still significant due to its history, the possible influence it had on other religions, and its followers who still are around today. Currently there are approximately 200,000 Zoroastrians in the world.


Gandhara Buddha (1st-2nd Century CE) at the Tokyo National Museum.

Buddhism is a religion based on personal spiritual development with some atheistic characteristics formed by a man named Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly called "the Buddha" (which is actually a title that means "the Enlightened One"). He was believed to be born in Nepal around 563 BCE. Buddhism was formed after Siddhartha came to disagree with the practices and beliefs of asceticism. Born into a royal family, he became aware of suffering after taking a trip outside of the palace. Here, he encountered people suffering from disease, old age, and death. At the age of 29, having witnessed such sufferings, he decided to leave his life of comfort and become an ascetic in an attempt to find the solution to end suffering. For six years he ate only tiny handfuls of rice each day and did little besides meditate, in an attempt to free himself of bodily concerns. It is said that after those six years, he ran into a little girl by a river, who offered him a bowl of rice to feed his famished body. At this same time, a man (so the story goes) was traveling down the river playing a stringed instrument. Here Siddhartha came to a realization, which he later explained as: "Look at the lute. If its strings are too tight, they will break. If they are too loose, it cannot be played. Only by tuning them neither too tight nor too lose will the lute work." The Buddha later called this the Middle Way, the path of neither giving in to one's desires nor walking the line of extreme self-deprivation. After this realization, he broke away from his ascetic practices and sat himself under a tree (latter called the Bo-tree, or Tree of Enlightenment), entering a deep meditation. This act is what is known as Jiriki or self power. At the age of 35, after meditating for 49 days, he attained Enlightenment and was henceforth called "the Buddha"[51]. After attaining enlightenment, he went on to help others reach nirvana. During his experience of enlightenment, Siddhartha came to realize the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Buddhism also splits into three subcategories, the first being Theravada Buddhism (which is found in South East Asia), Mahayana Buddhism (found throughout East Asia), and Vajrayana Buddhism (this includes many subcategories of Buddhism including Tantric Buddhism and Mantrayana)[19] [52]. Zen is another school of Buddhist thought that developed in China during the 7th century, by an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma, from a combination of Mahayana Buddhism and Daoism. Practitioners of Zen aim to see the world as it truly is, without lasting thoughts or feelings but instead as a constant stream of unconnected thoughts. Zen is predominantly practiced in China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea but in recent years has gained popularity in the western world. It is estimated that there are currently 365 million people who practice Buddhism today. This makes the religion the fourth largest in the world.[1]

Concepts of Buddhism

Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Paths

The Dharma Wheel is often used to symbolize the Eightfold Path

The Four Noble Truths deal with the nature, origin, cessation, and path to the cessation of suffering. These four things are the core of Siddhartha's message, and presumably expresses what he learned while meditating under the Bo-tree.

  • Life leads to suffering
  • Suffering is a result of a craving of worldly pleasures in any form
  • Suffering ends when this desire is gone
  • When one follows the path described the Buddha, one can be relieved of desire and achieve enlightenment

The Eightfold Path is part of the Fourth Noble Truth, or the path leading to the cessation of suffering. It is referred to as the Eightfold Path because of the eight categories or divisions that it is composed of, those being:1. Right Understanding

  1. Right Thought
  2. Right Speech
  3. Right Action
  4. Right Livelihood
  5. Right Effort
  6. Right Mindfulness
  7. Right Concentration

These paths are used to avoid two extremes: one extreme being the search for happiness through the pleasures of the senses; the other being the search for happiness through self-mortification in different forms of ascentism peterson9949 (talk). It should not be thought that the categories should be followed by the numerical order above, but should instead be used more or less simultaneously, according to the capacity of each individual.

The Concept of Re-birth and Samsara

The Tibetan Wheel of Life containing the different levels of rebirth as well as Samsara

Like Hinduism, Buddhists believe in a rebirth of oneself. Rebirth is the idea that one goes through a series of lifetimes. When one dies, he or she moves to another body. However, Buddhism rejects the idea of an eternal soul such as in Christianity. It is a ever-changing process that is regulated by karma, the laws of cause and effect. Karma dictates the context of one’s rebirth. Besides the immediate effect of an action in this world, karma helps dictate the rebirth process. Possessing good karma will allow for a better realm of rebirth than bad karma. Buddhism says that the cycle of rebirth takes within one of five or six realms depending on the type of Buddhism one practices and within these realms there are 31 planes of existence.

  • Naraka Beings: those who live in one of the many hells of Buddhism
  • Animals: They live among humans but are separate kind of life
  • Preta: Shares place with humans but is often invisible, (hungry ghosts)
  • Human beings: a realm in which Nirvana is attainable
  • Asuras: demons, titans, antigods, and lowly deities and is not recognized by some schools of Buddhism
  • Devas: gods, deities, spirits, and angels.[20]

Samsara is a Buddhist concept that directly related to this cycle of rebirth. It is the world in which the human race currently resides and in which there is much pain, suffering, and sorrow. One can only leave Samsara once they have reached nirvana.

The Ten Fetters is a series of items that keep a person in Samsara.If one possesses any of these, he or she will remain in Samsara. One, according to Buddhist thought, should strive to overcome these things.[21]

  • Belief in a separate individuality or personality
  • Doubt without desire for satisfaction
  • Attachment to rules/rituals without a critical perspective
  • Craving of sensuous things
  • Wishing harm or ill will on others.
  • Desire for more material items or greater material existence
  • Desire for non-material existence
  • Ego
  • Restlessness
  • Ignorance[22]

Pilgrimage in Buddhism

Lumbini, The birthplace of Siddartha Gautama

Buddhists take part in religious travels to sacred sites called pilgrimages. Similar to the travels to Mecca in Islam or the Vatican in Catholicism, Buddhists travel to four main sites in Northern India and Southern Nepal. These sites are significant places in the life of Siddartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. Gautama taught that these four main sites would make his followers feel a sense of spiritual urgency, as they coincide with the life and spiritually significant experiences of the religious leader. The four significant places are as follows: Lumbini, where Siddartha Gautama was born, Bodh Gaya, where he was enlightened, Sarnath, where he gave his first teaching, and finally Kusinara, where Siddartha died.

The sacred site Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddartha Gautama is surrounded by an area called a monastic zone, or, an area in which only monasteries can be built. The site is visited by many looking to meditate and chant near the exact place of Siddartha's birth, and the sacred Bodhi tree. The site was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Lumbini, The sacred Bodhi Tree at the birthplace of Siddartha Gautama

Traveling on a pilgrimage is an act Buddhists believe will earn them merit for future incarnations. The farther and longer the journey, and the more humble the mind of the person traveling, the greater the merit will be. Going on a pilgrimage is also a way for Buddhists to practice becoming free from worldly attachments. They might aim to no long feel so attached to an old home, to old relationships, or to old desires. By dedicating oneself to the pursuit on a holy place in a humble mindset, one comes closer to walking the Eightfold Path. The traveling of many monks over the centuries is attributed as one of the main causes of the spread of Buddhism. [23]

The Dalai Lama

The Current Dalai Lama, photo by Luca Galuzzi 2007

The Dalai Lama is the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism and traditionally has been responsible for the governing of Tibet. However, the Chinese government established control in 1959. The Dalai Lama's official residence before 1959 was the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. However after his exile, the 14th Dalai Lama sought refuge in India. The then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was instrumental in granting safe refuge to the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetans. The Dalai Lama has since lived in exile in Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India, where the Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government-in-exile) is also established.

The Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, which is the largest and most influential tradition in Tibet. The institution of the Dalai Lama is a relatively recent one. There have been only 14 Dalai Lamas in the history of Buddhism, and the first and second Dalai Lamas were given the title posthumously.

According to Buddhist belief, the current Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of a past lama who decided to be reborn again to continue his important work. The Dalai Lama essentially chooses to be reborn again instead of passing onward. A person who decides to be continually reborn is known as tulku. Buddhists believe that the first tulku in this reincarnation was Gedun Drub, who lived from 1391-1474, and the second was Gendun Gyatso. However, the name Dalai Lama meaning Ocean of Wisdom, was not conferred until the third reincarnation in the form of Sonam Gyatso in 1578. The current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso.

"Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity" A widely cited, but apparently spurious quotation attributed to Albert Einstein [24]


Commonly translated as "The Way of the Gods," by combining the borrowed Chinese ideograms for 'gods' or 'spirits' (shin) and 'philosophical path' (tō). [25]

Shinto is a form of animism that is the indigenous religion of Japan. It is a form of worship that is based upon nature. It teaches that every living or non living object in the world contains “kami”. “Kami” can be most easily explained as an inner spirit or god within that object. So any tree, rock, car, dog, cat, person, or anything else has a Kami. Kami also means 'paper' in Japanese, so the usage of it is a common theme in marking shrines and divine objects. In Japan, it typically is practiced alongside Japanese Buddhism. Since Buddhism focuses primarily on the afterlife, Shintoism focuses on the present. [26] Unlike most other religions, Shinto has no real founder, no written scriptures, no body of religious law, and only a very loosely-organized priesthood. [27]

There are 4 affirmations to Shintoism that include 1)Tradition and family, 2)Respect of nature, 3)Physical cleanliness, 4)and the celebration of festivals (matsuri) for the various kami. [28]

Shinto is centered on `KAMI' (innumerable gods or spirits) of places, families, communities who interact with us. Kami are:

• Mostly associated with some particular place - a grove of impressive trees, a waterfall, a town, village, valley, etc. The kami are believed to move among their shrines and to reside in a small house-shaped box built for them at the shrine (or jinja).

• Usually beneficent, but not always. Occasionally they may be vengeful.

• Many kami are the spirits of deceased ancestors, emperors, prominent military figures, important animals (tiger, fox, etc), waterfalls, forests, distinctive rocks, rivers, etc.

• No `allpowerful god' in Shinto - only lots of little ones. Each has limitations. But the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, is dominant however. She gave birth to the first emperor. Her main shrine is called Jingu and is located in a forest at Ise in western Japan.

• No concrete visual representation. No paintings, sculptures, masks, etc. of the kami themselves. Only Buddhist temples use physical representations (in painting and sculpture) of the Buddha and the Boddhisatvas.

• Religious ceremonies are attempts to please and entertain the kami. For example, sumo wrestling matches and the many local festivals, called matsuri, began as means of entertaining local kami.[[53]]


Judaism is the first monotheistic religion and is a product of Abraham’s covenant with God. Judaism is based on the laws and principles of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). Tanakh is a Hebrew acronym for Torah (“Teachings”), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”). Within the Tanakh there are a total of twenty-four books. According to Judaism, God created a covenant with the Israelites when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai. Judaism’s values stand on three things: Torah and the commandments, the study and doing of good deeds (mitzvah). Their Holy land is Israel, but their perceived right to the land is great source of controversy between the Jews and their Muslim neighbors.

Because of their banishment from the land of Israel in ancient times, Jews now live all over the world. There are approximately 14 million practicing and secular Jews today. The United States is home to around 5,602,000 Jews, New York alone has some 1,654,000 Jews, and Israel has about 4,390,000 Jews. [29] Since 250 AD, Jews have been kicked out of 109 countries total. Throughout history, many Christians have blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus. During the high Middle Ages, Jews were expelled, massacred, and forced to convert to Christianity. In the mid-14th century, as the Black Death devastated Europe, rumors spread that the Jews had caused the disease by poisoning the wells. In Strasbourg, a city that hadn't yet been affected by the plague, 900 Jews were burnt alive. After much more persecution throughout the next few centuries, such as the Holocaust that lead to the death 6 million Jews and the displacement of most of Europe's Jews. After such a tragedy, the Jews saw to the formation of a recognized Jewish State known as Israel in 1948.

A Yemenite Jew at morning prayers, wearing a kippah skullcap, prayer shawl and tefillin.

Sects/Branches of Judaism

There are three main sects in Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Jewish men and women wear special clothing during times of prayer and other religious practices. While praying, eating, reciting blessings, or studying Jewish religious texts, a round brimless (for the most part) skull cap called a kippah or yarmulke is worn. The tzitzit are special knotted tassels that are worn on the four corners of a prayer shawl; different Jewish customs explain when these should be worn. Tefillin are two square leather boxes that contain bible verses and are worn during the weekday morning prayers. A kittel is a white knee-length overgarment that is worn by prayer leaders on the high holidays and the head of the household wears this at the Passover seder. The tallit is similar to the kittel and is worn in similar situations as well as by boys and girls becoming bar/bat mitzvahs when they turn 13 and become adults in the eyes of the Jewish community.

Orthodox Jews traditionally pray three times a day, and on holidays a fourth prayer is added. Prayers are typically recited throughout the day upon waking, and before and after eating a meal. Although most prayers can be recited in solidarity, communal prayer is often preferred. In many reform temples, musical accompaniment such as organs and choirs are used. Further, a fifth prayer service, Ne'ilah ("closing"), is recited only on Yom Kippur. [30]

The Jewish religion can be categorized into six major branches in America. They are the Reform, the Conservative, the Modern Orthodox, the Re-constructionist and the Ultra Orthodox or Haredim, which breaks into two separate groups called the Hasidim and the Mitnaggedim. Reform is the largest branch in America and is the most liberal. Between 1885-1930, immigrating Jews decided that Jewish law is a personal idea and not a requirement. These changes were made in an attempt to keep Jewish people Jewish as there was no longer a pressure to remain Jewish once people assimilated to American culture. The Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox and Re-constructionist function as denominations or different branches of the same religion. The Haredim are a community based group and culturally connected. These are those who life in strict adherence to the Halacha. [31]


The cross is a common symbol for Christians and Christianity.

Christianity is a monotheistic religion made up of roughly 2 billion people[32], and is considered one of the Abrahamic religions, which originally began as a movement from Judaism. Where Christianity and Judaism depart from one another is in the Christian belief that Jesus of Nazareth (Christ or simply Jesus) was divine and was literally the "Son of God." Christians believe that God sent His "one and only son" to Earth to die as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity, in order to "pay" the price of sin and death. Jesus mainly taught about God's love and mercy, but also taught about forgiveness, charity, and treating yourself well. [33] Jesus was crucified on a cross by the Romans in His act of sacrifice. Christians also believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and when He did, He allowed the Holy Spirit to "enter" into anyone who chose to believe in Him so that they may have eternal life with God in Heaven after their physical bodies die on earth. There are many branches of Christianity that are not the same. Christians believe in one God and one God only, it is just how they express their love and grace for him. This ranges differently from the vast amount of Christian groups.

The Ten Commandments, which are found in the Old Testament, Exodus Chapter 20 are the basis for the Christian faith, but when Jesus Christ came to earth as a man. He came not to destroy those laws (Ten Commandments), but to fulfil those laws as stated in Matthew 5:17-48. [34] He fulfilled those laws by showing perfect love through dying on the cross, which was the ultimate sacrifice, and abiding by those laws. Therefore, fulfilling the law is Jesus Christ living out the laws perfectly, so that his followers will also be able to do the same. [35]

The Ten Commandments are as follows: "And God spoke all these words, saying: 'I am the LORD your God… 'You shall have no other gods before Me.' 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.' 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.' 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.' 'Honor your father and your mother.' 'You shall not murder.' 'You shall not commit adultery.' 'You shall not steal.' 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.' 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'

Christians use the bible as a tool to communicate to God. The bible is where Christians get all of their wisdom on how to live their life for God. Another name for the bible is the "Word of God". Another way Christians practice their faith is by going to church. The church is somewhere Christians can go to worship and dive deeper into God's word. The church can also be a safe place for people to go if they are feeling any sort of pain. The main way Christians practice their faith and live for God is to show everyone God's love.


The Crucifix

, a cross with the corpus (Body of Christ) is an ancient symbol used within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox churches, and Anglican churches, in contrast with some Protestant sects, which use only a cross.

Catholicism, made up of about 1.2 billion members[36] is a form of Christianity that focuses on understanding and commitment to tradition; the believers live a Christian lifestyle but obtain a catholic perspective. Catholics believe that people are good but corrupted by a sin nature and the only way to redeem people from that sin is divine grace from the sacraments. However, unlike non-Catholic Christianity, some Catholic sects do not believe that salvation is obtained solely through accepting Jesus Christ as ones Savior, but believe that good works are required to obtain salvation and are a visible manifestation of faith in Christ.

Catholic Churches are unified under the Pope in Rome. Under him are Cardinals, Arch bishops, Bishops, and Priests. Priests preside over individual churches also known as parishes. Catholicism entails that God created everything, nothing is outside of God’s jurisdiction and that includes the believers’ thoughts, word, and deed all of the time. Although there is very important aspect of Christianity that believes in Free Will. The term free will implies that although God rules all things, he wants humans to make their own choices, we can choose to sin or to turn away from sin. Unlike Non denominational Christians, Catholics are involved in using the Sacraments. Sacraments of the Catholic belief consists of: Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing of the sick, and also Holy Orders.

The Vatican is located in the Vatican City, a sovereign country of which the Pope is the sovereign leader. The history of the Catholic Church starts from apostolic times making it the worlds oldest and largest institution covering nearly 2,000 years.

The Pope is recognized by Catholics of the world as the successor to Saint Peter who was an early leader of the Christian church and had a large part in writing the New Testament. Peter was the first official Bishop of Rome, making all of his successors superior to any other worldly Bishop. The current pope is Pope Benedict XVI, making him the current leader of the Catholic Church. He was elected April 19th, 2005, and took office April 24th 2005. He succeeded Pope John Paul II.


Protestantism began in Europe during the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation, which began as an attempt to reform the Catholic Church. The name Protestant comes from those who "protested" against the Catholic Church and therefore were named Protestant by the church. It is believed that the Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther when he published his Ninety-Five Theses against the Catholic Church. This religion then moved to the Americas during colonization by the English. The religion originated out of the belief that the covenant was broken by Adam and Eve and was then recovered by Jesus. So they believe that they owe God their obedience do to the recovery of the covenant. When things in their lives are going well it shows Protestants that they are fulfilling the covenant with God. It is the opposite when things in their life begin to go wrong, they must not be fulfilling the covenant. Basic beliefs consist of the Bible holding all truths and that God has a set hierarchy; God, King, fathers/husbands, wives, children, and lastly animals. Another basic belief is that the individual must subject themselves for the good of the whole, because even though there is a set hierarchy each individual needs each other for the strength as one. This being said everyone in their society has set responsibilities and everyone is then dependent upon one another. Further more Protestants see themselves as God's chosen people and at the time of colonization it was their duty to God to pass on his word to Native Americans and those who did not know God.[37]

One Protestant woman, Mary Rowlandson, who recorded her time when she was held captive by the Native Americans, this gave a great example of the beliefs and importance of the Protestant religion. Rowlandson was continuously questioning her herself as a Protestant women because of how horribly her life had gone in the wrong direction. Her family had been separated and her youngest daughter had died a few days after their captivity. During this time Rowlandson was able to get a Bible and almost the entire time she was reading it, trying to prove to God that she was a good and obedient Protestant woman. Also Rowlandson was more concerned about reconnecting with her husband and not as concerned about her children that were alone and also in captivity. This was a good example of Protestant beliefs because being a good wife was more important then being a good mother. Rowlandson's story was a great example of how a true Protestant family works and the belief system in action.[38]


Anglicanism started with the Church of England created by King Henry VIII during the Protestant Reformation. [39] It is referred to as the Episcopal Church in the United States which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It is considered one of the main traditions of Christianity. King Henry VIII created the Church of England because the Pope refused to divorce him and his wife; this act severed the relationship between Roman Catholicism and the United Kingdom, and was one of the causes of the later war between Ireland and Great Britain. The Church of England's values are relatively similar to that of Catholicism, with the exception of divorce and a few other minor differences that imply that the Church is slightly more lenient than the Romans. While Anglicanism and Protestantism are separate, the Church of England was created with many Protestant ideals. Centuries later, Anglicanism was spread around the world with many countries creating their own autonomous organizations of Anglicanism, such as the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and the Anglican Church of Canada. The church has been sought out by many diverse groups due to its reputation of acceptance to homosexual couples and ordination of female leaders. Anglicans are most concentrated in the United Kingdom, with a few members found in the United States and Canada.[40]


Islam is considered a monotheistic religion originating from the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. [54] Muhammad was a 7th century Arab religious and political figure. The definition of Islam is 'submission,' which symbolizes the complete submission required to praise God. Practitioners are referred to as Muslims (literally, 'those who submit'). There are approximately 1-1.8 billion Muslims in the world.[55] This makes Islam the second largest religion in the world, right behind Christianity. Indonesia has the highest percentage of Muslims anywhere, at approximately 88% of the population. Nearly all Muslims belong in one of the two major denominations, Sunni and Shi’a. The Sunni’s comprise of 85% while the Shi’a compose 15% of religious followers.

Muslim faith places Muhammad as a prophet who received the Qur’an directly from the angel Gabriel. Muhammad is considered the final prophet of God, and his words and deeds are fundamental sources of Islam. Muslims however do not consider Muhammad the founder of Islam. Instead, they believe Muhammad restored the original monotheistic faith of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. Islamic tradition holds that Jewish and Christian based faiths are distorted versions of Islam.

Muslims are required to adhere to the Five Pillars and the Six Articles of Faith, which serve to unite the Islamic followers in a community. In addition, Islamic followers obey Sharia, or Islamic law. Sharia is a compilation of the Qur'an and the Sunnah (the recorded words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad). These traditions and rulings have touched upon all aspects of life. In some cases, however, it is necessary for Muslims to turn to taqlid, the judiciary interpretations of respected scholars.

As a ritual, Islamic men and women also wear special head and body coverings in order to reflect their overall modesty, both in actions and in appearance. Men often wear turbans which are like hats and only cover the top of the head, whereas women wear veils which cover the whole head, hair, and sometimes the lower half of the face. In public or in a man's presence, women also wear cloak-like garments which are intended to cover the shapes of their bodies as well as their actual skin. In general, men are to wear clothing that covers from the waist to the knees, but men usually wear garments which cover them from the neck to the ankles. Women are also not expected to wear flashy jewelry because this may defeat the purpose of presenting oneself in a modest fashion. Still, the way in which Muslims is more important in revealing their modesty than is their style of dress.

The Qur'an

The Qur'an ( Arabic : القرآن‎ ) is the most important religious text of Islam. Unlike the Bible, Muslims believe that the words of the Qur'an came directly from God through the prophet Muhammad by the angel Jibril. Often referred to as the "book of guidance" it serves as a guideline regarding how to live life for Muslims. Its contents include conflict resolution, early forms of a legal system, praises to God and addresses domestic affairs.

The word ‘qur’an’ appears in the Qur’an several times throughout the reading, representing various meanings at different points. Though there is not one particular definition for the word, many Muslim authorities believe the origin to come from qara’a, meaning ‘he read’ or ‘he recited’. Many Muslims see this as a very important lesson: to recite the message. They take this to be a vital meaning of the word.

The Five Pillars of Faith

Islam includes many religious practices but the core lies within the Five Pillars. These five pillars are the framework of the Muslim life. They are the testimony of faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. [41]

1.Shahada: to become a Muslim one must go through a Testimony of Faith where they say, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah."

2.Salat: prayer is to be done five times a day towards the direction of Mecca.

3.Zakat: annual almsgiving by giving one-fortieth of their income to the needy. Muslims are also encouraged to undertake personal, non-ritualized Zakat throughout the year.

4.Sawm: During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. This develops self-control, devotion to God through the denial of wordly distractions, and identification with the needy.

5.Hajj: Each Muslim is supposed to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if it is possible to do so. [56]

The Six Articles of Faith

The main doctrines of Islam are the Articles of Faith, traditionally numbered at six.[57]

1.Belief in one God,Allah, Supreme and Eternal, Creator and Provider. God has no mother or father, no sons or daughters. God has no equals. He is God of all humankind, not of a special tribe, race, or group of people. He is the God of all races and colors, of believers and unbelievers alike.[58]

2.Angels are a part of human life. They have different purposes and messages from God. Everyone has two angels: one for good deeds and one for bad deeds.

3.There are four pieces of scripture that the Muslims follow. The Torah, the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Qur'an. The Qur’an is the most important to the Islamic faith.

4.Muslims follow the messages of the six most significant prophets, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Muhammad is the last and most important of Allah's messengers.

5.On Judgment Day those that follow Allah and Muhammad will go to Islamic heaven while those who do not will go to hell.

6.Divine Creed [59]Belief that Almighty God has knowledge of, and control over, everything that exists in all time and space.


Sunnism written in Arabic.

The Sunni are a religious denomination that branch off of the religion of Islam.[60] The Sunni make up around 90% of Islamic believers. The Sunni put far more importance on the pilgrimage to Mecca to achieve Hajji status. There are few theologies and traditions that set the Sunni apart from all the others. A few of these include:

• The Theology of Ash’ari

• The School of Maturidiyya

• The School of Athariyya

Theology of Ash’ari

The theology of Ash’ari was founded by Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari. The Ash’ari theology emphasizes many different ideas but the most pronounced is this: divine revelation over human reason. Human reason cannot develop ethics as read in the Qur'an and that it is solely derived from God’s commands. This theology also describes that divine omnipotence is over human free will. It is believed within the Ash’ari that the Qur'an is eternal and uncreated. Basically, the theology of Ash’ari teaches that what the Qur'an says about God should be directly understood as being true, even though some statements can’t be fully conceptualized

School of Maturidiyya

The school of Maturidiyya, along with Athariyya, form the basis for the understanding of the Sunni. Maturidiyya was incorporated into the Sunni-Islamic religion through Turkish adherents of Central Asia. The Turkish people eventually traveled to different areas of the Middle East taking the tradition of Maturidiyya along with them, thus allowing other believers to be exposed to new theories and ideas. The theory behind Maturidiyya argues that the knowledge of God’s existence can be derived through human reason alone. This, in combination with aspects from the theory of Ash'ari, provide the very basic background and understanding of the Sunni denomination

School of Athariyya

The school of Athariyya, unlike the school of Ash’ariyyah, teaches instead that the attributes and names given to God by the Qur'an can be taken in a literal sense. For instance, in the Qur'an it describes God as having a “yad” (hands) and a “wajh” (face). So according to the teachings of Athariyya, God has a face and some hands. It is also mentioned that God does not resemble his creation in any way. So the faces and hands of God do not resemble that of his creation but in a way that is only befitting to him. The teachings of Athariyya only convey the idea that God exactly describes himself only suiting to his majesty in literal form.

Muslim Culture

Sunni Islam is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion that is adhered to by those of the Muslim culture. The word Islam in Arabic literally means “submission.” The word Muslim in Arabic means “one who submits to God.” It is believed in the Muslim culture that God delivered the Qur'an to them through an angel by the name of Gabriel who sought out the prophet named Muhammad. The Qur'an and Sunnah (words divinely spoken by the prophet Muhammad) are the foundation of which Islam was based upon. It is believed that Muhammad simply restored the religion of Islam rather than creating it, and that other religions such as Judaism and Christianity distorted the true meaning and constructed a false interpretation. Muslims are found throughout various parts of the world, all the way from the West coast of Africa to some parts of China. Most Muslim cultures are found within the Middle East. The Muslim culture practice a very strict type of ritual, which can also be seen as a religious duty, in which they pray five times a day. People are considered to be a Muslim after publicly reciting the Shahadah.

Muslim Dress

Men: must avoid wearing tight clothing and cover the area between the knees and the navel. This is normally done by wearing a loose gown and usually a turban. Men must also grow a beard, as long as it’s possible.

Women: more conservative followers of Islam require women to wear loose-fitting clothes and to be covered from their ankles to their wrists. A veil is to be worn on the head, and too much makeup and perfume should be avoided. However many more modern Muslims especially residing in North America and Europe practice their faith without covering themselves up to such an extent. Today there are many Muslims, mostly the younger generation, who believe that there is much more to having faith in Islam and following the word of God than focusing on what one wears. [61]


Shi'a Islam is the world's second largest Islamic denomination behind the Sunni denomination. Shi'a Muslims make up the majority of the population in Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Bahrain. The distinguishing characteristic of Shi'a Islam is that it believes that after the Prophet Muhammad died, political and spiritual leadership of the Muslim community should have gone to his family and descendents, mainly his cousin and son-in-law Ali. They believe that only god can appoint the successor to the Prophet and that before his death, Muhammad appointed Ali as his successor. Shi’as call the political and spiritual leaders Imams. They believe that there have been twelve Imams, starting with Ali. The last Imam, Mahdi, is believed not to have died, and is a messianic figure who will return with Christ. According to Shi'a doctrine, he has been living in the Occultation and once returned will re-establish the rightful governance of Islam and replete the earth with justice and peace.

Shi'a Practices

One of the most important Shi’a practices is the annual commemoration of the Battle of Karbala. This battle involves the death of Husayn, Muhammad’s grandson, at the hands of Yazid, son of Mu’awiya.

After Muhammad’s death in 632, rule of the Muslim community was passed to Abu Bakr, then to Umar, then to Uthman, then finally to Ali. Mu’awiya claimed that Ali was unfit for various reasons to inherit the throne and led an uprising against him. After Ali’s death, Mu’awiya instated himself as Caliph and appointed his son, Yazid, as his successor.

Ali’s sons, Hassan and Husayn, rebelled against Yazid’s undertaking of the Caliphate. Hassan was quickly poisoned. Husayn led his followers against Yazid, but was overwhelmed and killed. [42] These events are recounted in annual reenactments. The deaths of Hassan and Husayn are considered tragic, and the reenactments are very emotional. They are considered by Shi'as yet another way the rightful leadership of the Muslim community has been denied by usurpers—first with Ali’s death, then with the death of his sons.[43]

African Religions

African traditional and diasporic: 100 million. (Diaspora: A dispersion of a people from their original homeland.)

This is not a single organized religion, but it includes several traditional African beliefs and philosophies such as those of the Yoruba, Ewe (Vodun), and the Bakongo. These three religious traditions (especially that of the Yoruba) have been very influential to the diasporic beliefs of the Americas such as Candomblé, Santería and Voodoo.

In the Yorùbá religion, all humans have Ayanmo (manifest destiny) to become one in spirit with Olódùmarè, or Olòrún, the divine creator and source of all energy. Each being in Ayé, the physical realm, uses energy to impact the community of all other living things to move towards destiny. In other words, one's destiny is in one's own hands. To attain transcendence and destiny in Òrún-Réré, the spiritual realm of those who do good things, one's Orí-Inu (spiritual consciousness in the physical realm) must be elevated to unify with one's Iponri (Orí Òrún). Those who stop improving are destined for Òrún-Apadi, the spiritual realm of the forsaken. Life and death are physical cycles that alternate while one’s spirit evolves toward transcendence. The religious capital of the Yoruba religion is at Ile Ife.

Ewe religion is organized around a creator deity named Mawu. Mawu is the Supreme Being, separate from daily affairs. “Se” is a word for law, order and harmony; Se is the maker and keeper of human souls; in an abstract sense, Se is destiny.

The Bakongo or the Kongo people, also called the Congolese, are an ethnic group living along the Atlantic coast of Africa. Traditional Kongo religion believed heavily on the concept of the dead, and that most of their supernaturals or deities are thought to have once lived on Earth. Only Nzambi Mpungu, the name for the high god, existed outside the world and created it from outside. Other categories of the dead include bakulu, or ancestors, the souls of the recently departed, and in some cases, more powerful beings believed to be the souls of the long departed. There are also supernatural beings who are guardians of particular places and territories, sometimes considered to be the soul of the founder, and there are those who inhabit and are captured in minkisi (singular nkisi), or charms, whose operation is the closest to our modern idea of magic. The value of these supernatural operations is generally seen as a reflection of the intentions of the worker, instead of the worker being intrinsically good or bad.

Vodou (Voodoo)

Though relatively small in comparison to other world religions in practice, Vodou can be encompassed under the Catholic religion as many practitioners of Vodou consider themselves devout Catholics. Vodou is the Haitian spelling for Vodun, which is an amalgamation of West African traditional religion with Catholicism. Consisting of veneration for Catholic saints, Vodou also consists of veneration of ancestral spirits that can be evoked to posses a host through Catholic hymns and ritual dance and sometimes through animal sacrifice, most commonly of chickens. These ritual parties are normally induced at a spirit's birthday or another important celebration, at which gatherers give the host food or money for the visiting spirit that is used for the party and salutations for the spirit guest. Vodou communities are tightly knit, and are sparing on outsiders as they are surrounded by poverty and are misunderstood by most onlookers that stereotype Vodou to be a form of black-magic practice by using voodoo as a derogatory term and; therefore, looked down upon by outsiders. Like Catholicism in the act of personal saints, those who practice Vodou often have their own spirits to look after them. Maintaining these spirits’ happiness is very important to the health and protection of those who practice Vodou. In Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn there are often times when the priestess Mama Lola's spirit, Ezili Freda, will not come to her if she has not showered. Ezili Freda admires and requires cleanliness. If her expectations are not met she will simply leave. [62]

The Rastafarians

5 basic beliefs can be identified as uniquely Rastafarian:

-Haile Selassie is seen as the Messiah; The chosen one.

-They are part of the tribe of Israel, who, at the hand of the White person, has been exiled in Jamaica.

-Everyone is Rasta in terms of being children and servants of God.

-The Jamaican situation is a hopeless hell; Ethiopia is heaven.

-Because of the Nazarite Vow which Jesus, Moses and Samson took, no instrument shall touch the hair or beard unless it is an atonement.


The Rastafari movement was developed in the slums of Jamaica during the 1920's and 30's. During the 1930's Jamaica was experiencing a severe depression, and the people were subject to racism and class discrimination. This set the stage for the poor and rural Jamaicans to embrace a new religion and ideology. This movement began with the teachings of Marcus Garvey. Garvey believed Africans were the original Israelites, who had been exiled to Africa as divine punishment. Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement encouraged black pride in the people and helped to reverse the mindset of black inferiority.

On November 2nd, 1930 Ras Tafari Makonnen became emperor of Ethiopia, and took the name Haile Selassie. Followers of Marcus Garvey believed Selassie was the messiah that had been predicted, and that the return to Africa would begin. Jamaicans named this movement Ras Tafari. This movement became visible in the 1930's when peaceful communities in the Kingston Slums began to grow.[63]

Bob Marley, (February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981), was a famous reggae musician and arguably the most famous rastafarian. He is credited with taking reggae and expanding to a worldwide audience. He wore dreadlocks and preached the use of cannabis in his lyrics. Most of his music, lyrics and album covers contained nyabinghi and Rastafarian chanting. He was baptized by the Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church in Kingston, Jamaica, on November 4, 1980.

"The Lion Of Judah"

Rastafarian tradition believes the famous King Haile Selassie I was a direct descendant of a lineage from King David and Solomon, of the historic faiths. The Rastafarian religious figures were from then on known for their bloodline which gave them the name Lion of Judah, which has been a symbol on the Rastafarian flag since the birth of Rastafarianism. This concept is one of the most important aspects of the Rastafarian way of life, and culture. The symbol is synonymous with other religions, which give it a multicultural connection to many other traditions.

Flag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg

Ganja: Religious Sacrament

Rastafarians have unique practices that are recognized worldwide. The most well known practice is the use of marijuana, which grows plentiful in Jamaica. Rastas know it as ganja, cannabis, dank-dank, reefer, pot, the holy herb, or Callie, and they believe it was given by God. It is used as a part of a religious ritual and as a means of getting closer to their inner spiritual self. The verse Psalm 104:14 is used to validate their explanation as it states “He causeth the grass for the cattle and herb for the service of man." Before Rastafarianism began, marijuana was used for medicinal purposes by herbalists in Jamaica as a medical remedy.

Ganja, or marijuana is used among the Rastafarians as a religious ritual. At first it was smoked or used in teas as a way to rebel against the system, "Babylon." The Babylon system came to symbolize Western society in general. However, Ganja is also used for several other reasons. Those reasons include gaining a sense of unity, attaining higher meditation, and calming the mind during fearful times. Thus Ganja has become a very dominant symbol in Rastafarian culture. (Barrett pg.128-9)

Marijuana is used at all times, but especially during the most celebrated rituals: reasonings and nyabingi. Reasoning is a meeting in the form of a ceremony that usually takes place out in the woods or in secluded areas. Rastas get together to discuss and debate issues such as ideologies, philosophy and theology. Marijuana is used during this time with the intention of opening up and becoming more open-minded for discussion. Nyabingi is a dance held on special occasions and holidays. Hundreds of Rastafarians come from around Jamaica and gather for this celebration, which can last for days at a time. The Rastas dance and sing all night until the morning. In the day time, they “rest and Reason”.


There are many Jamaican holidays, most of which are focused on events in the life of Emperor Haile Selassie. The most important ones are:

• January 6 - Ceremonial birthday of Selassie

• February 6 – Bob Marley’s birthday

• April 21 - Selassie's visit to Jamaica

• July 23 - Selassie's personal birthday

• August 1 - Emancipation from slavery

• August 17 - Marcus Garvey's birthday

• November 2 – The coronation of Selassie


"Natty Never Get Weary" lyrics by: Culture

Rastafarians have transformed the word "dread" from unkempt, dangerous, and dirty, to instead be a symbol of power, freedom and defiance. The way to form natural dreadlocks is to allow hair to grow in its natural pattern, without cutting, combing or brushing, but simply to wash it with pure water. The way dreads are worn, how long they are, and the newness of them means a lot. If one does not have dreadlocks but is a Rastafarian, they are called a "cleanface." People who have short newly started dreads are called "nubbies," and this can sometimes determine the respect that one is given. Rastas maintain that dreadlocks are supported by Leviticus 21:5 ("They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in the flesh.")

Food Symbolism

Rastas do not eat much meat. They eat small fish such as herring, but the foods they eat the most are vegetables. Most call the food I-tal which means, "The essence of things, things that are in their natural states." This translates to using nothing artificial and certainly no salt. They drink no alcohol, caffeine, or milk, but will drink anything made with natural herbs from the earth.

Red, Gold, Green, and Black-Jamaica's colors

Red: The triumphant church of the Rastas as well as the blood shed of the martyrs in the black struggle for liberation.

Gold: The wealth of their African homeland, the color of Jamaica and hope to end oppression

Green: Ethiopia's beauty and lush vegetation as well as the riches that were stolen from the Jamaicans

Black: The color of the people that make up most of the Jamaican population

Bahá'í Faith

Seat of the Universal House of Justice, governing body of the Bahá'ís, in Haifa, Israel

The Bahá'í Faith is one of the youngest of the world’s religions. Its founder, Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by the Bahá'ís as the most recent messenger from God. The line of messengers goes back before recorded time and includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.

The central theme of Bahá'u'lláh's message is that humanity is one single race and that the time has come for unity. “God”, Bahá'u'lláh said, “has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification”.

One of the purposes of the Bahá'í Faith is to help make the unification of mankind possible. There are around five million Bahá'ís worldwide, representing most of the world’s nations, races, and cultures on earth. The Bahá’í World Centre, the spiritual and administrative heart of the Bahá’í community, is located in the twin cities of ‘Akká and Haifa in northern Israel.

The Bahá'í writings describe a single, personal, inaccessible, omniscient, omnipresent, imperishable, and almighty God who is the creator of all things in the universe. The existence of God and the universe is thought to be eternal, without a beginning or end.


Atheists holds a lack of belief in any god, making up about 2.3% of the world population. Certain countries such as Japan (65%) and Sweden (85%) have higher populations of Atheists. Atheists are often considered 'strong atheists' or 'weak atheists' depending on the context and certainty of their beliefs or lack thereof.

Some atheists strongly oppose creationism or intelligent design being taught in place of biological evolution in schools in the U.S. In 2005, after a Kansas State Board of Education decision, which allowed intelligent design to be taught in place of evolution, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was created by a group in response to the decision. The flying spaghetti monster is a sarcastic theory that pastafarians argue has as much scientific backing as the theory of intelligent design. Within the original letter that was sent to the Kansas School Board, Henderson showed that correlation does not imply causation by linking the increase in global warming to the decrease in pirate population. This exampled mocked the belief of some religious groups that the world was going though hardships, such as war and famine, because praise was not being given to a deity. The original copy of the letter also included a graph showing the correlation between pirate populations and global warming.This adds to atheists having a strong sense of boundary for church and state, keeping the sacrosanct state separate from religious interference. However, this strong belief in a boundary between church and state is not only limited to atheists and pastafarians. Many people simply do not think that organized religion is a benefit to society. Not only is it not taxed, but it indulges in what can be considered brainwashing of children, i.e. the repetitious statement of a known untruth to an impressionable child for years on end. Some argue that if those children had not been thusly mislead he would at least look at the bible critically. In many instances of actions by organized religious groups throughout history resulted not only in the death of millions of people but has been a block in many cases to the abandonment of human rights. Atheism is often mistaken as a belief that there is no God, however this is not the case; An Atheist can also be an Agnostic. The two terms answer different questions. Atheism answers the question of what you believe, the lack of a belief in a God. And Agnosticism answers what you know, how confident you are in your belief. By this definition, a person can be an Agnostic-Atheist or a Gnostic-Atheist. We can also describe people as Agnostic-Christians or Gnostic-Christians. An Agnostic being someone that acknowledges that their belief is not a guaranteed truth, and a Gnostic being someone that claims they are positive in their belief, or lack there of.


Agnostics do not have a conviction as to whether there is or is not a god, often due to the difficulty in proving or disproving such an entity. It does not deny the existence of a supernatural being; however, it does not fully understand or accept there is a god or supernatural being. It is often seen as the middle ground between theist and atheism. Sometimes when asked what their religion is, many of those who are unsure of the existence of a God will reply "Agnostic". [64] The terms Agnostic and Agnosticism were created in the 19th century (many sources are different about the exact date) [44]by Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist who was an advocate of Darwin's theory of evolution. There is often prejudice against Agnostics to be unbound by moral code because of their lack of religion. Though recently the definition of an Agnostic has changed, for there are several definitions now.[45] The two most predominant are Weak Agnostic and Strong Agnostic. A Weak Agnostic is someone who believes that God is unknown, meaning that God may be known, and some people may possibly know God. The second, a Strong Agnostic, is someone who believes that God is unknowable or cannot be known. [46] However there are many different degrees to Agnosticism. Some examples are "empricial Agnostics" who believe that a God may exist, but nothing is or can be known about him/her/it. Also, there are "Agnostic Humanists" who are undecided about whether or not God exists, but they question the importance of the question. [65]


Satanism is the term for a number of belief systems that all feature the symbolism of Satan or other figures. Originally, Satan was the symbol for all those who challenged the Hebrew Bible. Proceeding this, the Abrahamic religions have described Lucifer as a fallen angel or a mislead demon that tempts people to sin. However, contrary to this, non religious or satanists see the Biblical Satan as a satire for individualism, freewill and enlightenment.

In modern times there are two types of Satanists:

Theistic: Satanists that believe Satan to be a deity and supernatural being. Theistic Satanism may include the use of meditation and self expansion or often includes the use of magic through rituals.

- One group that falls under the definition of Theistic Satanists are Reverse Christians. Reverse Christians follow Satan but in the context of the Christian version and biblical definition of him.

Atheistic: Satanists that regard Satan as a symbol of their freewill and of certain human traits. Some use Satan as a symbol to annoy religious people.

-LaVeyan Satanism: A religion founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey. Its teachings are based on individualism, self-indulgence, and "eye for an eye" morality. LaVeyan Satanists are atheists and agnostics who regard Satan as a symbol of humanity's inherent nature.

-Temple of Set: Established in 1975 by Michael A. Aquino and other members of the bitchen priesthood of the Church of Satan, who left because of administrative and philosophical disagreements. The philosophy of the Temple of Set may be summed up as "enlightened individualism" – enhancement and improvement of oneself by personal education, experiment, and initiation. This process must be different for each individual as each is enlightened in different ways. this is how we do it down it peutro rico!

-Symbolic Satanism: (sometimes called Modern Satanism) is the observance and practice of Satanic religious beliefs, philosophies and customs. In this interpretation of Satanism, the Satanist does not worship Satan in the theistic sense, but is an adversary to all, spiritual creeds, espousing hedonism, materialism, rational egoism, individualism and anti-theism.

The Pentagram

A classic five point pentagram.

The Pentagram is a five-sided star shown upside down in the Satanic religion. This star has a couple of meanings, most commonly being Lucifer or vesper, the star of morning and evening, and it also represents Satan as a goat of the sabbath (which when a goat's head is placed inside the inverted star, the horns point up, the sides are the ears, and the bottom point is the beard of the goat). The star also symbolizes rules and ideology within its affiliation religion, with each point representing an aspect of the Satanic belief. Satanist are supposed to follow each point and build off of it to have a better life. The five points of the pentagram are similar to the Ten Commandments they explain how to live your life and to be a Satanist you must follow these rules.

The First Point represents the social responsibility to respect others and treat them as you would like to be treated. Members strive to be law-abiding, tax-paying, honest and responsible Satanists.

The Second Point represents the power of magic as well as the power of will. Satanists believe that with strong will, their magic can become more powerful. This magic is used in Satanic practices and it is encouraged that Satanists experiment with the different types of magical paths or styles that they feel drawn to.

The Third Point represents the importance of enchanting one's life and living it to the fullest while staying in control and being responsible. This point states the Satanic rule, "do whatever you wish, but in doing so, harm no one deserving it." This leaves a lot of open space for Satanists to live their life and have fun. Addictions and breaking the law, however, are frowned upon and viewed as qualities of the weak.

The Fourth Point represents the "Wolf Pack," which is a respect for your family and friends. Any person that is close to a Satanist and fullfils their life is to be included in the 'wolf pack'.

The Fifth point represents the idea that man creates his own gods, is free to live as if they are the king or queen, and is able to believe in themselves. This point states that you can do the best you can and try your hardest throughout life. This is the most valued point of the star and it concludes that one should worship what they want and do what makes them happy.

The Pentagram as a non-satanic symbol The image of a Pentagram is not purely linked to the practice of Satanism. Many cultures have utilized the pentagram as a symbol. For instance, various Neo-paganism beliefs such as Wicca or Neo-druidism, take a version of the pentagram and infuse it with their own ideas and imagery. In Wicca, the pentagram is not inverted as it is in Satanism, but rather is upright. The pentagram can even be found in older history Christianity where it was held as a symbol of health or as a representation of the five wounds of Christ. Further uses can be found in the Bahá'í faith where it is one of the major identifying symbols, and in Taoism where it represents the five elements of Earth, Fire, Metal, Water and Wood.

Doomsday Cults

Cults are social groups with radical yet common belief in a goal, religion, idea, on any other unverifiable thing that can be taken to the extreme. its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader. There are, however many meanings to what cults are and these are split into groups of positive, neutral, and negative connotations. Negatively connotative cults usually get the most media attention and these cults tend to negatively attack or veiw others outside of their social group for being different. Positive cults tend to still follow a idolized person or idea, but with no effect to outside discrimination, this can be like a Nudist colony because their ideal is based on positivist towards the earth.

Doomsday Cults : The term ‘Doomsday Cult’, coined by anthropologist John Lofland in 1966, encapsulates groups who make predictions about an apocalypse, and those who attempt to bring one about. [1]

Some modern examples of Doomsday Cults [66]:

The Church of Bible Understanding : a communal organization, teaching a form of evangelical Christianity.

The People's Temple : A doomsday cult that started as a free medical clinic, but is most commonly known for its Kool-Aid mass suicide/murder that took over 900 lives in Jonestown.[47]

The Manson Family : a quasi-commune that arose in California in the late 1960s.

Aum Shinrikyo : a Japanese doomsday cult founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984.

Restoration of the 10 Commandments : A Christian doomsday cult in Uganda

Raëlism : a UFO religion that was founded in 1974 by Claude Vorilhon

The Church of Scientology :a multinational network and hierarchy of numerous ostensibly independent but interconnected[2] corporate entities and other organizations

The Order of the Solar Temple : a secret society that claims to be based upon the ideals of the Knights Templar.

Heaven's Gate- American UFO Cult based in San Diego, California, founded in 1970 and led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. The group preached that followers would be able to leave their bodies to attain a higher form of physical existence. In accordance with that, the group made headlines in 1997 when 39 members were found dead in a San Diego suburb.[48]

Branch Davidians : a religious group that originated in 1955 from a schism in the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists

The Unification Church : a new religious movement founded in South Korea in 1954


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  2. Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  4. William Harris Middlebury College.
  5. Encyclopedia Brittanica.
  7. Cotterell 2000
  8. Kapplers
  9. Coleman, John A. S.J. "Conclusion: after sainthood", in Hawley, John Stratton, ed. Saints and Virtues Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. pp 214-217
  10. Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology. 7th ed. New York: Oxford P, 2009.
  11. Schultz 2009, 213
  12. Schultz 2009, 212
  13. Furst, 2003, 18-24
  14. Linton, Ralph and Adelin Linton 1950 Halloween through twenty centuries New York, Schuman |
  16. Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. Print.
  17. The camphor flame By Christopher John Fuller
  18. Kasulis, Thomas P.; Aimes, Roger T.; Dissanayake, Wimal (1993). Self as Body in Asian Theory and Practice. State University of New York Press. 104. ISBN 079141079X.
  19. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Buddhism.
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  21. Dr. C. George Boeree, Shippenburgs University, Introduction to Buddhism.
  22. Dr. C. George Boeree, Shippenburgs University, Introduction to Buddhism.
  24. B.A Robinson.
  25. Hall, Alana. Japanese/Chinese language student, 3rd Year.
  26. A.C. Underwood, Shintoism: The Indigenous Religion of Japan
  27. McBennett, Mark. "Shinto." JapanZone. Japan Zone. 29 Apr 2009 <>.
  28. Authors, Contributors. "Belief and Practice." Encyclopedia of Shinto. 2006. Kokugakuin University. 29 Apr 2009 <>.
  31. Folk, Holly. "Introduction to Religious Studies." Western Washington University, Bellingham. apr 2009. Performance.
  33. Brown, Lindsey Personal experience learned from attending Sunday school during grade school.
  34. Amplified Bible.
  37. Kennedy, Kathleen. "Protestantism." Protestatism. Western Washington University, Bellingham. Jan. 2009.
  38. Rowlandson, Mary. The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 1997. by Vatornquist
  39. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  40. David Lloyd. I was part of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia for 18 years.
  41. Aziz Sheikh, Radcliff Publishing 2000.,M1
  42. Rippin, Andrew, and Jan Knappert. Textual Sources for the Study of Islam. 1990 ed. Chicago: Chicago Press, 1986. Print.
  43. Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print.
  44. B.A. Robinson.
  47. Doomsday Cults -
  48. Perkins, Rodney.(1997) Cosmic Suicide: The Tragedy and Transcendence of Heaven's Gate

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^ Turpin, Solvieg A. 1994 Shamanism and Rock Art in North America. TX. University of Texas at Austin p. 4

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^ Hefner, Alan; Guimaraes,Virgilio. "Animism" March 5, 2008 <>

^ Harvey, Graham. "Animism; Respecting the Living World" 2006. New York: Columbia University Press.

^ Brown, Karen MacCarthy. "Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn" 1991, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.

^ Henderson, Bobby. "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" 9 Mar 2009 <>

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"Anthropology of religion: Common elements of religion." Palomar College. Palomar College. 8 Mar 2009 <>.

"Agnostics and Agnosticism:Uncertainty about whether God exists." Religious Tolerance. Religious Tolerance. 9 Mar 2009 <>


<ref> Religions of the Ancient world<ref>

Production, Inequality and Development

Adaptive Strategies

People all over the world rely on modes of production, distribution, and consumption in order to provide food and other commodities necessary in life. These modes differ based on culture in the ways that humans relate to and make use of the natural environment, how humans relate to each other, and how the institutions of society and federal states cause change. Production is the various forms of transformation of nature's raw materials into a form more suitable for human use. Distribution is the transport of produced goods whether that be by land, air, or sea to the consumer. Consumption is the buying or use of a good or service that has been previously produced and distributed. This section discusses specific aspects of the different strategies for these concepts that have been used over time and that continue to be used in different cultures worldwide.

Modes of Production

Modes of production are the various ways in which societies gather or produce the items they need in order to survive and prosper. The five most common modes of production are foraging, horticulture, pastoralism, agriculture, and industrialism. Although historically about 90% of human production was based on foraging, in the present day the number is less than 1%, due to globalization, industrialization, and population increase, and more intensive forms such as industrialized agriculture have taken its place. This section reviews the way these modes have been used in the past as well as the ways cultures around the world continue to use them to this day.


Hadza men setting fire

There are several correlates, or regular features, of foraging societies. They live in small groups called "bands," comprised of 30 to 50 people that are mobile according to seasonal rounds, moving from place to place to utilize different resources and assure their resources are not completely consumed. However, the largest foraging bands can reach around 120 people (Dunbar's Number). When hunting and gathering, groups make sure that they don't become too attached to a piece of land because that could prevent them from moving on after the season has passed. When they have gathered their resources they bring all of their goods together as a group to guarantee that the entire group is fed properly; if they held resources individually, not one person would get the nutrition needed to survive. Even though they tend to have all the resources they need, the ability to store goods is limited so they only take what they can eat; nothing is wasted. In most foraging societies, the large majority of their caloric intake comes from foraged plants, nuts, and seeds, rather than hunted animals. There are however exceptions, such as the Inuit people in Alaska and Northern Canada, who live in an extreme environment with little available plant life. A common factor in many of these societies is that they utilize egalitarian sharing; everyone in the community has a right to eat as long as contributions are being made by everyone that can perform work. When an individual fails to share or contribute in a meaningful way, the community uses shame and ostracization to promote the desired behaviors, and eventually if the individual continues to act in a selfish manner they will be ejected from the society completely.

Chief of the Suquamish Tribe

Within these groups the political and social organization is very simple. Some bands have no political leader but instead look to elders who hold more prestige than others due to their age and experience. Such individuals do not have power over other members of the band. In other cases, a band may have a headman who leads by example rather than by force. There tends to be very little conflict between people because of the small group size and due to the fact that bands are kin-based units.

An example of a modern foraging culture is the Ache people of Paraguay. The men spend their time hunting for game, and the women follow behind, gathering resources such as fruits, palm starch, and larvae. Most of the time they split into pairs, but they always remain within ear shot of others, ready to help if the need arises. The men also help women in physically challenging tasks, such as climbing and cutting down trees. With this cooperation comes the expectation that resources will be shared with each other. A game animal is usually distributed throughout the community. The hunter never eats his own catch and his family receives just as much meat as every other member of their tribe. Gathering is slightly different; women who gather usually keep slightly more than half of their findings.[67]

A San man from Namibia. Fewer than 10,000 San live in the traditional way, as foragers. Since the mid-1990s the central government of Botswana has been trying to move San out of their lands.[2]

Pacific Northwest Native American history has shattered stereotypes that previously insisted on the necessity of farming and agricultural practices in order to develop complex, structured societies rich in culture. With over 39 different languages and 11 distinct language families, Northwestern coastal Natives were “the most socially complex hunting and gathering societies known to earth.” Prior to the arrival of European explorers 250 years ago and the practice of written documentation, they had no form of written language; history was recorded orally, and Native families were not dependent on a monetary system. Natives of the Pacific Northwest had a unique hierarchical system dependent on slavery and with hereditary chiefs. Their potlatch ceremonies served as a redistribution of wealth and unquestionably displayed their affluence and abundance of natural resources, art, and culture. [3] Economies were based on generating heaps of processed and stored foods. Pacific Northwest Coast peoples' diets generally consisted of berries, bulbs, shoots, waterfowl, land mammals, shellfish, chitons, sea urchins, crabs, seaweeds and, most importantly, salmon. They hunted and gathered only what was available, with great respect to life and the interconnection of nature, believing that all living things possessed a spirit, presented themselves as food willingly, and had to be honored accordingly. It was believed that “Bears, whales, thunderbirds, wolves, or salmon -and supernatural beings- had their own villages, chiefs, and structured societies.” When food was scarce, it was a result of disrespect or broken taboos. [4]

Cultivation is the process of growing plants on arable land and usually refers to large scale farming. Requirements of cultivation are land, water, and seed for growing. Cultivation involves the sowing of the seeds in the appropriate season. In the process of cultivation a farmer is often required to initially till the land, control weeds, and ultimately harvest the crops. In the modern age, this practice has been developed into the professional art of agronomy, and may be analyzed by specialized agronomists to maximize efficiency. Soil cultivation refers specifically to the tilling of the soil, such as by ploughing, to prepare the soil for planting and to maintain weeds.

  1. Horticulture: is the process of plant cultivation using only simple hand tools. The process began following basic foraging systems in prehistory. People began growing specific crops instead of only hunting and gathering in the surrounding lands. The main concept of horticulture is the growing of crops and useful trees in forest areas, with long fallow periods in between. A fallow period is a period of time when cultivated land is left untilled after plowing (ploughing). Horticulture also uses slash and burn techniques to clear land for cultivation. This is a simple and small scale form of agriculture, and used in areas with a low population density.
  2. Agriculture: is defined by the production of goods and food through the processes of farming and forestry. The defining features of agriculture are land ownership and the use of irrigation techniques, draught animals or machinery, and fertilization. This is based on the fact that the more land one possesses, the more space they have to plant crops. Another very important aspect of agriculture has to do with socially enforced use rights, as well as water rights. Water is a huge part of agriculture because that and sunlight, as well as the occasional fertilizer, are the keys to growing crops successfully.
Agricultural output in 2005.

Historically, agriculture was the main source of work for nearly a third of the entire United States population. But today, with the rapid growth of industry, agriculture only employs a small percentage of the country's population. This is primarily because of new technologies becoming available that can take the place of what a large number of people were once paid to do.

Agriculture ranks as one the most hazardous industries in the world. Farmers put themselves at very high risks every day and are very susceptible to health problems such as hearing loss, lung disease, skin cancer, and a variety of health issues. Specifically, in the United States, an average of over 500 people die per year doing work on a farm. Almost one-fifth of these deaths every year are a result of tractor overturns. The percent of the human population working in agriculture has decreased over time.

  1. The Cultivation Continuum
  2. Intensification: People and the Environment
  3. Pastoralism - A Nomadic mode of Production


Horticulture can be defined as the practice of garden cultivation and maintaining, characterized by a crop or forest rotation with long fallow periods [68]. Horticulturist societies generally have around 160 people per square kilometer [69]. The main crops they produce are vegetables, grains and roots [70]. The success of a society surviving on horticulture requires communal involvement in sharing the work load, and the work is distributed by sex and age group [71].Children have an important role in a horticultural society because they weed and plant seeds, and collect water and firewood[72].

Slash and burn agriculture, also known as "shifting cultivation," has been found in many parts of the globe, although it is nowadays mostly associated with horticultural cultivation in tropical rainforests.[73] The process of slashing and burning involves two important components, the first being cutting down trees and right before the rainy season, burning them to produce a nutrient rich ash. Secondly, after the fields productivity has declined, it is abandoned and allowed to return to a natural state. Given enough time, fields that have been burnt can return to a "predisturbance" state, and can be used by humans for food and other resources. These fields typically retain a large amount of plant species useful for humans.[74] This is done because so many of the fields are so overused to the point where all the nutrients are stripped and this helps restore a great amount of nutrients back into the soil.

Today slash and burn cultivation is practiced by 200 to 500 million or more people worldwide.[75] Its practice, however, has sparked a debate about whether its continued use should be discouraged or allowed to continue unabated. When done improperly, slashing and burning can degrade large amounts of forests which will not recover. However, if done properly, slashing and burning can provide a small group of people with a secure food source and has been shown to be sustainable over time.[76]

Ya̧nomamö shabono

The Yanamamo are a population living in the Amazon Rainforest in the hills between Brazil and Venezuela. They are the largest population of native people in South America, and because of the remoteness of their location they managed to remain uncontacted by outsiders until the mid-20th century. Living with their kin and marriage lineages, the Yanamamo live in a communal system consisting of groups of 50 to 400 people. The village stays within the shabono, which are oval shaped houses that are around 100 yards long. Everyone lives in the same Shabono, which they build out of materials found in the jungle. They primarily harvest bananas through slash and burn horticulture. They also practice polygamy and have one of the lowest levels of blood pressure of any human population due to diets extremely low in salt and saturated fats and high in fruit, vegetables and roots. [5][77]


Chinawal Pastoralists with their cattle

Pastoralism is defined as the herding of domesticated or partially domesticated animals. The basis for pastoralism is mobility. Some pastoralists move throughout the year, while others have a permanent or semi-permanent base camp where women and children remain throughout the year while men move herds to remote pastures. Their main concern is the care, the tending, and the use of livestock[78]. These groups occupy large spaces of marginal lands which can be sustainable if the land is allowed to replenish itself. The animals in their herds are able to live off the marginal lands which humans may not be able to utilize directly because of insufficient nutrients or rainfall. Living in tents, yurts or teepees allows pastoralist to have mobile homes in order to utilize seasonal sources of water and pasture[79]. Pastoralists were the first to have signs of inheritance of land, and could achieve a population density up to 10 people per square kilometer in order to make room for their herds [80]. Almost 50% of their diet came from meat from their own herd.

The Maasai tribes of East Africa are a modern example of a pastoralist society. They inhabit parts of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. They rely predominately on the herding of goats, sheep, and cattle as their main source of food. Cattle are held in high regards among the Maasai. In fact, the size of a man’s cattle is often considered a measure of his wealth. One example of this is from Richard Borshay Lee's article, "Eating Christmas in the Kalahari" when he states, " I determined to slaughter the largest, meatiest ox that money could buy." The Maasai people also consume food such as maize, rice, cabbage, and potatoes. The Maasai tribes still continue their culture and traditions today.

Another example of a typical pastoralist society are the Bedouin. This group of people are said to not only communicate within their own pastoralist society but also communicate with non-pastoral societies via economic, social, and political relations. They specialize in the breeding of their livestock and trading among their kinsmen. In order for movement around to be non-costly, the Bedouin had portable houses. Most times the society would merge the portable shelters together to have more utilized space. During more modern times the Bedouin sought out waged labor and became more sedentary due to the movement of other sedentary societies into the social circles with the Bedouin. This movement towards sedentary living was accepted because the Bedouin maintained close social relationships with their pastoral kin. [6]


Agriculture is the production of food and goods by means of forestry, farming, utilizing machinery, irrigation systems, and fertilization. Its defining feature is land ownership (and if not ownership, then very detailed and socially enforced use rights) in addition to water rights. One significant result of agriculture is that it led to the development of large populations. Domesticated animals were kept and permanent crops were maintained; this in turn, created food surpluses that paved the way to more stratified societies with larger populations. This created a need for a higher level rule enforcement through social institutions, private property, and stored wealth. Agricultural production created land ownership and lots of resources in a limited space.

There are three types of agriculture: family farms, collectivized agriculture, and industrialized agriculture. The "family farm" run by a household has largely been replaced by industrialized farms. However, industrialized farms are not without controversy, due to their use of potentially dangerous chemicals, inhumane treatment of animals, monocropping, and increasing reliance on genetically modified organisms.

Family farming is the means of agricultural farming in which the operator and the operator's relatives (through blood, marriage, or adoption) own the majority of the farm[7]. In both developed and developing countries family farming use to be the most common type of agriculture in food production. There are many factors into running a successful family farm. This includes variables such as ecological condition, access to natural resources and access to finances. Nearly 90% of the world's farms are small, run by families, and found in rural areas of developing nations[8]. The United States is an exception; family farms range significantly in size and capitol. Small family farms have a gross cash farm income (GCFI) less than $350,000; midsize family farms have GCFI between $350,000 to $999,999; and large family farms have a minimum GCFI of $1 million[9].

Collectivized agriculture includes a number of farm households or villages working together under state control. The government typically requires routine deliveries of certain crops at a fixed price and agrees to purchase all remaining produce, often at a higher price[10]. The net income of the farm is then divided among the collective's members[10]. There are many varieties of collective farming, which vary by location. Collective agriculture was never popular in the U.S. however many countries such as China, Vietnam and Russia use some form of collective agriculture. Reasons for collectivization include achieving greater production and sales through the use of large-scale farming, modernization of agriculture, and the government's ability to finance industrialization through the acquisition of crops at low prices[10].

Developed in the ages after World War 2 industrial agriculture is an intense form of farming meant to create a higher output then input. Many industrial farms consist of huge single production crop farms and animal production facility. At first industrial agriculture was seen as a great way to feed the increasing population but the long lasting impact on environment and rural areas has made it become to be seen as unstable.

The Green Revolution of the 1940's-1970's more than doubled agricultural production but has led to dependency on technological inputs and massive Eco-damage like erosion and nutrient depletion.

Reference: Reference: Reference:

Industrial Agriculture

Industrial agriculture, being the most extreme form of agriculture, aims to produce the highest quantity of yields on the smallest amount of land. One core principle of industrial agriculture lies in increased specialization[11]. This often results in genetic modification - when genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination - of plants and soils by breeding selectively for the most hardy, resilient, high-yielding varieties. Corn, also known as maize, is a common genetically modified crop. Corn was derived from a plant called teosinte. This plant had an “ear” that was roughly an inch long. through careful cross breeding and selection scientists and farmers have been able to engineer the modern day corn that we see today. Modern day corn has been engineered to taste sweeter, grow faster, grow bigger, and produce more with less space. Consequently, these varieties of seed are infertile, which causes farmers to buy new seed annually. Industrial farmers commonly streamline their efforts and produce a monocrop rather than a rotation of crops to optimize efficiency. Industrial agriculture requires more inputs—land, labor, seeds, water, pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels, seen as commodities in this style of practice[12]—than previous modes of production, which requires increased mechanization to keep up with increased productivity. The influxes in yields come at a cost; industrial farming has attributed to human and environmental threats. Recent advancements in technology, specifically computers, has resulted in fewer jobs for human workers. Environmental hazards stem from increases in synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use and declines in soil quality (decreases in nutrient and topsoil availability from increased soil aeration and erosion) and water quality and availability[11]. Over the past century, industrialism has spread over the globe, replacing the more self-reliant and independent sources of production, like foraging and horticulture[33].

The Green Revolution

A crossroads between scientific research and industrial agriculture occurred after World War II and lead to a spike in crop yields. This is now referred to as the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution was an international campaign carried out by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations that aimed to alleviate hunger by increasing food production[13].

The Indian state of Punjab is a prominent example of the Green Revolution[14]. In 1950-60s, India relied on importing food grains, depleting its foreign reserves[15]. By implementing industrialized practices, the objective was to help Punjab produce enough food to wean the state away from importing grain, leading to economic independence and food security. Prior to the Green Revolution, “41 varieties of wheat, 37 varieties of rice, four varieties of maize, three varieties of bajra, 16 varieties of sugarcane, 19 varieties of pulses, nine varieties of oil seeds and 10 varieties of cotton”[14] were grown in Punjab. After the introduction of technology, the motley of crops was reduced to monocultures of wheat and rice[13][15].

The shift from indigenous varieties of seeds to the Green Revolution varieties involved a shift from a farming system controlled by peasants to one controlled by chemical and seed corporations and other farming infrastructure e.g. banks, utilities, etc.[16]. There became only two central bodies related to food production, procurement, and distribution: the Food Corporation of India and the Agricultural Price Commission (Shiva). The main bank was also centralized and nationalized[16]. The government subsidized inputs, funded large infrastructure projects to provide water for irrigation, and promoted the purchase, planting, and growth of HYV wheat[15]. This helped offset costs, but it further removed power from the farmers and allowed the government to control the allocation of inputs and thus farm economies.

In addition to the divide between the government and farmers, there also became a divide within the farming community[16]. Larger harvests, made possible by HYV seed, drove down the prices for crops while the costs of inputs skyrocketed, narrowing profit margins[13]. In 1974, small farmers had an annual per capita loss of Rs 125 while farmers with 5-10 acres of land had a per capita profit of Rs 50 and farmers with over 20 acres had per capita profits of Rs 1,200[16]. Small-scale farmers also often found themselves competing for credit or irrigation facilities with agriculturists who have city houses and political connections and the local elite who make up the village committees that allocate the credit[17].

Violence and conflict emerged over river waters, societal class, pauperization of the lower peasantry, and the mechanization of labor[16]. The small-farming community was riddled with large debts incurred in buying into the Green Revolution, which often ended in unemployment[15]. A combination of these problems led to increased amounts of conflict and violence[16]. More than 15,000 people lost or claimed their own lives between 1985 and 1991[16]. While the Green Revolution intended to create a peaceful and positive political and economic transformation in Punjab, it generated violence and bloodshed instead[16].

This graphic shows women using industrial machinery as they work in a Heinz ketchup factory.


The term Post-Industrial economy refers to a period in which an already industrialized economy or nation begins to experience a decrease in relative importance of manufacturing and an increase in relative importance to service, research, and information-based aspects of the economy. The general shift away from blue-collar manufacturing jobs is coupled with the dominance in the service sectors. The largest of these service sectors include education, healthcare, research, and government services. Examples of Post-Industrial Societies include the United States, Canada, Japan, and most of Western Europe.

Common Characteristics of a Post-Industrial Economy:

• Decline in Manufacturing Sector of economy

• Reliance on overseas outsourcing of manufactured goods

• Increase in Service Sector of economy

• Increase in amount of information technology

The economic transition from Industrial to Post-industrial modes of production have had tremendous effects on people’s employment and lifestyles. As the United States began a transition toward fewer manufacturing jobs, especially in the steel and automotive industries, thousands of workers were left without jobs. There are few examples that illustrate this evolution better than the transition of the United States’ “Manufacturing-Belt”, to the United States’"Rust-Belt". The geographic location of this area encompasses Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the industrial Midwest, and was once the source of a very large part of the manufactured goods in the United States. The region had a booming manufacturing based economy for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, but by the 1980s, it had become known as the “Rust-Belt”. Several factors, including overseas competition, made manufacturing steel and other goods unprofitable in the region. As a result, many jobs were outsourced, and unemployment grew rapidly. For many years cities such as Pittsburg and Cleveland faced outward migrations because it no longer made economic sense for these people to live in the region. These people often moved to areas still involved in manufacturing goods in other parts of the country, and many retrained for different employment. More recently, much of the region is experiencing growth in the service sectors and in technology intensive manufacturing. This migration and move away from manufacturing as a way of making a living had significant effects on the culture in the region as people had to adapt their way of life and thinking in order to cope with and adapt to the changing economic environment. Today, politicians visiting cities in the “Rust-Belt” often emphasize their belief in the importance of a strong economy because it is a value that many people in the region believe is important.[18] [19]


Consumption is defined as the use of material goods necessary for human survival, such as eating food or wearing clothing, while a consumer can be defined as the person or entity that uses the product. Most anthropologists agree on the fact that consumption is the third subdivided phase of economic activity, the first two being production and distribution. It has been suggested that the priorities of consumption determine the production and exchange patterns, not the other way around. There are two types of consumption: personalized consumption is knowing the person who produces the goods to meet your needs, and depersonalized consumption is when a vaguely understood global system produces goods that meet your needs. There is also the difference in market and non-market based consumption. A market based consumption creates perceived needs and wants for what the market has to offer. A non-market based consumption targets satisfying minimum needs or requirements for survival. Picture

Some economists define consumption much more broadly, as the aggregate of all economic activity that does not entail the design, production and marketing of goods and services (e.g. "the selection, adoption, use, disposal and recycling of goods and services").[81]. America is the world's largest consumer in regards to an individual's consumption rates. In fact the world’s richest 20% account for 76.6% of total private consumption, while the poorest 20% account for 1.5% of total private consumption. [20]. These statistics clearly indicate that wealthier individuals have more disposable income, allowing them to consume in larger volumes.

Ecology and consumption

Ecology is defined as the way a species can correspond to each other and their surroundings. These surroundings are separated into different ecozones that represent the different plants and animals that live in the area. To adapt to an ecozone, species have to create an econiche. These are the plants and animals that the species live on. People called socioecologists are the ones that study and explore the ecozones. They try to clarify why animals act the way they do in each different environment. An example would be how deer from different area act differently than others, especially the group that lives near humans.

"Cultural ecology", a section of consumption ecology, is where anthropologists try to use socioecology to explain humans within their societies. The cultural ecologists can find patterns within humans and their consumption along with the production and distribution. These can be explained through the attributes of the ecozones they live in. All humans need to learn to use the different resources that are accessible in their ecozone in order to survive. Ecology is directly related to consumption in that the ecology of different species affects the consumption of that species. So, different species and even humans in different areas consume differently depending on where they are or where they are from.

An example of differences in ecological consumption would be the consumption of different foods among other cultures. There was a comparison between seventh graders in Los Angeles, California and seventh graders in Wuhan, China. The object was to make direct comparisons of overweight and obese children from these two different societies. It was found that 43.1% of seventh graders in the LA were overweight where only 12.1% in Wuhan were. It was also found that the social economic status positively relates to the risk of overweight and obesity in China, where in the US it does not correlate. [21][22]

A form of agriculture known as agroecolgy implements the ideals of ecology into the science of agriculture. They prioritize keeping the process of growing and producing as natural as possible. This, however, doesn't mean that an agrocologist wants to remove all technology from agriculture, but rather an balance of technology. This would mean using technology, yet still preserving the natural process of growth. By understanding that there is no one true way to grow agriculture, agroecology allows for context based solutions, varying widely. This has led to disputes among agroecologists over what the real meaning of agroecology is.

Agroecology is partly responsible for the recent boom in popularity for sustainable agriculture. This accounts for naturally grown food, organic food, and locally grown food, all focusing on environmental health, and economic productivity. The rise of sustainable agriculture started in the past few decades, with many farmer's markets arising in towns, supporting suburban areas with food while also supporting local farmers. Also, with the prominence of industrial agriculture in modern society, people wanted an alternative to genetically modified foods. While sustainable agriculture has gotten more attention in the last decade, the agriculture sector is still the most energy hungry sector in the world, and if the world doesn't double it's food production by 2050, farming won't be able to support our population.

[Graph of Calories consumed in different countries:]

Why Do People Consume What They Do?

Pentagon city mall.jpg

Consumption is usually referred to as the using up of material goods necessary for human survival. At a minimum these goods are food, drink, clothing, and shelter. Anthropologists have typically dismissed the study of consumption saying that there are no interesting questions to be asked about it. Even though this consumption of goods is the main drive of economy, it may not be in anthropologists' best interest to study it. The reasons for consumption are simple: either people need something—food and drink—or they want something—like material possessions. Both of these, they thought, weren’t likely to reveal any interesting patterns. However, for the few anthropologists who did look at consumption across different cultures, they found distinct patterns in the way humans consume.

One approach they have taken to try and understand these patters is the Internal Explanation. This explanation comes from the work done by Bronislaw Malinowski. He believed that every social practice a society had was done to support the basic human needs. Malinowski said that basic human needs could be biological or psychological. He proposed them to be nourishment, reproduction, bodily comforts, safety, movement, growth, and health. Then the idea was that to satisfy each of these human needs there was a corresponding practice which were food-gathering techniques, kinship, shelter, protection, activities, training, and hygiene.

The last key point in Malinowski’s explanation was that humans are solely dependent on the physical world to survive. Even though westerners see the way more primitive cultures utilize the physical world as bizarre, they are still using the same physical world we are using, just in different ways. Unfortunately, Malinowski’s explanation falls short because it doesn’t explain why all societies don’t share the same consumption patterns and doesn’t explain why some people eat wild berries and some eat processed wheat cultural ecology, the study of human adaptations to social and physical environments takes over and explains why these differences exist.

Product consumption is also associated with social norms and values. If society is saying that in order to be happy, you need this, then people will follow suit and buy the product. People want to have it all and be happy, and so they willingly put their trust in the social media telling them what to buy. On the other hand, in rural areas, people consume what the social norm is. If a woman in a rural area has the norm of extravagant beads and dresses, then that is what they will get or make.

Modes of Exchange

The idea of exchange was first explained by Marcel Mauss in terms of two types of exchange: non-capitalist gift exchanges (which have to do with social relations and building, which require a gift for exchange), and impersonal commodity exchanges. Impersonal commodity exchanges are more common in Capitalist societies which don’t link those who are exchanging with one another, aside through the use of cash. These aspects are also characteristic of egalitarian societies. Later, Marshall Sahlins used the work of Karl Polanyi to develop the idea of three modes of exchange, which could be identified throughout more specific cultures than just Capitalist and non-capitalist. These are reciprocity, redistribution, and market exchange. Although these modes of exchanges are drastically different, aspects of more than one mode may be present in any one society.


The oldest mode of exchange is Reciprocity which is used in egalitarian societies, like that of the Ju/’hoansi. There are three different types of reciprocity: generalized, balanced, and negative reciprocity.

  • Generalized reciprocity is an exchange where return isn't expected right away and the value of this return isn’t specified. This is based on the assumptions that all exchange balances out, like that between family members. This is largely based on trust as social situations can become hostile as an individual could use an exchange to build a debt in their favor.
  • Balanced reciprocity (or also known as Symmetrical reciprocity) is when exchange is made with the expectations that those who give an amount will get the same in return. This, unlike generalized reciprocity, has a specified time limit as to when the return should be made. The Ju/’hoansi, who use reciprocity in their societies in all forms, use balanced reciprocity. They distinguish between what they barter, which requires immediate balanced exchange (this is similar to our shopping experiences, where it's expected that money will be immediately exchanged for goods). Within the Ju/'hoansi, this also includes hxaro, which establishes that this exchange entitles obligations between the two in the future.
  • Negative reciprocity is when a party tries to exchange without having to give up any value, which is the opposite of balanced exchange. "This can range from haggling prices to outright seizure." [82]

Reciprocity, the most ancient mode of exchange, is the exchange of goods and services of equal value. Generalized reciprocity can be defined as when the individuals involved just assume that the exchange will balance out. Nothing is expected immediately and a value of return is not established before the exchange is made. This type of reciprocity occurs often between parents and children. Balanced reciprocity, the opposite of generalized, is when a specific value of return and under an established time limit is expected. This exchange can be found between those in relationships. For example, when boyfriends and girlfriends exchange gifts of equal value and expect the same in return at Christmas. Negative reciprocity is the exchange of goods or services when at least one party attempts receive something for nothing in return without suffering consequences. This type of reciprocity can involve haggling or in some cases seizure.


Redistribution is a mode of exchange that involves some sort of centralized social organization. Members of a group contribute items such as food, money, clothing, etc. to the central organization, and the organization then redistributes the items to the members of the group. An example of this on a humanitarian level could be Goodwill, a food bank, etc.

Redistribution can occur on a small scale or a very large scale. A small scale example of redistribution is a class party. Each person is assigned something to bring – chips, salsa, pop, brownies, napkins, utensils, etc. On the day of the party, everyone brings in their items to share with each other. The Salvation Army is a good example of a rather medium-sized scale of redistribution. The Salvation Army collects money, clothing, household goods, cars, and even airline miles to redistribute to those in need. A large scale example of redistribution is the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS collects taxes from citizens and redistributes the money throughout our governmental system, to education, post offices, road construction, and the like.

Salvation Army in Lausanne

One widespread local example of redistribution is church potlucks. For special events, several churches hold potlucks, (potlucks with noteworthy Native American origins). Every family contributes to the meal. All the contributions are placed in a central area, and when everyone has arrived, the congregation can eat a meal together from the assortment of dishes.

Another example of this is under Big Man/Big Woman political groupings in the South Pacific where the leader, chosen by favor, is in charge of general affairs, and collects a certain sum (i.e. a pig) from their group and redistributes it. This gives the Big Man/Big Woman the label of generous, although they personally don’t give any more than anyone else. This is also an example of the tradition of potlatch, where group members all give goods to one, who evenly distributes these goods among the community. The main point of this is to redistribute wealth.

Redistribution requires some form of centralized social organization. Those who own the central position of the organization receive economic contributions from all members of the group. With the contributions they receive from all members of the group they redistribute those goods to all the members of the groups in fair amounts to meet the needs of every member of the group. A potlatch is a good example of redistribution. When people go an event and are provided with food they then take that food and redistribute it to all members of their family or some kind of group they belong to. An example of this is the indigenous Americans of the northwest coast of North America. This is a very common mode of exchange among tribes and groups in all part of the world. It is a fair and normally well organized mode of exchange and valued by the members of most tribes and groups.


Potlatches are ceremonies held by First Nations peoples on the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States and Canadian province of British Columbia such as the Haida, Tlingit, Salish and Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'kawakw). The potlatch takes the form of a ceremonial feast traditionally featuring seal meat or salmon. In it, hierarchical relations between groups were observed and reinforced through the exchange of gifts and other ceremonies. The potlatch is an example of a gift economy, whereby the host demonstrates their wealth and prominence through giving away their possessions and thus prompt participants to reciprocate when they hold their own potlatch. Although this sort exchange is widely practiced across the planet (consider, for example, the Western practice of buying one's friends rounds of drinks), the Northwest Coast potlatch is of a massive scale, and also served to redistribute goods from coastal to inland ecological zones.

The native peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America institutionalized this ceremonial redistribution of food and gifts. The southern Kwakiutl people were the most elaborative on this custom until 1904 when the potlatch was outlawed, however the ceremony did continue to be practiced in many societies. In 2004, the Tlingit clan members re-enacted the ritual in Sitka, Alaska, for the 100th Anniversary Commemoration of "The Last Potlatch". The clan members dressed in traditional Tlingit attire and practiced Tlingit traditions for the two day long celebration. Watercolour by James Gilchrist Swan (1818-1900) of the Klallam people of chief Chetzemoka (nicknamed 'the Duke of York'), with one of Chetzemoka's wives (nicknamed 'Jenny Lind') distributing 'potlatch' at Port Townsend, Washington, USA

Market Exchange

Market Exchange is used in Capitalist societies and is the most recently developed mode of exchange. Market exchange is the trade of goods that are calculated in value based on a standard of value and typically money, which are carried out by the market. Although trade and money were developed independently, they are used together to create market exchange. This is generally used in the Western societies, in places such as, Europe and the United States.

Modes of exchange are the patterns involving the three distribution techniques: reciprocity, redistribution, and market exchange. Exchange can either be balanced or unbalanced.

Balanced Exchange: Exchange with no short or long term marginal gain (profit).
Unbalanced exchange: Exchange where profit or marginal gains are the end goal.

Market Exchange was invented by the capitalist society that uses an economic system in which wealth, and the means of producing wealth, are privately owned and controlled rather than commonly, publicly, or state-owned and controlled. It is where currency exchange takes place. It is where banks and other official institutions facilitate the buying and selling of foreign currencies. Trade, money, and market institutions developed independently and were not invented to work together. Capitalism is unique because the three (trade, money, and market) ended up working together. This was first done in the societies of early modern Europe. It is said that different modes of exchange often co-exist within a single society meaning that each society has their own way of operating and exchanging good in their day-to-day lives.

For example, in the United States we use the market mode or exchange, but you can still find redistribution and reciprocity. Reciprocity if you recall is the most ancient mode of exchange, was the exchange of goods and services of equal value and redistribution requires some form of centralized social organization. In families in the U.S., most parents have an income and then redistribute that income to their children and loved ones. Parents using their income to buy their children food and clothing without expecting return is an example of reciprocity. Some people believe that you cannot properly understand the exchange process without first fully understanding the production process. People who exchange goods have different resources to use when bargaining with one another, and it is said that these differences in resources are not shaped by the market but by the productive process.


As Individuals and collectively, consumers have the power to influence the marketplace based on a number of factors. Some things to keep in mind while shopping include weighing the pros and cons of the kind of trade or exchange one supports with their purchase. Coffee, like all sorts of products, there is often written and unwritten stories about where it came from on its journey to coffee mugs around the world. For example, a curious Coffee consumer might ask: Is the coffee fair trade? Does it support organic farming? Do you know what fair trade and organic mean? It could be useful to know what kind of exchange in which you are participating. Dollars can be spread out in trillions of ways. Consumers often have the power to make or break products and firms.


Currency refers to any form of money when it is actually used as a medium of exchange, most commonly represented in banknotes, coins, and now digital forms. A currency is a system of money where in most cases is produced and monitored by governments. The European euro, US dollar, Australian Dollar, Russian Ruble, Bitcoin and many other things fit under this definition. The values of the independent currencies often are influenced by the members of the economy in a global market driven by trade and foreign exchange markets. Governments often give value to banknotes, referred to by some as fiat currency. Some currencies, like the US dollar, is used as a form of currency in some lesser developed nations over the hyper-inflated money printed by their state. Usually monetary values remain within the boundaries of its intended nations and states.

Alternative Currency

Some forms of currency are given value by the global market and have no tie to a state, namely commodities such as gold, silver, and oil as well as stocks, bonds, derivatives, and cryptocurrencies. These currencies can be traded on the global markets, some being traded at every hour of the day. Physical commodities are given value by their practical uses, appearance, and even superstitions, regardless, they are transacted with and accepted as payment.

Bitcoin is a form of cryptocurrency and it is given value via the inherent principle of scarcity programmed at its core. Bitcoin is limited by computing power of its competitive network and the collaborative confirmation by the millions of nodes in its network of every single transaction. Each in every bitcoin transaction is in a sense, public information.

A more familiar type of alternative currency is currency that can only be used within a certain brand or company such a "Starbucks Stars". This is an example of currency brought about by a nation recently formed in the Pacific Northwest. Not all forms of currency are ancient and currency that begins from a company can be recognized worldwide.

Economizing and Maximization

Economizing is to practice economically advantageous practices such as avoiding waste, reducing expenditures, or to make economical use of something. Use personal profit cautiously and frugally. Economizing is popular and useful during inflationary times. This practice occurs quite frequently in both business and in personal lives. The goal of economizing is to maximize income by fully utilizing resources. Different cultures economize in different ways.

A classic example of economizing is setting a monthly budget, including income and necessary expenses. A budget is helpful during times of economic crisis. Some have difficulty with budgets because they must forego luxuries in order to be frugal. Strict grocery shopping in addition to the use of local coupons can be a valuable economizing tool. What is also helpful in cutting back monthly expenditures is to learn how to do things you may pay other people to do for you; change your oil, household repair, and even automobile repair. The expansion of technology has allowed for this to be more possible, how tos are much more accessible to the average person.

Some economizing ideas of note, grow your own vegetables in your backyard, buy generic household brands, avoid deviating from grocery list, make your own clothing, use public transportation as much as possible, use smart insulation techniques, cut costs on air conditioning by adding blinds to windows, buy non-perishable items in bulk, etc.

Maximization is to make as great as possible, the maximum value. In economizing you are maximizing all of your available resources.


Grameen Bank Head Office at Mirpur-2, Dhaka

The Grameen Bank is a microfinance institution which distributes loans to people who, under normal circumstances, would never be able to open a line of credit. In any normal bank the lender requires the borrower to enter into a legally binding contract which guarantees the repayment of the given loan. If the borrower fails to repay the loan then their personal property is offered as collateral. The Grameen bank however requires no collateral and gives loans to those in the lowest socio-economic classes. The GB offers loans almost exclusively to women. Their current membership of 7.71 million is comprised of 97% women.[83] In order to raise the status of poor women, loans are almost always granted to them so that those who build new homes with their loans will have ownership of assets where traditionally women have had none. Instead of a contract the Grameen Bank requires users to apply for loans in groups of five or more. Although no one is responsible for the repayment of a loan other than the actual borrower herself, the other members of her group are there to help encourage her to repay her loan. Before a new group member can receive a loan, the other members loan must be paid off first. This creates strong peer pressure to pay back loans as quickly as possible. If someone is struggling to repay her loan, the GB will help them overcome their struggles and get back on their feet rather than take away the only source of income they have (traditional banking method). This unique perspective on lending inspires the attitude that all humans have great potential, that they only need the initial resources to show it. The Grameen Bank believes that the ability to receive credit is a human right, and that "these millions of small people with their millions of small pursuits can add up to create the biggest development wonder."[84]

Nobel Laureate, Muhammad Yunus, the bank's founder

Due to the success of the Grameen Bank the first Grameen based pilot program has begun in the US in Queens NY. Since its opening in January 2008 it has lent over 1 million US dollars to over 400 members. It is owned and operated by the international affiliate of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Also, in 1997 the Grameen Foundation was created as a global non-profit organization which works around the globe to create microfinance institutions based on the Grameen model using a network of partner microfinance institutions.

These examples show us how ideas can inspire and change. America is a country riddled with individualism, prejudice and enormous economic gaps just like most of the countries in this world. However, examples like the Grameen Bank show us how a single dream can inspire millions around the world to seek something better. People in Queens are no better or worse than those in Bangladesh or anywhere else. They are individuals trapped by a system which has given them no outlet from their degrading society. If given the means to succeed, people everywhere will.

Another example of a company that distributes microcredit is that of Kiva. Kiva’s mission, as stated on their website, is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. It is the first person-to-person micro-lending website, instead of the typical bank-person relationship that is set up by similar companies. By letting individuals lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world (such as a man selling clothes in Uganda, or a woman who owns a small grocery store in Peru), the site not only empowers the lenders by allowing them to share their wealth, but also helps to better people in need’s situations. Throughout the course of the loan (which is usually anywhere from 6-12 months), the lender can receive email journal updates and track their loan’s progress until finally receiving it back. Upon receiving it back, they can re-lend to another person or simply collect their initial sum of money that was put forth.

There is criticism of microfinance as a solution to poverty. While microcredit institutions often report extremely successful stories of alleviating poverty in developing countries, some recent studies are presenting a different story. One research project conducted on women in Bangladesh found that only about 51 percent of the recipients of microcredit aid were regularly able to make their weekly payments. It also found that about one fourth of the loan recipients lied about the purposes for which they took out the loan.[85] One of the major problems is that many people take out loans for consumption purposes, such as marriage or medical expenses, rather than for investment in income generating activities.[24]

Glossary of Key Terms

- Economic anthropology: defined by Wilk in 1996 as "the part of the discipline [of anthropology] that debates issues of human nature that relate directly to the decisions of daily life and making a living."

- Production: the process whereby natural raw materials are converted into forms which can be used by humans.

- Distribution: the movement of goods and services from the place of manufacture or production to the place of consumption.

- Consumption: the taking in or using up of materials needed for humans to survive.

- Modes of exchange: the patterns by which distribution happens, including reciprocity, redistribution, and market exchange.

- Reciprocity: trading goods and services that are of the same value; the three anthropological types of this are generalized, balanced, and negative.

- Redistribution: secondary distribution so that every member of a group contributes economically and then receives the amount of goods that they need.

- Market Exchange: exchanging goods in terms of monetary value and continuing through a supply and demand price mechanism.

- Labor: the work that connects human groups to the environment around them.

- Modes of Production: the grouping of social relations through which labor is used to harness energy from the environment in the forms of tools, skills, organization, and knowledge.

- Means of Production: the actual tools, skills, organization, and knowledge used to take energy from nature.

- Relations of Production: the social relations which connect people who use a certain means of production in the context of a certain mode of production.

- Affluence: the state of more than the amount necessary to fulfill consumption needs.

Terms are from Cultural Anthropology: A Perspective on the Human Condition by Emily A Schultz and Robert H. Lavenda.


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Health and Healing

Theoretical Approaches in Medical Anthropology

Three theoretical approaches exist in understanding human health. First, is the epidemiological or the ecological approach. This approach examines the way culture and the natural environment interact to create the patterns of which result in health and disease. The second is the interpretivist approach, this approach looks at the way cultures use symbolic meaning to describe and understand health and disease. The third is Critical Medical Anthropology, this approach focuses on how socioeconomic and political factors affect human health.

Epidemiological Approach

Epidemiology is the study of factors affecting health and disease among populations and is considered a fundamental aspect of public health research. Epidemiology focuses on identifying disease risk factors based on how, when, and where they occur. By collecting this data, epidemiologists provide data for measuring the occurrence of health phenomena. Epidemiologists use various forms of investigation and analysis to examine the relationships between human disease and the environment and ultimately to determine the causes of a particular disease. Anthropologists may use this approach to examine the cultural patterns that may affect the prevalence of a particular disease. Cultural factors that may contribute to disease include, but are not limited to, eating habits, work, location, sexual activity, where drinking water comes from and medical practices. Yet, even with all these factors included, epidemiological studies can never prove causation; meaning that it can never prove the exact factor that caused the disease or health problems. It can only associate a factor with a health issue. Epidemiology involves the usage of mapping out diseases and showing where in an environment that disease arose. This can be done using geographic information systems to identify where in a population a disease has spread and how far. (

In addition, epidemiological studies are divided into two types: Retrospective and Prospective. Retrospective describes whether the events have already occurred and Prospective describes whether the events may occur in the future. Retrospective studies are the most common of epidemiological studies and are also known as case-control studies. Case-control studies take place when there is an outbreak of disease in the population and the cause of the disease is unknown or when the population is not familiar with the disease. (

Interpretivist Approach

Cultures throughout the world use different systems of meaning to describe and respond to illness. Anthropologists who study these differences with symbolic meaning employ the interpretivist approach to medical anthropology. This approach looks at illness from an emic perspective attempting to understand health and disease relative to a particular culture. By gaining an emic perspective on a culture, medical anthropologists can further understand that notion of "embodied person-hood." Embodied person-hood is defined as the relationship of cultural beliefs and practices in connection with health and illness to the sentient human body, this is the core focus for anthropologists using the interpretivist approach.

Critical Medical Anthropology

Critical medical anthropology focuses on how economics and politics shape the overall status of human health. Critical medical anthropology addresses the disparities in the quality of health and care in the presence of social inequalities. Social divisions based on race, ethnicity, gender and class can influence access to health care and susceptibility to disease. Critical medical anthropologists acknowledge these social factors when looking at the prevalence of a particular disease and ways to prevent it. In a 1998 study of inner-city Hispanic children, critical medical anthropologist Merrill Singer found that food insecurity and hunger were prevalent conditions. By identifying variables associated with these conditions, Singer was able to determine risk factors for food insecurity and hunger that could be used by policy makers to improve food programs and public health policy. Critical medical anthropologists have worked hard to critique bio-medical practices to decrease health problems such as hunger, malnutrition, and disease in order to promote wellness.


Ethnomedicine refers to the medical systems based on the cultural beliefs of varying ethnic groups (e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine).

1. Ethno-nosology: Refers to the cross-cultural systems of classification of health issues.[86]

2.Culture-bound syndromes: Psychological conditions and physical symptoms that only occur (or are only meaningful) in a specific culture.

3. Disease/Illness Dichotomy: Dichotomy is the division of one thing into two parts or a subdivision into halves or pairs. In medical anthropology, the two aspects of sickness are divided to better care and heal those in need. Disease and Illness are two very different things in the medical field that are responded in different ways. Diseases are the biological and psychological malfunctioning of the body physically. Illnesses deal with the psychology of the human where the psychosocial experiences bring on the sense of illness or disease.

4. Diagnosis/Divination: A diagnosis is the act of identifying or determining the nature and cause of a disease or injury through the evaluation of a patient. Divination is the seeing of future events or somehow gaining unknown knowledge through the supernatural.


1. Acupuncturist: One who inserts needles into various points on the body in order to relieve pain or to relax certain areas of the body. Although acupuncture there is great amounts of skepticism among western medicine practitioners, it is still quite popular not only in its original country of China but also in many western countries. [87] When acupuncture traditionally originated in China, it was founded solely on the belief that illnesses were caused by an off-balance of qi energy in the body. Qi energy is considered a universal energy that flows through lines in the body called meridians. The acupuncturist would insert a needle into points along the meridian in order to stimulate the blockage or imbalance of energy. Some modern Western medical scientists believe there is an alternative explanation to the idea of qi energy. It is believed that success in acupuncture is due to the needles stimulating the nervous, endocrine, and lymphatic systems as a whole. In my personal experience with acupuncture, the needles are inserted in areas of the body that one would not normally associate with the problems they are initially experiencing. The placement of the needle in areas other than where the patient is experiencing the pain stimulates specific hormones to relieve pain and thus relaxing the body. [1]. [2].

Needles being inserted into a patient's skin.

2. Bonesetter: A person who treats or sets fractures, broken or dislocated bones. Bonesetter originated from ancient Egyptian and Asian Cultures. Bonesetters are most typically used to aid the healing the process of the bones, which will allow them to heal in a proper fashion. This is essential for example in athletes, where bone fractures or breaks can be a possible end to their careers.

3. Chiropractor: Chiropractors treat problems with the musculoskeletal system many times through the manipulation of the spine. It is a natural, drug free way of healing the nervous system and general health. Some practitioners use methods such as water therapy, light, massage, ultrasound, acupuncture and heat for healing purposes.

4. Surgeon: Surgeons have been around since the development of practitioners, and have evolved from such roles as "bonesetters." A High profile position, many of today's surgeons go through extensive schooling of usually 8 or more years. A vast array of surgeon jobs can be seen throughout the world with different forms varying from plastic surgery to brain surgery. These dedicated men and women can be seen as the top healers and medical professionals of our time. [3]

Dentist works on patient

5. Dentist: One whose sole career it is to clean, extract, or repair natural teeth, and to make and insert artificial ones; a dental surgeon. Dentistry carries special significance in cultures where physical appearance is of great importance for social standing. From the perspective of a middle class American, most Americans today receive good dental health care. Most people go to the dentist every six months for a cleaning or dental examine to check the health of their teeth. [4]

6. General Practitioner: A medical practitioner who provides primary care and specializes in family medicine. In American society, doctors generally do not extend their role as health care provider to include social health, mental health, or general well-being outside of physical health.

7. Herbalist: A person who uses herbs (plants and plant extracts) as their way of healing and alleviating illness.

The greatest challenge herbalists face is the issue of isolating what substances have what effects, and in what doses [88]. As living organisms, plants can contain hundreds of chemical compounds, each with different effects on the human body. Beyond this, dosage is affected dramatically by growing conditions, and as a result it is nearly impossible to standardize treatment when using strictly plant-based medicine, as herbalists do.

Western health care systems are often seem as running in direct opposition to an herbalist (see [doctor] and [surgeon]). In recent years, however, the value of herbalists as both practitioners of medicine and ambassadors to cultural knowledge of treatments unknown in many parts of the world has been noticed. Herbalists have the potential to make a tremendous contribution to the United States' primary care crisis, especially, through health promotion, disease prevention, and affordable, ecologically sound treatment alternatives.[5] I do agree with this statement, but with my own herbalist, she recommends to go to a biomedical physician if you have any serious illness.

An Iraqi doctor examining a little girl

8. Midwife: A health care profession where providers give prenatal care to expecting mothers, attend the birth of the infant, and provide postpartum care to the mother and her infant. Midwives must be certified as such but do not need to be certified as a nurse, they are most commonly used in uncomplicated, low risk pregnancies.
Midwives spend time with the mother during her pregnancy, they are there to support the mother and encourage her to trust her instincts, ultimately letting nature take its course. Many medical doctors in this case would use preventive testing and medical technology such as ultrasounds and pain medication to monitor the birthing process. These techniques are usually unnecessary in uncomplicated deliveries, midwives will perform these if necessary but cannot do so without a doctors supervision.
In the past midwives were not obligated to have the extensive formal training they are today, they traditionally learned through apprenticeship and did not know how to fight infections. This resulted in a higher death rate of a mother and her child with midwives than with doctors. In order to give midwives the medical training they needed a school for certified American nurse-midwifery was founded in 1932.

9. Oneself: Healing of ones self is usually used to heal spiritually, mentally or emotionally rather than physically. When it is used for physical purposes, this usually means that other health care is not available for the individual.
Some cultures have individuals who are designated specialist in healing. Others such as the Subanun in Mandanao have no assigned healers, they are all active participants in the health of their kin and neighbors and are called upon to aid each other.

10. Psychiatrist: A Psychiatrist a doctor who is certified in treating mental illness.[6]They are also authorized to prescribe medications to their patients. Like a psychologist, psychiatrist treat illness by methods of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy. A psychiatrist is unique in that they are required to obtain medical certification as a doctor, whereas a psychologist, who has many of the same responsibilities as a psychiatrist is not. [7]

11. Shaman: A shaman is a practitioner of shamanism, or alternatively, a mediator between the human and spiritual worlds. They are known for their ability to cure illness, and to communicate with both the supernatural and natural worlds while doing so. Shamans are often said to be able to use divination and to tell the future. Shamanism is used most commonly in Central Asia. [2] [89]However, many cultures all over the world have a Shaman. Some cultures in South America, and even cultures in Canada, practice shamanism. Occasionally, many Shaman from various regions in the Americas will come together and practice ceremonies together, such as the "sweat hut" ceremony. The Shaman of a culture in Ecuador spoke of these Shaman "conventions." [8] The Ju/'hoansi of Southern Africa have Shamans who can allegedly enter "half death" (what would be called "trance" in English). "Half death" enables them to travel to the world of the spirits to cure those who are sick. [9]

12. Massage Therapist: One who uses physical pressure on muscle groups to treat various symptoms. Although the validity of its effectiveness in treating more than chronic muscular pain is questioned, many stand firmly by its success rate. It is said to lower the heart rate and decrease blood pressure, as well as anxiety and fatigue. Furthermore, it may releases 'toxins' stored in the muscles, and can be therapeutic. [10]

13. Faith Healing: Faith healing involves the placebo effect, which is a form of medication with no actual medicine in it. However, the patient can still "feel better" when they take the treatment, even if it is not directly affecting the body. This is because "the patient has a certain belief in the treatment...the patient's belief leads him or her to expect that, following this treatment, he or she is likely to get better..." Consequently, he or she will quite literally mentally heal themselves. [11]

While some view faith healing as purely a placebo effect, those who seriously practice it believe that their healing comes from divine blessing or divine intervention. Due to the fact that science cannot actually disprove this idea, but simply explain what is physically happening in the body during this process, faith healing should not be dismissed by those who describe themselves as scientifically minded. Faith healing is practiced in abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Within these circles of people there are multitudes of people who are highly educated in the sciences, and still see the potential authenticity of faith healing.

14. Physical Therapist: A health care professional who issues services and help to those in need of rehabilitation as a result of old age, injury or disease. The main goal is to promote the utmost range of movement and functionality of the body. Often a patient will meet with a PT and receive a diagnosis based on patient history and physical examination. After which a program based on the patients needs will be issued and followed through with. PT programs vary based on patient needs. [12]

15. Naturopath: [90] A health care provider who follows a natural approach to healing of the body using natural remedies and the body's vital ability to heal and maintain itself. Naturopathic philosophy favors a holistic approach and minimal use of surgery and drugs. Instead of treating your symptoms, like most health care providers, naturopathic doctors aim to treat the cause of your ailment. This is done through holistic evaluation of the patients health. If someone is experiencing insomnia, instead prescribing pharmaceutical medicine, a naturopathic physician will ask more questions about the patients life. A question the naturopath might ask is if the patient is experiencing major stress. Because stress can act as an inhibitor of natural sleep cycles, the naturopath may teach the patient new ways to manage stress in order to assist them in getting sleep at night. [13]

16. Reiki Healer: A reiki healer is someone who practices reiki using "hands-on" healing, literally using their hands to slowly move over the body, transferring energy into the recipient. Reiki is originally a Japanese technique, used for reduction of stress a relaxation as well as treating emotional and physical problems. Some forms of reiki concentrate on chakras which are different energy points on the body, this focuses in on each part of a persons being from their mental emotions of self, their sexuality, how grounded they are, or how they see others. (

Healing Substances

Cultures use a variety of different substances for healing. Some cultures rely on drugs to induce a state of healing, while others put their lives in the hands of healers such as shamans to regain health. In many cases, people rely on both medical pluralism and medical syncretism. Medical pluralism refers to the employment of more than one medical system or the use of both conventional and complementary and alternative medicine, while medical syncretism is the fusing of traditional and biomedical practices. It is important to note that in many cases the state of healing that is accomplished in one culture may not be able to be accomplished in another due to differing perspectives on how the substance is meant to affect a person. For example, there is a vast difference between the use of drugs for recreation and their use for healing. In some cultures it is believed that during drug use a person reaches a heightened state in which they are able to begin healing, whereas in other cultures this heightened state is used for pure enjoyment.

The Peyote cactus is an example of a substance that it used in indigenous cultures in the Americas. It is a small, spineless cactus that is native to the southwest United States, parts of central Mexico, and primarily in the Chihuahuan desert. Peyote gives the consumer an enhanced feeling of deep introspection and insight that can be accompanied by audio or visual hallucinations. These hallucinations have made Peyote a sought after recreational drug leading to it becoming a controlled substance in many countries around the world.[14] With this heightened awareness of self, Peyote users can be healed of any type of spiritual, physical, or other social hindrance. Traditionally, peyote has also been used to heal toothache, pain experienced during childbirth, fever, breast pain, skin diseases, rheumatism, diabetes, colds, and blindness.

A flowering peyote, in cultivation.

More examples of healing substances include magic mushrooms of Oaxaca, similar to the Peyote in which the consumer enters a psychedelic state and is able to allow the mushrooms to heal themselves spiritually and physically. Ayahuasca is an Amazonian plant mixture that is capable of inducing altered states of consciousness, usually lasting between 4 to 8 hours after ingestion. Shamans or medicine men take ayahuasca to communicate with nature or to see what is causing a patient’s illness on a spiritual level. The drink is taken in the form of tea, typically in a ceremonial session under the guidance of an experienced drinker. The main ingredient of this jungle tea is a vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, which like the tea itself is also called ayahuasca (which means ‘vine of the soul’ or ‘vine with a soul’). Coca, tobacco and alcohol can also be considered healing substances and are more prevalent across cultures than the aforementioned drugs.


Ethnobotany is the analysis of indigenous plants that are used by a particular culture for food, medicine or other purposes. The study of these plants is used to garner accurate understanding of their medical potential and cultural usage. An ethnobotanist's job is to travel to different locations in the world for the purpose of studying the relationships between plants and culture. Their knowledge is gleaned from the perspective and information provided by the culture with which the plant is used. Ethnobotanists look for plants which effectively treat disease or relieve symptoms. These plants can then be synthesized into medication to provide treatment for other populations.

Mayan priest performing healing

The roots of ethnobotany can be traced back to an ancient Greek surgeon named Dioscorides. He was the first person to organize plants into specific classifications. Around AD 77, Dioscorides produced the publication, “De Materia Medica”, which consisted of information on all the plants he researched. This botanical reference book compartmentalized approximately 600 plants. It also included facts about the plants such as; what season it was in bloom, how to use it medicinally, its toxicity level and whether or not it was edible. In 1542 Leonhart Fuchs achieved a similar feat when he published, “De Historia Stirpium”, another botanical reference book that catalogued plants indigenous Germany and Austria (the book contained information on about 400 plants). Another important figure in the development of ethnobotany was John Ray. He was the first person to understand and explain the concept of species; he also produced important publications such as, Catalogue of Cambridge Plants, Synopsis Methodica Avium et Piscium and Methodus Plantarum (works were published between 1660-1713). The methods for categorizing plants continued to develop and it reached its apex with a Swedish medical student named Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus invented the classification system known as taxonomy. This system of classifying organisms is still utilized in contemporary times. His book, Species Plantarum, had listings for approximately 5,900 plants. The term ethnobotany was developed by John Harshberger around 1895. Harshberger was the professor of botany at the University of Pennsylvania. He spent many years traveling the globe researching and cataloguing different regions native plant life.

Iboga, a principal component of ibogaine

As stated previously, ethnobotany is the study of how a culture uses its indigenous plants for medicinal purposes. The native plant species and their preparation for use are usually new and different (sometimes confusing) to the ethnobotanist. An example of an idiosyncratic way of healing (pertinent to ethnobotany) can be seen in the religious rituals of the Bwiti. Bwiti is a religion that is practiced by the people of Gabon (a country in west central Africa). This particular creed relies heavily on the use of ibogaine (a powerful psychoactive which is derived from the root of the Tabernanthe ibona shrub). Tabernanthe iboga is indigenous to Gabon and is easily accessible to people of the Bwiti religion. Iboga is most commonly ingested through chewing on the root of the shrub or brewing the plant into a tea. The plant is revered by the Bwiti because of its hallucinogenic properties which cause practitioners to receive revealing visions and deep introspective self-contemplation. Iboga is consumed for religious ceremonies, initiations, coming of age rituals and healing processes. When a person within the Bwiti community becomes ill he or she is fed iboga to get in touch with their imbwiri. The imbwiri is a spirit represented in human configuration which will either cure the individual or provide valuable information on the antidote. Iboga was brought to Europe by French and Belgian researchers in the late 1800’s. By the 1960’s ibogaine (although still rare) had been introduced to many different parts of the world. (mainly as a psychoactive drug). The medical potential of this drug was discovered by a man named Howard Lotsof in 1963. He realized that this substance could combat heroin and opiate addiction. It also could alleviate the painful and mentally exhausting withdrawal symptoms. Howard cured his own heroin addiction through this method and introduced ibogaine to his friends who were also habitual heroin users with positive results. As time progressed ibogaine was found to be useful in treating many addictions including unhealthy reliance on cocaine, crack, alcohol, methamphetamine and nicotine. Even though this drug showed potential towards battling addiction it was outlawed in many countries (including the U.S.) because of its hallucinogenic properties. Although ibogaine has been marked illegal there are still underground clinics that provide full treatments serving the drugs medical ideology. Research on ibogaine is still being conducted today and it could eventually become a fully marketable, synthesized anti-addiction medication.

Candlenut Tree

The Kukui or Candlenut tree, is an example of an indigenous plant used by a culture for food, medicine, and other purposes. Native Hawaiians used the nut, sap, and leaves for various everyday uses. The nut, which produces copious amounts of oil, was strung onto palm fronds and used a torch or candle (thus the name Candlenut). The nut was also roasted and sprinkled on food for added flavor, but it was also known to have laxative properties. The sap of the green nut was spread on cuts and cold sores to speed up healing. The leaves and flowers were used for making lei. As a child growing up in Hawaii, my friends and I made spinning tops out of the shell of the nut. Many visitors to Hawaii would recognize the Kukui nut as the black, shiny nut strung on ribbon to make a lei that lasts indefinitely. The unique part about this tree is that all of the components of the tree are toxic, but the seed, leaves, flowers and bark can be all be used in medicine systems if used in the correct way. The candlenut tree provides a multitude of uses including health benefits, decoration, jewelry making, and more.

The Cure-All Herb

The "Cure All Herb" is Kinkiliba and is from West Africa, specifically Senegal. This drinking herb is made into a drink that keeps most of the people healthy. Kinkiliba (combretum micrantum) is the most common herbal tea found throughout West Africa. Many West-Africans begin their morning with a cup of this powerful tea that is great for maintaining general health and well-being. Kinkiliba is known to aid in the treatment of fevers, colds, aches, pains, and the flu. This herb is a natural diuretic and helps to speed up the healing process when one is ill. One may also apply solutions of the leaves or the roots to speed up the healing of old wounds. This miracle tea is also known to prevent malaria and lower blood pressure. The herb serves as an antibacterial and antispasmodic as well.

The Detoxifying Herb

Kelle (khaya senegalensis) is a common herb used throughout West Africa for a body cleanser and energy booster. West Africans soak the bark in water and drink the mixture for a general detoxification and intestinal cleanser. Kelle is also used to bring down fevers and to combat general fatigue. Khaya senegalensis is very effective when it is used as a body cleanser or an energy booster, but it also has other uses. For example, the seeds and leaves can be used to treat fevers and headaches, and the roots can help with the treatment of mental illness or as an aphrodisiac.

Acacia Senegal

Uses - Gum arabic’s main effect is to form a soothing, protective coating over the respiratory, alimentary, and urinary tracts. In conjunction with various astringents, it is helpful for coughs, sore throat, and catarrh (excessive discharge or buildup of mucus in the nose or throat, associated with inflammation of the mucous membrane.), as well as in cases of diarrhoea and dysentery. The mucilage makes a good vehicle for other medicines, in addition to having nutritional value in its own right. However, most of the gum arabic imported to USA goes to the food industry to give body and texture to products for bakers and a hard sheen coating on candies.

Medicinal Marijuana

Some cannabis bud, which is well-cured (i.e. dried slowly following a specific procedure). The strain is Sweet Tooth #3

Marijuana is used in many cultures as a healing remedy for a great number of ailments. Medicinal Marijuana is legal to possess in a few various states in America with an appropriate prescription. California has the greatest number of Marijuana dispensaries and the greatest number of legal cannabis users. However, due to the federal government's lack of support for medicinal marijuana, raids on dispensaries are still common. [15]It also means that an individual who uses marijuana with a legal prescription can be subject to federal punishment even though their state allows for prescription use of the drug. Marijuana has long been sought out as a medicine for patients looking to 'ease the tension'. It is primarily used as a pain reliever of muscle relaxant but it has also been claimed to help with insomnia, glaucoma, and alcoholism. Cancer patients receiving radiation are also given the option to take the plant in order to settle the stomach and promote eating. For patients with Multiple Sclerosis, prominent in the Pacific North West and Northern Europe, Medicinal Marijuana is an effective and viable treatment for pain, muscle spasms, and the reduction of pressure in the optic nerves.

Marijuana has been recognized and used as an effective remedy to various ailments for thousands of years. As early as the third century B.C. people had discovered the benefits of marijuana and partaken in its advantages. Since then marijuana has been used for recreational, medicinal, and religious/spiritual purposes. In 1937 marijuana was criminalized in the U.S. after the Marihuana Tax Act, which included penalty provisions and detailed rules for handlers of marijuana. Violating this law could result in a fine of up to $2000 and five years in prison. Now, at the end of 2016 Marijuana has become legal in more states for both recreational and medical purposes. Seven states have legalized recreational marijuana and another ten states have legalized medical marijuana. A number of states have also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Other states have passed medical marijuana laws allowing for limited use of cannabis. Some medical marijuana laws are broader than others, with types of medical conditions that allow for treatment varying from state to state. Also some states have passed laws allowing residents to possess cannabis oil if they suffer from certain medical illnesses.

Essential Oils

Another form of ethnobotany that has been on the rise in popularity in the United States is the use of 'essential oils'. Essential oils are potent oils that are “extracted from flowers, barks, stem, leaves, roots, fruits and other parts of the plant by various methods” (Ali, et al., 2015). Those who use them believe that they are nature's medicine, and if used properly can treat many infections and ailments, replacing or assisting modern medicine. Through laboratory studies, scientists have found that these oils contain antiseptic and skin permeability properties. Certain essential oils can be even more effective than pharmaceutical antibiotics due to their complex chemical make up.

One popular way that essential oils are used is through aromatherapy. “Inhalation, local application and baths are the major methods used in aromatherapy that utilize these oils to penetrate the human skin surface with marked aura” (Ali, et al., 2015). Through use of single oils, as well as combinations or mixtures of oils, people have used essential oil aromatherapy to get relief from “numerous ailments like depression, indigestion, headache, insomnia, muscular pain, respiratory problems, skin ailments, swollen joints, urine associated complications, etc.” (Ali, et al., 2015).

One caution that must be considered when buying essential oils is to notice whether the oil is pure or not. Some companies sell oils that are not truly medicine grade, meaning they will not be as beneficial as hoped, or could even be harmful if used improperly. Simply because essential oils are derived from plants, does not mean that they are safe. When using essential oils, one must be extremely knowledgeable in the field, or follow their naturopathic physician’s instructions on how to use essential oils.

Even though there has been large amounts of research done in the field of essential oils, many are still skeptical of its use. Additionally, the FDA has not approved of the oils acting as medicine. However, use of plants has been the way that many cultures have historically gone about creating medicine, and the effectiveness of essential oils has been proven by many who choose to fight their ailments a more natural way.

American Ethnobotany

There are many plants which play important roles in North American culture through medicine and recreation. One well known example is Echinacea, a popular herbal remedy. Echinacea is native to North America and has long been used by the Plains Indians for its medicinal properties. It is believed to shorten the duration of a cold and treat many of the symptoms such as coughing, sore throats, and headaches. Recent studies have suggested that Echinacea has little or no effect on the duration or severity of a cold, and it is merely taken to provide some sort of comfort to the sick person, in many ways a placebo. The effectiveness of Echinacea is still a subject of debate , but it remains a culturally important remedy in North American ethnobotany.

Goldenseal- (Orange-root, Orangeroot; Hydrastis canadensis) is a perennial herb in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States and is another prominent herb used in North America. Goldenseal was in extensive use among certain Native American tribes of North America, both as a medicine and as a coloring material. Goldenseal was extensively used for cancers and swellings of the breasts by the Eclectics, although it was not considered sufficient for cancer alone [16]

Pacific Yew- (taxus brevifoila) also known as the Western Yew, is a small fir like tree that can be identified by its flaky bark, as well as its flat needles that protrude horizontally from either side of the twig. It is usually found in shaded environments alongside trees such as Douglas firs and hemlock. The bark is a traditional medicine used for “internal problems like ulcers and liver ailments”(Turner & Hebda). In recent years Yew bark has become famous for containing a cancer fighting compound called Taxol that slows or stops cell replication in cancer cells. It is most commonly used in the treatment of breast, lung, and ovarian cancer. "Pacific Yew, Taxus Brevifolia." Native Plants PNW. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. "Paclitaxel (Taxol®, Abraxane®): Cancer Drug Information | CTCA." N.p., 01 Jan. 0001. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. "Taxus Baccata (common Yew)." Taxus Baccata (common Yew) | Plants & Fungi At Kew. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. Turner, Nancy J., and Richard J. Hebda. Saanich Ethnobotany: Culturally Important Plants of the WSANEC People. Victoria, BC: Royal BC Museum, 2012. Print.

Critics of Ethnomedicine

Although most individual ethnomedical practices have been criticized for various traits they possess (e.g. claims of spiritual healing being a hoax, psychiatry not being able to cure alcoholism), one argument stands out as criticizing almost all forms of ethnomedicine. This argument criticized the mental orientation of most forms of ethnomedicine. Biologist Horacio Fabrega Jr. Writes:

The implicit assumption adopted by the researcher is that he is dealing with a disorder that is either typically psychiatric or at least psychiatric-like. Excessive preoccupation with this dimension on the part of culturally oriented anthropologists has tended to obscure the influences that biological components have on [culturally defines] illnesses. Consequently, the potential of examining the reciprocal influences that phsychoculture and biological factors have on instances of illness occurrence [as defined and categorized by subjects] has been missed.

Doctors and anthropologist who practice ethnomedicine experience criticism for making the assumption that an ailment can be cured using ethnomedicine without weighing the possibility of biological medicine.


Leaves and flowers of a Neem tree in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

Biopiracy is the appropriation, or patent, of indigenous biomedical knowledge by foreign entities without compensatory payment. In other words, it is the illegal harvest of plants used by a particular culture for medicinal purposes by individuals from another culture. The 'piracy' or taking, takes place when individuals or corporations patent these plants and the methods of processing plant based substances or the genetic information for their exclusive use and sale. The patent often prohibits the communities that identified the bio active properties, developed processing and extractive technologies and bred the plants, for personal use or sale.

A related concept is bioprospecting. This term is sometimes used to refer to biopiracy with a less negative connotation, where the assumption is the patented item had a known use already. Alternately, the bioprospecting company is searching for novel compounds or genes in items that were not used traditionally. Companies can harvest plants or organisms with little to no opposition in some parts of the world, and then patent any part of them that ends up being useful.[17] In the Brazilian State of Amazonas an estimated 20,000 plant samples are removed every year by bioprospectors.

An example of biopiracy is the Neem tree which has been used in India for over 2000 years for medicinal and other purposes. In 1995 a the US Department of Agriculture and multinational WR Grace.[18], patented through the European Patent Office (EPO) the emulsions of Neem tree and is suing Indian firms for using it in products. The Indian government challenged the patent when it was granted, claiming that the process for which the patent had been granted had actually been in use in India for over 2000 years. In 2000 the EPO ruled in India's favour but the US multinational mounted an appeal claiming that prior art about the product had never been published in a scientific journal. On 8 March 2005, that appeal was lost and the EPO revoked the Neem patent rights keeping the tree free of any patent restrictions.[18]

Medical Systems

Naturalistic System

Naturalistic Systems can be an approach to the explanation, diagnosis, and treatment of illness which focuses on the underlying bio-mechanical processes behind human disorder. Naturalistic medicine is largely the foundation of the Western model of bio-medicine and practitioners rely heavily on the use of imaging technologies and the scientific method to develop treatment plans. Philosophically, naturalists approach human disorder from the perspective that illness is impersonal and that there is always an identifiable source of pathology in the diagnostic process.

Personalistic System

Largely uncommon in the developed world, the personalistic approach to medicine explains human disorder in terms of preternatural sources of pathology (such as spiritual possession or religious transgression). Illness is considered unique to the patient and medical practitioners often call upon supernatural forces to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of disorders. An example of this is the “evil eye.” A person who is envious of another’s good fortune may transfer malignant influence through the “evil eye”, which will result in harm to the recipient. [19]

Modernly, personalistic systems of medicine are most commonly found in small-scale societies. Globally, the personalist approach in decline and has disappeared completely in some cultures. For example, therapeutic shamanism was commonly practiced amongst Inuit peoples and a complex tradition of spiritual healthcare was reported by early ethnographers (see Merkur 85). These traditions are now very rarely practiced and many of the traditional practices have been lost entirely (see Shamanism amongst Eskimo peoples).

Medical Models

Medical models are the explanations of health and illness that are accepted by different cultures. The biomedical model is the most widely accepted medical model by many cultures, including the vast majority of Western culture, but there are multiple other explanations that are accepted by some cultures.

The medical model of disability is a model by which illness or disability is the result of a physical condition, is intrinsic to the individual (it is part of that individual’s own body), may reduce the individual's quality of life, and causes clear disadvantages to the individual.

Some anthropologists believe that the biomedical model is quite provincial. They do not believe that there is enough room for the interpretation of the psychological, behavioral, and social aspects of all of the illnesses. Something called a biopsychosocial[91] model has been proposed. In this there would be more room different aspects of health care.


The term Humoral refers to elements in the blood or other fluids that reside within the body. In medicine,the term humor refers to a fluid substance. The aqueous humor is the fluid that normally resides within the front and rear chambers of the eye. The humors were part of an ancient theory that believed that health came from balance between the bodily liquids. These liquids were termed humors. If these fluids were not balanced, a person was more likely to become infected with diseases.

Paired qualities were associated with each humour and its season and element,the humors were:

  1. Phlegm: winter, water, characteristics: rational, calm, unemotional
  2. Blood: spring, air, characteristics: courageous, hopeful, amorous
  3. Gall: (black bile thought to be secreted by the kidneys and spleen) autumn, earth, characteristics: guardian, despondent, sleepless, irritable
  4. Choler: (yellow bile secreted by the liver) winter, water, characteristics: rational, calm, unemotional

This theory which was also known as the humoral theory, humoralism, and humorism was devised before the time of Hippocrates (c.460-c.375 BC). Today pathology rests on a cellular and molecular foundation. All of the humors have been dispelled, except for the aqueous humor and vitreous humor of the eye. The theory of humors was commonly used until the nineteenth century when modern medical techniques were developed.


The health and healing system of Haiti incorporates humoral-influenced concepts from West Africa. Their system relies on monitoring and regulating their four humors (hot and cold, dry and wet). Eventually their system was simplified, with the dry and wet humors being omitted. They believe a balance is necessary to maintain good health. The balance is affected by the season, how they live and especially how they eat.[20]

Kallawaya Traditional Medicine

The shamans of the Kallawaya people, located in the Andes in Bolivia are an example of humoral medicine. They believe that health and illness are affected by the balance of spirit and soul caused by the earth, or the goddess Pachamama. Their healing art is based in their ability to look into the lives of the ill to see patterns in the day to day aspects such as work, health, routines and relationships and to recognize where there are imbalances. Shamans make use of music, dance, and animal sacrifice to help appease the divine, thus curing illness. The shamans use many herbs, for instance most of the Kallawaya healers have knowledge of at least 300 herbs. They also incorporate alcohol and ayahuasca, which, with the guidance of the shaman, can produce a drug-induced state of healing[21]


Dwanandhari Deva is believed to be the Lord of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a 5000-year old traditional system of medicine in India that originated during the [Vedic] period of Indian history. [[92]] It is also practiced as an alternative system of medicine in other parts of the world, where yoga, meditation, massage, or healing herbs or foods are used as a supplement to the biomedical model.

Ayurveda is a humoral system, in which blood, chyle, flesh, fat, bone, marrow, and semen are the primary elements. These are divided into air (or spirit), phlegm, and bile, each of which represent a divine force, or dosha. The three doshas are vata (air), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm). According to Ayurveda, humans are dominated by one or two of these doshas. Having a balance between the three means that one is in complete health. This balance is achieved through moderation of sleep, sexual intercourse, medicine, and food. Different types of foods are beneficial to people of different doshas. When the doshas are too far out of balance, it can lead to both physical and mental sickness.

Ayurvedic practices include hygienic rituals, ingestion of certain foods and herbs as treatments, and yoga or meditation. The balance between the physical and mental is an important aspect of Ayurvedic healing.

Spiritual Healing

A man practices yoga meditation outside.

Spiritual healing practices transmit energy to a person in need through means of meditation, prayer, or the presence of a healer, and provide an alternative to standard medical procedures. It is part of the holistic approach to healing, which involves the unification and harmony of the mind, body, and spirit in order to achieve wellness. Because sickness often originates in the mind, spiritual healing can be beneficial in alleviating stress, coping with emotional issues, and increasing overall happiness. The absence of such mental problems can eliminate physical troubles. For example, meditation aids in lowering heart rate, decreasing high blood pressure, and lessening cholesterol levels because it clears and calms the mind to the extent that stress does not affect the physical state of the body.

A popular and recommended act of spiritual healing, is found in Yoga. It has been said by many that it allows and gives a sense of self-awareness, benefits to positive mental presentation, and overall encourages personal strength and confidence through living a spiritual and healthy lifestyle.

In various cultures, healers who practice spiritual healing believe that human beings are surrounded by healing mechanisms in the form of energy, which maintain a balance and order between mind, body, and spirit. A healing procedure often begins with a healer hovering his or her hands above a patient’s body to uncover areas where energy is blocked and healing is needed. Healing energy is then transported through the healer’s hands and into the patient.

Religion often plays a role in spiritual healing in that people form a relationship with a higher source and are able to channel energy from such a source. This being could be God, nature, or something else meaningful to the individual. It is important to note that if the individual who chooses to form this connection holds full commitment and trust in the higher source, feelings of security, peace of mind, and guidance and are likely to follow, all of which are essential in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Kundalini Tantric Yoga

A popular form of spiritual healing is found in Kundalini Tantric Yoga, practiced in various parts of India and the United States. Kundalini energy refers to dormant or spiritual energy within the body that we are usually unaware of. Once Kundalini energy is activated through deep meditation and yoga, the Nadi system, referring to channels of Kundalini energy, is activated as well. This creates a connection between the seven levels of chakras; the centers of consciousness potential that reside along the spine. Each chakra corresponds to a set of desires connected to a certain element.

The seven different chakras pictured in their locations, with the exact number of petals each chakra is said to have.

The first of the seven chakras is called the Muladhara. Its color is red and it is said to lie between the genitals and the scrotom. It governs sexuality and instinct. The second chakra is orange and it is called the Svadhisthana. It lies on the belly and is said to govern, among other things, creativity. Manipura is the third chakra. It is yellow, lies just under the solar plex and controls one's will power. The fourth chakra is the Anhata. Anhata is located near and governs the heart. It is the color green. Vishuddha is the fifth. Its color is turquoise and it governs the voice. It is located in the throat. Ajna, the sixth chakra, is indigo blue. It lies in the brain and governs wisdom. The final chakra can only be tapped upon once all the other chakras have energy flowing through them. It is called Sahasrara. It is purple and it brings enlightenment. It sits on top of the head and is said to inspire universal consciousness and unity.

The goal of Kundalini Tantric yoga is to free oneself from such desires as energy moves higher and higher along the chakras, opening them until it reaches the seventh chakra, called the Sahasra Chakra, located at the top of the cranium. A person can move energy through his or her chakras through tantric yoga, a form of yoga in which one seeks to free the mind of desires through various breathing exercises, contemplation, and meditation. When the seventh chakra is finally opened, a person is said to achieve full consciousness and liberation from the slavery of desires. Through the spiritual experiences one has encountered with the opening of each chakra, the result is inner harmony and overall happiness, which are significant aspects of living a positive, healthy lifestyle.

On a religious note, Hindu mythology offers an explanation for the movement of Kundalini energy throughout the body as one practices Tantric yoga. It is said that the serpent goddess Kundalini Shakti resides at the base of the spine, coiled up around the first chakra. As energy is activated and released through Tantric Yoga, she awakens and rises up the spine, opening the chakras along the way and energizing these conscious potentials. When she reaches the seventh chakra, she is united with her spouse, the God Shiva. Shiva is a symbol of change and the destruction of old habits. Their union leads to the liberation of the individual practicing the yoga, turning them into an “individual of the universe.”

Western Biomedical Model

Cell culture vials.

This is the most popular medical model in medicine today and can be found all across Western societies, as well as others. It looks at humans as biological organisms in order to discover methods for curing diseases and treating illness. This model focuses mainly on physical processes such as physiology and biochemistry and disregards social or spiritual factors. Under the biomedical model, health is defined as the absence of pain or disease, and the body is treated with scientifically-based methods.

It should be noted that the Western approach to biomedical theory and practice is constantly adapting in response to new scientific and philosophical revelations regarding illness. The model focuses on the treatment and cure of disease through medical science, and does not promote disease prevention. In recent years, naturopathic medicine (once largely considered at odds with orthodox bio-medicine)has gained recognition as a viable facet of treatment for a wide variety of disorders. Biomedicine is seen as a model that allows for the repair of the body and to fix problems that happen to the body from the surrounding environment. Biomedicine arose during the industrial revolution as a way to help people recover from diseases that effected them. (

One of the criticisms of the Western Biomedical Model is that it discounts the personal knowledge and beliefs of its participants. The system is said to consider ‘professional knowledge’ as the correct, rational, scientific approach while lay beliefs are considered non-rational, unscientific, suppression and are thus ignored. This leads to potential tension between health care providers and patients. [22]

Ethnographic example: The biomedical model has been critical in the development of our country. One of the many influences it has had was treating tuberculosis, a life threatening infectious disease. In 1880, after studying the disease, scientists confirmed that it was contagious. Even before antibiotics this helped to dramatically decrease the number of people that died by using quarantining and sanitizing methods. The first successful immunization was developed in 1906 by Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin. The bovine-strain tuberculosis vaccine (also known known as bacille Calmette–Guérin or BCG), became mainstream after World War II in the U.S., Great Britain and Germany. In the mid 20th century, the antibiotic streptomycin was discovered and offered an effective alternative cure for tuberculosis. Many strains have become resistant to certain antibiotics, however, forcing immunologists to develop new vaccines and treatments to cure more virulent species.


Infant being administered a measles vaccine in Kibati, Congo

The term immunization refers to rendering an organism immune to a specific communicable disease (1). Immunizations work by triggering the human body to produce antibodies that will help fight a particular disease. The antibody response is created by injecting a small amount of either a dead or live virus, (depending on the virus) into the person receiving the immunization in order to initialize a immune system response to the virus (2). Therefore in the future if the person who was immunized was exposed to the virus, he or she would already have the antibodies to fend off the virus. Along with the introduction and transmission of many new complex diseases, population growth and the globalization of medicine has brought about the eradication of many previously devastating disorders, including small pox and polio, through wider availability of immunizations. Many parents in Western countries routinely schedule immunizations for their children to prevent them from contracting a specific communicable disease. While many vaccinations are routine and readily available only in developed nations, the continued globalization of medicine will eventually have a dramatic effect on the improvement of health care in developing countries.[23] [24]

There is a great deal of controversy over vaccination in some cultures regarding the morality, ethics, necessity, safety, and practicality of vaccination have led some parents to keep their children from being vaccinated. Opponents of vaccines claim that they are dangerous, ineffective, and infringe on personal rights.

And example of this is the current debate over whether or not certain vaccines cause autism in children. There is a small but dedicated group of doctors who claim that vaccines may be linked to the onset of autism in children. As a result many parents are insisting their children be exempt from the mandatory vaccines although there are no medical findings which prove the link between the two. [25]


CRISPR immune response in microbial cultures.

CRISPR/Cas9 is a prokaryotic immune system response discovered in 1987 that allows resistance to foreign genes from viruses or bacterial DNA that enter a cell.CRISPR associated proteins (Cas) uses the CRISPER gene binding regions and internal nucleases (proteins that identify and cut genetic material at the base pair level) to cut out and digest unfamiliar DNA or RNA segments. This prevents potentially harmful viral or pathogenic genes from altering the host genome (which encodes all cellular instructions). In 2012, this highly efficient bacterial process was applied by independent genetics research groups to attempt gene transfers. By adding an RNA guide to the system, a cell's genome can be cut at a specified location to allow new genes to be added, or unwanted genes to be removed. In 2015, complex CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing became the 'breakthrough of the year' according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The applications of the CRISPER/Cas9 system are promising for genome editing such as in the germlines of food crops, animals and humans. Several biotech startup companies have already raised $158 million dollars in research funding for medical applications of CRISPR/Cas9. [26] Other companies have already begun conducting genetic surgery in clinical trials.

Ethical concerns on this subject arise with the possibility of simplified human gene editing. This prospect offers opportunity to rid animals, plants and humans of diseases and deformities before they become problematic. However, it also creates a future category for discrimination based on genetic composition and content. Some scientists have even gone so far as to propose the engineering of mythical creatures from common ones such as making a unicorn by fusing horse and cow horn DNA. Unlike selective breeding, which requires years, CRISPR/Cas9 allows the same engineering outcome to occur in one generation. The anthropological issues that result involve global and environmental carrying capacity as well as environmental and ethical consequences of reviving extinct species or inventing new ones. There is a high potential for a single group to patent the technology and prevent study within the scientific community as seen with many high demand drugs. The CRISPR system still shows signs of off-target cutting that can negatively affect vital genes and lead to cell death. Thus far, CRISPR/Cas9 use on human embryos has been prohibited once they pass a certain age due to unforeseen effects and lack of trial testing. While this is a promising field of study, many of these concerns remain unresolved to date. [27]

Globalization and Health

Epidemiologic Transitions

New Infectious Diseases 
A disease that emerges within a population that is new or the number of infectious cases within a population or geographic area rapidly increases. Since 1940 over 300 new infectious diseases have been discovered, some of the most well known being severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Many drug-resistant strains of diseases are becoming more common and 71% of these new infectious diseases start in the wildlife. As globalization increases, infectious diseases will continue to affect a larger and wider population. [93] Classification of disease is as follows; an epidemic is a local outbreak of a rare disease. When this disease spreads through many human populations across a large region, it is then classified as a pandemic.
Medical Pluralism 
The integration of biomedicine and other forms of health care. Examples of medical pluralism include taking antibiotics and vaccines upon acute trauma or infection, as well as relaxation rituals to decrease stress and improve mental health. Medical pluralism includes involving different wellness techniques to improve, maintain, and prevent overall well-being. In earlier times, medical pluralism was considered a war zone, and was seen as "other" or alternative medicines therapies that were trying to take over. Today, medical pluralism is seen as a positive thing as it can provide multiple solutions / treatments to something [94]
Diseases of Development 
The main causes of illness and death in developed countries are cancer and diseases of the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems. In the developing world, communicable diseases are the main problem, with deaths occurring primarily due to respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, infections at birth, diarrhoeal disease and tropical diseases such as malaria. Failure to use existing treatments effectively, inadequate or non-existent interventions, and insufficient knowledge of disease all contribute to damaged health.

Some Diseases that are Intensified Due to Globalization


  • Falciparum Malaria is a vector-borne infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites. It kills around one million people per year, mostly children. Even though initiative was taken to eradicate the disease after World War 2, it prevails in many parts of the world. In some areas, globalization is fostering an increase in malaria. In low-income countries, economic hardships have made it difficult to install strong mosquito control programs. Global warming may also extend the latitude and altitude of malaria because misquotes thrive in certain temperatures. An example of how malaria can be brought from one country to another on the other side of the world can be seen in a close friend of mine who traveled to Kenya a couple of years ago. He had all of the necessary vaccines to travel to Kenya, despite this, he still contracted malaria. Being from the U.S. he has the means to afford the medications necessary to control the disease and has not caused any form of an outbreak in the U.S. thanks to precautions taken by the U.S. to eradicate the disease. All of this is to show that it is still possible to contract the disease even if one is from a developed country. [95]

2.Chagas Disease

Chagas in Latin America (A:Endemic zones)
  • Land clearance in South America has spread the triatomine bugs to much of the continent. Due to economic adversity and social unrest, there has not been a great stride in establishing sufficient housing. As more virgin forests are deforested the more the disease is able to spread to people. There is however effective control programs that are fighting the disease. The disease is usually spread by insect through the sucking of blood but can also be spread from mother to fetus, blood transfusions, organ transplants and contaminated food.


  • Transmission occurs from the bite of a female sandfly. This disease is spread most rapidly when people live in a newly deforested area. In the 1980’s there was a huge housing crisis because the population of the Brazilian city of Amazonas doubled. The disease flourished because of the insects' high adaptability to human blood.

4.Lyme Disease

  • This ancient bacterial infection is returning to North America, Europe and temperate Asia resulting in a skin rash, swollen joints and flu-like symptoms. Some suspect that this is due to the reversion of farmland to woodland, which led to the increase of deer that possess ticks which carry Lyme disease. The deer’s predators were killed over a century ago in the deforestation and as a result, deer populations have increased. According to the CDC, some symptoms that will occur include headache, fatigue, fever, chills, and aching and the bite can result in a target or bulls-eye shape. In general, Lyme disease is treated with an oral antibiotic.


  • Uncontrolled urbanization and inadequate management of water and waste has led to increase of this disease. Cases have increased 20-fold since the 1950’s. Air travel has allowed the disease to create newer more deadly versions of itself, such as dengue hemorrhagic fever. It had been found that of the diseases commonly contracted by tourists, 8% are Dengue. Dengue often starts with a headache muscle and joint pains fever, and rash. The rash usually appears on the lower limbs and the chest and continues to spread over the body.

6. HIV

  • Possibly the greatest pandemic of our generation, HIV frequently leads to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which is responsible for over 2.1 million deaths, 330,000 of which were children. Three quarters of these deaths occurred in sub-Sahara Africa. Although greater global connectivity helped to spread this disease around the world, it is also helping to clean up its own mess. Globalization has allowed for the flow of information about safe sex practices and sterile drug practices to avoid further infections. By becoming one of the greatest killers of our time, AIDS has also brought awareness to most of the world and has recruited millions to fight against it.


7. Cholera

  • Found in sources such as water, or food, that have been tainted by feces, Cholera is a diarrheal disease that impacts millions. This disease generally occurs in environments that do not have adequate water treatment systems or lack sanitation. A person can contract this deadly disease by simply ingesting water or food that has been contaminated with the bacteria and it can spread extremely quickly. In many cases symptoms will not show, but the disease can reach its peak and kill a person in a matter of hours. Cholera is a disease that causes loss of bodily fluids in a short period of time, which can also lead to dehydration. To properly treat cholera, the most important thing is re-hydrating, or replacing the fluids and salts that were lost.

In October of 2010, there was a large Haitian Cholera outbreak that affected 93,000 and killed 2,100. This disease reached all 10 provinces in Haiti. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, cholera reached the Americas in 1991. Its track began in Peru and continued to spread throughout South and Central America. According to research done by Haitian and U.S. laboratories, the outbreak in Haiti is the seventh pandemic of cholera.

Mental Health and Culture-Bound Syndromes

Culture Bound Syndromes are those in which changes in behavior and experiences have substantial effects on peoples lives. These illnesses are not "sicknesses" but rather identified as syndromes. A syndrome is a group of symptoms when present together are characteristics of a specific disorder, disease, etc.[96] The patterns of the symptoms that characterize or indicate can be of a particular social condition like heavy pollution. Syndromes can be a culture bound syndrome like Anorexia Nervosa or they can be a biological syndromes like Down’s Syndrome. The word syndrome comes from the Greek meaning “run together”. Medical anthropology describes culture-bound syndrome as a combination of psychiatric and somatic symptoms that are considered to be an identifiable disease that is only discovered within a specific society or culture. There are no changes in the biochemical or structural of body organs or functions, and the disease is not recognized in other cultures. A substantial portion of mental disorders are at least partially if not completely conditioned by the culture in which they are found. Some disorders however are more culture-specific than others. The concept of culture-bound syndromes is a controversial subject to which many psychologists, medical doctors and anthropologists reject the concept.


Addiction is a serious mental health issue that is present in cultures world wide. Addiction is the condition of being mentally or physically reliant on single or multiple substances. Addiction is often sprouted from an early age. Factors that can effect an individual's likelihood of becoming a substance abuser can range from their upbringing and environment in their youth, to the people they chose to surround themselves with later on in life. Many substances are highly addictive upon first use such as heroin. Heroin has become one of the largest health concerns in many countries with alarming rates of growth. According to 90,000 people in the United States reported trying heroin for the first time in 2006, compared to the alarming 156,000 people who tried it just 6 years later in 2012. Addiction originates as a mental disorder through the cravings and desires an addict possesses, however it very soon turns into a physical health issue as well. Addiction to many different drugs including heroin almost always quickly deteriorates the addict's body and is very often fatal.

Addiction can also occur due to cultural factors such as being addicted to a certain activity or a certain hobby a great deal to the point that it interferes with other activities that are necessary in everyday life for wellbeing. (

Culture bound syndromes can include:


High-fructose corn syrup, found in most soda beverages, is public enemy number one in the war against obesity.

Obesity is a condition affecting more than 300 million people.([28]) Obesity is most common in first world countries and it affects millions of people. Obesity is a term used to describe a person who is overweight to the point that it becomes the cause of many other afflictions that could potentially threaten their life. A person is obese when their body mass index (BMI) exceeds 30 kg/m2([29])The World Health Organization (WHO) considers obesity to be one of the top 10 causes of preventable death worldwide. It is a Culture Bound Syndrome that exists almost entirely in the richest countries in the world. Overweight individuals in developing countries are considered attractive and desirable due to connotations such as excess wealth, the ability to live lavishly and abundantly, etc. Interestingly, this is the opposite to viewof body weight in developed countries, where thinness implies beauty, wealth, and good health. One who is wealthy can eat a balanced and healthy (and often more expensive) diet and has the luxury, time and money to exercise in either a gym or with the help of a personal trainer.

Ataque de Nervios

Commonly found in Hispanics, Ataque de Nervios is a type of "out-of-consciousness" state said to be caused by evil spirits. Symptoms may include but are not limited to attacks of crying, trembling, uncontrollable shouting, physical or verbal aggression, and intense heat in the chest moving to the head. These attacks are often associated with stressful events (e.g., death of a loved one, divorce or separation, or witnessing an accident including a family member).

Mal de Ojo

Medical problems, such as vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and mental problems (e.g., anxiety, depression) could result from the mal de Ojo (evil eye) that an individual has experienced from another person. Mal de Ojo is initiated when a person of higher strength gazes upon the weaker counterpart out of envy or admiration [30]. The condition is common among infants and children; adults might also experience similar symptoms resulting from this mal de Ojo. There are many different ways in curing mal de Ojo. In Latin America the most common way is to have the parent rub an egg on the child while saying a prayer over the child then put the egg in a bowl and put it under the child's pillow. In the morning if the bowl has this white fog then you can tell the child was affected by the mal de Ojo. This process also cures it. [31]

Eating Disorders

Pop icons suffering from Anorexia have raised popular awareness to this disease.

Eating disorders are defined as any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. The most common eating disorder is anorexia nervosa.

  • Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a eating disorder and is commonly shortened to anorexia. Anorexia Nervosa is a psychiatric illness which is specifically defined as the "obsessive fear of gaining weight". This fear causes the individual to avoid food consumption. This disorder most commonly affects young, teenage girls, but males account for 10% of the reported cases. Bulimia Nervosa is a similar culture-bound syndrome to Anorexia Nervosa in which purging is the method of losing weight. Many times people who have these eating disorders though do not have one strict eating disorder. It tends to be a combination of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. For example, a person may restrict themselves to not eating, but if they do they may go and work out excessively and then binge eat after [32] In some cases however, these eating disorders are developed as a coping mechanism for problems other than the common fear of weight gain. Providing its victims with a sense of control, anorexia and bulimia can help ease the mind even if the goal is to find stability in areas other than weight loss.

The process used to initially lose and prevent weight gain is voluntary starvation, but other methods such as purging, excessive exercise and the use of dietary pills are used also to control body image. One of the proposed reasons for the cause of this disease is the effect of images portrayed by the media on young women and men, demanding a necessity to be slim, because that is the only socially acceptable way to look

Symptoms include: -Loss of at least 3 regular menstrual periods (in women).

-Refusing, avoiding, or not wanting to eat in public



-Brittle skin

-Shortness of breath

-Obsessiveness about calorie intake

-muscle loss/degeneration

-Additionally, anorexic people have a tendency to create a distorted, negative view of themselves "Anorexia". Mama's Health. Retrieved 2009-03-10.  </ref> [33]

  • Body Image and Fitness

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa are often caused by body image issues. Every culture around the world has varying ideas of what the “ideal body” should look like. These standards are especially high in the in United States. With an increasingly high exposure to social media, fashion magazines and beauty advertisements, adolescents in the US (especially young women) are feeling an increased pressure to obtain these “perfect bodies.” In recent years there have been cases of some people going to the extremes to be “perfect,” which are more often than not unhealthy and potentially life threatening. For example eating disorders such as Anorexia nervosa or Bulimia nervosa. Others are spending hundreds of dollars to pay doctors to essentially cut or suction the unwanted fat from their bodies. Procedures like [[w:Liposuction|Liposuction] or other forms of plastic/cosmetic surgery are increasingly popular as they are often considered to be the quickest and easiest—though very costly—form of body transformation.

A healthy alternative that people are turning to now is personal fitness. Instead of getting exercise by playing sports or cutting fat by going under the knife, weight training and conditioning are becoming more and more popular. Many people are either hiring a personal trainer to coach them along the way of their fitness transformation, and others are taking it into their own hands and planning their own workouts. With this rising awareness of how important being healthy is, the “ideal body” standards are also developing accordingly. 90’s magazines often displayed models who are thin and have little muscle development (Heroin-Chic), however now it is more likely to see models who portray themselves as strong and in shape.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID, is an eating disorder that was recently made independent from EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) when the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) was released in 2013. Originally, there was a disorder labeled as "Feeding Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood" which listed similar diagnoses, but this was removed in the DSM-V, as it was decided that ARFID was a disorder that also occurred in adults.

The disorder itself can be described similarly to a phobic fear, and usually stems from anxiety around new and unfamiliar foods, rather than with body image and self-esteem issues that are associated with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

To be diagnosed with ARFID, the DSM-V gives these criteria:

  • Disturbance in eating or feeding, as evidenced by one or more of:
  • Substantial weight loss (or, in children, absence of expected weight gain)
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Dependence on a feeding tube or dietary supplements
  • Significant psychosocial interference
  • Disturbance not due to unavailability of food, or to observation of cultural norms
  • Disturbance not due to anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and no evidence of disturbance in experience of body shape or weight
  • Disturbance not better explained by another medical condition or mental disorder, or when occurring concurrently with another condition, the disturbance exceeds what is normally caused by that condition

A person with ARFID acts similarly to a child who is a "picky eater." They typically have a small number of "safe foods" that they eat normally and do not have any trouble with for the most part, but most new or unfamiliar foods outside of their safe ones cause seemingly irrational and extreme (sometimes phobic-level) fear and anxiety, often leading to a full-on anxiety/panic attack or breakdown. This may be caused by a food's appearance, smell, texture, or any other number of reasons.

Many teenagers and adults with ARFID have gone and continue to go undiagnosed and untreated for most of their lives, due to the disorder only being classified in recent years. It can also be assumed that the majority of people who have ARFID are completely unaware that their strange eating problems are likely a legitimate disorder, and not just "picky eating" that they never grew out of in childhood. ARFID can get in the way of not only a person's health, but also their social life: people with ARFID may tend to avoid social gatherings involving food, holidays that involve eating may become more anxiety-inducing than enjoyable, etc.

While there has not been much research done on the treatment of ARFID, many people choose Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or hypnotism as ways to work towards a normal food palette and healthy diet.


Malaysian sudden mood change/aggression.

Amok is the psychological disorder where males who typically have never acted out before experience a sudden mood change and become violent and angry. Deep shame experienced by the male often seems to be the cause of the sudden mood changes, cause by situations and feelings such as jealousy or gambling losses. People suffering from a mood change will often attempt to hurt or kill anyone they run into. Often, people who have these mood shifts will end up being killed by a bystander out of self-defense or other reasons, or the person suffering from Amok will commit suicide. The word was derived from the Malay, Indonesian and Filipino word "amuk" which means "mad with rage." The term has been changed into slang in the United States and the phrase Running Amok is used to describe someone who is acting crazy or can't control themselves.

Dhat Syndrome

The patient is preoccupied with the excessive loss of semen by nocturnal emissions. There is a fear that semen is being lost and mixed in urine. In the Hindu culture and religion, it is believed that "40 meals create one drop of blood, 40 drops of blood create one drop of bone marrow and 40 drops of marrow create one drop of semen." It is thought in the Hindu culture in India, although not isolated there, that the loss of semen can deteriorate your health and create health problems. Symptoms of Dhat Symdrome are depression, preoccupation, trouble sleeping, inability to perform sexually, exhaustion and headaches, and others. In order to treat these symptoms of depression and anxiety, counseling or anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications have been found to be of use. [97]

Genital Retraction Syndrome (Koro)

Retraction into body. (Malay Koro, Sudan melting penis/cell phone phenomenon)

Genital Retraction syndrome is a culture-bound syndrome occurring mostly in African and Asian men. This syndrome causes the men to think that their penis is going to shrivel into their stomach and that they will die. In South East Asia this syndrome has become known as “Koro”, which means “head of the turtle”. It can also be referred to as penis panic. In this case a large group of men can become panicked about their genitalia disappearing. Often these fears come about in cultures where witchcraft is used, or where biological education isn’t available. In 1997 lynch mobs in Ghana attacked foreigners they accused of being sorcerers capable of shrinking men’s penises.


Latah is a culture-bound syndrome that exist in Malaysian and Indonesian cultures. People showing signs of this syndrome respond to minimal stimuli with exaggerated startles. Sometimes, after becoming started, people suffering from this syndrome will obey the commands or imitate the actions of the people around them. Most occurrences of Latah are intentionally provoked to act as entertainment for those surrounding. Latah is very closely tied to specific factors in the cultural systems of the Southeast Asian societies in which it is found. The Latah syndrome exemplifies the very dynamic and complex ways in which neurophysiological, experiential, and cultural variables coincide with each other to produce a strongly marked phenomenon in these cultures. It is most widely known as a hyperstartling condition which mainly occurs in Malayan cultures. Latah is also the name for those who have the condition, which consists mainly of adult women. During episodes of this behavior, Latah's are usually not held responsible for their actions. It is also closely related to another condition called Hyperexplexia. (SE Asia women, obey, not responsible for acts)


Two Inuit women and child. Origin: Taken by Angsar Walk [

Piblokto, pronounced (pee-block-toh) and loosely translated from Inuit to English means "running crazy" is a hysterical/dissociative state. It occurs mostly in the winter season and typically shown in Inuit or Eskimo women and is characterized by short attacks of disturbed behavior that are not remembered by the individual afterward.

The symptoms can include running naked through the snow, an insensitivity to extreme cold, coprophagia (the consumption of feces), echolalia (the repetition of words), depression, screaming, crying, and violence towards other people and animals. Piblokto is most often seen in women of the Inuit tribe. These people inhabit the areas of northern Canada,Greenland, the coastal regions of Alaska and north eastern Asia/Russia. They are able to inhabit very harsh conditions and tolerate the snow and ice of the Arctic tundra for most of the year. There has never been a recorded case of Piblotko in children, although women in tribal groups have been recorded as having as many as 5 attacks of hysteria a day. The Inuit people's diet mainly consists wild game, whale and seal meat. A diet high in protein, selenium, and fats may help these people escape the risks of cancer but not the biological/psychological malady of Piblokto. Although commonly thought of as a psychological ailment, Piblotko may be linked to vitamin A toxicity, or hypervitaminosis A. Vitamin A toxicity is caused by an overconsumption of pre-formed Vitamin A, which is the result of high amounts of vitamin A in the diet at one time. This can lead to altered mental state, confusion, headache,and irritability, as well as many symptoms that are common to Piblotko. Piblotko has also been recorded in Inuit dogs and while these dogs are not considered infectious, they are shot when symptoms first occur and then eaten by the tribe. SAD- seasonal affective disease; loosely linked to this syndrome, as the weather and light are factors that play straight into symptoms like depression. [34]


Susto is a Folk Illness that is most commonly found in Latin America. The term "susto" comes from the Portuguese and Spanish word for fright. In this way, the illness is called “fright sickness”. It is also referred to as "spirit attacks," most common among Native Americans. The disease is usually generated from a traumatic experience like the death of a loved one, an accident, or anything else that might cause physiological pain. It is most common in women but can also be found in men and children. The illness in not recognized by Western Traditional Medicine, but is commonly compared to anxiety disorders.

Symptoms of susto can be nervousness, anorexia, insomnia, listlessness, despondency, involuntary muscle tics, and diarrhea. Treatments for this illness are mostly natural and herbal, such as consuming marijuana teas, Brazil wood, and orange blossom. The most effective treatments are done by what is called a healer and can include different sort of rituals. The closer these rituals are practiced to when the traumatic experience occurred, the better. It is also very important to recognize the event and not suppress it.

Susto is often compared to other biomedical illnesses. In 2002 studies about susto were conducted in; Latin communities, the United States, Mexico and Guatemala. First they defined susto in the different communities. Although the definition differed from region to region, the main idea was that susto was an illness caused by fright, and not necessarily loss of soul. It was seen as a serious illness that could even lead to death. But to better understand this folk illness, in biomedical culture and culture I am familiar with in United states, susto is best related to depressive disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, and somatoform disorders.[35]


Opsophagos was an ancient Greek label given to anyone who had an extreme and irrepressible desire for eating fish.

The term is a definition one’s character, not literally their general palate for fish. Charging someone with the term is directed in a very negative manner- it parallels being indicted with having over-indulgent behavior, a taboo in Greek society. Opsophagos is synonymous with words like unsophisticated and barbaric- words opposite of rationality. The fish is simply a symbol for overindulgence.

Greek tall tales describe an opsophagos as a gluttonous and greedy man who would consume all prepared fish, sharing none with anyone. The painted image of an opsophagos was the opposite of an ideal human- a man with a heat-resistant throat to handle fish too hot for anyone else to eat, thus keeping the fish for only themselves.

Opposite of America’s Judeo-Christian tradition, Greek thought and morality is more flexible than the orthodox, black and white view of simple rights or wrongs. For example, instead of ruling out women or wine, Greeks believe in “nothing in excess”-enjoy life’s pleasure but under control. This is contrary to the American idea of suppressing vices and how negative habits should be cut out completely “cold turkey”.

Ghost Sickness

A Dust Devil is an example of a manifestation of Ghost Sickness

Ghost Sickness originates from the Navajo Nation and is believed to be a psychotic disorder associated with death. Common symptoms include fatigue, recurring nightmares, hallucinations, and a constant feeling of terror. The people of the Navajo Nation believe that a Chindi causes Ghost Sickness. A Chindi is the ghost of the Navajo Tribe and many believe that this ghost is released during a person’s dying breath, and it is also believed to nearly always be an evil force. A common manifestation of a Chindi is believed to be a Dust Devil, and the direction they spin signifies whether it is a ‘good’ Chindi or a ‘bad’ one; a clockwise spin is considered good – a counter-clockwise is considered bad. Other Native American tribes have modified beliefs of Ghost Sickness and have attempted to prevent or avoid passing it on. For example, the Lakota Tribe attempted a ban on mourning rituals in order to avoid the illness in the 1800's, but many still practice modified rituals.


Windigo (or Witiko) A culturally bound syndrome found among the Algonkian Indians, NE United States and Eastern Canada. Windigo is the famous syndrome of obsessive cannibalism or the consumption of another’s flesh. Windigo has fallen under skeptical eyes and to many is now somewhat discredited. A modern medical diagnosis of this condition would probably label it as paranoia, due to the irrational perceptions of being persecuted for suffering from Windingo. Fear of prosecution is prevalent among victims of Windingo because of the cultural universal that eating humans is wrong. Windigo was supposed to have been brought about by consuming human flesh in desperate circumstances such as famines. Afterwards, the individual who consumed flesh was supposed to be haunted by cravings for human flesh and thoughts of killing and eating humans. In other words, Windigo is the unwanted transformation into a cannibal.

In the Great Lakes of Canada and the United States where climate was harsh, Windingo would develop among families who, isolated in their homes due to heavy snow storms, had inadequate food and supplies. Symptoms of Windigo include vomiting and lack of appetite. The individual would then begin to develop delusions of him or herself believing they are becoming a Windigo Monster. People suffering from Windigo psychosis claim to see others as edible, which only increases with time. As the individual becomes aware of the transformation they begin to deeply fear becoming a cannibal. Victims of Windigo psychosis often experience severe panic and anxiety. Suicide is common in order to prevent themselves from becoming Windigo monsters. [98]


Zar[99] is experienced in Ethiopia, Somalia, Egypt, Sudan, Iran, and other places in the Middle East and North Africa. The feeling you get when you have zar is spirit possession. Some symptoms that could occur are dissociative episodes with shouting, laughing, singing, weeping, or hitting the head against some sort of surface. Individuals may refuse to do simple tasks such as eat or go about their tasks in daily life. They also may show withdrawal and apathy. In some cases the person might develop a long-term relationship with the possessing spirit, but this is the rarest symptom. Zar can also be used as part of the training and practice of shamanistic healers. [100] This is usually practiced in Africa and is unfamiliar in Europe. Since this is a trance that is induced voluntarily as part of a shamanistic ritual, it is not considered a disorder.

Zar was experienced in many cases when immigrants would move from Ethiopia to Israel. This is when zar was known to happen the most. Zar as a voluntarily induced spirit would occur the most in Northern African countries. One of the most common possession phenomena in Africa and in other continents is the belief in possession by spirits, known as zar.


  1. Katie Monicatti
  4. corey colbo
  5. The American Herbalist Guild.
  7. McKenzie Chambers, personal experience from studying psychology at Western Washington University
  8. Breen, Coco: Ecuador
  9. Cultural Anthropology, A perspective of the Human condition
  11. Lars Bäckman, Psychology at the Turn of the Millennium.,M1
  12. ^ American Physical Therapy Association Section on Clinical Electrophysiology and Wound Management. "Curriculum Content Guidelines for Electrophysiologic Evaluation" (PDF). Educational Guidelines. American Physical Therapy Association. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  14. (Peyote Legal Status by Erowid, March 27, 2009)
  15. Laine, Miranda personal experience from watching the documentary "Super High Me"
  17. "A Worldwide Fight Against Biopiracy and Patents on Life". Third World Network. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  18. a b "India wins landmark patent battle" (in en). BBC (BBC). 9 March, 2005. Retrieved 2009-10-02. 
  20. Carol R. Ember; Melvin Ember. "Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology". 
  23. . ref:
  24. ref: href="">Source: How Do Immunizations Work?</a>
  28. Backgrounder, International Food Information Council Foundation.
  29. Backgrounder, International Food Information Council Foundation.
  30. Mal de Ojo.
  32. Alexis Gradwohl, Skyline High School, Developmental Sciences Teacher, 2009
  33. "Anorexia Causes". Significant Health. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  35. Loue, Sana, Martha Sajatovic, and Jeffrey L. Longhofer. Diversity Issues in the Diagnosis, Treatment, and Research of Mood Disorders. illustrated. United States: Oxford University Press , 2007.

Ali, Al-Wabel, Shams, Ahamad, Khan, & Anwar. (2015). Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 5(8), 601-611.




^ Fock, Niels (1963). Waiwai. Religion and society of an Amazonian tribe. Nationalmuseets skrifter, Etnografisk Række (Ethnographical series), VIII. Copenhagen: The National Museum of Denmark.

^ Altshul, Sara. "Incontinence: Finally, Relief That Works." Prevention December 2005: 33. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. 30 January 2006




<span class="citation wikicite" id="endnote_"Re-defining Health." World Health Organization. 8 Mar. 2009 <>.">^


"Diagnostic crossover in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: implications for DSM-V.." Am J Psychiatry February 2008 9 Mar 2009 <;jsessionid=02EF3791A6C560EFD57A1211CF77FB0D?newSearch=1&queryTextanorexia>.

1. 2.note|Hahn, Robert. Sickness and Healing. Yale University Press, 1996.

"Female Genital Mutilation: A Call to Action",Troubia N: New York, New York, Women, Ink, 1993. 48 p.

  1. ^ True, William R. 1984. Prospective on Postdoctoral Public Health Training for Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 15(4): 95 – 96.
  2. ^ Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, and Margaret Lock. 1986. Speaking “Truth” to Illness: Metaphors, Reification, and a Pedagogy for Patients. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 17(5):147-40.
  3. ^ Rubel, Arthur. 1964. The Epidemiology of Folk Illness. Ethnology 3:268 – 83.
  4. ^ Sargent, Carolyn, and Thomas Johnson. Handbook of Medical Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Method Revised Edition. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Human Rights

Human Rights

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an American icon of the African American Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

The term "human rights" is defined as the "basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled to inside of a system". Human rights are distinguished from general American rights or human privileges in that they are "guaranteed by international standards, legally protected, focus on the dignity of the human being, oblige states and state actors, cannot be waived or taken away, [and are] interdependent, interrelated, and universal."[1]

Across history, through many cultures of the world, human rights have varied significantly. With triumphs and setbacks ranging from the American Civil Rights movement to the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge. One of the first notable civil rights leaders was Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who became India’s first law Administrator in 1833. Playing an intrical role in the formation of India’s Constitution, he campaigned against the discrimination of the Dalits class (untouchables), and for more woman’s labor rights. In America, we see notable Civil Rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who lead the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's or Susan B Anthony, leading the American Equal rights Association campaigning for equal rights for women and other minority groups. These famous leaders only scratch the surface of the history of thousands of leaders and activists fighting the never ending battle of inequality. However, cultures bias, whether it be racial, socioeconomic or gender based, has always halted the many social groups of the world from achieving equal human rights. It is in observing these former leaders' triumphs and cultures' failures that it is possible to understand the movement of social progress throughout the globe. [2]


Although human rights sound good, not all rights are considered to be cultural universals. Cultural universals are patterns or traits that are common to all of humanity regardless of their background. The idea of what basic human rights entail for one cultural may differ because not everyone has the same definition of basic human rights.

Prior to the 20th century, there were no international written documents that would declare that all people have rights, simply based on their status as human.

Eleanor Roosevelt holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Before the formation of the United Nations, many different countries had documents outlining the rights of its citizens, such as; the US Constitution, the English Bill of Rights, and many others. A major problem arises when one realizes that these documents do not assure rights for all people, often omitting women, people of color, and/or people of a certain religion or social class. The League of Nations attempted to create protections for minority groups, but the League ultimately failed, and so these protections never came to pass.[3] After the events of World War II, many countries became committed to the idea of universal human rights. Franklin Delano Roosevelt called for four essential freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines that all people are born free and equal, and that they have certain rights including the right to life and security, the right to not be enslaved or tortured, and the right to be recognized as a person before the law, among others. This declaration by the UN, supports that all people have rights, no matter their race, gender, religion, or social status. Some of these rights guaranteed by the UDHR come into conflict with the traditions of some cultures, and has been the cause of certain conflicts (rights of a culture vs. right of the individual) and many if the articles in the document are vague, and leave room for interpretation, but it is this document that declares that there are some rights that are inherent in all people. Individual counties have created additional documents that further dedicate themselves to the ideals of the UDHR while also granting their citizens additional rights.[4] However, some question and fight these rights since they were written with only western society in mind. They do not take into account how other cultures may see rights or what needs other cultures prioritize.

Civil and Political Rights

Parties and signatories to the ICCPR

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document representing the foundation of established human rights laws. The document, a set of civil principles, was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. This document was written in response to the travesties of WWII and the Holocaust as an agreement between the UN Nations to hold higher standards of human rights. This document was a commitment by countries to abide by certain humane regulations regarding political, social, economic, and cultural rights of humans inside of a system.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR) is a United Nations treaty based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created in 1966 and entered into force on 23 March 1976.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is monitored by the Human Rights Committee (a separate body to the Human Rights Council which replaced the Commission on Human Rights under the UN Charter in 2006) with permanent standing, to consider periodic reports submitted by member States on their compliance with the treaty. Members of the Human Rights Committee are elected by member states, but do not represent any State. The Covenant contains two Optional Protocols. The first optional protocol creates an individual complaints mechanism whereby individuals in member States can submit complaints, known as communications, to be reviewed by the Human Rights Committee. Its rulings under the first optional protocol have created the most complex jurisprudence in the UN international human rights law system. The second optional protocol abolishes the death penalty; however, countries were permitted to make a reservation allowing for use of death penalty for the most serious crimes of a military nature, committed during wartime[5].

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

States parties and signatories to the ICESCR

     states parties      non-state parties signatories      non-state parties non-signatories

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and in force from January 3, 1976. It commits its parties to granting economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) to individuals; including labor rights, rights to health, education, and an adequate standard of living. As of December 2008, the Covenant had 159 parties.[6] A further seven countries have signed, but have yet to ratify the Covenant.

The United Nation's many attempts to create peace in Northern Uganda example of the ICESCR's efforts to advance human rights. As discussed in Sverker Finnstrom's article in American Ethnologist, The Acholi peoples of Uganda, whose rights have been at stake for over two decades, have continued to make steps toward a more stable economy despite having been largely displaced into refuge camps . The UN in its attempt to regain this cultures natural human rights programs are working to put the rebel forces out .[7]

The ICESCR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including the latter's first and second Optional Protocols. [8]

Labor Rights

As more nations participate in global trade, labor rights issues continue to arise. In the interest of globalization, companies continue to move their production to underdeveloped countries with less regulation and cheaper labor. Exploitation of laborers can include long hours, unsafe working conditions, lack of sick leave, vacation, or compensation. This all renders the chances of upward mobility non-existent. Manufacturing industries of apparel and agriculture are some of the industries with the worst of these problems. (Cite)

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is a UN agency founded in the early 20th century. It is dedicated to tackling international labor issues and is composed of 187 member states of the UN. The organization received the 1969 Noble Peace Prize.[9]

The ILO defines decent working conditions as[10]:

  • Need for daily, weekly and perhaps annual limits on working hours
  • Importance of keeping overtime acceptable, limiting the number of additional hours and providing compensation
  • Right to regular and uninterrupted weekly rest
  • Right to paid annual leave
  • Need to keep night-time work acceptable and warranting special protection
  • Importance of enterprises’ needs in respect of flexible working-time arrangements
  • Right to collective bargaining and the full and genuine consultation of employers’ and workers’ representatives on working time regulation
  • Need for an effective labor inspection system or other enforcement measures to prevent and punish abusive practices

Apparel Industry

Violations of worker’s rights in the apparel industry typically manifest in developing nations, where labor regulation is not enforced or hasn’t caught up with the developed world. The popular term “sweatshop”, is used to label factories/workplaces that routinely exploit and under-provide for the employees. Because of the higher profit margins to be made with production in developing countries, labor is moved abroad, and fiercely competed for. This effectively causes what is known as “race to the bottom” practices. Though awareness of these practices has become more publicized, the demand for inexpensive goods has only risen with time.[11]

Abortion Rights in the United States

Abortions were originally illegal during the mid to late 1800's and didn't become legal until the late 1960's and early 1970's due to states repealing the laws. It wasn't until cases like Roe versus Wade in 1973, in which 21-year-old Jane Roe argued that the Texas law, stating that abortions are restricted unless the mother is in danger, should not be upheld and that the decision should be a personal one. It was decided that the decision whether or not to have a baby falls under the category of an American's right to privacy. From this Supreme Court ruling, the public reacted with a plethora of emotions, but the two most commonly known ways are described as pro life and pro choice.

Reproductive Rights

Reproductive rights were first established as a subset of human rights at the United Nation's 1968 International Conference on Human Rights.[3] The sixteenth article of the resulting Proclamation of Teheran states, "Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and the spacing of their children."[5][6] Reproduction rights revolve around the decision of an individual to reproduce and maintain reproductive health. This includes the right to plan a family, terminate a pregnancy, use contraceptives, receive sex education in public schools, and gain access to reproductive health services [[101]]. As reproduction rights are more clearly defined later in this section, the main question to be asked is: to what extent should women have control, or rights, over their reproductive systems?

Pro- life and Pro-choice

Most people when asked whether they are pro-life or pro-choice supporters could give an answer that's a mixture of both because the topic itself is very complex. If someone considers themselves to be pro-life, that does not automatically mean that they are anti-choice (and vice versa). Pro-life is usually categorized as not being in favor of abortions and for some it goes as far as to wanting abortions to be illegal in the United states again. The main reason behind this is that babies in the womb are still considered to be humans, and it is illegal to kill another human being. However many pro-choice supporters counter this and would argue that if a woman does not have the financial stability, healthcare, support, etc. ,then it is her right to a healthy and safe abortion. Overall, this topic is still an issue that the United States is facing today and perhaps one way to solving it is properly educating the public on reproduction, sex, and biology.

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act On 16 November 1990, a United States federal law passed that requires federal agencies and institutions to return Native American human remains and cultural items to their respective peoples. Some of these cultural artifacts include funeral objects, religious objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. These federal agencies and institutions receive funding in order to do this. In this way, people are entitled to their culture both during life and after death. However, when it is unclear as to who the remain belong to, NAGPRA made a outline of decent for who should gain ownership of the remains.

NAGPRA and Ownership

  1. Ownership resides with any lineal descendants
  2. If no lineal descendants, ownership resides with (in order) :
    1. The tribe on whose land the remains or objects were found or
    2. The tribe who has closest cultural affiliation with the remains and who stakes a claim or if undetermined
    3. The tribe who is recognized as ab-originally occupying land that was determined to be traditionally theirs by the Indian Claims Commission, unless
    4. Preponderance of the evidence shows that another tribe has a stronger cultural affiliation that the tribe id’ed by the ICC

Rights versus Culture, Rights to Culture

Rights to Culture ensure that an individual, or a group of individuals, all have the rights to participate in, and enjoy their culture. This includes aspects such as the right to take part in cultural life, a guarantee of cultural conservation but still development, and protection from harmful cultural practices.

In discussing rights and culture there are two assumptions that people often make: •Cultures are unchanging. •In a given society there is only one acceptable culture that everyone must abide by.

These assumptions may cause problems within a group of people in multiple ways. When new rights are accepted in a culture that is normally unchanging, that new right may create conflict within the culture due to many of the varying viewpoints within the group. For example the issue of unveiling Muslim women so that they would no longer be oppressed. While Westerners are using the etic point of view without understanding fully what the veil means to the Muslim women as part of their culture and their religion. This is where rights and culture may not agree. Culture and human rights sometimes disagree, and new human rights may contradict accepted norms within a culture.

Human Rights and Cultural Relevance


Cultural anthropologists study the world around them in order to better understand the differences of all various cultures. Even with human rights clearly defined in a universal list of 30 articles; there still can be unclear cultural practices that question these articles by law and by morality of some. Today many organizations have been formed to protect and fight for the rights of all man-kind. The list includes:

Amnesty International: The oldest, largest human rights group focused on individual, local human rights activism. Because AI stays strictly out of politics and avoids getting involved in issues outside its rather narrow mandate (area of concern), people from all sorts of political and religious backgrounds are members and work together.

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Founded to promote and extend the concept of civil liberties to on-line communications. While the EFF is a U.S.-based group whose main focus is on U.S. law, it has a number of "sister organizations" in other countries.

Human Rights Watch: Founded in 1978 as Helsinki Watch, is a coalition formed by a number of independent regional human groups. They are perhaps the best human rights researchers in the field at present -- their reports are extremely thorough, carefully written, and backed by impressive amounts of detail and numerous sources. They are a non-profit organization that defends the rights of people world-wide by staying neutral in political situations and by publishing over 100 detailed reports in 90 countries on human rights conditions. They also meet with government leaders and groups like the United Nations and the African Union along with financial institutions and corporations to attempt to press change upon nations struggling in human rights.[12]

Peacenet: Not a human rights group itself, but rather the first and largest computer network for activists in peace, human rights, and related issues. Peacenet is run by the Institute for Global Communications (IGC), an activity of the Tides Foundation, a San Francisco-based non-profit trust. It is a member of the Association for Progressive Communications, an international coalition of networks for peace and human rights activists. This is a good group for the hard core, on-line activists.[13]

Women’s Rights in America

This satirical 1869 cartoon is an example of the propaganda used in the Womens' Rights Movement.

Today woman hold the right to vote, birth control, formal education, own land, divorce, etc. This was not true for much of America's history. The woman’s rights movement in the United States began in 1848 with Elizabeth Cady Stanton's draft of The Declaration of Sentiments, which drew attention to the oppression of woman in the US.[14] At the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the 15th amendment was passed giving African Americans the right to vote, and marking the date when women found themselves the last social group in the United States not allowed to vote.[15] Around 1914, most women's activists were focused on the right to vote. In New York City, women's movements “revived flagging local organizations, introduced new lobbying techniques, standardized membership lists, and established a state headquarters”. [16] People all over were rallying and protesting for the woman's right to vote, which was rectified on August 18, 1920, 144 years after the US was founded, with the addition of the 19th amendment to the Constitution.[17]

Labor, Land, and Women’s Rights in Africa


Recent developments illustrate an increasing awareness of the status of women’s rights in Africa and social well-being of women is contingent on rights to equality, health, education, and political participation in economic, electoral, and customary institutions. Legal instruments of the African system largely ignored women’s rights until recent years. The 1963 Charter of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) made no mention of women. African nations designed the region’s primary human rights document—the African Charter—in 1981 to protect state sovereignty. The African Charter references women only twice: Article 2 includes sex in a broad non-discrimination clause and Article 18(3) requires states to eliminate every discrimination against women. The definition of employment at the most general level an activity for which one receives payment needs some elaboration in the African context.


Employment for women in Africa is characterized by subsistence and small-scale farming, and their participation in informal trade is connected to agriculture, as opposed to what might be normally understood as paid labor. This “unpaid” work is typically tied to women’s duties as mothers and wives, and to their community. African women’s agricultural labor, including subsistence and small-scale farming, will be referred to as “informal” labor and is distinguished from formal or salaried/contractual work. It is in this “informal” labor context that African human rights could usefully qualify and add to the existing international obligations of African states by framing labor rights in terms of salaried employment. Yet the Protocol adheres to a definition of labor that differentiates between employment and agricultural work. The rights related to employment focus on equal pay and freedom from harassment- however the consequences regarding women are not clearly instated. In this regard, the Protocol is limited in its ability to address the obstacles that women face in developing and owning land and the impact of these obstacles on women’s ability to sustain a living wage. Before analyzing the provisions regarding labor and employment in the Protocol more carefully, it is useful to explore the context in which many African women perform their labor. Although specific employment patterns diverge across Africa, regional patterns seem to exist: 80% of African women do agricultural work, which is the mainstay of most East African economies, and few women perform salaried professional and clerical work. Sub-Saharan African countries, like Kenya, reflect similar employment patterns: women are largely excluded from formal, paid employment and they constitute almost half of the agricultural workforce and 70% to 80% of all subsistence farmers. The chief reasons cited for women’s exclusion from the formal sector are lack of education, poor mobility, restrictions on reproductive choice, and workplace discrimination.


Female Genital Cutting: two sides

There are approximately 85-114 million women with altered genitalia, and millions more face the practice each year. Mostly practiced in Africa, female genital cutting(FCG) has many different levels of severity, with three main varieties of the procedure. The first is Sunna (meaning “tradition" in Arabic) circumcision which involves the removal of the prepuce, or retractable fold of skin, or hood, and/or the tip of the clitoris. The second type is a clitoridectomy, which consists of the removal of the entire clitoris (prepuce and glands) and the removal of the adjacent labia. Lastly is infibulation, or pharonic circumcision. Infibulation involves a clitoridectomy followed by the remaining tissue being stitched closed, leaving a small hole to allow for urine and menstrual blood to flow through. Most cases of female genital cutting occurs between the ages of four and eight and the use of anesthesia is rare. FGC is practiced in order for the women of their culture to be accepted; for many, it is considered a right of passage to womanhood.

The view on female genital cutting is a prime example of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is a principle that someone should withhold judgement on another culture's beliefs or practices that differ from their own. That being said, female genital cutting would require cultural relativism from a western prospective, because a lot of times it is viewed as inhumane and a violation of human rights. However, from the prospective of a member of a village in Africa that does practice female genital cutting (such as Senegal), this may be a social normalcy compared to male circumcision in the United States.

An international campaign to eliminate female genital cutting has been active since the early 90's, actively attempting to divorce itself from a health framework, adopting instead a human rights framework to justify the intervention.[18] In Western culture genital cutting is not accepted. But with the numbers of circumcised women in the millions, there is a strong conviction for many cultures to maintain the act. Different cultural factors affect the beliefs all over the world about whether the act of genital cutting is an appropriate action. The negative effects of female genital cutting begin with severe pain, and can soon lead to infections and in extreme cases, death. The removal of the clitoris and outer parts of the vulva make sex unpleasurable and often times painful. Long term effects include even more painful menstruation, cysts, infections, complications during childbirth, higher risk for newborn death and severe emotional and psychological issues. Western culture considers FGC a taboo, and a negative one at that. Cultures that do practice FGC are mostly extremely patriarchal and use the procedure as another means of oppression for women. FGC has been fought against for years, and with the lack of resources available to advocates against it, will continue to be a hot issue.Rathus, Spencer. "A World of Diversity Female GenitalMutilation." Human Sexuality In A World of Diversity. 9th ed. N.p.: Pearson, n.d. 60-61. Print. For more information on genital cutting see Female Genital Cutting.

Male Circumcision

Male circumcision is a surgery that removes the foreskin from the tip of the penis, and is most commonly performed on infants or children for religious or social purposes. Some claim a hygienic basis to the procedure, although others argue that circumcision can have lasting negative effects. Some research has suggested there may be an effect on penile sensitivity[19], although this remains a contentious point of debate in medical circles. [20] [21]

In the late 1800s male circumcision was popularized in the English-speaking world by such figures as Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who considered masturbation as extremely unhealthy. He thought that circumcising young boys would curb their interest in self pleasure and advocated for not using any sort of anesthetic, believing the unrelieved pain would end their “self abuse.” During this time, a wide variety of other claims were propagated.[22]

Male circumcision varies in a number of ways from from female circumcision. The biggest difference between the two is the amount of tissue being removed. In male circumcision, the foreskin is removed but never any tissue from the penile shaft. However when a female is circumcised, often times the clitoris and labia are removed which may lead to many life-threatening issues later in life. The healing period is also very different between male and female circumcision. Male circumcision can take a few days to a week in newborns and up to 2 months in adults to heal. Women face a longer healing period, lasting months. In some cases, the woman's mutilated vagina will not heal in her lifetime.[23]

Although male circumcision is widely accepted, ethical questions have been raised about the practice: can a baby consent to circumcision, and should the child have a say in what happens to their own bodies? Like with female circumcision, the parents typically decide whether their child will be circumcised.


Entitlements are the socially defined rights to life sustaining resources. This means access to basic human rights and social freedoms. These include actions such as the right to strike, the right to a minimum set of (daily, weekly and yearly) work hours, the age of retirement, to create unions, associations and cooperatives and etc. There is a clear correlation between the level of social and economic development of a nation and support for entitlements. They also have an effect on the overall happiness of their citizens and reduce social conflicts. In many developing countries, entitlements are not as explicitly defined and enforced, which can make it challenging for citizens to hold entitlements. In the Western world, social pressures, especially by the middle class, have established government entitlement programs created with the intention of maintaining equality in employment opportunities, access to clean water, healthcare, and many other basic human rights.[CitationNeeded 1]

Entitlements in the United States

Individualism and Independence are common characteristics of Americans. The Rugged Individualistic mentality that many Americans profess comes in conflict with the concept of entitlements. The Bill of Rights, being the hardest to be undone, are viewed as nonnegotiable. There is a duality present in the United States political spectrum that can lead to fierce debates between opposing sides on the topics of entitlements, rights, social justice, and individualism versus the collectivism.

One view concerning entitlements in the United States is that the country is cover-obligated when it comes to entitlements and that it may bankrupt the nation.[24] This notion of course does not make any sense as soon as one analyzes the expenditures in the nation's budget, and consider the effect of entitlements in increasing normal state revenue and in distorting perceptions in regards to increases in the tax burden. There is also the argument that U.S. debt is a result of excess expenditures in other areas, such as military, which cost aproximately $200 billion per year. [25]

Some believe this idea of entitlement is hurting the U.S on a national level, and believe it is also damaging the citizens at a more personal level. They may think that people do not really contribute to their workplace. Many think that they simply show up and have 'face time', and expect that simply because they are there they are entitled to get their raise or promotion. This belief is shown in Phillipe Bourgois’ article “Workaday World, Crack Economy”, showing that although this sense of entitlement is felt many, people from areas such as East Harlem simply quit working legally all together.[26] Although this mindset is believed to be widespread and does exist, it can cause the work ethic and motivation of employees to drop, which decreases their productivity. [27] Of course the contrary argument can also be used. Better work ethics and increased motivation by guaranteeing job security and better pay, may indeed increase productivity or at least improve social stability and future planning. In fact the primary reason to establish a minimum wage in most part of the world is not only to extend social justice but to dignify work.

Others believe that the U.S. does not provide enough entitlements for its citizens, especially when compared to the majority of the other developed countries in the world. evidence for this can be found in the Human Development Index--which ranks countries according to factors such as health, education, and standards of living--ranks the U.S. at #15, whereas countries who provide their citizens with more entitlements are ranked higher. [28]

Cultural Imperialism

Cultural Imperialism was first conceptualized during the Cold War, and there are two ideas on which it is based. The first idea is that a culture could have the potential to control a different culture; while the second is the idea that cultural domination by one culture will eventually destroy the lesser group(s). A common, incorrect example of cultural imperialism is the Western culture imperialism across the world, which is erasing local traditions and replacing them with cell phones, McDonald's, and radios. However, anthropologists dismissed this because of three things: cultural imperialism assumes the citizens do not have the means of resisting anything of Western origin; non-Western music, food, and material have been able to integrate into Western Europe and the United States, and ignores the fact that cultural forms and practices sometimes move around the world, without ever reaching the West.

Gender Variance Across the Globe

Gender variance is when the actions or gender expression by an individual do not match the gender norms of their perceived gender by society. Anthropologists have studied different cultures and the Gender variances that have emerged in these societies. In some societies these gender variances have been more widely accepted and even integrated into the culture. The concept of a Third Gender is recognized in many societies as a category of individuals that are neither male nor female. In cultures these genders have become an essential part of society. Examples of this are two-spirit, a gender role, which is a part of hundreds of Native American cultures. Also, the Hijra in South Asian countries are born male but assigned a female gender expression. The Hijra is an ancient tradition, and has been a part of Indian society for centuries. They are said to bring luck and fertility with their special powers. In the late 1800's the British tried to end this tradition or make it difficult to uphold. In 1897 an act was amended which criminalized being transgender. It was subtitled “An Act for the Registration of Criminal Tribes and Eunuchs”, and made Hirja practices illegal. [29] Western culture has difficulty respecting and understanding third genders and those cultures which have more than two genders. "Where Western culture feels uncomfortable with contradictions and makes strenuous attempts to resolve them, Hinduism allows opposites to confront each other without a resolution... It is this characteristically Indian ability to tolerate, and even embrace, contradictions at social, cultural and personality levels, that provides a context for Hijras" (Nada). [30]

Transgender Rights In The United States

Transgender oppression and liberation in the United States of America has many avenues of existence. Trans individuals are often ostracized and promoted in headlines involving suicide and depression among youth [31], holistically social oppression is only part of trans oppression and liberation. Transgender individuals also face economic and political challenges, and often have short lives because of the challenges they face. [32] Transgender women in particular face incarceration at what are often considered worrying rates. Income levels for trans people is also at low levels. Lifetime earnings are reflective of this. Many political obstacles also exist. Legalities range from housing and employment rights, to access to medical care, to use of public facilities are often a challenge for trans individuals. Several trans rights organizations have existed for decades, primarily S.T.A.R, and in conjunction with gay rights organizations such as the lambda defense and the human rights campaign, have services for trans people in need of resources, legal defense funds, and social movements with the attempt of destigmatizing the existence of trans people, which could be very effective at curbing trans suicide rates and increase the quality of life for those people. [33].

LGBTQ Conversion Therapy

Gay conversion therapy has become a controversial issue of America’s human rights agenda, one which many people believe to do much more harm than good. The only states which have taken legislative measures to prevent conversion are Oregon, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia, and the District of Coloumbia. The inability of states or minors to hold jurisdiction over family members and legal guardians is a major difficulty when enacting preventative laws do to the parent's utilizing these therapies from a moral or religious stand point; they feel they are trying to help their child. Recently, complaints of these practices have been legally filed to the FTC on pretense of false advertisement not based on scientific fact. “In February 2016, the Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Southern Poverty Law Center filed a consumer fraud complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against People Can Change, a major provider of conversion therapy. The complaint alleges that People Can Change’s advertisements and business practices which claim they can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity constitute deceptive, false, and misleading practices and can cause serious harm to consumers, all in direct violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act” [34] They found that aside the practices were not methodologically sound practices, furthermore many were found to be harmful to the subjects. In another study of LGBTQ students rejected or isolated by peers done by San Francisco State found suicide rates to be 8 times higher than average students, along with a 300% higher chance of using illicit drugs. This issue has received more attention as the LGBTQ community receives more rights. Many forced participants have reported physical and psychological abuse while being forced into these institutions, using such methods as shock therapy and confinement. As the U.S has strode for human rights, the recent election of Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence has brought question to the ending of gay conversion therapy, Mike Pence being a supporter of it. In the coming years this will remain a very hot issue of social, political and religious freedom. [35]


  1. World Health Organization
  5. a b Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 2.1
  6. a b "UN Treaty Collection: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights". UN. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  7. Sverker Finnstrom {url=}
  9. "The Nobel Peace Prize 1969". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 29 Nov 2016. <>
  10. LO: Working time in the twenty-first century, report for discussion at the Tripartite Meeting of Experts on Working-time Arrangements, Geneva, 17–21 Oct. 2011.
  11. Chan, Anita, and Robert J. S. Ross. "Racing To The Bottom: International Trade Without A Social Clause." Third World Quarterly 24.6 (2003): 1011-1028. Academic Search Complete. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.
  12. Human Rights Watch
  14. "The Declaration of Sentiments." Infoplease. Infoplease, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <>.
  15. "Primary Documents in American History." 15th Amendment to the Constitution: Primary Documents of American History (Virtual Programs & Services, Library of Congress). N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. <>.
  16. Lois W. Banner, Women in Modern America: A Brief History
  17. "19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote (1920)." Our Documents - 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote (1920). N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016. <>.
  18. Bettina Shell-Duncan
  23. Male-vs-Female Circumcision
  24. "Curbing Spending by Reframing the Politics of Entitlements". Walker Foundation. Retrieved ?-?-2009. 
  26. Bourgois, Philippe 1995 “Workaday World, Crack Economy.” The Nation (December 4) pp. 706-11.
  27. Danger in the Comfort Zone. American Management Association| {url=,M1}
  30. Nanda, Serena, "The Hijras of India: cultural and individual dimensions of an institutionalized third gender role."
  34. . In 2007, the American Psychology Association reviewed the practices of conversion therapy.
  35. Campaign, Human Rights. "The Lies and Dangers of "Conversion Therapy" | Human Rights Campaign." Human Rights Campaign. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

"Female Genital Mutilation: A Call to Action",Troubia N: New York, New York, Women, Ink, 1993. 48 p.

  1. ^ Birx, James. "Human Rights and Anthropology." Encyclopedia of Anthropology. 3. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2006. Print. Pg. 1228.

Marriage, Reproduction and Kinship


Sexual Orientation and Cultural Perspectives

Sexual orientation is the pattern of sexual and emotional attraction based on the gender of one's partner. In the contemporary American culture, heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation that receives complete social legitimacy. Since June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage has been legal in all 50 States and American territories except American Samoa and Native American land.[1] [102] Though heterosexuality is viewed as the social "norm" in the United States, many other cultures maintain a very diverse perspective on sexuality and sexual orientation. Various types of sexual orientation are defined below and can be found in many different cultures across the globe.

  • Heterosexuality: refers to the emotional and sexual attraction between men and women.
  • Homosexuality: refers to the emotionally and sexually attracted to those of the same sex. "Lesbian" refers to specifically homosexual women; "Gay" refers to both homosexual men and women. It is completely interchangeable with the word "homosexual" but is generally used more casually.
  • Bisexuality: Being attracted to two or more genders. It is a common misconception that bisexual people are attracted to their own and the "opposite" gender, specific preferences

vary from person to person and are not limited to cisgendered "men" and "women".[2]

  • Pansexuality: Is the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity. Pansexuality is defined differently from other sexual orientations by explicitly including people who are intersex or outside the gender binary.
  • Asexual: One that does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality exists on a spectrum that varies person-to-person, from individuals who are disgusted by the idea of having sex (called Sex Repulsed) to individuals that can and do feel sexual attraction, but only under specific circumstances (called Demisexuality or Gray-Asexual) and every option in between. [103]

===Transgender in the United States=== The term transgender refers to people who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. There is an embedded stigma within American culture that erases the validity and existence of the transgender community. Often times, transgender people are either highly-sexualized or demonized. Starting in the early 1990s, political activists began challenging the opprobrium associated with being transgender and started to put pressure on the government to recognize the rights of gender variants. The term that these activists use, transgender, refers to someone whom society has assigned a gender at birth, but chooses to perform as another because it is what they feel is appropriate to their mind and being. However, according to American Anthropologist David Valentine, many individuals resist the label "transgender" because it is overly-inclusive. While some "cross-dress" to receive erotic pleasure, others have undergone serious and potentially fatal sexual reassignment surgery in order to be their preferred gender. Additionally, these activists are primarily white and middle-class, which contributes to the erasure of racial minority transgenders. While the meaning of "transgender" is still in formation, it is still very clear that American culture still resists accepting people who identify as neither male nor female, instead they prefer to just be a person. This may be due in part to the idea that Americans view transgenderism as an expression of perverse sexuality, but, regardless, it is imperative that we acknowledge the rights and legitimacy of the transgender community.

Queer is a word that the LGBQT community has reclaimed to be an umbrella term which refers to anyone who identifies outside of the heteronormative society. Questioning is a method used help those who are not sure about their sexuality or gender identity, but wish to examine it further. Although these terms are used to describe one’s sexual orientation, they may be offensive depending on the person. One person may identify themselves as queer and have no problem with the term, however, another person may find the term offensive and not identify as queer but instead homosexual. Superscript text

Romantic Orientation

Romantic Orientation, also known as Affectional Orientation, indicates the sex or gender with which a person is most likely to have a romantic relationship or fall in love. It is used both alternatively and side-by-side with the term sexual orientation, and is based on the perspective that sexual attraction is but a single component of a larger dynamic. For example, although a pansexual person may feel sexually attracted to people regardless of gender, they may be predisposed to romantic intimacy with females. For asexual people, romantic orientation is often considered a more useful measure of attraction than sexual orientation.[3]

People may or may not engage in purely emotional romantic relationships. The main identities relating to this are:

  • Aromantic: Lack of romantic attraction towards anyone (aromanticism)
  • Heteroromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of one gender other than their own (heteroromanticism).
  • Homoromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of the same gender (homoromanticism).
  • Biromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of two genders (biromanticism).
  • Panromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of any and all genders (pan romanticism).
  • Polyromantic: Romantic attraction toward multiple, but not all genders.
  • Gray-romantic: Individuals who do not often experience romantic attraction.
  • Demiromantic: Romantic attraction towards any of the above but only after forming a deep emotional bond with the person(s) (demiromanticism).[4]

Distinction between Gender and Sex

Gender is defined by the cultural expectations of how males and females should behave, whereas sex is defined by the reproductive anatomy of an individual. Many cultures have a perceived view of gender that is separate from biological sex. This is referred to as someone's gender identity and can vary from multiple different types of personal identification. The common distinction that has been established in American culture is that of the differentiation between being cisgender and transgender, though there are more than these two identities to consider.

Certain individuals who do not feel the ability to fit within the established identities, who may choose not to see themselves as male or female have a differing gender identity referred to as Non-Binary. In a similar vein with the term queer, non-binary can be used as a blanket term for gender identity that does not conform to concepts of strictly cisgender or transgender. This may be represented in portraying behaviors, following expectations and ideas associated with gender identities both attached and viewed as opposite to the biological sex of the individual. This is present in multiple cultures. A notable example can be linked back to the Ancient Egyptians, whose culture had a concept of a third gender identity in their society, even having a deity fitting this definition of a gender identity that is neither male nor female. We can look at gender as a stylization of the body that reflects someone's identity. [104] In contrast, Saudi Arabia and the golf region, highly encourage discrimination against transgenders and LGBT. Being a transgender there could end you up with a life-time prison.[105]

This idea of established gender identities is one that society is still coming to terms with, Western culture is notably hesitant to accept the concept. The current general ideology present is that an individual must either fit the box of male or female, and not doing so can result in irrational behavior from others, and can lead to aggression in some cases. There is a certain stigma about confusion regarding sexual and gender Identities, even to the point where medical professionals have intentionally used surgery to assign someone who was born intersex, meaning they were born with a biological sex that was a mixture between what is perceived as male and female and their body was modified to fit into the biological binary. [106]

Cultural Examples of LGBTQ Relationships

2007 Pride parade in Buenos Aires with LGBQT visible in a groups' banner (top right of image)

In other parts of the world, some cultures regard various sexual orientations very highly. Transgender people and same-sex relationships are seen in some cultures as acceptable, normal, even preferable and honored. However, it is important to note that not all LGBQT people identify themselves with the LGBQT community itself due to the fact that they don't want to be associated with any type of sexuality or mainstream gender communities.


In many North American indigenous tribes, a person could be two-spirit. These people were generally viewed as having two spirits within them; both masculine and feminine. They dressed using both male and female garments and filled an essential and respected role in society. They generally took on this role around puberty. Male-bodied two-spirit's could be gravediggers, conductors of rituals, nurses during the war, craftspeople, storytellers, etc. Female-bodied two-spirit's could be traders, warriors, chiefs, hunters, guides, etc. Both could be diviners or medicine people. It was generally accepted that two-spirit's had a special power; they could have relationships with people of any sex, and the relationship was viewed more as "hetero-gender" than specifically homosexual or heterosexual. In today's world, the role is being reclaimed by Native Americans who identify as such.

Lesbianism in Mombasa

Anthropologist Gill Shepherd [5] explored female sexual relationships among Swahili Muslims in Mombasa, Kenya, and found that relationships between females were perfectly acceptable, as were relationships between men. Women are allowed to choose other women as sexual partners after they are married. Many such women also have a husband at home, are widowed, or divorced. Both sexes are open about their homosexual relationships, and it is considered normal. In contrast to some Western cultures, people generally do not think that homosexual relationships would damage a person's piety or moral fiber. Having a woman for a lover is less important than a woman's rank, and her being a good Muslim. A relationship may be set up in a number of ways. A young woman can go around to wealthy lesbian circles in order to find a lover. A wealthy woman may not want her autonomy diminished by a husband and so establishes a relationship with another woman so that she may continue in her independence. A wealthy woman may set up a marriage of convenience with a man for a poorer woman so that when they are divorced soon after the poorer woman will live with her lesbian benefactress. The relationships are not stigmatized and having a lesbian relationship, while less respectable than being married to a man, is nonetheless better than not being married at all. The relationships can or cannot include a sexual relationship, but a sexual relationship is more likely when one woman pays a bride-price and constructs her own compound.

Homosexuality in Nicaragua

In Nicaragua, masculinity is portrayed through "machismo", and it is described as a man who is dominant, active, and violent. In the U.S., this is often viewed as a man dominating his female partner. However, in Nicaragua, this can also be applied to the sexual relationship between men. It is viewed as normal that men would have a sexual attraction to another, and the act itself is not stigmatized. The "macho" dominates the other man, and he is therefore called a "cochón". This role is made fun of and is typically seen as passive and weak. However, though the cochón is made fun of, he is never attacked for his role.

Sexuality in Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece, same-sex relationships between men were considered the highest form of love; they were just as common and accepted as heterosexual relationships of today. This male-male relationship was based on love and reciprocity, and typically called for the older man to initiate the relationship. He would give gifts to the younger man as a promise of love [6]. These relationships were thought to be the highest form of love because they showed that the men regarded furthering themselves in knowledge and intelligence rather than just a physical connection. Some who did not attempt to make this connection were seen as "shallow." The older man would become the mentor and lover to the younger man, and the two would form a close emotional bond. The youth would be taught his duties as a citizen, and skills to further his place in society by the older man, and once the youth reached adulthood, the sexual relationship between the two men evolved into a very strong friendship. As an adult, the youth would then marry a woman, and initiate a relationship with another adolescent.

An exclusively homosexual relationship was discouraged, however, and not considered a substitute for male-female marriage. Marriage and the children that would be produced within it was required to maintain both the family and society. The wives were viewed by their husbands as domestics and child bearers.[107]. While the men were away with their young lovers, women raised children and took care of the household. Women were discouraged from taking lovers outside of the marriage to bed.

Ritual Homosexuality of the Sambia

In 1981, the American anthropologist, Gilbert Herdt described the pseudonymous "Sambia" people, a tribe located in Papua New Guinea. They are remarkable for their beliefs about human fertility cycles and the rites of passage they constructed, as a result, .[108] The Sambia place the onus of reproductive vitality on the male, believing that the baby is formed in the mother's womb by the father's life-giving semen. The child then gets all nourishment from the mother's milk, which causes them to grow and develop in the early stage of life. At the onset of puberty, however, it is believed that to develop any further the child must be reintroduced to the life-giving semen -- the male's analog to milk. However, since they view semen as a highly scarce, albeit necessary resource for development, it must be carefully distributed among their people. Thus, from ages seven to ten, boys are taken from their mothers and initiated into highly secret and complex ritual associations whereby the boys are taught to fellate older boys and bring them to orgasm, thereby ingesting their life-giving semen. It's thought that by doing this they will develop into strong and reproductively viable human beings. Around the age of 14, the boys switch places and become the fellated, providing the necessary sustenance for the next generation to develop. Interestingly, the cultural practices of secret initiations diminished across the 1980s and by 1990 the secret initiation rituals were no longer practiced [7].

Rights of Sexuality

Family Rights of LGBQT Couples

There is a lot of debate on whether or not same-sex couples should be allowed to parent children, whether artificially implanted or adopted. This debate has gone on for so long, mainly because many religious groups believe that children benefit the most from being raised by both a mother and a father. This may be because they don’t believe in the union of same-sex couples, but they also believe that the child will suffer if parented by the same sex. They assume that the child will suffer because the child will either be deprived of a mother or father figure. Additionally, they believe that same-sex families create a sterile union rather than a natural family.[8] Many welfare agencies believe that if two people are competent, caring adults they should be allowed to adopt regardless of gender. This fact is based on the idea that heterosexual couples often have problems raising children, too. "Research has found no major differences in parenting or child development between families headed by two mothers and other fatherless families".[109]

In March 2016, U.S. District Judge, Daniel Jordan, ruled that Mississippi's long-held ban on same-sex parents adoption was unconstitutional. He cited the Supreme Court's decision in the Obergefell vs. Hodges court case that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states in 2015. Mississippi was the last state with such a ban, meaning that it is now legal for gay parents to adopt children in all 50 states. The ban, which simply states "adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited" had been in place since 2000. Overturning this law was a long, overdue change that even the man who signed it into being, Former Mississippi Governor, Ronnie Musgrove, believed should be overturned. He has said that, "this decision that all of us made together has made it harder for an untold number of children to grow up healthy and happy in Mississippi -- and that breaks my heart."[9]

Obergefell vs. Hodges

Obergefell vs. Hodges is the supreme court case that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states on June 26, 2015. It was decided by a 5-4 vote between Judges, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayer voting in favor of same-sex marriage, and judges Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissenting. [10] LGBTQ+ American's throughout the country celebrated, many buildings including the White House, the Empire State Building, and the Space Needle were lit up in rainbow colors. It was a huge victory for all of the people throughout history who have fought for equal marriage rights and for the millions of LGBT people in the United States.

Sexual Harassment

The definition of sexual harassment is, "harassment in a work place or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks" [110]. An example of sexual harassment in schooling could be teasing someone about their body parts, snapping a girls bra strap, or asking unwanted questions repeatedly. Although, the U.S law doesn't prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents. Harassment is illegal when it is frequent enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment. The International Labor Organization is a specialized United Nations agency that has addressed sexual harassment as a prohibited form of sex discrimination under the discrimination convention [111]. When looking at sexual harassment in culture, it is typical in most cultures that women are the most vulnerable to the abuse. However, in the !Kung culture, both men and women are seen as aggressive. Women especially are abusive verbally, and tend to tease and provoke. What is a part of their daily lives is something that could be totally offensive to someone from another and less violent culture. In some countries in the Middle-East such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, there is not much legal laws made for harassment against women, but the culture itself restricts it. It is shameful and as playing with fire if a man tried to harass a women. That could make all the men around beat you since it is not an act of manhood.


homophobia, [112] is the hatred, prejudice, and fear of someone who is sexually interested in someone of the same-sex. Often this has to do with direct aggression, violence, and discrimination of homosexuals so that their daily lives are directly affected. If someone is a homophobe they tend to treat homosexuals differently, typically looking down on them in society, this causes them to be isolated from usual societed. Homophobia usually leads to homosexuals not recieving the same benefits as heterosexual couples, in many contries homosexuality is illeagal. Homophhobia can be psychologically as well as physically harmful to those who identify as homosexual. 

Acephobia is the discrimination, hatred, mistreatment, or erasure of asexual people. Similar to homophobia, Acephobia in American culture is most often expressed through microaggressions or identity erasure. Society in the modern United States is highly sexualized; whether talking about branding, advertisement, or popular culture, there's a huge emphasis on sex and sexuality.[11] Acephobia is a direct result of this societal norm. Non-asexual people are not only the statistical majority, they're also the only culturally represented group which leads to a common belief (often proclaimed as "truth") that everyone experiences sex and sexual feelings in the same way. Though the development of that mindset is somewhat explainable, the negative effects it has on asexual people are devastating. Commonly, asexual people are told their identity is "just a phase" that they will "grow out of", or that "plenty of people chose not to have sex". The most major problems with these phrases is that they both erase and invalidate the perfectly valid identity of the asexual individual by implying that asexuality is both a choice and/or a "phase" when in fact it is neither.[12] These types of acephobia are harmful not just to the individual they are addressing but also to young and future asexuals who will grow up with those prejudices taught as truth and will probably believe they are somehow "broken" as most asexuals do before discovering the asexual community.


How Culture Shapes Gender

Culture itself can dictate the shape how gender is formed, performed, and maintained. An example of this is an ethnic group in Madagascar called the Vezo. What is unique about their culture is that when a child is born they are not considered human. It is only until the child starts to do or perform can the child acquire personhood, what it means to be human. Throughout the child's life, regardless of having a penis or a vagina (which does not dictate the gender), the child may pick up a gender identity. This is achieved by participating in the community or doing. If the child was to participate in fishing they would be called a man, if they participated in going to the market they would be called a woman. “Vezo identities are non-essentialist and non-primordialist, a person is determined by membership of bounded and divisive descent groups.” - Reflections of sex and gender in Madagascar and beyond (Rita Astuti) The Vezos ideas on gender are: you do, therefore you are. In recent years, gender has become more fluid and has been reduced to that of just a social construct. These new views on how we see gender have been fu