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Method and Perspective in Anthropology

Method and Perspective in Anthropology: Papers in Honor of Wilson D. Wallis

Papers in honor of WILSON D. WALLIS
edited by Robert F. Spencer
Copyright Date: 1954
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 338
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  • Book Info
    Method and Perspective in Anthropology
    Book Description:

    The boundaries and goals of anthropology are changing and expanding as scholars recognize and pursue wider opportunities for achieving an understanding of the cultural development of man. The range of interests of the discipline as shown in this book embodies such varied fields as archaeology, human geography, linguistics, and the organization of society. With the broadening and deepening of these concerns, those working and studying in the various areas of anthropology have sought more concise methods and more adequate techniques with which to meet increasingly complex problems. This volume of papers, published in honor of a scholar who has himself devoted much effort to the refinement of anthropological methods, represents a long step forward toward the solution of some of the problems of methodology. The contributors are outstanding scholars in cultural anthropology, ethnology, and related fields. The first twelve papers, by as many different authors, present discussions of specific aspects of ethnography, cultural anthropology, prehistory, linguistics, ethnogeography, and sociology. The final paper, by Alfred L. Kroeber, provides a critical summary of the preceeding papers. All twelve of the writers answer, in their own way, the questions of how they derive their data, and how they establish their theoretical frame of reference. The contributors are, in addition to Professor Kroeber, Melville J. Herskovits, Sister M. Inez Hilger, Elizabeth Colson, David G. Mandelbaum, Allan R. Holmberg, Robert F. Spencer, Ralph Linton, Erwin H. Ackerknecht, Lloyd A. Wilford, Joseph H. Greenberg, Omer C. Stewart, and Raymond V. Bowers.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3679-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Ethnography

    • Some Problems of Method in Ethnography
      (pp. 3-24)

      The relation between research design and theoretical terms of reference in shaping ethnographic studies has many facets. Outstanding is the fact that the conceptual scheme of the student deeply influences not only the execution of a given field problem but also the way in which it is formulated and planned. This has not had full recognition, though it is some time since we have heard charges that earlier examples of systematic field work consisted of no more than random “fact-gathering” — research guided by no principle other than to describe a given way of life. For while a work that...

    • An Ethnographic Field Method
      (pp. 25-42)

      A field assistant and I set out to record the ethnography of primitive Indian child life as reflected in the milieu of the tribal culture. Our method was that of personal observations and personal interviews with Indian informants in their native habitat. The method, which is described in the following pages, grew out of what we set out to do. To a large extent it developed out of our field experience.

      Our studies covered mostly past ethnography — that is, such customs, beliefs, and traditions as were remembered by informants, especially by old men and old women. The psychoanalytical approach...

    • The Intensive Study of Small Sample Communities
      (pp. 43-59)

      The last few years have seen a resurgence of interest in the comparative method among social anthropologists both in Europe and America. Perhaps the greatest recent contribution to comparative research has been that of Murdock (1949), who used information drawn from 250 societies to test the degree to which various social factors were correlated with kinship terminologies. The recent interest in the comparative method undoubtedly reflects the fact that anthropology has reached a new stage in its struggle to become a “science.” With the use of the comparative method comes the application of statistical techniques, although much of the information...

    • Form, Variation, and Meaning of a Ceremony
      (pp. 60-102)

      A funeral is perhaps a melancholy subject, but it is a religious ceremony that lends itself well to general analysis. The ceremony that is the subject of this paper is one performed by the Kota of the Nilgiri Hills of South India. The following discussion is part of a larger design intended to describe Kota life and to develop some theoretical concepts in the light of the description.

      The Kota live in seven small villages, each of which is located among villages of the Badaga, the agricultural people long resident in the area, whose population of some 50,000 is far...

    • Adventures in Culture Change
      (pp. 103-114)

      Today there are few aboriginal cultures of the world which have not been profoundly affected by the influences of Western society. Especially the effects of the modern technological revolution have been deeply felt in the most remote corners of the world. Because of this, modern anthropologists, concerned with problems of culture change, have been afforded (or they have sought) few opportunities to observe at first hand situations in which there has previously been little or no contact between an isolated aboriginal group and representatives of the Western world. Here it is proposed to discuss an instance in which just such...

  4. Cultural Anthropology

    • On the Comparative Method in Anthropology
      (pp. 117-125)

      Within a hundred years the comparative method has in anthropology, especially in cultural anthropology, descended from a dominant position to a point where it is in general either not practiced or even condemned explicitly. Criticism of the comparative method seems to have started in the 1890s when Franz Boas published his ideas on theLimitations of the Comparative Method.¹ Similar arguments were voiced by Sir G. Lawrence Gomme (1908), Graebner, and others. The 1934 edition of Haddon’sHistory of Anthropology, echoing this period, still contains a condemnation of the comparative method (p. 142). This attack on the comparative method coincided...

    • The Humanities in Cultural Anthropology
      (pp. 126-144)

      For some years now, the battle has been waged between anthropologists themselves and between anthropology and its sister sciences as to the proper place of anthropology in the pyramid of social versus natural sciences. Interesting though such post-Comtean alignments may be, and however much they serve to effect an over-all view of the interrelationships between the various scientific disciplines, they never seem sufficiently inclusive. Moreover, from the point of view of the anthropologist, the broad claims of his field are not given proper justice. The niche accorded to anthropology under a rubric “science” appears to fail to present the broader...

    • The Problem of Universal Values
      (pp. 145-168)

      The study of values has assumed much more than academic interest for the modern world. With the rapid improvement in means of communication which has taken place during the last century and the resulting increase in cross-cultural contacts, the potentialities for conflict have become greater than ever before. It is obvious that unless the various nations which compose the modern world can come to some sort of agreement as to what things are important and desirable, we are headed for catastrophe. Moreover, the very ease of communication which may produce such a catastrophe ensures its inclusiveness. In the Dark Ages...

  5. Prehistory, Linguistics, Ethnogeography

    • Archaeological Method in the Eastern United States
      (pp. 171-191)

      The most comprehensive study to date of the methodology of American archaeology is Walter W. Taylor’sA Study of Archaeology(1948). Drawing upon his own field experience and upon the ideas of historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists, Taylor had obviously given much careful thought to his subject. He has produced a work of high merit, which has been both informative and challenging to his fellow workers.

      Noting the inconsistency in defining archaeology as a branch of anthropology whereas its aim is commonly said to be the reconstruction of history, Taylor considers the relation of the three disciplines. He reviews the history...

    • A Quantitative Approach to the Morphological Typology of Language
      (pp. 192-220)

      One of the steps which any science must take if it is to realize the potentialities of the scientific method is to advance beyond mere description to comparison and classification of the objects it studies. That linguistics has taken this step is indicated by the very existence of a subject matter called “comparative linguistics,” one which is, moreover, of respected standing among the sciences dealing with man. However, the methods of comparative linguistics represent but one of two fundamental methods by which languages may be compared. The second method, which may be called the typological, is the subject of the...

    • The Forgotten Side of Ethnogeography
      (pp. 221-248)

      The relation of primitive man to his physical environment has been considered important by nearly everyone who has studied aborigines. An ethnography which did not devote some space to describing the geographic area in which the people lived would be an oddity indeed. Even when the adjustment of the natives to the climate, terrain, and vegetation looms large and when the physical environment is shown to be an important factor in many aspects of culture, it has not seemed necessary to identify the study as ethnogeography. Ethnography, with few exceptions, has been considered broad enough to include man’s relation to...

  6. A Related Behavioral Field, Sociology

    • Research Methodology in Sociology: The First Half-Century
      (pp. 251-270)

      A recapitulation of the methodological progress and problems of a science is perhaps of periodic use, particularly in a young science and at a time when the demand for scientific contributions to the national welfare and security is at its highest peak in history. The objective here is not, however, an exhaustive critique of individual methods. Such could not be accomplished in a single paper and cannot, in any case, be accomplished properly because of the inadequacy of most methodological reporting. It is, instead, an attempt to focus on major trends and some of the general problems still to be...

  7. Conclusion

    • Critical Summary and Commentary
      (pp. 273-300)
      A. L. KROEBER

      I have been asked to comment on the preceding papers and to bind them together, so far as they allow, each author having first freely chosen his own topic. Fortunately, each paper has theoretical import. The order in which I take them up is not quite the order in which they occur in the book. I have chosen to begin with Ackerknecht’s essay “On the Comparative Method” and to follow it with an appraisal of Spencer’s on “The Humanities in Cultural Anthropology,” since these essays bring up the broad subject of the history and constitution of anthropology. A consideration of...

    (pp. 303-312)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 313-323)