Contentious Issues in Anthropology
Course Web page
Class meeting: Tuesday 3:00-5:45 PM, Room 827.1 Oldfather Hall (Anthropology Seminar Room)
Instructor: Raymond Hames
Office: 836 Oldfather Hall
Monday 2-4, Tuesday 8-10,
Phone # 472-6240
Aim and Scope of Course:
This is a three field (cultural, biological, and archaeology) course designed to acquaint advanced undergraduate and graduate students with current and sometimes controversial issues in anthropology. At the close of their graduate or undergraduate careers students often specialize in particular areas of study and seem to forget that anthropology is an interdisciplinary field. While it is impossible for anyone to keep abreast of all new developments across all fields of anthropology, students should be aware of basic research and contentious issues within the broad discipline of anthropology. In addition, many of these issues receive widespread publicity in the press and it is always interesting for an insider like yourself to judge whether it is accurately portrayed. The aim of this course is to make you knowledgeable and conversant in some of these issues.
All the readings present at least two sides of an issue (e.g., peopling of the Americas, the ecologically noble savage debate) focusing on original initial views, counters, new data, methodological critiques, and alternative explanations. A major goal in this course is to allow you to become more familiar with the relationship between theory and hypothesis formation, how hypotheses are tested, research methods and design, and how new data is incorporated. At times these debates are heated and partisans frequently resort to logical fallacies in order to make their points. You will learn how to spot such tactics such as ad hominem ("If you had a PhD you would not have made such an ignorant statement.") ad popularum ("The majority of anthropologists do not take this position, therefore you are wrong."), and the naturalistic fallacy ("That theory cannot be correct because it is immoral."). Visit Brian Yoder's Fallacy Zoo for a humorous examination of widely used logical fallacies. Unfortunately, the page is not fully functional. An even better source on logical fallacies can be found at Fallacy Files. Throughout the seminar I hope to give you some tips on evaluating theory, methods, research design, and data analysis that will help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of what you read.
Each week you will read the assigned articles all of which are locally on-line (usually in PDF format) or in other places on the Internet. Please print them or have them available on your computer for each meeting. When you come to the seminar to discuss the assigned readings you should have made notes on each of the articles and have prepared a provisional outline that will eventually become a reaction paper of at least 3 pages (undergrads) or 5 pages (grad). By the way, a page of text is about 290 words. You will email your papers to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) the following Saturday morning by 9:00 AM after our Tuesday class. I will return them via email with my comments and your grade before the next meeting. When writing please either use MS Word, RTF (most text editors handle this format), or HTML. Let me know if you have problems with these formats. The reaction paper should generally follow the guide below. In seminar I will unpredictably ask to see your preliminary notes and outlines, so bring them with you. You will be graded on your reaction papers and seminar participation. There will be no final, term paper, or extra-credit work.
Guide to Writing Summaries
In writing your summaries try to organize them by focusing on the following questions:
- What are the issue or issues under contention?
- What are the positions taken by each side? Do they have different theoretical perspectives?
- What kinds of evidence are used to support each position?
- Is there a problem with the evidence? Is it suspect (e.g., poor quality or fragmentary) or not relevant?
- Are there areas of agreement?
- Specifically, what kind of additional evidence do we need to settle the controversy and
- What kind of research is the controversy promoting?
In some of our seminars a faculty guest or "local expert" will be present to serve as a resource in our discussion of the issues. Finally, I am completely open to ideas you might have about issues we might investigate in seminar. For example, we have no topic for December 6 and I will consult with the class before making a selection. The structure is modular so there is no problem in adding or subtracting topics.
There is a great web site at Texas A& M University entitled "Anthropology in the News". It is an extremely useful "one click" source to keep abreast of fast-breaking findings, events, and controversial issues in the field that may become a source of new topics for our course. Unfortunately, it tends to be dominated by stores in archaeology and biological anthropology.
Rules & Regulations
- ADA Statement:
Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the instructor for a confidential discussion of their individual needs for academic accommodation. It is the policy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to provide flexible and individualized accommodation to students with documented disabilities that may affect their ability to fully participate in course activities or to meet course requirements. To receive accommodation services, students must be registered with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, 132 Canfield Administration, 472-3787 voice or TTY.
- Academic Honesty
Do not plagiarize: all work you submit for this course must be your own. If not, it should be properly cited. The university's policy on academic honesty can be found here: http://stuafs.unl.edu/ja/code/index.shtml
Readings and Topics for Each Week (beginning with Week 2 for major topics). Our first meeting
we be organizational with a short discussion of the readings
Web sites dealing with above issues
- Secrets of the Dead "The Syphilis Enigma"
Cannibalism or Witch Disposal?
- Earliest hominim cannibalism "Cultural Cannibalism as a Paleoeconomic System in the European Lower Pleistocene The Case of Level TD6 of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) Canbonell et al. (2010). Note: only read 539-540. But you can always read it all.
- J. Andrew Darling "Mass Inhumation and the Execution of Witches in the American Southwest". American Anthropologist, 100(3): 732-752.
- Marlar et al. "Biochemical Evidence of cannibalism at a prehistoric Puebloan site in southwestern Colorado". Nature, 407: 74-78 (2000).
- Preston, Douglas "Cannibals of the Canyon". New Yorker, November 30: 76-89 (1999).
Additional Readings in the News
"Ethnic Cleansing" in the Southwest (news article)
"Perimortem mutilation of human remains in an early village in the American Southwest: A case for ethnic violence" (the article upon which the above news article is base)
- Aboriginalism and the Problems of Indigenous Archaeology by Robert McGhee (2008)
- Responses to McGhee
Please note that the PDF ("Responses to McGee) above contains other comments aside from those listed below. Read them if you like but be sure to read the ones listed below.
- "The Premise and the Promise of Indigenous Archaeology" by Cowell-Chanthaphonp et al. (2010)
- McGhee responds to his critics "Of Strawmen, Herrings, and Frustrated Expectations" by Robert McGhee (2010)
Chimpanzee Infanticide and Warfare: unnatural conditions or adaptive behaviors?
- Wrangham, Richard "Evolution of Coalitionary Killing". Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. (1999)
- Sussman, Robert "Myth of Man the Hunter/Man the Killer and the Evolution of Human Morality". In The Biological Bases of Human Behavior: A Critical Review.
- Sussman, Robert et al. "Infant Killing as an Evolutionary Strategy: Reality or Myth?".
- Muller's Review of Man the Hunted by Hart and Sussman
- Sommer, Volker. "The Holy Wars about Infanticide: Which Side are you On? And Why? In Infanticide by Males and its Implications, Carel van Schaik and Charles Janson, eds. , 9-26, Cambridge University Press (2002).
- Dart and the Seville Statement on War
- Extra-credit: New Yorker article on bonobos entitled "Swingers" with a critical reaction by Franz de Waal (at least read the shorter critical reaction by de Waal)
Web Sites dealing with Chimpanzee "Politics"
- Peace Making among Chimps
- Aggression, Dominance, and RS among Female Chimps
- Video of Lethal Attack by Gombe Chimps (requires Apple Quick Time Player): strong stuff.
- Chapter 1 of Wrangham's Demonic Males
- Jane Goodall Institute Home Page
- View videos on aggression and submission
- Chimpanzee Patrol Behavior and Frequency
Moral Engagement, Post-Modernism, and Scientific Anthropology
- D'Andrade, R. (1995) "Objectivity and Militancy: A Debate.
Moral Models in Anthropology". Current Anthropology 36:399-440.
- Schepher-Hughes (1995) "The Primacy of the Ethical". Current
- Melford S. (1996) "Postmodernist Anthropology,
Subjectivity, and Science: A Modernist Critique
Web sites & readings dealing with science, public anthropology, and
- The Goals of Science
- Dictionary of post modern terms
- An analysis of postmodernism by anthropology students (under "select"
choose "Postmodernism and Its Critics")
- Public Anthropology a web site promoting advocacy in anthropology September 25
Margaret Mead vs. Derek Freeman
- Shankman, Paul "The history of Samoan sexual conduct and the Mead-Freeman controversy". American Anthropologist, 98(3): 555-567.
- Shankman, Paul "The Thrashing of Margaret Mead"
- Roscoe, Paul "Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Mountain Arapesh Warfare. American Anthropologist, 105(3):581-591
- Di Leonardo, Micaela "Margaret Mead and the Culture of Forgetting in Anthropology: Response to Paul Roscoe", American Anthropologist, 105(3): 592-595.
- "Signaling Theory, Strategic Interaction, and Symbolic Capital" by Bleige Bird and Smith (2005)
- "Social Signaling and the Organization of Small-Scale Society: The Case of Contact-Era New Guinea" by Paul Roscoe (2010)
Evolution and Female Inequality
- Campbell, Anne, (1999) Staying alive: Evolution, culture, and women's intrasexual aggression.
Behavior and Brain Sciences 22, 203-252.
(Be sure to read commentaries and the response and be ready to discuss at least one commentary you believe is insightful.)
- Smuts, Barbara (1991) "Male Aggression against Women". Human Nature,
- Lepowsky versus Goldberg
Web resources on Matriarchy
Fall Break - No seminar
Neanderthal: Relative or Dead End? (see Updates on Current Issues "Neanderthal Burial?")
- Neandertals and Moderns Mixed, and it Matters. Joao Zilhao (2006)
- Neandertal Nuclear Genome Partially Sequenced
- Paul Mellars "Neanderthals and the modern human colonization of
Europe", Nature (2004)
- Paul Mellars "A new radiocarbon revolution and the dispersal of modern humans in Eurasia", Nature (2006)
- Four Part Video on Neandertal Genome Sequencing from Nature
(Requires Flash plug-in)
- Geico Neandertal Commercials
The Evolution of Menopause (Read Updates on Current Issues "Killer Whale Menopause")
- Hawkes et al. "Hadza Women's Time Allocation, Offspring Provisioning, and the Evolution of Long Postmenopausal Life Spans". Current Anthropology. (1997)
- Jocelyn Peccei "Menopause: Adaptation or Epiphenomenon? Evolutionary Anthropology. (2001)
Liberals, Conservatives, and Morality: A New Perspective
- The Roots of Morality (Science 2008, Greg Miller)
- The New Synthesis in Moral Psychology (Science May 2007, Haidt)
- When Morality Opposes Justice (Social Justice Research 2007, Haidt & Graham)
- Listen to Haidt - a 25 minute narrated Power Point
- Optional: Reivew of Haidth's new book Righteous Mind
Watch and Listen Haidt
- Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan "The weirdest people in the world?" (2010). Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33: 61-135
- Frank Marlowe "Mate Preferences among Hadza Hunter-Gatherers" Human Nature (2004)
The Peopling of the Americas: Coastal, Modified Clovis and Solutrean Solutions
In Class Film: Who Were the First Americans? (Recently aired on National Geographic)
- Click here to download an archaeological map from program Please note: the file is 7 MB!
- Why We're Still Arguing About the Pleistocene Occupation of the Americas. Evolutionary Anthropology (2007). Nicole Waguespack
- The Genetics and Archaeology of Early Settlement. Science 319, 1497 (2008);Ted Goebel, et al.
Conservation and Overkill
- "Late Quaternary Extinctions: State of the Debate" (Koch & Barnosky)
- Grayson & Meltzer "North American overkill continued?"
- "Conservation and subsistence in small scale societies" Annual Review of Anthropology, 29:493-524.
- "Ecology as Religion". From The Origins of Virtue. Matt Ridley
Some from yours truly on NPR: The Environmental Impact of Coastal Californian Hunter Gathers
Wildlife Utilization in Latin America (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization publication)
Tragedy of the Commons a fundamental touchstone work
Grayson & Meltzer "A requiem for North American Overkill"
Readings to be determined