Home Page for Social Structure 2014 (Anthropology 412/812)


Social Structure: Anthropology 412/812
(Spring 2014)

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 8:30-9:20
in 111 Avery Hall

Last update: 12/14/2013
Instructor: Raymond Hames

Phone # 472-6240, 2411
Office: 836 Oldfather Hall
 Course Web page: http://www.unl.edu/rhames/courses/social

Office Hours:
Monday 2:00-4:30
Tuesday 8:00-9:00
Friday 8:00-9:00



This course on social organization focuses on family, marriage, and kinship in non-western society and, to a lesser extent, historic and current western societies.  The aim is to firmly ground students in anthropological concepts and theories relevant to those topics especially those of a comparative and evolutionary emphasis. The first part of the course will be devoted to a grounding in the traditional topics and theoretical issues in the study of social organization. This section will conclude in the seventh week with an essay examination covering chapters 1-10 in Pasternak, Ember, and Ember's Sex, Gender, and Kinship, assigned readings, and lectures. In the second part of the course, we will cover chapters 6-13 in Sex, Gender, and Kinship and then turn to evolutionary interpretations of human social organization and behavior by reading relatively new research in evolutionary approaches to social organization. You will be examined on those readings and lectures in the fourteenth week of the course.   Web readings in the weekly schedule are required readings.

Research Paper
All students will be required to write research papers but requirements will differ for graduate and undergraduate students.  By the end of the first exam (7th week) you should have a basic understanding of issues and topics in social structure and this knowledge should guide your choice of a term paper.  Each student must visit me and propose a paper topic for my approval.  I should be able to help you with source materials and clarify your approach.  Sample topics include: causes of divorce, determinants of lineal descent, kin support, factors influencing mate choice, adoption, cooperative child care, determinants of female status, parental investment, etc.

Undergraduate students (412 credits) will write a 10-12 page paper while graduate students (812 credits) will write a 20-22 page paper. In addition, graduate students will present a fifteen minute oral version of their paper during the last week of class.   You will either write a research paper or a literature review.  The format for each can be found by clicking here.   References should be formatted following the American Anthropologist style sheet located here.  Writing clearly is of great importance to effectively communicate your ideas.  Towards this end, I will give all the opportunity to submit a complete rough draft of your paper prior to the final paper's due date (see timing below).  Finally, all student will be required to write a 200 word abstract describing their papers to be posted on-line.  Click here for paper titles and abstracts created by former students and here for this semester's abstracts (when available).

The paper should be analytic.  That is, you will focus on specific issue or problem (e.g., marital choice, inheritance, sexuality and gender) and the relevant theoretical approaches, and empirical research along with your critical assessment of productive theories and research .   I encourage you all to be aware of what your peers are doing so that you may provide one another with support especially on topics that overlap or when one of you have a particular expertise you can offer a peer.  

Finally, academic honesty is expected of all students.  Any plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty in any exam or assignment will result in an automatic “F” for the course and I will report you to the Director of Student Judicial Affairs.

Each exam (2) will count 25% toward the final grade and the term paper will count 50%. Class participation is strongly encouraged and will be rewarded.

Students will be expected to be familiar with the assigned reading so they can contribute to class discussions. This means that one has read and taken notes on currently assigned readings for the week.  In general, I'll begin the class by highlighting the main issues in the readings by clarifying definitions, elaborating theory, and filling in empirical and historical gaps.  Later, I'll move on to empirical tests of theory, especially focusing on how a particular hypothesis was deduced, the kinds of data required, methods used to gather the data, and the outcome of the test of a particular hypothesis. You should feel free to interject comments at any time to enable me to clarify or extend what I'm talking about or to present an alternative way of dealing with a particular issue.  Indeed, I'll stimulate this process by simply asking students to give us their position on particular issues and case studies.


Sex, Gender, and Kinship, by Pasternak, Burton, Carol Ember, and Melvin Ember
(PEE=abbreviation in weekly schedule)

Social Structure in the News

Weekly Readings, Assignments, and Lecture Topics

Date: week of



1. Jan. 13

Introduction: family, marriage, and kinship

Human Sexuality

History of Comparative and “Evolutionary” Approaches
Evolution of Biparental Care

Read PEE Chapters 1-2
Read Reared by homosexuals: The Regnerus controversy

Read WEIRD People

2. Jan. 20

History of Social Organization
Status of Women
Demonstration of HRAF

Read PEE: Chapter 3;
Guest Lecture Dr. Kyle Gibson on "Proposition 8"
New Family Forms: Lesbian & Gay Families;
"Gender" on Blackboard  Once there, go to Social Structure and click on "course documents", and then click on "Sanderson Readings for Social Structure" and click on the appropriate file.

3. Jan. 27

Diverging Devolution
Division of Labor and Sexual Inequality
Polygyny and Monogamy

Read PEE: Chapter 4
The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage
Read "Testosterone and Male Behavior"

Read Read "Family and Marriage" on Blackboard

4. Feb. 3

Marriage & The Incest Taboo
Cousin Marriage

Read PEE: Chapter 5-6

Honor-Shame & Death (introduction of video to be shown in class).  The video is here

5.  Feb. 10

Mate Selection & Courtship
Marriage: courtship and arrangements
Marital Relationships
Female violence and marriage

Read PEE:7-8
Read "Finding Mates" (page 1-9 only) on Blackboard

6. Feb. 17

Divorce and Remarriage

Read PEE:9
Read NY Times on Step-mothers

7 Feb. 24

Post-marital residence

First Exam: Coverage: all of Pasternak, Ember, and Ember through chapter 10, videos, and readings.  Exam Feb. 24th



8 Mar. 3

Read PEE: 10-12

9 Mar. 10

Sexual Selection and Marriage

Sororal polygyny & choice in aboriginal society

Sanderson "Finding Mates": pages 10-54
Do co-wives get along?

10 Mar. 17

Alloparenting and Helpers
at the nest;

11 Mar. 24

Trivers-Willard and preferential investment by sex

Read "Parenthood" on Blackboard

March. 24

Spring Break

13 Mar. 31

The Mystery of Menopause.

The evolution of socially imposed monogamy

14 Apr. 7

A curious problem: RS, wealth, and & modern society

Thursday: work on your papers and prepare to meet about your papers with the instructor individually next week.

Read "Status and Wealth" on Blackboard

15 Apr. 14

Review for second exam

Second Exam
April 21


Apr. 21

Discuss Term Papers with instructor: Complete rough drafts may be turned in early on 23 April for comments & preliminary grade.

Work on your papers and meet with me on 23 and 25 April.

Apr. 28

Graduate student presentations on April 28th, term paper due  May 2nd



Useful Web Sites on Social Organization and Research Tools

The University of Nebraska Library has a number of useful web resources useful for this course. 
Many can be found by clicking on this link http://library.unl.edu/search/?searchtype=f&searcharg=anthropology+and+archaeology.  If you are off campus, you will be asked to log-in by entering your last name and NU ID number.  If you are on campus, the links will bring you lead directly to the site.

Of those listed on the above link the “Anthropological Literature” (from Harvard’s Tozzer Library, see below for a few more details) is the most complete listing of anthropological works in the world.  For those interested in Native Americans “Bibliography of Native North Americans” can’t be beat, and Electronic HRAF (eHRAF) is very useful for those with focused comparative research questions

There are also some useful web sites to broaden and deepen your understanding of material in this course.

Brain Schwimmer's  Kinship Tutorial
An excellent site to learn about kinship and especially kinship terminological systems and it can be found here.   
© Brian Schwimmer

Annual Review of Anthropology 
This journal is published yearly with 10-15 chapters that are bibliographic overviews of current research in all fields of anthropology.  If you want to explore recent research on a possible term paper topic (e.g., "Social Organization & Technology", "African Kinship Studies"), it is a great place to start.    It is available on-line through UNL’s library.

Kinship Sites:
General kinship (excellent gateway to kinship web sites with pdf's of published works, but quite limited)
Michael Fisher's "Calculating Kinship" Site

Anthropological Literature (Tozzer Library of Harvard University)
This site holds the contents of the Tozzer Library's anthropological collection and content listings of 876 anthropological journals!  Unfortunately, you cannot read any of them on-line.  However, it is a great place to do keyword, title, author, or topic searches and it is the most complete bibliography of anthropological literature in the world.