Exam Questions

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (212)

Page Table of Contents


First Exam: Review Questions from Ethnographies

The Netsilik Eskimo: preface, introduction, and pages 23-90

Subsistence Activities and Camp Life.  Be sure to know what goes on at each time of camp throughout the year in terms of location, resources sought, food storage, male and female division of labor, and technology used.

  • Summer fishing at the stone weir
  • Hunting at the caribou crossing place
  • Autumn Fishing through thing river ice
  • Seal Hunting in Midwinter
  • Camp Life in Spring
The Yanomamö: Forward, prologue, and pages 1-72

Forward and preface (v-xv); (1-3)
Geographic location and remotness from civil government
In what ways do the Yanomamö express themselves violently? What are the repercussions of inter-personal violence in Yanomamö society?
In what ways is marriage a political process for the Yanomamö?

Chapter 1 (1-44)

Describe some of the difficulties faced by Chagnon during his field studies with the Yanomamö such as hanging on to his goods, establishing rapport, learning Yanomamö culture and language, and the collection of genealogies.

Why did Rerebawä move from his home village of Karohi-teri to Bisassi-teri? What anthropological term is associated with this kind of movement?

Why does Chagnon believe that it is important to study relatively uncontacted tribal peoples such as the Yanomamö? What can they teach us?

Chapter 2 (45-72)

Describe the Yanomamö use of tools, their simplicity and methods of manufacture.

What factors determine the size of a Yanomamö village?  What are the problems in being small and being large?

What are the main ways in which the Yanomamö obtain food and which age-sex groups participates in each?

What crops do the Yanomamö grow in addition to foodstuffs?

Why do headmen make larger gardens than other men in the village?

What pressures force certain Yanomamö villages make micro-movements?

What are some of the reasons behind village fissioning?

The Isthmus Zapotecs: Forward, preface, and pages 1-41

Introduction (1-5)

What does Chiñas mean when she describes the Isthmus Zapotecs as “matrifocal”?

Why is it important that the roles of women are focused upon in anthropology?

Chapter 1 (6-9)

In what ways has irrigation been important to the Isthmus Zapotecs?

Describe the variety of languages present on the Isthmus.

Chapter 2 (10-15)

How did contact with the Spanish in 16th Century affect the Isthmus Zapotec population?

How have women been important politically to the Zapotec people, especially prior to their independence?

Chapter 3 (16-22)

Describe the physical home of a typical Zapotec family.

What religion is practiced by most Zapotecs?

How is schooling different for girls than for boys? In what ways is schooling used to benefit the household?

Chapter 4 (23-41)

What subsistence methods were employed by traditional Zapotecs? What changes did Spanish settlers bring to the area?

Two varieties of land tenure are practiced on the Isthmus, private and communal. Describe each of these and their functions.

In what ways is jewelry important to Zapotec women (and their families)?

Describe the Zapotec sexual division of labor in terms of the tasks performed by men versus women. What tasks are performed by both? Why?

What kinds of producing and selling are done by men? By women?

What economic spheres are open only to women?

Why are women often more important to a household’s economic stability than men?

Where do Zapotec compensinos see themselves on the economic ladder relative to others in the area?


Second Exam: Review Questions from Ethnographies

The Yanomamö

What is the “Great Protein Debate”? What are Chagnon’s views on it? What are the Yanomamö's views on it?

Chapter 4/ Social Organization and Demography pages 121-137

How do women benefit from marrying cross cousins or men from within their home village?

How much influence do women have in selecting their husbands?

What are the differences between the activities of Yanomamö boys and girls and how do they change as each matures?

In political contexts Chagnon says that the headman Kaobawä "seems to "think" for others in the village".  What does he mean?

What is the division of labor between Yanomamö men and women?

Social Structure pages 137-158

What is the relationship between Yanomamö marriage rules, kinship terms, and patrilineal descent?

How do parallel and cross-cousins figure in Yanomamö marriage and social relations?

Why do Yanomamö extend kin terms to unrelated individuals including Chagnon?

What are the differences between ideal and statistical (i.e. demographic) approaches to Yanomamö marriage?

What can village fissioning tell us about Yanomamö kinship and marriage?

Why do the Namowei-teri villages fission at a smaller population size than the Shamatari villages? You’ll need to understand the history of marriage in the two villages to answer this question.

Why is flexibility in kinship terms necessary among the Yanomamö? How is the concept of incest flexible?

How are marriage rules, inbreeding, and village size related? 

Why do Yanomamö sometimes break their marriage rules?  And who is likely to be a rule breaker and what are its consequences?

Why do men and women differ in their knowledge of the kinship system

Chapter 5 Political Alliances, Trading, and Feasting pages 159-183

Describe the developmental sequence (trade, feasting, and inter-marriage) of village alliances among the Yanomamö.

What obligations do allied Yanomamö villages have to one another?

In what ways do stronger villages take advantage of their weaker allies?

How are feasts an important aspect of Yanomamö politics?

The Isthmus Zapotec

What precautions do the Zapotecs take to protect themselves against social and personal problems?

What is the Zapotec's view of the world?

What role does co-parenthood play in Zapotec life?

What obligations do women have in honoring the dead?

Are sons treated better than daughters?

How is courtship and marriage handled by the Zapotecs?  What does it have to do with the "honor-shame complex"?

The Netsilik

  • What are the important fish and game resource for the Netsilik? How do they process these animals? What products come from them?  Think of food, technology, and fuel.
  • What four complexes compose Netsilik technology? Describe the important tools associated with each complex.
  • What changes has contact with outsiders brought to the Netsilik tool kit (i.e. the types of tools they use), and their traditional way of life?
  • Describe the sexual division of labor among the Netsilik. Why do you think women are allocated certain tasks and men others?
  • How does the nuclear family differ from the extended family among the Netsilik?
  • In Netsilik kin terminology what is the difference between consanguineal and affinal terms?
  • What sorts of dyadic relations or partnerships do the Netsilik maintain and what role do they play in their social and economic lives?
  • Describe the nature of extended families and leadership roles therein including roles for men and women.
  • Is the kindred an important group among the Netsilik?
  • How is the Netsilik kinship terminological system related to their social organization?


Third Segment Review Questions from Class Ethnographies

The Isthmus Zapotecs

Chapter 8:  Isthmus Zapotec Matrifocality

  • What are the four elements of a matrifocal culture?

  • What is the difference between a matrifocal and a matriarchal society?

  • What are the differences between formalized and non-formalized roles, and private and public domains?

  • In which of these roles and domains what do women do to demonstrate their power and authority?

  • What are some examples of women's non-formalized roles in Zapotec society?

  • Why does Chiñas suggest the economic roles of women led to matrifocality within Zapotec culture?

Chapter 6 - Religion and Ritual

  • How has the traditional cargo system changed in most Mexican villages?
  • How does sponsoring a public fiesta benefit a Zapotec household?
  • Family-centered fiestas include responsibilities for both the hosts and invited guests.   In
        what ways do these fiestas bind the community together?
  • Chiñas writes that men have become less enthusiastic about the fiestas than women.   Based
        on women's roles in the fiestas, why might this be the case?


Chapter 6: Yanomamö Warfare

  •  What are the various levels of violence, leading to warfare, described by Chagnon?
  •  What are the reasons for one village to raid another?
  •  What is the association between men who have killed other men and the size of their families?

Chapter 7: Alliance with Mishimishimaböwei-teri (207)

  •    How are the villages Mishimishimaböwei-teri and Bisaasi-teri similar?
  •    What does Chagnon mean by "Biology is used as a social weapon"? (hint: How are genealogies used to build alliances?)
  •    How is Kaobawä received upon visiting Mishimishimaböwei-teri and how is this significant?


The Netsilik Eskimo

Chapter 8 - Suicide and the Individual

  • Does information regarding Netsilik suicide seem to support ecological explanations for suicide?
  • What changes does Balikci suggest led to an increase in Netsilik suicide this century?
  • How does Netsilik suicide support Emile Durkheim's claim that "in the same measure as we feel detached from society we become detached from that life whose source and aim is society"?

Chapter 9 - Conflict and Society 

  • How do mockery and derision contribute to and detract from Netsilik violence?
  • What are other causes of Netsilik violence?
  • What is the importance of Netsilik song duels?
  • Who is responsible for the execution of excessively dangerous individuals?


Fourth Segment Review Questions from Class Ethnographies

The Isthmus Zapotecs

Chapter 10: Conclusion

Images, Public and Private (113)

  • What is the difference between "Real" culture and "Ideal" culture and what examples does Chiñas provide?
  • What are non-Zapotec perspectives of Zapotec women and how do they differ from who the Zapotec women really are?

Demography (117)
     What are some of the major demographic changes described by Chiñas?

Population, Modernization, and the Environment (118)
     What are the major modernization projects and their affects on Zapotec life and the surrounding environment?

Health (119)

  • How has the improved water supply affected child mortality?
  • How is obesity a health problem and why is it so prevalent?

Political Changes (120)
    Chiñas discusses political protests and women’s political activism. What is the motivation for these political changes?

Religion (121)
    What are the consequences of fiestas becoming more commercial?

Social Aspects (122)

  • What are the major social problems facing the Zapotec in recent times?
  • How has increased male wage labor changed household economics and gender relationships?
  • What has contributed to the resurgence in the value of ethic identity?


The Netsilik Eskimo

Chapter 10 - Elements of Netsilik Religion 

  • What are the three types of Netsilik souls and how are they different from one another?
  • Can Netsilik religion be described as animism or animatism?
  • What benefits and protections are provided through Netsilik amulets and magic words?
  • Are Netsilik amulets representative of contagious or sympathetic magic?
  • What are the characteristics of the following Netsilik deities?
    • Nuliajuk
    • Narssuk
    • Tatqeq

Chapter 11 - Netsilik Cosmology 

  • Who were the Tunrit and what did they contribute to Netsilik technology?
  • How are Netsilik beliefs about the afterlife related to ideals regarding female beauty?

Chapter 12 - Religious Activities 

  • What are some of the personal rites practiced in Netsilik religion?
  • What are the relationships between Netsilik shaman and the tunraq spirits?
  • Is the ilisiniq magic of the Netsilik sympathetic or contagious?
  • How are the roles of Netsilik shaman similar to their Yanomamö counterparts?  How are they different?

Epilogue, 1989:  The Netsilingmiut Today 

  • How have the additions of rifles, steel traps, and snowmobiles affected Netsilik hunting practices?
  • How have these changes altered Netsilik culture?
  • How has the introduction of Christianity affected Netsilik religion and demography?


Chapter 3: Myth and Cosmos
     What does "I possess the truth" refer to and why is this phrase significant?

The Cosmos (99)

  • What are the four layers of the cosmos?
  • What are the Yanomamö ideas about cannibalism?
  • What is the culture/nature dichotomy?
  • What are the Yanomamö concepts of the soul and how are they important in understanding sickness?

Endocannibalism (114)

  •     What is Endocannibalism?
  •     What are the major components of Yanomamö death rituals?
  •     How does the death ritual differ when an epidemic claims the lives of many people in a single event?
  •     Who consumes the remains of each of the following categories?
  •     Children? Warriors?

Shamans and Hekura (116)

  • What does a shaman do?
  • Who may become a shaman?
  • What are the requirements to become a shaman?
  • What are the two reasons Chagnon attributes to the motivation behind older shaman encouraging young men to become shaman?

Chapter 8: Acceleration of Change in Yanomamö-land (227)

  • What have been the consequences of Yanomamö contact with the missionaries?
  • What are the outcomes of the missionaries ability to get Yanomamö villages to move along the rivers?
  • What are the four levels of contact of the Yanomamö by outsiders?
  • What happened with the infiltration of gold miners into the Amazon (affects on people and the environment)?
  • How has prolonged contact with missionaries changed warfare, raids, housing structures, and the value of personal property?
  • Why do villages with intermediate contact have the highest mortality rates, while villages with maximum contact have the lowest mortality rates?
  • How does Chagnon determine mortality rates (hint: how are age and sex demographic distributions used for epidemiological study)?
  • How has education, literacy, and awareness for the outside world among the Yanomamö changed since Chagnon first began his fieldwork?
  • What are Chagnon’s attitudes regarding contemporary ethical issues such as medical intervention, gold mining, and indigenous advocacy?