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Dr. Linda Barber
Response Paper #1
Anthropology has set characteristics that allocate it from other disciplines. These
characteristics include: holism, comparativism, fieldwork and cultural relativism. By
understanding these principles, we can better appreciate what anthropology is.
When I hear the word holism, I think of medical treatments. When treating a patient, a
healthcare professional assess and trea ts them based on their mental, emotio nal and physical
health . This is called the holistic approach. The holistic approach can be applied to many
different fields and types of work. In anthropology, holism is the treatment anthropologists use
when they are studying cultures o f the past, present and future. The study of man-kind is broad
and fall s under the category of holism which can be defined as the study of the whole human
condition. Anthropologists may study the region a specific group or person was from. Depending
on the region and types of land these people lived on, anthropologists may study the food
production and diet, they possessed . They study religions and gods that were wors hipped.
Spoken l anguage, written pieces of literature and art can also be examined to help anthropologist
better understand "who they were," "who we are" and what we will be capable of in the future.
When we open our mind to all these combining factors, we can compare different cultures. When
we compare different cultures, we can see how different types of humans adapted to their
environment, how their culture and biology eff ected one another and vice versa, the diversity
between different cultures and what makes us human. An example of holism is globalization.
Globalization is an example of holism because it is a series of changes in the world. These
changes cause different people in various parts of the world to become dependent on each other.
Globalization includes the breakthrough of international politics, trade, travel, tourism, media,
and migration. People can interlink on a global scale through means of globalization. (pg.260-
Comparativism refers to the cross-cultural perspective and approach in anthropology.
The assumption that people are all the same is wrong . Comparativism gives us insight into why
societies are similar and different because we are constantly comparing them to each other.
Examples of comparativism and the cross-cultural perspective would be nodding. Nodding is not
always a neg ative sign. Americans use their finger to point and the people of Madagascar do not.
The people of Madagascar use their lips to point. Another example of comparativism is
affirmation. Americans say "uh huh" and in Madagascar "uh huh" is a way of denying someone.
(pg.62) Language and kinesics is just one simple way anthropologist compare different societies
Each anthropologist is given the opportunity to do f ieldwork . Most anthropologists are
respectful of other cultures and understand human diversity. Fieldwork is another way
anthropologists can gain firsthand cross-cultural perspectives. Fieldwork allows anthropologist to
"dig out" buried information. After experiencing or conducting a study on a specific population,
many times, anthropologist will write accounts of their findings and publish it for all to see. To
gather information and knowledge during fieldwork an anthropologist may conduct interviews,
surveys, or r esearch to help their cause. Genevieve Bell has a Ph.D. in anthropology and works
for the company, Intel. Intel is one of many large corporations that employ anthropologists. Ms.
Bell's background in anthropology has helped her contribute ideas to product development and
marketing. In China, she studied middle-class families for two years. Her fieldwork allowed her
to show Intel how they used their space. In result of her findings, Intel developed a smaller
computer with two languages and a parental. pg.89 )
Cultural Relativism is the idea that each culture is unique and we should not judge or
disrespect their customs and values for the sole reason that they are different from our own . All
cultures are different so there is no right or wrong when it comes to the beliefs they may possess.
What is right or wrong is matter of opinion. Anthropologists must have a neutral, open mind
when trying to understand new cultures different from their own. You should not judge
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