Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology
Nina Brown, Community College of Baltimore County
Laura Gonzalez, San Diego Miramar College
Thomas Mcllwraith, University of Guelph
Copyright Year: 2017
ISBN 13: 9781931303552
Publisher: American Anthropological Association
Conditions of Use
This textbook gives a solid overview of key concepts, disciplinary concerns, and methodological approaches for an introductory course in cultural anthropology. Within each chapter, the authors offer a basic primer for the selected topic as... read more
This textbook gives a solid overview of key concepts, disciplinary concerns, and methodological approaches for an introductory course in cultural anthropology. Within each chapter, the authors offer a basic primer for the selected topic as approached through anthropological disciplinary perspectives, dipping into theoretical engagement at a level appropriate for an introductory class. The glossaries at the end of each chapter, taken together, provide a strong listing of key disciplinary terminology. Likewise, chapter bibliographies can lead interested students into a deeper understanding of the discipline. Thus, this textbook is a good starting point for students to learn about cultural anthropology.
The information provided is accurate, specifically for an introductory textbook. There might be issues of being a bit out of date in some areas, or using older disciplinary terms, such as “informant,” or failing to address in greater detail contested concepts within the discipline. Although these critiques would be valid, they do not point to anything truly problematic for a beginner’s overview. Likewise, there are drifts in nuanced concepts from chapter to chapter, because of the different authors involved, but these drifting definitions, for example in discussing the concept of culture, are not significant impediments for introductory students learning the concepts. Overall, the information is clear, accurate, and consistent.
Overall, this textbook grounds itself in the ethnographic experiences of the writers to illustrate a concept or concern. This is an effective method by which ideas are exemplified and contributes to the textbook’s longevity. Certainly, some examples could be updated, but they still work as intended. A more complicated concern relates to privileging “canonical” anthropologists and their studies, crowding out work by more recent researchers, specifically BIPOC and decolonial scholars. This is a valid concern, but the use of the “canon” fits the needs of many introductory courses. Instructors simply need to be aware of this issue and introduce alternative approaches within their lectures. As decolonial and alternative paradigms come into greater prominence in the discipline, this may become a more pressing issue.
Clarity is the strong point of this textbook. It is written in clear language, with a robust glossary included in each chapter. Concepts are explored with rich ethnographic experiences. Subchapters break down complicated ideas and theoretical paradigms. In short, the textbook is written with a beginning student reader as the intended audience and is designed to render the materials in as accessible a manner as possible. Overall, the writers succeed in this task.
In terms of design and layout, the textbook is very consistent. Given the number of contributors, the textbook is amazingly consistent in the degree of information conveyed in each chapter. Because each author draws upon their own ethnographic experiences, the wide array of fieldsites can feel a bit overwhelming, chapter from chapter, but, as illustrations for the specific concepts under discussion, they serve an important role. Overall, the consistency is excellent.
Although the chapters can vary in length, the modularity of this textbook is good. The strength comes from the consistent layout that each chapter utilizes. Additionally, the chapters can “stand alone” or be remixed to suit course design. For example, I have used the chapter on environmental anthropology as a short primer reading in upper division courses. In identity-focused courses, the chapters can be rearranged to flow from performance to gender to race/ethnicity to religion to political power in a smooth reconfiguration of the materials. This works well specifically because the modularity facilitates the remixing of information to fit pedagogical needs.
This textbook is structured into two parts. In Part 1, the chapters deal with the standard materials of an introductory cultural anthropology course, like methodology, language, subsistence, race/ethnicity, religion, and kinship. In Part 2, the chapters contain more specialized topics, like environmental anthropology, medicine and wellness, and public anthropology. Thus, the basics that constitute an introduction to the discipline are all covered in Part 1, but the materials of Part 2 are available to remix the course to suit pedagogical focus. This results in a very flexible and adaptable textbook.
The interface is good. The ability to easily use a text reader, either online or by downloading the text, makes this a very accessible textbook. Likewise, the links that I have used have reliably connected to the intended materials. However, it is likely that link maintenance needs to be regularly and comprehensively reviewed. Overall, the ability to easily access this textbook online has never been a problem for me or my students.
The textbook is well written, well edited, and free from grammatical errors.
The text draws upon many examples grounded in real world experiences and diverse situations from a variety of backgrounds. Examples like social dancing, sexist discourse in politics, and holiday gift giving situate the course concepts in a manner to which a diverse readership can easily relate. They help students think about complex issues, like global commodity chains, hegemonic bio-medical models of health, and performative configurations of subjectivity, through everyday experiences of these issues. Therefore, the textbook does an excellent job of illustrating the relevance of anthropological concepts through examples from a variety of backgrounds and positionalities.
This textbook provides a strong foundation for an introductory course in cultural anthropology. For an instructor who likes tailoring courses to their pedagogical focus, this book is easily remixable. For instructors who like supplementing with additional readings, the bibliographies in each chapter offer excellent suggestions. Finally, the support materials available, like the slides and text bank, can be a great assistance to novice instructors, as well as being viable timesavers for more experienced instructors. I have used this textbook a few times and have been greatly satisfied with it.
I was impressed by the degree to which this textbook covered both topics/areas of interest/ideas that have historically been considered essential to cultural anthropology (language, subsistence, political anthropology, marriage and family,... read more
I was impressed by the degree to which this textbook covered both topics/areas of interest/ideas that have historically been considered essential to cultural anthropology (language, subsistence, political anthropology, marriage and family, economics, sex and gender, etc) AND those that have gained attention and traction more recently (globalization, environmental anthropology, media, etc). Not only does this text do a good job of covering the historical and current breadth of the field but there is significant depth to each of these areas.
In a field as broad and varied as anthropology, I have no doubt that professionals reviewing this text may quibble with some of the choices made by authors- arguing perhaps that a definition left out a relevant feature or that a classification scheme would be best presented another way, etc. That said, the text does well presenting material in a way in which I think most anthropologists would broadly consent is accurate and holistic. Debates within the field are presented as such. It is acknowledged where there is difficulty in arriving at definitions that are fully agreed upon- for example, in Chapter 2: Culture Concept, the authors explictly write that there is no one agreed upon definition of culture and discuss how anthropologists have come to understand culture over the course of the discipline's history as well as discuss how this may articulate with the broader public's understanding of culture. By centering the very difficulty in definition the authors created a useful framing which accurately reflects the development of thought.
As discussed above, I was impressed by this book's coverage of more recent topics/areas of interest to cultural anthropology as well as coverage of those that have been more well established. Topics like environmental anthropology and anthropology and the media are essential to understanding the ways the field continues to develop apace with broader social and environmental changes in our world. These topics are especially relevant to introductory classes so students can see anthropology as a vibrant and dynamic field with opportunities for growth and not a hide-bound dusty discipline that only looks backward to long established arenas.
I particularly appreciated the section in Chapter 1 which asked three current anthropologists to discuss what drew them to the field and to describe their work. This worked well to highlight diversity in the work of contemporary anthropology and allows students to hear from anthropologists directly in their own voices. The structure of this section would allow for easy future updates to highlight other anthropologists if desired.
This book seemed very appropriate to an introductory level class in terms of clarity. Authors did not avoid use of relevant vocabulary and discipline specific terminology but these were always well defined or explained in context. Formatting helped significantly in this regard- key terms were highlighted in various ways including being pulled out into individual text boxes or placed in bold within the text. Students should have no trouble identifying key terms and phrases within the chapter and are additionally aided by a separate glossary section at the end of each chapter.
Adding to clarity- I felt the choices of images and graphics was well curated for each chapter to highlight particular ideas, people, etc. Placement of these as well as captions made their connection to the text easy to discern.
There is good structural consistency to this volume of the type you would expect from any quality textbook- a section at the beginning of each chapter to list learning objections, a section at the end for discussion questions and a glossary, etc.
There is a fair degree of redundancy to presentation of certain terminology and historical context of the field. This is not necessarily a negative- students may not be asked to read/engage with the entirety of the text so the repetition may serve to introduce them to relevant ideas, vocabulary, etc in one area of the book without requiring them to read others. And if a student is reading chapters that have a redundancy in presentation this can serve to reinforce those ideas, vocabulary, etc as important. In those cases it is important that there is a consistency to the presentation of materials and I do see that in this text. Content is not repeated verbatim but there is coherence to the presentation of terminology and ideas.
Chapters vary to some degree in their modularity- some have larger blocks of text than others. But, this is to be expected as different topics within chapters lend themselves to parsing in different ways. All chapters worked to have some level of modularity and headings and subheadings were easy to identify and would allow for instructor to make clear which sections within a chapter they wish students to focus on.
I found individual chapters well organized. I could easily follow each chapter through the material.
In terms of overall book organization I struggled to fully understand the division of the book into two main parts. The preface indicated that Part 1 contained more fundamental topics that would be found in most other textbooks on the subject while Part 2 contained in-depth discussions of more specialized topics.
I did not necessarily find this division useful in understanding how chapters were ordered or in thinking about how I would use different chapters in a class.
I did not encounter any negative issues with the interface. I had no issues navigating the text, viewing images or connecting to embedded links.
Well written with no noted grammatical issues.
As this is a book designed to instruct in areas of culture I felt the authors were all acutely aware of being relativistic, inclusive and presenting examples in a way which is illustrative and instructive without being sensationalistic.
I appreciated the thought and time that had clearly gone into the production of this text. I was impressed by the quality in terms of breadth and depth.
Overall, the textbook covers the main topics that are in many other introductory cultural anthropology texts. The 2nd edition of the book is organized into two main parts. The first part provides an overview of the main topics, whereas the second... read more
Overall, the textbook covers the main topics that are in many other introductory cultural anthropology texts. The 2nd edition of the book is organized into two main parts. The first part provides an overview of the main topics, whereas the second part provides information about more specific subfields in cultural anthropology such as health, media, and performance. The textbook encourages instructors to ‘build their own book’ by adapting chapters as needed. A key difference between this textbook and other textbooks is that the chapters are written by different authors. The use of multiple authors helps to provide different perspectives on anthropology. However, it also leads to a bit of repetition, as definitions and materials that have been covered in previous chapters can be repeated in other chapters.
The content is accurate and error-free. I did not identify instances of bias.
This book functions as a good textbook that provides a lot of background for the main topics in an introductory cultural anthropology class. Since the textbook is written by multiple authors, I’m not sure to what extent updates can be easily made, save for including new chapters in the text. Additionally, while the textbook provides good background information, I found that some chapters did not always provide enough context about the racist and colonial roots of anthropology. This information is mostly only included in one chapter that describes the History of Anthropological ideas. I would have appreciated it if this information was included in the chapters, for example, describing how the colonial roots of political anthropology. However, the fact that the chapters are written by multiple authors means that there may be competing priorities.
The text is written in an accessible way. The authors describe any concepts they introduce. Each chapter also includes a glossary that provides definitions of key terms used in the chapter.
The text is consistent in framework and terminology. The main difference is that because it is written by multiple authors, some concepts are repeated with authors providing their own definitions.
Each chapter has various subsections. Several of the chapters open with a vignette about the author’s experience, which they revisit at various points in the chapter. Therefore, it’s not very easy to simply use one section of a chapter in case it refers to an example that was discussed earlier in the text.
The topics are organized well. The textbook has two parts: the first part includes main topics in cultural anthropology that are in common anthropology textbooks. The second part includes more specific topics and begins with a chapter that provides an overview of various specializations in anthropology.
The text can be downloaded as a PDF. The PDF includes a navigation pane that one can use to link to various chapters. The subsections are not available on the navigation pane, so one needs to go through a chapter to identify the main subsections.
I did not observe any glaring grammatical errors.
I did not observe any cultural insensitivity. The book draws from examples across the world, focusing on examples of different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
I found the textbook useful as an open-access resource that provides background for introductory classes in cultural anthropology. Given that the textbook provides lots of information on general and specific topics, the editors encourage instructors to adapt the book according to their needs, such as only using various chapters or sections. I assigned chapters of the textbook alongside other film and ethnographic essays. The chapters were intended to provide a background for key concepts in anthropology. One downside is that because the textbook is written by multiple authors, there is no “central thesis” about cultural anthropology that brings all the chapters together. The emphasis is on the diversity of voices provided by the perspectives of different anthropologists. I also found that some chapters did not always provide critiques of various aspects of anthropology, for example, a perspective that describes the colonial roots of political anthropology. The textbook also comes with three other resources that I found incredibly useful: an instructor’s guide, a test bank, and slide decks. These three resources are very useful during lecture prep, and one can easily look at additional texts when sourcing for information that may not be included in the chapters. The instructor’s guide also includes discussion questions, homework assignments, and suggestions for films based on the topics in the textbook.
This book provides a clear introduction to the field of anthropology and the essential aspects of culture that inform anthropological inquiry. Each chapter ends with some discussion questions and a list of important key terms/glossary. It has... read more
This book provides a clear introduction to the field of anthropology and the essential aspects of culture that inform anthropological inquiry. Each chapter ends with some discussion questions and a list of important key terms/glossary.
It has long been debated whether non-Anthropology students taking an introductory class in cultural anthropology need to learn about the history of theoretical paradigms in the field. This book is divided into two parts. Part 1 introduces the different sub-fields of anthropology, concepts integral to anthropological inquiry of human behavior and anthropological fieldwork methods. It covers these topics to move on to a chapter exclusively dedicated to the conceptualization of culture, which includes a brief discussion of the important figures and schools of thought in anthropology. The rest of the chapters in Part 1 are focused on what we conventionally expect an introductory text in cultural anthropology to cover, that is, aspects of kinship and marriage, religion, political organization, and gender lives. Part 2 of the book essentially explores the new arenas of cultural representation and change that represent newer sub-disciplines within cultural anthropology or that point to new avenues of anthropological inquiry in a global world. If an instructor was interested in the more conventional anthropology textbook format, they can use Part 1 of the book with the option of including the theoretical development and thematic specializations in the field from Part 2 or replacing the Part 1 first chapter with it. Alternatively, if an instructor wished to provide an overview of the fast-growing specializations within cultural anthropology, such as anthropology of performance, media anthropology, environmental anthropology and public anthropology, they could include Part 2 of the book.
The content is accurate from classic definitions of culture to cutting-edge discussions on anthropocene. It is typically in the images of non-white smaller subsistence communities, laborers in commodity chain and or informal economy, and gender plurality and religious rituals related illustrations that anthropological textbooks reek of ethnocentric, unethical and exotic white portrayals of other cultural lifeways. This textbook is free of all such problematic and exotifying images of "other" cultures, which really helps students see the universality of the discussions on spiritual well-being, non-industrial food production, non-Christian beliefs and gendered subjectivities, to name a few.
Part 2 of the book uses anthropocene as a point of departure to discuss ethnographic studies in environmental anthropology, applying political economy approach to sustainable development in First World countries, the importance of public anthropology, and also provides teasers into new avenues of anthropological inquiry, such as media anthropology and multi-species ethnography. While these features make the content up-to-date, they do not make the text obsolete. Rather, they create a model for incorporating updates in a straightforward process by adding ethnographic examples to the burgeoning fields of cultural anthropology discussed.
The most attractive aspect of the book is that it is written with introductory readers in mind. My students have never had a problem understanding information in the assigned chapters, nor do they find reading burdensome because of the textbook's accessible prose. All chapters begin with clearly stated learning objectives. The text opens with teaser questions on the topic followed by personal anecdotes and experiences from the field, such as the author's reflection on people's perceptions of their racial and ethnic heritage in school based on appearance in the chapter, Race and Ethnicity, to begin a discussion on the social construction of race, which ease the reader into deconstructing the concepts that will be covered. Section headings are also in line with the conversational pattern of the prose and key terms are dispersed at adequate intervals to allow for easy cognitive processing.
This being an Open Educational Resource, the chapters and sections within are parsable. The terminology in each chapter, however, is kept consistent with the basic premise of analyzing each aspect of culture holistically. This can be seen in the discussion on syncretism in the chapter, Globalization. The textbook framework moving between key terms in bold to section headings containing ethnographic examples and conceptual discussions allows instructors to create definition-based objective questions as well as subjective discussion questions from each chapter.
This Open Educational Resource can be edited within chapters or as a selection of chapters. I found it very easy to mix and match chapters in Parts 1 and 2 of the book based on my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course weekly themes. The textbook does not assume that the reader will have arrived at a chapter after reviewing a previous one and eases readers with overlapping but not replicative content, such as on theoretical approaches between chapter, The Culture Concept and chapter, The History of Anthropological Ideas, on subsistence covered in the chapter, Economics, in the chapter, Culture and Sustainability: Environmental Anthropology in the Anthropocene from a sustainability angle, on a discussion of "Ritual as Performance" in the chapter, Performance with a focus on performance in ritual, rather than the types of rituals, as enumerated in the chapter, Religion, etc.
As an Open Educational Resource, it is an advantage for instructors that there is not much self-referencing in the textbook and the chapters can be modified and rearranged. That said, the textbook moves in a logical manner with Part 1 beginning with an introduction to the field and sub-fields of the discipline and the concept of culture to verbal, non-verbal communication to economic behavior and political institutions to forms of social identity (family, gender, race, ethnicity) with a discussion on globalization providing a closing statement on the changing nature of culture and setting a logical framework to move from the classically small-group case studies that anthropology is famous for towards the macro-level, global issues that can be deconstructed from an anthropological lens, such as development, environmental disasters and medical pluralism, the focus of chapters in Part 2. Part 2 also elaborates on themes in Part 1 in a clear fashion with a focus on introduction to and case studies from the growing sub-fields in cultural anthropology, such as media anthropology, public anthropology and environmental anthropology.
I adopted this textbook on the Blackboard Learning Management System and then again on Canvas. I have had students access it outside United States with erratic internet and they have not encountered any issues with the display. I have used the textbook with large classes where students on the autism spectrum and those receiving learning and physical disabilities assistance have used it without noting any distracting features or images. The textbook was also cleared by the instructional design team and online course quality standards review team at my University.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
Typically, an inherent bias in textbook discussions on non-American and non-Western cultural ways, be it in the domain of marriage, subsistence, religious expression or other is that they insensitively include National Geographic style glossy, colored images of non-white faces and bodies. There is not a single instance of insensitive or offensive photography in this textbook. Moreover, pictures like a diverse group working at Starbucks in the discussion on coffee commodity chain in the chapter, Subsistence and of a Trump impersonator at a pro-Trump Rally in the discussion on how transnational identities and religion impact perceptions of American politics in the chapter, Religion make the cultural content more inclusive and relatable.
Power is a concept that has been officially defined in the chapter, Political Anthropology, but used in every chapter to highlight its relevance in economic relations, matriarchal/patriarchal systems, and other aspects of cultural life. In future revisions of the textbook, I would like to see a more formal undertaking of the concept of power and representation in defining culture and in cultural continuity. It would be great to see power established as a point of departure for understanding all aspects of culture early on in the textbook (the chapter, The Culture Concept would be a good place) and revisited in relation to each chapter topic. Thus, power can be a keyword repeated in individual chapter glossary, but with an emphasis on labor relations in one chapter and on racism in another. Also, the chapter on Health and Medicine can be moved to Part 1, as it has been discussed holistically in relation to faith, communal healing, culture bound syndromes and other cultural behaviors.
A key strength of this source is its comprehensive coverage of the key concepts found in Cultural Anthropology. And, each concept is highlighted in the text for ease of finding it by the students as well as listed in the Glossary at the end of... read more
A key strength of this source is its comprehensive coverage of the key concepts found in Cultural Anthropology. And, each concept is highlighted in the text for ease of finding it by the students as well as listed in the Glossary at the end of each Chapter.
Sources are listed and material is well supported. I would like to have seen additional direct quotes of the movers and shakers that students might know of.
Content coverage is mostly our basic content found in all anthropology texts. I would like to have seen more current examples that students could better relate to.
Clearly written and readable. There is some evidence of different writing approaches between the chapters and authors.
There is some evidence of different writing approaches between the chapters and authors. I love the coffee shop framework of the first two chapters and then it is gone. Others begin with a story while others a basic introduction. I would also like to see the integration of media be consistent in all chapters.
The third section seems to be a hodgepodge of areas that lack internal coherence. And, there are far too many sections for a quarter into course.
See comment above. The first two sections have better organization in my opinion, especially the first section. I like the inclusion of the discussion questions and glossary for each chapter.
I like the inclusion of the discussion questions and glossary for each chapter. Some of the photos lack clarity and interest.
Readable and I did not see any errors that jumped out at me.
I would like to see more global examples and more current ones that grab the student's attention.
The strength of this text is its comprehensive coverage of the major anthropological concepts in a clear and concise manner and a in a readable style that the students can easily understand.
In terms of comprehensiveness, I think the book does a great job of covering a lot of the areas that I want covered in an introductory text. Some of the ideas are covered in multiple chapters (including things like culture, kinship and family),... read more
In terms of comprehensiveness, I think the book does a great job of covering a lot of the areas that I want covered in an introductory text. Some of the ideas are covered in multiple chapters (including things like culture, kinship and family), which can help reinforce topics but can also become slightly repetitive. The only topic that I discuss while consulting other textbooks is the topic of economic class and inequality. While there is an Economic Anthropology section, the way that contemporary understandings of class are discussed is not as robust as I want for my students. Class is inherently one of the topics that is overlooked in the United States (with the exception of political rhetoric during election times), and due to this, the topic is something I want to make sure that students engage with on a deeper level. The glossaries for each chapter are great resources for students, and I like the fact that all the words in the glossaries are bolded in the actual text.
I think the accuracy is high due to the great diversity of authors that write each individual chapter in the text. For each topic, there is a scholar or multiple, whose expertise lies within the area, that describe the history and development of different concepts, which really brings out the best information to give students. It is clear through stories and scholar highlights in each chapter that those interviewed, writing, and editing the chapters of the textbook care about giving up to date information to our students.
I think that the textbook does a great job of including people's scholarly journeys and other highlights that the text will stay relevant for a longer period of time, but I also think these are things that can be updated more easily than the bulk of the text itself. The chapters are organized in a way that the beginning highlights some of the development and foundation of each concept before diving deeper into case studies that are supposed to speak more to students. These case studies could be kept for a long period of time, but this is the area that it may be important for editors and authors to update with new case studies to keep up with student interests and contemporary times.
To provide context to my answer in this section, I'd like to note that I've taught with this text for three years at this point. I think the text does a great job of outlining material that needs to be covered in a way that is appropriate and clear. The only comment I usually get from students is that the textbook chapters are long, but this comment is also made about my shorter readings that I assign in complement to the longer textbook chapters. With clarity never being an issue with any comments I receive from students, I have to assume that all parties are able to understand the content given in the textbook!
I think the text is consistent in that the chapters are organized in the same way, with the history/foundation content or introductory stories, followed by deeper dives into content, followed by case studies and samples from scholarly research, and ends with the glossary of highlighted terms. There are also always questions for students to go through to keep thinking about the content/review their comprehension. Due to the fact that each chapter is written by a different author or authors, there is some overlap or explanations of frameworks that occur to make sure students understand the author(s)'s perspectives on content.
The modularity of the text is great, as they make an effort to have many headings and subheadings within each chapter that can be used to delineate what sections students should pay closer attention to. The text itself has some repetitive chapters (Chapters 1 & 2--Introduction to Anthropology AND What is Culture?; Chapters 8 & 10--Family and Marriage AND Gender and Sexuality), but I keep one chapter assigned and one for optional reading in case students are more interested in the topic. Also, due to the way the information is displayed on the website, the textbook can be used for individual chapters as you see fit as an instructor. There are 19 chapters, so it covers a lot of content that you are free to assign as you see necessary for your class's content, and each chapter can be downloaded or read online (and a link can be given for each chapter you assign).
The content of the book looks like it is organized so that if you needed to use only Part 1 chapters for your introductory Cultural Anthropology class, everything would be there for you, including introduction to anthropology (generally), what is culture, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, globalization, etc. So Part 2 chapters focus on more content that may or may not be usually included in an introductory class, including things like sustainability, performance, history of anthropological ideas, public anthropology, health and medicine, and so on. I find that, due to the extra benefits of a test bank and lecture slides, this could be a good approach for an instructor who does not have a lot of time to organize the class content before starting the semester. However, I do actually use many chapters from Part 2 instead of some chapters from Part 1 because I feel that they fit better with my idea of what content I want to expose my students to.
The interface for the text is pretty basic, but that also means that there are not many glitches/issues with accessing material or with formatting of charts and images. They do a good job of including different images and charts, as is pertinent, and there are times where they also embed links to different videos. From other reviews on the book (on this website), people noted that some of these video links don't work. However, I may not be using all the videos included in the book, but the ones that I do use have been working for the last three years of using the book. But, if another reviewer mentioned this, I would also make sure to try links within the chapters that you assign to make sure that students will have access to those if you assign those elements within the text.
No texts are ever perfect, but my experience with this text has been pretty good. I find that sometimes the extra content or some random sentences in the text need to be updated with their editing, but nothing egregious or anything that students would have trouble understanding due to grammatical structures.
As a textbook for Cultural Anthropology, if this text received less than a 5, it would be quite surprising. Due to the many different authors of each chapter/content area, there are a lot of different case studies brought up from around the world. In my classes, students have commented that even though I don't cover all of them in class, they get a good picture of a lot of different ideas of what anthropology can be from the case studies from around the world. I also like that the examples in the text are not just from places that people would call "exotic," as this would just deepen the erroneous understanding that most people have about anthropology already. For instance, in the chapter on Gender and Sexuality, the authors actually bring in an example about gendered language and stereotypes brought up during the 2016 United States Presidential Election, demonstrating how our biases/understandings of gender and use of gendered language can be seen in our everyday interactions and EVEN within politics--while many of us may be able to acknowledge that, many of my students have been surprised to see how these everyday situations can show enculturated understandings of the concepts we learn about in class.
I thoroughly enjoy using this text in the classroom, and I enjoy being able to support other anthropologists who have put together great scholars to provide open access information for students. My students are always happy to use this textbook. While the text provides a basic foundation for learning, it is placed on the instructor to create activities and classroom discussions of the content, but do note that each chapter provides further discussion questions/review questions near to the end of each chapter. The test banks and the instructor slide bonus materials have been invaluable to the continued use of this textbook, even if at this point, my lecture slides diverge significantly from those provided. I find that the text gives a good foundation for students that instructors can easily supplement with other materials to get main points across.
The text covers all areas appropriately and in depth. My only quibble is that I hope in future iterations the authors will include more interviews with practitioners (as they did in section on "why anthropology is important" pp. 18-24 and in the... read more
The text covers all areas appropriately and in depth. My only quibble is that I hope in future iterations the authors will include more interviews with practitioners (as they did in section on "why anthropology is important" pp. 18-24 and in the "practicing anthropology" interview on pp. 417-418. Another text that I have used (Race: Are we so different? Goodman, Moses & Jones) includes interviews throughout and students found them very engaging. I expect that students will appreciate similar interview sections in the various topical areas such as language, gender, health, etc. of this text.
The content is accurate and unbiased.
Some of the case studies dealing with current issues (such as Globalization in Application: The Syrian Situation Today (courtesy of Laurie King) pg. 325-326 need to be updated. In addition, some of the hyperlinks (such as http://www.pbs.org/thelinguists/Endangered-Languages/Hear-Them-Spoken.html) are either broken or link to material which is no longer accessible (such as the McDonald's menu items hyperlinked on pg. 308). Of course in future iterations the authors can easily update these links.
Despite the multiple authorial voices, the text is lucid and accessible. One drawback is that there is repetition between sections (as for example between "the culture concept" and "doing fieldwork"). However, as noted below, because of the ease in "remixing" these sections to suite individual course needs this does not pose a problem.
The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
I particularly appreciate the text's modularity which provides flexibility in mixing and blending between sections in the interests of providing most effective coverage of topics with a limited time frame. For example, I tend to cover subsistence and ecology together in order to disrupt students' biases in favor of technological approaches to sustainability. Blending the "culture & sustainability" and "subsistence" sections and subsections was quickly accomplished and provides excellent coverage.
The organization of the text is clear and logical.
In the PDF version of the text some of the pages have large gaps between text and images but this problem does not occur when reading online. Graphics and images are clear and legible.
I did not find any grammatical errors in the text.
The book is highly relevant and culturally inclusive (including case studies and perspectives from many marginalized groups globally).
I look forward to using this and future updated editions.
The text does a good job of introducing the field of cultural anthropology, though not the four-fields of anthropology. Chapter one does introduce the four fields, but the presentation is limited. This is understandable, due to the fact that it... read more
The text does a good job of introducing the field of cultural anthropology, though not the four-fields of anthropology. Chapter one does introduce the four fields, but the presentation is limited. This is understandable, due to the fact that it would take more than one chapter to present each of the three remaining fields (i.e., archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology) and the methodologies and conceptual frameworks in each one. Although the individual glossaries in the individual chapters in Part One allow for the chapters to be used independently, this leads to much duplication. The citation of sources in individual chapters also duplicates the listing of sources across chapters.
There is no Index in the book. But since it appears that the anthology is constructed to be read as independent chapters, then an index would not have the value that it would have if it was a single book.
There are some minor issues that can be easily corrected. One issue is the listing of the editors as authors. Perspectives is an anthology not a co-authored book, but the title page does not include the terms “Editors,” as is the normal practice in the publishing of academic books. Related to this, the listing of editors did not include “and” after the second editor—the standard form in academic books.
Overall, the copy-editing of the text is good. However, there are some issues that the editors overlooked such as some references not cited correctly; some important terms are presented, but they are not defined/explained, and others. There is significant repetition within Part I. Basic ideas/concepts are repeated in the first twelve chapters. Again, if the chapters are supposed to stand-alone, then this would be expected. But if the editors intend for the text to be read as a whole, the reader is confronted with much repetition. If the latter is the aim, then it would make sense to combine the chapter glossaries into a single glossary at the end of the book, as well as combine all of the references into a single Works Cited section at the end of the work.
There are also some concepts that are not accurately defined. One example is the concept of “intersex” that is introduced in Ch. 9. The text defines the concept as “individuals with ambiguous genitals” (p. 247). This is an incomplete definition. First, like the construct of “race,” “intersex” is a social construct, and reflects multiple elements. Intersex is a general term for multiple biological variations that appear in humans, some appear at birth, others can surface at puberty. An intersex person may or may not have ambiguous genitals, they may possess variation in the presence of “sex” chromosomes (i.e., XX-female, XY-male, XX-male, XY-female, XXY, XYY, XXX, etc.), or persons can have different levels of androgen and/or testosterone production, and degrees of insensitivity to these. This means that a new-born human can be categorized as having ‘normal’ genitalia, be categorized as a “girl” or a “boy,” but have a complex chromosome or hormone make-up that is not apparent to the parents or medical staff. There is also the relatively-rare condition where a human, for example, is born with “normal” female genitalia, but at puberty may develop male characteristics. Such persons are also commonly categorized as intersex.
The content of some of the chapters can be framed as “up-to-date,” however, a good number of the chapters in Part I contain terminology and concepts that are not current within the field of social anthropology, or at least not commonly deployed today such as: “informants,” “traditional,” “emic” v. “etic,” and others. There is also some presentation of “cultural” groups as homogeneous, unvaried communities. Much of social anthropology has moved to recognizing that labels such as “the Navajo” (or the Diné), “Americans,” “traditional Chinese,” “undocumented,” etc., represent incomplete and somewhat misleading statements.
The presence of some of these issues complicate easy revisions of the entire book.
The prose of most of the chapters is accessible to undergraduate students. Most concepts introduced are highlighted, and presented in the individual chapter glossaries. However, as noted in the other answers, structural and conceptual issues need more careful discussion.
Since the textbook is an anthology, the text represents the multiple views of authors. There are some areas that the editors could have discussed with the contributors and presented more consistently in the anthology, or more directly addressed in the Introduction. The most important of these is the central concept of “culture.”
For example: Ch. 1 defines “culture” as “a set of beliefs, practices, and symbols that are learned and shared. Together, they form an all-encompassing, integrated whole that binds people together and shapes their worldview and lifeways” (p.17). And in Ch. 4, the reader is informed that “culture” is “An integrated system of mental elements (beliefs, values, worldview, attitudes, norms), the behavior motivated by those mental elements, and the material items created by those behaviors” (p. 71). Students that are asked to read several of the chapters in Part One may struggle to understand the concept of "culture," given multiple definitions encountered.
Some of the concepts in both definitions have been under debate among anthropologists for a good number of years. The assertion that “culture” is an “all-encompassing, integrated whole” or “an integrated system of mental elements” are not constructs that I have heard at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) for a good number of years. They are constructs I would not use in an Introduction to Cultural/Social Anthropology courses.
The editors also could have standardized the presentation of endnotes and references/citations. Some chapter have both, and the endnotes contain full citations. Full citations should have been integrated into the References/Works Cited, rather than duplicate the same information. And more than one style is used in the chapter bibliographies. Within The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), in social science books, the endnotes are used to present an idea/observation that would distract the reader if included in the text; or the place where the author wishes to guide the reader to other important works. Generally the form used is the CMS author-date format (e.g., See Foucault 1982; Bourdieu 1988). The Works Cited would have the full citation of each.
There are a small number of chapters that I could integrate in my Introduction to Anthropology course. The course has a four-field focus. The notable chapters are Chapter Four on Language, and Chapter 13 on the History of Anthropological Ideas.
The organization follows a common pattern among introductory books. The limit of this, however, is that by segmenting social actions in a particular community, as “family and marriage,” “religion,” “economics,” etcetera, it inadvertently argues against the proposition that cultural anthropology is “holistic.” The presentation reinforces the view that one can easily segment the lives of individuals and communities. In our lives, for example, we know that how we view political actors or statements may be shaped by our religious background, our racio-ethnic position, our economic class, our sexual orientation, etc. The areas of our daily lives are not easily segmented into clean categories, and most individuals have multiple identifications. An individual can be a parent, a spouse, a university professor, a brother, a Sunday school teacher, a volunteer in a political campaign, a feminist, etc.
With the use of Adobe Acrobat Pro, the chapters can be easily selected into individual chapters.
The only grammatical error I encountered is found on p. 355: “are are”.
Something that stood out for me was the absence of citations of the important work of established Chicano/Mexican/Latina/o anthropologist. Carlos Vélez-Ibáñes, Martha Menchaca, Robert Álvarez, Diego Vigil, and others were overlooked. Thought the text did mention Leo Chávez in two pages, Patricia Zavella was noted in three endnotes, but not in the text; Renato Rosaldo was mentioned in two pages; Lynn Stephen was noted in one page; and Arturo Escobar appeared in one endnote. The very limited inclusion of established Latina/o anthropologist suggests that the contributors may not have been aware of their substantial contributions.
At the University of Texas at Arlington, the anthropology program does not have an Introduction to Cultural/Social anthropology, but it does have the Introduction to Anthropology course aimed at non-anthropology majors, and the focus of the course is the four fields in anthropology. This limits the integration of the anthology reviewed.
Secondly, the anthology contains only two contributions from established anthropologists: Laura Nader (Ch. 13) and Robert Borofsky (Ch. 19). The inclusion of other prominent anthropologist in current discussions, such as Achille Mbembe, Didier Fassin, and others, would aid in drawing interest in the anthology.
The chapters are written in a sophisticated way and cover a wide variety of topics. Because the authors are different, students are exposed to a variety of approaches. Each chapter includes a glossary and bibliography. The chapter on language is... read more
The chapters are written in a sophisticated way and cover a wide variety of topics. Because the authors are different, students are exposed to a variety of approaches. Each chapter includes a glossary and bibliography. The chapter on language is especially well-written, as is the globalization one. Good coverage of methods in anthropology as well.
I did not notice any inaccuracies or biases.
Perspectives is in its second edition, updated in 2020. Contemporary topics such as Globalization, Media Anthropology, Public Anthropology, and Environmental Anthropology are especially salient.
Terms are explained well in the text and also defined in a glossary at the end of each chapter. This text manages to cover so much in a very succinct and accessible way.
The chapters meet the learning objectives outlined.
I assign chapters along with other articles, so it works perfectly not only assigned in whole but also broken down. I even assign parts of certain chapters--it has worked so well.
The trajectory/story arc makes logical sense, so I would say this is well designed.
The text contains a variety of photos, diagrams, and links to external content.
I did not notice any grammatical errors in any of the chapters.
This text really does offer a variety of perspectives. It is written in a non-didactic way and encourages critical thinking quite naturally and seamlessly.
I have looked at a number of anthro textbooks (open source and not) and this is by far the best one I have encountered. Really well-done, AAA and authors. In fact, I am using in my class!
The textbook offer a holistic approach to the broad field of cultural anthropology which includes an overview of special topics that should be included in any introductory course, as well as a focus on issues that are especially relevant to... read more
The textbook offer a holistic approach to the broad field of cultural anthropology which includes an overview of special topics that should be included in any introductory course, as well as a focus on issues that are especially relevant to contemporary anthropological study such as globalization, sustainability, climate change, the role of media, the influence of culture on identity and applied anthropology.
I did not notice any inaccuracies or errors in the chapters that I reviewed. Because this text is an edited volume, a collection of chapters written by different authors, a wide variety of perspectives contributes to an approach that is as unbiased as possible.
Unique as an introductory textbook, many chapters present topics are particularly cutting edge in the field of cultural anthropology and would be of great interest to today's student searching for relevancy in the subject matter. One such topic would include the section on applied anthropology and the use of media in anthropology to advocate for young people's interests in hip hop in Peru. The use of such methodology as photovoice and other participant-driven methods demonstrates to students that anthropology offers a fresh, dynamic, and even empowering approach to understanding cultural diversity.
Each chapter included highlighted key terms, a glossary, and fascinating case studies and photographs that illustrate the concepts using examples from practicing anthropologists.
There is consistency in the way the chapters are organized, each chapter beginning with a list of Learning Objectives which are included as subtitles of sections throughout the chapter. Each section contains relevant key terms that highlighted and defined in a glossary at the end of each chapter. Main concepts are illustrated through case studies describing the work of practicing anthropologists.
The text can be easily divided into smaller sections that could be rearranged by an instructor based on individual curriculum. For example, there are many examples of applied anthropology throughout the text that illustrate the relevance of anthropological study in addressing social issues that stem from climate change, health issues, and the global impacts of neoliberalism.
The textbook is organized in a logical way, beginning with foundational concepts, methodology, and theory, and then moving on to areas of special study within the larger field of cultural anthropology.
I did not notice any significant interface or navigation issues. All images headings, links, images and text seem clear and formatted correctly.
I did not notice any grammatical issues in the chapters that I reviewed.
As this is a cultural anthropology textbook, the aim of this book is to present cultural diversity with exceptional sensitivity to inclusion in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, belief, ability, and other backgrounds. I feel this text provides a wide variety of examples of diversity, acknowledging the importance of broad representation in pursuit of an unbiased approach to cross-cultural understanding.
I would recommend this textbook for all students who are interested in social science and its growing relevance in understanding a rapidly changing world. This book highlights the relevance of the anthropological perspective in resolving many of the complications that we are experiencing in our complex social lives. A greater understanding of cultural diversity and giving voice to a multitude of perspectives is a source of empowerment that I believe students will especially appreciate. This textbook is useful in its flexible organization, its variety of perspectives and its helpful resources for instructors.
This text is an edited volume of chapters written by different authors. It covers the history, theoretical framework, and methodology of anthropology and includes individual chapters on important topics and concepts in contemporary cultural... read more
This text is an edited volume of chapters written by different authors. It covers the history, theoretical framework, and methodology of anthropology and includes individual chapters on important topics and concepts in contemporary cultural anthropology.
There is a Table of Contents for the entire book. Each chapter includes its own glossary and bibliography. However, there is no index or search function and it might be difficult to locate a particular topic by chapter or page number.
The range of topics within cultural anthropology is immense and it would be nearly impossible to produce a textbook that covers EVERYTHING.
I would like to see a chapter about human evolution; while this subject falls within the purview of biological anthropology, one could argue that students must understand the evolutionary history of humans as a species in order to fully understand the significance of contemporary human cultural variation. I also would like to see one or more chapters explore classic ethnographies about indigenous cultures that no longer exist as they did when they were documented by anthropologists. Often, these peoples are mentioned to illustrate a concept but I believe there would be value to students at the introductory level in studying lost and changing cultures in depth.
I did not notice any errors in content or obvious sources of bias. Anthropologists by definition attempt to be unbiased in their presentations.
Perspectives is in its second edition, updated in 2020. The textbook is designed to be a living document that can be used in part or in whole and easily updated. The editors have included a Teaching & Learning Resources section, and invite instructors to contribute to the collection.
Perspectives includes chapters on contemporary topics such as Globalization, Media Anthropology, Public Anthropology, and Environmental Anthropology and the Anthropocene. Presumably, the events of 2020 will merit revision and updating of some chapters (e.g., race and ethnicity, medical anthropology, globalization) and/or the addition of brand new chapters discussing the anthropological perspective on these events.
Accessibility is one of the most attractive features of Perspectives. This is not a typical anthropology textbook, crammed with dense text, sidebars, boxes, diagrams, and charts. One of the major strengths of this textbook is the writing style. Although each chapter has a different author, the style is remarkably consistent across chapters. Each chapter is written in a highly engaging style. Each author weaves their own personal and professional experiences into their academic treatment of the topic. Terms are explained well in the text and also defined in a glossary at the end of each chapter. Photos, occasional diagrams, links to external content, and mini-bios of the author are used to enhance the presentation of the material. There is so much here for students to relate to in the material and in the authors' experiences of being anthropologists. Each chapter is enjoyable and easy to read.
There is consistency across chapters. The focus of each chapter is to discuss cultural variation among contemporary human groups using examples and case studies from the anthropological literature. Each author discusses the history of anthropological studies on the main topic, defines important terminology, and explains relevant concepts. Each chapter includes a set of Learning Objectives at the start and a list of Discussion Questions, glossary of terms, and bibliography at the end. There is some overlap of discussion about basic concepts across chapters, particularly in the opening section, and this repetition should reinforce important concepts for students.
The list of chapters and content should align well with any syllabus for a typical introductory cultural anthropology class. It would be equally effective to use the entire book or to pick and choose individual chapters according to the particular emphasis of the syllabus.
The textbook landing page is well organized with a list of chapter titles and authors clearly presented. Chapters are numbered once downloaded, and page numbers and/or subheadings would allow parts of chapters to be assigned for reading.
There are a variety of options for accessing the material. Students can download individual chapters or the entire book or read the material directly online through a browser. There are options for pdf format or for print format.
There is an excellent set of teaching and learning resources available for download, including an instructor’s manual with questions, activities, reading, films, and other resources, powerpoint presentations, and test bank (available only to instructors).
The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion. There are chapters on the history, methodology, and theoretical framework of anthropology and chapters on various topics of interest within the field.
The text contains a variety of photos, diagrams, and links to external content. I did not experience any interface issues.
I did not notice any grammatical errors in any of the chapters.
N/A. Anthropology is by definition the study of different races, ethnicities, identities, cultures, and backgrounds and the concept of cultural relativism (defined in the text as “the idea that we should seek to understand another person’s beliefs and behaviors from the perspective of their own culture and not our own”) is the cornerstone of our field.
I would highly recommend Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology for any introductory course on any college campus. Perspectives is designed to facilitate effective teaching of introductory cultural anthropology, whether remote or face to face. The material is well organized and accessible, and presented in an engaging, interesting, easy to read manner. Helpful instructor resources are provided on the website. Adopting Perspectives in an introductory cultural anthropology class would surely enrich the experience of both student and instructor.
I particularly appreciate the highlighted terms within the text and the glossary associated with each chapter. This is a useful tool for those with a verbal/linguistic style of learning and I have found for newcomers to a particular subject. While... read more
I particularly appreciate the highlighted terms within the text and the glossary associated with each chapter. This is a useful tool for those with a verbal/linguistic style of learning and I have found for newcomers to a particular subject. While I am not a big fan of traditional testing that employs the use of defining terms or multiple choice, it does make the student creation of a study guide more simplistic. I would like to see the discussion questions at the end of chapters be a bit broader in scope in order to help students form a more comprehensive understanding of the chapter.
I appreciate that the introductory chapter brings forward many of the original thinkers and practitioners of Anthropology right in the very beginning. It provides a foundation of early/classic anthropological readings for any student so inclined to delve a bit deeper than the textbook. I particularly appreciate that anthropology, as described in the introduction, is a discipline that transcends the science/humanities divide.
There are two topics that I would like to see included that I cover a great deal in my class discussions – Human Migration and Cultural Heritage and its Conservation. Not only is migration not a new human behavior but it is a complex human behavior in terms of motivation, patterns, politics, economics, and cultural diversity. It is also a current topic of anthropological concern and relevance. Chapter 14 on “Performance” (not a fan of the title) touches on intangible heritage without necessarily calling it that but teaching anthropology students early about the concept of cultural heritage – a very difficult term to truly and completely define – and getting them to start thinking in that direction is imperative. Why discuss culture if we don’t think of it in terms of heritage that should be understood, respected, and protected?
While the introduction does explain that in most academic settings the field of Anthropology has a four subfield approach and even touches on some specialization within Anthropology, it is very heavily reliant on ethnographic research and methods as examples, leaving out physical anthropology and forensics, and archaeology. I realize this is a book about cultural anthropology specifically but would like to see a little more about the other subfields at least in the Introduction.
While I am not an expert of details in terms of all examples used in the text, I do not find any glaring inaccuracies or errors in the general anthropological text. I have a few bias concerns. For example, the section in Chapter 7 (Political Anthropology) on the U.S. Prison System pushes the boundary between presenting information and promoting opinion. While I do not disagree with the argument presented, this seems to be more appropriate for a journal article or a type of “text box” call-out (as I refer to in the “Relevance Longevity” review section below).
On a positive note, Chapter 5 (Subsistence) is one of the chapters (along with the chapters on Culture and Sustainability and Media Anthropology) that provides content that can be most relevant to current times and events while still reaching back in time to explain the different modes of subsistence and how those have evolved over time and how globalization has impacted subsistence.
Unfortunately, some sections throughout the text (for example: some references to Donald Trump) read more like current events articles than academic textbook, especially an introductory text. Other language usage hinders the texts longevity as well. “Over the past [two] years” and “recently” are two examples. The discussion in the political anthropology chapter about ISIS and the formation of state is fascinating. It is not often that a current generation has the ability to see something like this taking shape before their very eyes but perhaps restructuring the format a bit would be helpful. For example, the reference to Abu Bakral-Baghdadi is extremely relevant to the topic but he has been killed since the text was written. The suggestion is to make it less “current events” and more “just the facts.”
I like the “Text Boxes” in the Gender & Sexuality chapter (Chapter 10) because it employs a means of incorporating very current information as examples but they are easily interchangeable and updatable without having to affect the main body of the text other than to perhaps change the Text Box number in the text. As an aside, the “Text Boxes” are more reader-friendly and break up the main body of the text to keep it from being to monotonous.
The language and tone of the text is academic without overuse of technical jargon. The necessary anthropological terms that would be unfamiliar to beginner students are highlighted within the text and the glossary associated with each chapter. Learning objectives are a plus.
Understandably, the byproduct of an edited volume, there are some framework inconsistencies that could be addressed. The learning objectives, glossaries, discussion questions, video and hyperlink call-outs, and special text boxes, all contribute to a smooth consistency throughout. However, two of the chapters have activities which give students the opportunity to “hit the ground running” as young anthropologists by not just reading about anthropology but by doing it. Chapter 4 (Language) incorporates the “Try This” activities and Chapter 10 (Gender & Sexuality) has a list of Activities to choose from at the end of the chapter. It would be interesting to see more of this in other chapters.
As an open and dissected text, the modularity is great. I would definitely use many of these chapters in a course of mine.
While some repetition in terms and glossary are a good way to reinforce concepts, there is a little bit of disjointedness from having multiple authors cover some of the same topics within the text that makes it less reinforcement and more overly repetitious. For example, Chapters 2 and 3 discuss “armchair” and “off the veranda” ethnographic methods when it is really only needed in Chapter 3 about field methods in Anthropology. Chapter 1 also uses the same example from Chapter 2 to discuss the four field approach and holism.
The incorporation of links to videos and other readings is very useful.
There are a few errors in chapter organization between the Table of Contents, the digital chapter sections, and the PDF version of the text. This involves the chapters Health and Medicine, Anthropology in Practice, Media Anthropology, and Public Anthropology.
I had a very difficult time reading the Public Anthropology chapter. The plethora of bold type-face is extremely distracting although it is meant to help make some points clearer. I also take issue with the author encouraging the students to skip and skim using the bold type. While this is an invaluable skill later in college and particularly graduate school, I would not encourage my freshman or sophomore students to engage in this practice with an introductory textbook.
Interview sections in the teaching resources appendix are awesome! More of these would be welcome. Students in an introductory Anthropology course are often in the process of deciding if Anthropology is for them and being able to make life and career applications are important. Maybe there could be one of these for each chapter, an interview with someone who specializes in that chapter’s topic.
I did not notice any glaring grammatical issues.
The chapter of Anthropology in Practice encourages students to check their bias at the door by at least acknowledging that it exists and affects the research. This is very important – perhaps include a brief discussion on this in the introductory chapters, as well. I appreciate that ethics conversations are important and present along with subjectivity and objectivity, cultural relativism, and activism presented as a debate for students to think about. In the first chapter, there is a section on plasticity that has a few references that are questionable. First, “After all, Navajo means people and many groups think they are superior to others” and second, a reference to the “Islamic scarf.” I am not entirely sure what is attempting to be conveyed there but it could be misconstrued as offensive when I suspect it is much more a sentence structure issue. (That section on plasticity has multiple sentence structure issues.) In Chapter 2, in trying to explain the pitfalls of ethnocentrism, talking about “going native” as an actual anthropological term and not part of our anthropological dark past basically perpetuates the concept of “Other” and could be avoided.
I would definitely use this book, especially certain chapters of it, in my classes and would recommend it to others. I am actually looking forward to using it and appreciated the opportunity to review it.
Overall the content is quite comprehensive. Introductory courses like cultural anthropology are taught as a survey course, covering a lot of material at a basic level. As such, these classes are quite broad. Perspectives does an excellent job of... read more
Overall the content is quite comprehensive. Introductory courses like cultural anthropology are taught as a survey course, covering a lot of material at a basic level. As such, these classes are quite broad. Perspectives does an excellent job of covering the content offered in most cultural anthropology courses. Many of the chapters present the standard topics found in most cultural anthropology textbooks, however Perspectives adds content not often found in many cultural anthropology texts (culture/sustainability, seeing like an anthropologist, media and public anthropology). This makes Perspectives more comprehensive than most cultural anthropology textbooks out there today and provides great flexibility in what chapters, topics and content the instructor wants to use. This is an excellent textbook.
Perspectives provides very accurate content within the topics/institutions presented in each chapter as well as the overall methods and perspectives used to study humans through an "anthropological" lens.
Perspectives presents a very current outlook of cultural anthropology, especially with the recent nature of the additional interactive links/material. Though this text provides many formative and historical examples, I think the contemporary examples of anthropological work are valuable to the students as it exemplifies how anthropological concepts can be used to study our world today. And, as most of the academic content in each chapter is similar to other cultural anthropology textbooks, I think the basic content of this textbook will remain relevant for many years. However, some of the current examples and interactive material could loose relevance over time. Maybe newer culturally relevant examples could replace the older examples when the authors update the textbook. Overall, this is a very strong text and I can see using it in my courses for many years.
I found Perspectives to be a very clear and approachable text. The language style use by the authors is appropriate to students at an undergraduate level. The discipline/topical terms are all clearly identified (bolded) and defined, followed by a chapter glossary at the end of each chapter. I also think that the additional interactive content, links to maps, videos etc., not only enhances the experience of this text but helps to provide clarification and concrete examples of material discussed in each chapter.
I found the each chapter to be quite consistent. Even though a different individual authors each chapter, the language style and approach to the material are very similar to each other. It reads like a text that has a single author, but benefits from the perspectives and knowledge of several different academics', each who have relevant experience in the topic they author. Also, the consistency in the layout and organization makes this a very accessible text to read and navigate.
I found the modularity of the text to be quite good. I found a copy of this text at http://perspectives.americananthro.org. This site allowed me to access and download each chapter individually. This creates a lot of flexibility in which chapters can be assigned to students. Moreover it increases the usefulness of the text for me because it can easily be incorporated into course management systems like Canvas (or others) which is a great feature for anyone who teaches online. I LOVE this aspect. As for the chapters, each is well divided into readable sections of content via headings. As a text, I believe that Perspectives is flexible enough to allow instructors to tailor the book to their courses and content.
The book has excellent organization, structure and flow. The first thing I noticed is that the chapter content is similar to o other cultural anthropology textbooks I have used and is organized in a similar fashion. Each chapter starts with a set of learning objectives followed by clear subject headings throughout the text making the material very easy to follow. Like most texts, the important terms for each topic are bolded and defined throughout the chapter. Finally the chapters wrap up with an overall conclusion, discussion and chapter glossary of all of the important terms from the chapter. Mimicking the traditional structure of a book chapter makes the transition to reading this in an online format much easier. As I have stated the content is similar to that of most introductory cultural anthropology books. As such it allows for a lot of flexibility in coverage of topics. Also I was able to find a version of the text at http://perspectives.americananthro.org that allowed me to access each chapter individually. This would increase the flexibility of use for this textbook and again, is great for the modularity aspect of this text.
I reviewed the PDF version of Perspectives. I prefer the PDF because it retains an original textbook style formatting and seems more stable across multiple devices (like computers and mobile devices) than other online formats. I did not encounter any navigational issues. The text and each chapter is very well organized and extremely consistent in its layout. The regularity in the lay out makes it very easy for the reader to navigate each chapter. The photos were clear and well placed. I REALLY loved interactive links interspersed throughout the text. These links make for a much more interactive and dynamic experience that I think students will love.
The book is very well edited. I found no grammatical errors.
Cultural anthropology is a comprehensive discipline that covers many aspects of humans and our life-ways. Some topics such as race and gender may push some individuals out of their comfort zones, but I believe this is an important aspect of college and learning about the diversity in what it means to be human. Anthropologists aim to be both culturally relativistic and holistic in their approach to studying humans. I think perspectives does an excellent job of applying these concepts. No aspect of this text is insensitive or offensive. The authors were comprehensive and inclusive in their use of cultural examples and language.
This is an excellent textbook. I had a lot of fun exploring each chapter and I am very excited to use this text in my classes!
The text as a whole is very comprehensive, as are the individual chapters. With one exception the text covers all of the topics I include in my introductory course in cultural anthropology. The one topic missing in my view is social class and... read more
The text as a whole is very comprehensive, as are the individual chapters. With one exception the text covers all of the topics I include in my introductory course in cultural anthropology. The one topic missing in my view is social class and the cultural dimensions of inequality, particularly the concepts of cultural and social capital as well as resistance. Anthropological approaches influenced my Marx and Marxist thinking could receive more attention. Chapters on language, politics, and economics do address the issue to some extent, but my ideal text would include a more extensive treatment of this topic.
I find the text to be quite accurate on the whole. I found very few mischaracterizations of ideas or situations. In a couple of instances very brief reference was made to an interpretation that is highly speculative. This is a bit dangerous in my view given that many students in introductory courses may be skeptical of anthropology's validity. In a case like this it is better to leave a very questionable point out, or to provide more information about the issue to allow students and instructors to discuss the matter in more detail.
The text does a nice job overall of using both "classic" anthropological ideas and examples/case studies as well as very recent examples. The inclusion of examples with which students will likely be familiar is very important to demonstrating the relevance of cultural anthropology to issues students are likely to see as close to "home." At the same time, such examples can easily become less relevant in a fairly short time. Although it is a decidedly important area of interest and one most students would be aware of, Donald Trump's presidency received a bit too much attention. And although Islamic State is a very important example for political anthropology, the extent of that treatment is a bit out of proportion in comparison to other chapters' case studies.
By and large the chapters are very clearly written and seem to be "pitched" at the right level. Some parts of the first three introductory chapters (anthropology, culture, research methods) struck me as a bit too elementary, but all of the topical chapters were clearly written.
The text is reasonably consistent, especially considering that each chapter was written by different authors, often multiple ones. The use of multiple authors makes it unavoidable that as a whole it is not as consistent as a book by a single author would be, but again, the consistency is very good given that fact. The consistent format is helpful.
I could imagine assigning individual chapters of the text, so I would rate the modularity as good. With some exceptions, individual chapters and sections are of reasonable length. The chapter on gender in particular struck me as quite long — perhaps finding a way to create two chapters would have been helpful. Given that the text lends itself to possibly assigning individual chapters, it would be helpful if it were offered not just with the entire text as a pdf file, but also as individual chapters, or on a site where students could select individual chapters to read.
The overall organization works well. The one thing that struck me as less than ideal was the degree of overlap between the first three chapters. This is understandably challenging: the discipline, its central concept, and its methods are all very closely intertwined, so it is challenging to separate those topics from one another and discuss them effectively in distinct chapters without too much overlap. That said, I could imagine my students finding some of the material/chapters repetitive. Repetition is not always bad, and the editors note that the overlap can be used to highlight the centrality of holism, but I think some additional editing to reduce some of the overlap in the early chapters would be welcome.
The interface is generally user-friendly. I appreciate the inclusion of live links to videos and other materials. As noted above, the single pdf file that I used is a bit cumbersome if one is doing anything other than reading all of the chapters in order.
I did not identify any significant problems with grammar.
The variety of examples is impressive. This is no doubt one advantage of having many authors. The nature of the examples and commentary in some cases make the chapters less than ideal in my view. This may depend on the student population with which one works. In my view cultural anthropology meshes closely with what broadly counts as a "liberal" perspective, and it certainly does so in my case. In many parts of this text that connection is also evident. That said, I work to balance that with the awareness that many students find it easy to dismiss the findings and perspectives of the discipline as simply "liberal opinion." Here too the number and nature of references to Donald Trump certainly make the text timely, and I welcome that, in part because I support engaged anthropology. At the same time, in my particular case the need to be strategic in order to not alienate too many students is also important.
I appreciate the work of the editors and authors to make a strong open source introductory text in cultural anthropology available.
Content wise the book is comprehensive and it addresses each one of the major themes/topics that an introductory cultural anthropology course needs to cover. The order of the topics follows a logical progression, from the simple to the complex,... read more
Content wise the book is comprehensive and it addresses each one of the major themes/topics that an introductory cultural anthropology course needs to cover. The order of the topics follows a logical progression, from the simple to the complex, that allows a proper introduction to anthropology’s key ideas.
The review was done on the PDF version of the book, which is my preferred reading format for students and myself. I prefer PDFs because they retain all the formatting layout of the original printed versions, which allows for proper page citations and referencing of passages when discussing it. The chapters layout on, Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology, indeed reproduces what you will expected in a printed version. However, the PDF version was lacking a Table of Content, and an effective index and or global glossary. In order to view the table of content you have to go the online version of the book, a rather unnecessary step. Although there is not a global glossary, individual chapters have, after the conclusion, useful chapter glossaries and discussion questions.
This book is meant as an introduction to cultural anthropology and as such is a survey of the key concepts and debates that makes up the discipline across time. The book is accurate on its representation of the multiplicity of approaches the discipline is known for.
Both the overall structure of the book as well as the organization of each individual chapter makes this book relevant, up-to-date and easily modifiable. This is particularly true of the well organized chapter structure. From the outset you have clearly stated learning objectives. Each chapter is highly modular, broken down in smaller sections with clear headings. Key concepts are in bold. Well placed images further expand on concepts discussed. At the end of each chapter succinct conclusions accompanied by discussion questions and a chapter glossary just make of this book a joy to read for the students.
Even when the book is a collaboration of multiple authors, I found remarkably consistent the writing style. Particularly how clear and clean the prose was. The editors did a great job in keeping the writing consistent across the board.
Anthropology is a discipline with a multiplicity of approaches, theoretical and otherwise. Emphasis on what is relevant when addressing a topic vary greatly depending on the viewpoint. However, what makes this text interesting is how the editors made sure the structure of the chapters remained consistent regardless of the disciplinary approach.
While some of the chapters could have use a little more modularity, the majority of the chapter are modular, well structure and clear.
Both the overall structure of the book as well as the organization of each individual chapter makes this book relevant, up-to-date and easily modifiable. This is particularly true of the well organized chapter structure. Content wise the book is comprehensive and it addresses each one of the major themes/topics that an introductory cultural anthropology course needs to cover. The order of the topics follows a logical progression, from the simple to the complex, that allows a proper introduction to anthropology’s key ideas.
On the PDF version, other than lacking a table of content and a global glossary, the book is flawless in its typesetting, layout, and overall organizational structure.
I cannot wait to use parts of this book in many of my classes.
This book was a pleasure to review.
All basic cultural anthropology texts strive to be comprehensive. This is hard to do, given that our discipline aspires to be a science of humanity itself – to be comprehensive is to cover holistically nearly every aspect of human life (or at... read more
All basic cultural anthropology texts strive to be comprehensive. This is hard to do, given that our discipline aspires to be a science of humanity itself – to be comprehensive is to cover holistically nearly every aspect of human life (or at least, all aspects that relate to society and culture). That is hard to do in one book, especially if there is only one author. As a collection of individual essays, this book succeeds in ways other cannot. Each individual essay is the work of an anthropologist with expertise in that specific area, so that each chapter is mostly comprehensive in its own terms. The book covers all the areas that standard textbooks cover (culture, language, kinship, gender, economics, etc.). It goes beyond those areas, however, with chapters on sustainability, performance, media, medicine, and public anthropology. And it has some excellent interviews and resources that can liven up the readings for students. It is a remarkable resource that I will draw on in upcoming classes.
Each chapter has an individual author and each other seems to have done their best to provide an accurate set of insights into the history, theories, and methods of the particular part of anthropology they study. That said, there is always room for other anthropologists to disagree, to assert alternative ideas, or contradictory evidence. Within the usual framework of our discipline, this is a very accurate representation of cultural anthropology.
This is a very up-to-date representation of cultural anthropology as of early 2018. Many of the chapters should remain relevant for quite some time. It might be helpful in the long run to add or change some of the interviews, as new anthropologists with interesting insights become available. Also, some of the links to videos in various chapters already appear to be broken. They may still be available with some searching, but that is a bit of an issue.
The chapters are mostly written in a style that should be easily accessible to undergraduates. Jargon and technical terms are explained and each chapter has a list of keywords and definitions, which is very helpful.
The format of each chapter is the same, with learning objectives, the text, highlighted terms and concepts, questions for study, a glossary, a an author bio, bibliography (often very helpful!), notes.
This book is designed so that an instructor can easily assign individual chapters without needing the entire book. This is a great feature for teaching.That said, I would not recommend breaking up the chapters into smaller sections.
The flow of the book replicates the style of most cultural anthropology textbooks, except for the extra material (interviews, etc.) at the end.
I used the Apple Ibook reader and it seems fine.
The grammar and editing were excellent.
This is a cultural anthropology introductory textbook. It covers quite a lot of ground in terms of different cultures, social structures, etc. People may be offended when confronted with the full range of human thinking, activity, etc. This is the kind of book people need to read if they want to learn about humanity and think critically about their own culture and society. If they are not prepared to be shaken out of their own insensitivity, they should not read this book.
I am quite happy to have read this and look forward to incorporating parts of it in my next intro cultural anthropology class.
Very few times I have come across a more comprehensive textbook. The 18 chapters cover major topics in Cultural Anthropology ranging from a very critical introduction by Laura Nader on what this discipline has historically been about, its... read more
Very few times I have come across a more comprehensive textbook. The 18 chapters cover major topics in Cultural Anthropology ranging from a very critical introduction by Laura Nader on what this discipline has historically been about, its uniqueness within the social sciences to a thought provoking chapter on Public Anthropology by the distinguished scholar Robert Borofsky. Every chapter includes useful sections such as the Learning Objectives at the beginning and the Discussion Questions at the end. Besides, for every theme the students will find excellent material in the form of photography as well as links to websites with scholarly and other sources where both students and instructors would be able to expand or go deeper into a subject. The use of notes is also pertinent and to the point.
Other key feature present in each chapter is a variety of case studies that would support the students' understanding of anthropological concepts, theories, the historical and social context, and the role of the ethnographer or anthropologist within and outside academia. Also, there is no scarcity of websites for students to get hold of documentaries, other audio-visual and written material to facilitate their grasp of the subject. The Glossary at the end of each chapter also contributes to make this textbook a very user friendly one.
I would hardly find a more comprehensive presentation and discussion of all the subjects included in the textbook. Another illustration of my point is Chapter 10 on the complexity of sexuality and gender coordinated by Carol Mukhopadhyay, which in my opinion goes beyond undergraduate level so the instructor has plenty of possible entries to these subjects.
I am adopting the textbook with no reservations whatsoever and I am glad that my students in the Community College I am teaching will not have to pay for it
From the chapters I read I found accurate presentation and discussion of themes backed by Notes and Bibliography to credit the sources.
One of the qualities I found in the textbook is the treatment and inclusion of the "classic" works in Cultural Anthropology as well as a wide array of works by contemporary practitioners and authors. I can see how the textbook will stand the test of time.
By and large, the language used by the authors is clear and they provide explanations and illustrations to make their point(s) clear.
Every chapter of the textbook is consistent with an overall pattern that I am sure the editors where very careful about.
Perhaps the second edition should work to achieve better modularity. Taken into account that each of the 18 chapters is written by different author(s), I can explain why some sections (blocks) could be better organized.
There is a logic presentation of each chapter with a general introduction to the subject followed by the intricacies, both conceptual and ethnographic of the theme. I really appreciate the inclusion of case studies with very interesting and current perspective.
I did not find a particular problem related to interface issues. The images are clear and well chosen and the display of links to websites or other sources is correct.
I did not find any grammatical error in the several chapters that I reviewed.
One of the main reasons that drew me to the textbook is the cultural relevance of the theoretical, methodological, and ethical aspects of the material presented. I will be very happy with the exposure my students will have to main tenets of Cultural Anthropology with careful and inclusive choices of language and illustrations of concepts and case studies that incorporate up to date material.
I am going to adopt the textbook and I would like to keep in touch because, after all, it is in the actual experience that we learn and appreciate a textbook.
Table of Contents
- 1. The Development of Anthropological Ideas
- 2. The Culture Concept
- 3. Doing Fieldwork: Methods in Cultural Anthropology
- 4. Language
- 5. Subsistence
- 6. Economics
- 7. Political Anthropology: A Cross-Cultural Comparison
- 8. Family and Marriage
- 9. Race and Ethnicity
- 10. Gender and Sexuality
- 11. Religion
- 12. Globalization
- 13. Culture and Sustainability
- 14. Performance
- 15. Health and Medicine
- 16. Seeing Like an Anthropologist: Anthropology in Practice
- 17. Media Anthropology: Meaning, Embodiment, Infrastructure, and Activism
- 18. Public Anthropology
About the Book
We are delighted to bring to you this novel textbook, a collection of chapters on the essential topics in cultural anthropology. Different from other introductory textbooks, this book is an edited volume with each chapter written by a different author. Each author has written from their experiences working as an anthropologist and that personal touch makes for an accessible introduction to cultural anthropology.
Our approach to cultural anthropology is holistic. We see the interconnectedness of cultural practicesand, in all of the chapters, we emphasize the comparison of cultures and the ways of life ofdifferent peoples. We start with Laura Nader's observation that cultural differences need not be seenas a problem. In our complicated world of increasing migration, nationalism, and climate challenges,cultural diversity might actually be the source of conflict resolution and new approaches to ensuringa healthier world. Indeed, as Katie Nelson reminds us, anthropology exposes the familiarity in theideas and practices of others that seem bizarre. Robert Borofsky advocates for anthropology's abilityto empower people and facilitate good. Borofsky calls on anthropologists to engage with a widerpublic to bring our incredible stories and important insights to helping resolve the most critical issueswe face in the world today. This book brings Nader, Nelson, Borofsky, and many others together todemonstrate that our anthropological understandings can help all of us to improve the lives of peoplethe world over. We need you, as students, to see the possibilities. As instructors, we want to help youshare anthropological knowledge and understanding easily. We want all readers to be inspired by theintensely personal writings of the anthropologists who contribute to this volume.
About the Contributors
Nina Brown is a sociology professor at Community College of Baltimore County - Essex located in Baltimore, Maryland.
Laura Gonzalez is a Professor in the Anthropology department at San Diego Miramar College, San Diego, CA.
Thomas Mcllwraith is a cultural anthropologist conducting research with Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, Canada. In 2007, he completed a PhD in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, USA. Mcllwraith received a Master's degree from the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in 1995. And, he has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and literature from the University of Toronto. Prior to joining the department here at Guelph, he taught anthropology at Douglas College in New Westminster, British Columbia. He has also worked as a consulting anthropologist with First Nations communities throughout British Columbia and northern Alberta on projects related to land use planning, local and family history, and traditional knowledge.
His academic work involves the documentation of territoriality and the identification of rights of local Indigenous peoples to use land. These days, this usually means an effort to understand contemporary Indigenous land use in the context of mining and logging. His work includes an effort to understand the attitudes and biases that underpin consulting anthropology projects such as traditional land use and occupancy studies.