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
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 seen
as 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 the
ideas 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 issues
we 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 you
share 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.