Sample Article Analyses on Cultural Anthropology

EssayArticle Review
Apr 18, 2022

Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology that focuses on thought and behavioral patterns of human societies, usually comparing ethnic or older societies with contemporary ones. As its name suggests, cultural anthropology revolves around culture—the amalgamation of knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, and other habits humans have accumulated or developed that eventually influenced people’s identities. Indeed, the study of cultural anthropology encompasses all aspects of human life. The articles analyzed in the succeeding sections are all evidence of the fact that anthropology is relevant in all aspects of modern human society, and that anthropologists have a role everywhere. The succeeding sections provide samples to guide you in how to write an article critique.

Section: Culture and Fieldwork

Chapter: Tian, R. (2010). The Unique Contributions and the Unique Methodologies: A Concise Overview of the Applications of Business Anthropology. International Journal of Business Anthropology , 1(2). https://www.academia.edu/40947880/The_Unique_Contributions_and_the_Unique_Methodologies_A_Concise_Overview_of_the_Applications_of_Business_Anthropology

Summary of article:

The article tackles the indispensable role of anthropology in business. For many corporate anthropologists, studying a corporate culture is not too different from studying any other cultural or ethnic group since economic organizations also share similar values and cultures (Tian, year). Corporate anthropologists also employ the same methods and theories to understand the behaviors of people in the context of business. The main difference, however, is that the main goal of these anthropologists is profit. Corporate anthropologists, thus, apply their skills and knowledge in different aspects of business, namely: (1) organizational anthropology, (2) anthropology of marketing and consumer behavior, (3) design anthropology (Jordan, 2010 cited in Tian, 2010), (4) anthropology of competitive intelligence and knowledge management, and (5) anthropology of international and cross-cultural business (Tian, 2020). The author cites a few anthropologists who have helped various businesses either resolve issues, improve systems, or allow the smooth implementation of new systems by using the tools of anthropology. The author suggests that corporate anthropologists should conduct an ethnographic study to gain a better understanding of how people respond to the workplace as both employees and consumers and to become familiar with business issues and, therefore, be able to steer organizations in the ideal direction toward better management and business practices. 

Anthropologist’s Experience:

Robert Guang Tian is a Chinese anthropologist who has published various research and books on regional development, cross-cultural management, and economic anthropology. The majority of the anthropologist’s work is concerned with corporate or business applications of anthropology and with Chinese culture and society. 

My Experience:

I have presented on the role anthropologists play in various fields in society, including corporations. I am aware of the seemingly polarized nature of anthropology and business. However, until recently, I was not fully aware of the extent to which corporate anthropologists are involved in business, particularly in the development of products, improvement of organizational culture and systems, and knowledge management. Up until then, my understanding of the role of anthropologists in business was in the management of cross-cultural barriers, particularly in the context of globalization. As the article made abundantly clear, the applications of anthropology are not limited to this but are quite relevant even within the context or culture of the organization.

Comparison:

The anthropologist’s experience differs greatly from mine. Tian has an extensive experience as an anthropologist, especially in research. He has published numerous research articles and books on regional development, cross-cultural management, and economic anthropology. What we both have in common, however, is our appreciation of the indispensable role of anthropologists in the field of business. With deeper incorporation of anthropology in business, not only will businesses improve but potentially also the economy.

Section: Culture and Food

Chapter: Brown, P. (1991, March). Culture and evolution of obesity. Human Nature , 2(1), 31-57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02692180

Summary of Article:

The article attempts to explain the phenomenon of obesity through cross-cultural and evolutionary analysis, particularly by examining how and why cultures evolved to exhibit certain behaviors and beliefs that led to individuals developing a predisposition to obesity. While obesity has always been understood as a biological concern or a product of one’s genes, the author explained this explanation is rather limited. Obesity is a result of an intermingling of genes or “fat phenotypes” and “non-genetic or cultural factors” (Brown, 1991, p. 32). The analysis concluded that the genetic and cultural traits found in people today were likely adapted from historical food scarcities, which then, have become maladaptive in today’s context where food is abundant (Brown, 1991). According to Brown, the predisposition to obesity is further compounded by the diet and weight-loss industry that thrives on unhealthy cultural beliefs about the ideal body and sexual attractiveness. Looking at obesity from a perspective of aesthetics rather than from a medical perspective contributes further to the problem. He proposes, too, that medical perspectives on obesity should take into account cultural factors and/or anthropological perspectives on obesity.

Anthropologist’s Experience:

Peter Brown, the author of the article discussed above, is a renowned anthropologist whose research focused on culture and health. He has investigated numerous public health issues and how they relate to society and culture. With his extensive knowledge of the socio-cultural aspects of public health issues, he has also worked with the World Health Organization’s Scientific Advisory Committee (“Peter Brown,” n.d.). Brown’s work in the field has had a deep impact on how global public health issues, including obesity and malaria, have come to be understood and approached.

My Experience:

As a woman in today’s world, I am highly aware of the American society’s obsession with obesity and overweightness. There is a constant pressure to conform to the ideal image of a “perfect body” which went from being “skinny” to “fit” in more recent years with the popularity of gyms. Everywhere, thin women are displayed as the ideal and while some brands have started to display more “real bodies” and even “fat bodies” in advertisements, a lot of people do not hesitate to express their repulsion toward such bodies. I’m of the opinion that the health issue of obesity would be handled better if we as a society adapted the perspective presented by Brown and stopped judging people because of their weight.

Comparison:

Considering the fact that the article was published in 1991, I quite understand but still would like to bring up that a discussion on eating disorders and how they relate to or confound issues of obesity would enrich the discussion further. Eating disorders are another byproduct of the diet industry that places a heavy emphasis on thinness as the basis of an individual’s worth and attractiveness. Evidently, the culture in which Brown wrote this article differs from the one that we live in now, so some of his analyses are no longer completely accurate, specifically the statement that the dieting craze is prevalent only among affluent women. Without contradicting the fact that obesity is affected by social status and wealth, it is worth noting that, in today’s world, dieting (and working out) is no longer confined among the wealthy but has also become quite accessible among the middle class.

Section: Culture And Race

Chapter: McIntosh, P. (1989). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Peace and Freedom . https://psychology.umbc.edu/files/2016/10/White-Privilege_McIntosh-1989.pdf

Article Summary:

The article by Peggy McIntosh delves on the invisible privileges that people belonging in the majority fail to see. The anthropologist begins the discussion by discussing the feminist movement’s attempts to make men understand their privileges and then explained that this dilemma is the very same dilemma that Black people face with regard to white women, and indeed white people in general, and their white privilege. The author goes on to explain that this seeming inability to recognize and acknowledge one’s privileges is not necessarily conscious but the product of years of systematic conditioning (McIntosh, 1989). She also demonstrates how simple and inane these privileges may seem to be to those who carry these privileges, demonstrating how deeply interconnected racism and culture are. At the end of the article, she asks people of privilege to not stop at acknowledging their privileges but to also think about what they will do to end it.

Anthropologist’s Experience:

As the article implies, McIntosh was a feminist first before she became an anti-racism activist and scholar. She has extensively researched, written, and spoken about the various oppressions experienced by those in the margins, and how these can be addressed. Her work started in the 80s and continues until today. McIntosh’s article is based primarily on her privilege as a white person. She explains in detail her experiences that she has started to recognize as forms of white privilege. These experiences are rather mundane—indeed, experiences that those in privilege would hardly think twice about. It is a rather groundbreaking perspective that even though it was written in 1989, it continues to be used as a primary resource on white privilege and racism discussions.

My Experience:

As a white female, I closely relate to McIntosh’s experience. I grew up unconscious of my white privilege while being extremely aware of the disadvantages of being a woman. At times, I was even tempted to think that I had been a victim of “reverse racism” as I saw institutions, for instance, colleges and scholarship grants, prioritizing the provision of scholarships to minorities. It is quite interesting how McIntosh’s article was published in 1989, and the discussions on white privilege have been ongoing since then, and yet many are still unaware of this privilege. This is a testament to how much work the country still needs to work to eradicate racism.

Comparison:

The anthropologist and I have similar opinions, although perhaps hers is more radical than mine. Based on her writing, McIntosh is fully embracing the reality of white privilege and the responsibility of breaking away from it. I, however, do not agree with her last statements where she is placing the burden of eradicating white privilege on the individuals when, as she herself described in the text, it is something that is also deeply entrenched in societal systems.

Section: Economy and Business

Chapter: Cronk, L. (1989). Strings Attached. On Human Nature. https://anthro.rutgers.edu/downloads/faculty/168-cronk-stringsattached/file

Article Summary:

Lee Cronk offers a useful insight into how cultural differences have led to cultural misunderstandings that affected the relationship between groups of people. The anthropologist sheds light on the fact that the offense felt by one group toward a custom, for instance, the Europeans regarding the gift-giving traditions of the Native Americans, has an equivalent offense felt by the other group, in this case, the Native Americans’ view of Europeans taking gifts freely as an act of hostility (Cronk, 1989). The article revolves around the different customs of gift-giving and how the misunderstandings that stem from them could lead (in the case of Native Americans have led) to racial stereotypes and prejudices.

Anthropologist’s Experience:

The anthropologist Cronk is evidently speaking from experience about the potential of cultural misunderstandings as a breeding ground for prejudice and racism. In the article, he cited numerous anthropologists who have documented or experienced firsthand the differences in gift-giving customs between cultures. As an anthropologist, he also connected the experience of older anthropologists with his observations or experiences in the contemporary world. He explains that although unaware, modern individuals also engage in gift-giving for a purpose rather than pure generosity (Cronk, 1989). He also cites how international diplomacy is entrenched in the “Indian gift” practice as nations provide gifts and various types of support to others to maintain good relations and in exchange for favors (Cronk, 1989). Cronk provides a well-grounded perspective, too, on how cultures may differ on the surface level but are, in fact, not too different.

My Experience:

As someone whose experience as an anthropologist and in relation to culture is quite limited, I realized how unaware I am of how I perceive other cultures and, in turn, how others perceive mine. Although I often found my mother’s practice of bringing a gift whenever she visits someone else’s house absurd, I find that I also engage in gift-giving nowadays. I give my friends gifts on their birthdays; and while I claim to do it out of love and appreciation, one cannot deny that I also do it out of a sense of responsibility because they have always given me gifts as well. It is quite interesting how these cultural differences and misunderstandings do not necessarily only exist between different ethnicities but also between generations.

Comparison:

I find that the anthropologist’s experience is eye-opening for me. It is interesting that a practice that seems so mundane is actually riddled with so many implications and is an important element of culture . While my realizations regarding the act of gift-giving is mostly confined to the personal, it is quite telling that there are parallelisms in the way that gift-giving functions on the individual or personal level and on the international level. 

Section: Gender and Socialization

Chapter: Friedl, E. (1978). Society and sex roles. Human Naturehttp://web.mnstate.edu/robertsb/380/Society%20and%20Sex%20Roles.pdf

Article Summary:

The anthropologist tackles the issue of equality between the sexes and their roles in society in different cultures. This article appears to attempt to address the contention regarding whether ancient cultures were patriarchal or matriarchal. Friedl contends that the fight regarding which type of civilization existed first, nor which is the “natural” one, is irrelevant because both types exist and the inclination depends on the prevalent form of acquiring food (1978). Specifically, hunter-gatherer groups tend to be patriarchal while foragers tend to be more egalitarian, with women having independence or rights to lead as they work along with men. She admits, however, that while women may dominate or lead certain groups, no completely matriarchal society exists (Friedl, 1978). In conclusion, the anthropologist explains that there are no fixed sex roles because status in any group is primarily determined by who has control over the distribution of goods and services. Thus, if we are to look into the natural order of things, we will find that there is room for many different arrangements. 

Anthropologist’s Experience:

The anthropologist has extensive knowledge of different ethnic groups which allowed her to compare and contrast the structure of different ethnic groups. As an anthropologist, she is careful not to make any generalizations about culture. Instead, she provides an objective perspective explaining that the status of men and women is dependent on the roles they take in society. The author wrote the article at the height of the feminist movement as a response to claims from opposing parties about which form of society is “natural.” The anthropologist debunked both claims with an anthropological perspective. However, based on her research, the anthropologist appears to side with the feminists by justifying their cause to achieve equality between the sexes as a natural course of history as women have started to gain control over the exchange of resources in modern times.

My Experience:

Feminism is nothing new to me. Feminist ideas are present in almost all forms of media. I would go as far as to say that I, too, am a feminist. As a woman, it is impossible to not notice the inequalities and disadvantages experienced by women, especially those imposed by society simply because we are women. I quite agree with Friedl that the changing gender roles is a natural course of history as societies shift from having men perform the functions deemed most important to both sexes having such abilities to provide and control resources. Thus, it is not important whether matriarchy or patriarchy is the natural order of things, what is important is that patriarchy no longer fits the bill in today’s society.

Comparison:

Much has changed in the feminist theory since Friedl’s writing of the article. What is worth noting is that feminists do not seek to turn society into a matriarchal one where the men become subordinate. Instead, feminists aim for what Friedl proposed is more appropriate—egalitarianism. In egalitarianism, one sex does not dominate the other. This shift makes sense since societies no longer have to rely only on their physical prowess to acquire resources. 

My Favorite Article:

My favorite article among all those discussed in class is “Strings Attached” by Lee Cronk. It provides an interesting insight into how cultural differences affect the way people view each other. It shed a light on why racism seems to be deep-seated among people—indeed, racism comes from a lack of understanding of each other’s customs and beliefs. In particular, the article disproves the justification that stereotypes exist because they are true. Rather, the article shows that stereotypes come from a lack of understanding of how and why people from a different culture do certain things. I believe this article is a great resource that could help uproot prejudiced thinking.

After reading and reflecting on all these articles for this custom article review , I now appreciate how extensive the study of anthropology is and how much it actually affects my personal life, not just society and culture. Anthropology plays an important role in our society—in keeping it functioning and in helping it improve. As long as there are people, the study of anthropology will remain indispensable.


References

Brown, P. (1991, March). Culture and evolution of obesity. Human Nature, 2(1), 31-57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02692180

Cronk, L. (1989). Strings Attached. On Human Nature. https://anthro.rutgers.edu/downloads/faculty/168-cronk-stringsattached/file

Friedl, E. (1978). Society and sex roles. Human Nature. http://web.mnstate.edu/robertsb/380/Society%20and%20Sex%20Roles.pdf

McIntosh, P. (1989). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Peace and Freedom. https://psychology.umbc.edu/files/2016/10/White-Privilege_McIntosh-1989.pdf 

“Peter Brown.” (n.d.). Emory College of Arts and Sciences – Department of Anthropology, Retrieved May 6, 2022, https://anthropology.emory.edu/people/bios/brown-peter.html 

Tian, R. (2010). The Unique Contributions and the Unique Methodologies: A Concise Overview of the Applications of Business Anthropology. International Journal of Business Anthropology, 1(2). https://www.academia.edu/40947880/The_Unique_Contributions_and_the_Unique_Methodologies_A_Concise_Overview_of_the_Applications_of_Business_Anthropology 

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