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Introduction to Anthropology

3.1 The Homeyness of Culture

Introduction to Anthropology3.1 The Homeyness of Culture

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Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. 1 What Is Anthropology?
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 The Study of Humanity, or "Anthropology Is Vast"
    3. 1.2 The Four-Field Approach: Four Approaches within the Guiding Narrative
    4. 1.3 Overcoming Ethnocentrism
    5. 1.4 Western Bias in Our Assumptions about Humanity
    6. 1.5 Holism, Anthropology’s Distinctive Approach
    7. 1.6 Cross-Cultural Comparison and Cultural Relativism
    8. 1.7 Reaching for an Insider’s Point of View
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Bibliography
  3. 2 Methods: Cultural and Archaeological
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 Archaeological Research Methods
    3. 2.2 Conservation and Naturalism
    4. 2.3 Ethnography and Ethnology
    5. 2.4 Participant Observation and Interviewing
    6. 2.5 Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis
    7. 2.6 Collections
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Bibliography
  4. 3 Culture Concept Theory: Theories of Cultural Change
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 The Homeyness of Culture
    3. 3.2 The Winkiness of Culture
    4. 3.3 The Elements of Culture
    5. 3.4 The Aggregates of Culture
    6. 3.5 Modes of Cultural Analysis
    7. 3.6 The Paradoxes of Culture
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. Critical Thinking Questions
    11. Bibliography
  5. 4 Biological Evolution and Early Human Evidence
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 What Is Biological Anthropology?
    3. 4.2 What’s in a Name? The Science of Taxonomy
    4. 4.3 It’s All in the Genes! The Foundation of Evolution
    5. 4.4 Evolution in Action: Past and Present
    6. 4.5 What Is a Primate?
    7. 4.6 Origin of and Classification of Primates
    8. 4.7 Our Ancient Past: The Earliest Hominins
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Bibliography
  6. 5 The Genus Homo and the Emergence of Us
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Defining the Genus Homo
    3. 5.2 Tools and Brains: Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, and Homo erectus
    4. 5.3 The Emergence of Us: The Archaic Homo
    5. 5.4 Tracking Genomes: Our Human Story Unfolds
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  7. 6 Language and Communication
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 The Emergence and Development of Language
    3. 6.2 Language and the Mind
    4. 6.3 Language, Community, and Culture
    5. 6.4 Performativity and Ritual
    6. 6.5 Language and Power
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Bibliography
  8. 7 Work, Life, and Value: Economic Anthropology
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 Economies: Two Ways to Study Them
    3. 7.2 Modes of Subsistence
    4. 7.3 Gathering and Hunting
    5. 7.4 Pastoralism
    6. 7.5 Plant Cultivation: Horticulture and Agriculture
    7. 7.6 Exchange, Value, and Consumption
    8. 7.7 Industrialism and Postmodernity
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. Critical Thinking Questions
    12. Bibliography
  9. 8 Authority, Decisions, and Power: Political Anthropology
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 Colonialism and the Categorization of Political Systems
    3. 8.2 Acephalous Societies: Bands and Tribes
    4. 8.3 Centralized Societies: Chiefdoms and States
    5. 8.4 Modern Nation-States
    6. 8.5 Resistance, Revolution, and Social Movements
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Bibliography
  10. 9 Social Inequalities
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 Theories of Inequity and Inequality
    3. 9.2 Systems of Inequality
    4. 9.3 Intersections of Inequality
    5. 9.4 Studying In: Addressing Inequities within Anthropology
    6. Key Terms
    7. Critical Thinking Questions
    8. Bibliography
  11. 10 The Global Impact of Human Migration
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 Peopling of the World
    3. 10.2 Early Global Movements and Cultural Hybridity
    4. 10.3 Peasantry and Urbanization
    5. 10.4 Inequality along the Margins
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  12. 11 Forming Family through Kinship
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 What Is Kinship?
    3. 11.2 Defining Family and Household
    4. 11.3 Reckoning Kinship across Cultures
    5. 11.4 Marriage and Families across Cultures
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  13. 12 Gender and Sexuality
    1. Introduction
    2. 12.1 Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Anthropology
    3. 12.2 Performing Gender Categories
    4. 12.3 The Power of Gender: Patriarchy and Matriarchy
    5. 12.4 Sexuality and Queer Anthropology
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  14. 13 Religion and Culture
    1. Introduction
    2. 13.1 What Is Religion?
    3. 13.2 Symbolic and Sacred Space
    4. 13.3 Myth and Religious Doctrine
    5. 13.4 Rituals of Transition and Conformity
    6. 13.5 Other Forms of Religious Practice
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Bibliography
  15. 14 Anthropology of Food
    1. Introduction
    2. 14.1 Food as a Material Artifact
    3. 14.2 A Biocultural Approach to Food
    4. 14.3 Food and Cultural Identity
    5. 14.4 The Globalization of Food
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  16. 15 Anthropology of Media
    1. Introduction
    2. 15.1 Putting the Mass into Media
    3. 15.2 Putting Culture into Media Studies
    4. 15.3 Visual Anthropology and Ethnographic Film
    5. 15.4 Photography, Representation, and Memory
    6. 15.5 News Media, the Public Sphere, and Nationalism
    7. 15.6 Community, Development, and Broadcast Media
    8. 15.7 Broadcasting Modernity and National Identity
    9. 15.8 Digital Media, New Socialities
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary
    12. Critical Thinking Questions
    13. Bibliography
  17. 16 Art, Music, and Sport
    1. Introduction
    2. 16.1 Anthropology of the Arts
    3. 16.2 Anthropology of Music
    4. 16.3 An Anthropological View of Sport throughout Time
    5. 16.4 Anthropology, Representation, and Performance
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  18. 17 Medical Anthropology
    1. Introduction
    2. 17.1 What Is Medical Anthropology?
    3. 17.2 Ethnomedicine
    4. 17.3 Theories and Methods
    5. 17.4 Applied Medical Anthropology
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  19. 18 Human-Animal Relationship
    1. Introduction
    2. 18.1 Humans and Animals
    3. 18.2 Animals and Subsistence
    4. 18.3 Symbolism and Meaning of Animals
    5. 18.4 Pet-Keeping
    6. 18.5 Animal Industries and the Animal Trade
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Critical Thinking Questions
    10. Bibliography
  20. 19 Indigenous Anthropology
    1. Introduction
    2. 19.1 Indigenous Peoples
    3. 19.2 Colonization and Anthropology
    4. 19.3 Indigenous Agency and Rights
    5. 19.4 Applied and Public Anthropology and Indigenous Peoples
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Critical Thinking Questions
    9. Bibliography
  21. 20 Anthropology on the Ground
    1. Introduction
    2. 20.1 Our Challenging World Today
    3. 20.2 Why Anthropology Matters
    4. 20.3 What Anthropologists Can Do
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary
    7. Critical Thinking Questions
    8. Bibliography
  22. Index

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the importance of culture to the concept of home.
  • Identify the centrality of culture in the discipline of anthropology.
  • Describe how each of the four fields deploys the concept of culture.
  • Explain why culture feels familiar and “homey.”
The floor plan of a 21st-century middle-class American home. The floor plan depicts a one-floor house with a kitchen, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a family room, den, steps down to a basement, and an attached two car garage.
Figure 3.2 The floor plan of a typical 21st-century middle-class American house consists of many individual rooms, including three to four bedrooms, a large kitchen, a family room, and an attached garage. This floor plan depicts such a home. (attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)

What place do you call home? For some people, home is a large, angular structure made of wood or brick, fixed on a permanent foundation of concrete, and rigged with systems to provide running water, electricity, and temperature control. Such houses have separate rooms for distinct activities, such as sleeping, bathing, eating, and socializing. Often, one bedroom is larger than the others and connected to its own bathroom. This is the “primary bedroom,” designed to accommodate a married couple while their children sleep in smaller bedrooms. The room for cooking (the kitchen) used to be separated from the room where people socialized (the living room or great room), as it was assumed that one person (the wife) would cook in the kitchen while another person (the husband) relaxed alone or with company in the living room. More recently, open-concept architecture has eliminated the wall separating the kitchen from the living room, as adults often cook together or socialize as one cooks and the other relaxes.

In the 1960s, French scholar Pierre Bourdieu (1970) analyzed a typical house of a Kabyle family in northern Algeria. Traditional Kabyle houses were rectangular buildings made of stone and clay with tiled roofs. Inside, a waist-high dividing wall marked off one-third of the house. This marked-off section, set lower than the rest of the house and paved with flagstones, was the stable, where animals were kept at night. A farming people, the Kabyle kept oxen, cows, donkeys, and mules. Above the stable was a loft where women and children often slept, though arrangements for sleeping and marital sex tended to vary.

A color photograph of a group of building in Algeria, built by the Kabyle people. The single-story buildings are constructed of stone with tile roofs. They stand very near to one another, with only narrow passageways separating them. Many are constructed in an L-shape, with two separate portions connecting at a right angle.
Figure 3.3 These houses in Norther Algeria, built by the Kabyle people, are constructed of stone, and include open space for both animals and human inhabitants under a shared roof. (credit: PhR610/flickr, CC BY 2.0)

The floor of the larger section of the house was higher and paved with a layer of black clay and cow dung that women polished with a stone. This part was reserved for human use. In this larger, elevated section, a large weaving loom sat against the wall opposite the door. Facing east, this wall with the loom received the most light in the house. Guests and brides were seated here, as it was considered the nicest part of the house. Opposite the dividing wall in the larger section was the hearth, surrounded by cooking tools, lamps, and jars of edible grain. With the loom and the hearth, the main area of human activity in the house was associated with the work of women. Bourdieu explained that men were expected to remain outside the house from dawn to evening, working in the fields and associating with other men in public spaces. Women were supposed to remain in the home.

In Bourdieu’s analysis, the Kabyle house was divided into two realms: a dark, low realm associated with animals and natural activities (sleeping, sex, childbirth, and death) and a lighter, higher realm associated with humans and cultural activities (weaving, cooking, brides, and guests).

Humans all over the world require a place to gather, work, socialize, and sleep. Some have Western-style houses, while others have compounds. Some live in tents made of wooden beams and covered with animal skins or cloth, in caves hollowed out of sandstone or volcanic rock, or in wooden structures built on stilts or in trees to avoid floods and predators. While these different forms of home are all designed to perform a common function as human living spaces, they are distinctively shaped by local environments and lifeways. Houses are most commonly built with locally available materials and designed to protect against local climatic conditions and predators. Over generations, people develop distinctive technologies to transform available materials into durable and functional homes. Different forms of family, different gender roles and relations, and different everyday activities determine the organization of space in these different homes. Dominant ideas about work, gender, marriage, parenting, hospitality, and status all shape the places we call home.

Home, then, involves a combination of materials, technologies, social relationships, everyday practices, deeply held values, and shared ideas. In every culture, these features are uniquely combined to produce distinctive versions of home. Other combinations of features produce distinctive versions of clothing, food, work, and health. Growing up in a particular social group, a person learns these ways of living, eating, working, and so on and comes to consider them normal and natural. Anthropologists have a word for such integrated combinations of social and environmental features, and that word is culture. The ways of your culture are familiar to you, often so deeply ingrained that they come naturally. Culture itself feels like home.

All four fields of anthropology are devoted to understanding human culture. Biological anthropologists are often interested in the emergence of culture in the course of human biological evolution. Archaeologists use material artifacts as keys to understanding the technologies, social practices, and ideas of ancient peoples. Cultural anthropologists often use participant observation to understand how the various features of culture fit together in contemporary societies. Linguistic anthropologists are interested in how language shapes and is shaped by other features in the constellation of culture.

This chapter explores culture as a central concept in anthropology. We examine what distinguishes culture from other aspects of human experience and activity. In an effort to organize the vast array of things included in culture, we divide culture into three levels and consider how those levels fit together holistically—and what happens when they don’t. Finally, we identify a set of contradictions built into the concept of culture and see how those contradictions illuminate the nature of human social life.

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