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The answer has to be: by the provision of additional supports. In a Gestalt field model understanding of human behavior and experience, all events are understood in relation to their supportive conditions in the field. To change or add any behavior including the behavior of focusing on ground beliefs and belongings requires a change in the system of supports in the whole field.

This additional support may come in any dynamically relevant area, ranging from physical boundaries to felt intentions and meanings. Another dimension of support for resolution of this complex conflict at the level of meaning systems and belonging was provided by Rabin himself, both before and after the Oslo Accords. Thus a certain fund of applied knowledge has grown up about the supports required for dealing with this difficult area, deriving from negotiation theory and practice in general, and the especially thorny area of intergroup and multi-cultural negotiation in particular.

Much of the contribution of the Gestalt model here, as in some other areas, is to insist on a primary focus on the dynamic issue of supports itself, and to systematize the informal body of wisdom and practice in the area. Experimentalism as an organizing attitude — Experiment, in Gestalt, is understood in two senses. One is the more formal sense of the term: the explicit enactment of a trial case or scenario, to get feedback from the environment or other people , evaluate, and decide on a course of action.

We do this all the time, of course, in cases large and small, from tasting a bit of something to see if it is good all the way to scouting something out, spending time with someone to see if our interests coincide, trying a new strategy in any area of life, casting a vote in a particular way to try to influence an outcome.

Primitive culture

In this sense experiment is part of our evolutionary heritage, a direct implication of the learning style and strategy described above, which make up oour inherent Gestalt nature and process. The particular hallmarks of scientific method are the attempt to be explicit about the hypothesis being tested, and the formal effort to control all the relevant factors though of course we never can know that we have controlled all the possibly relevant variables — you cannot prove an open-ended negative with logical tools.

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But these same principles — knowing what prediction we are testing out and attempting to see the relevant causal factors — are always involved, in a rough and ready way at least, in the ongoing learning experiments of life. It is in this everyday sense that experiment is implied by constructivism itself, the fundamental Gestalt insight and proposition that we are not the passive receivers of our experiential world, in the way 19th Century psychology imagined, but rather active agents and co-constructors of that experience.

All intentional action has an experimental aspect, as long as we are at least open to considering the results of the action as a test case — which is to say, as a basis for useful learning and prediction. In the human case, predicated on flexible adaptation to novel circumstances, experiment and learning are inseparable. This then leads us to a second sense of experiment, one which is directly applicable to our consideration of cultural and multicultural issues here.

This is the idea of experimentalism not just as a strategy but as an attitude, an organizing stance, in a particular situation or in life in general. When we shift our intention in any given situation from outcome to learning, our attention necessarily shifts as well. In this way experiment as an attitude or stance is intimately linked with dialogue: dialogue, in the special sense we are giving the term here, is the experimental method, of cultural studies and multicultural intervention.

Inquiry, in turn, is necessarily based on some hypothesis, however informal or implicit. The result is then to confirm or disconfirm that previous notion or wondering: in other words, to learn something. This in turn leads us to our final proposition, for a Gestalt-based approach to this field: the necessity of intercultural encounter for self-knowledge and growth, both as an individual and as a community or culture.

Multiculturalism as a value: intercultural contact as a condition of personal growth — As Gregory Bateson observed, it takes two to know one. Culture, as we have developed and defined the concept here, is something that in a very real sense only arises in multicultural contact. That is, we enact our culture — and know it as well, to a degree, in that we know how to enact it.

But taking it for granted means we do not know it very well ourselves, or at least not in an articulated way. It is a mark of our times to know and take cultural differences into account until we fail to, which is of course the deepest level of culture, the level where we thought our view was culture-free. In the end, we would argue here, this encounter is more than a value: it is a necessity. It is at this level that we see a justification and a rationale for those much-beleagured cultural values, cultural pluralism, tolerance, and the liberal tradition.

But is this evolution and conditional spread of these values a case of cultural domination — or of the emergence of something new in the world, multiculturalism as a metacultural value? Or is it something more, a value with cultural roots in many cultures to be sure, like all values — but ultimately one of those evolutionary steps, a new level of feedback and complexity which contains the power to deconstruct and transcend itself?

If, for example, we actively oppose ourselves to the tradition of genital mutilation of certain groups, are we merely espousing the domination of our culture over another culture — or are we also? And what, for another example, of the multitude of fundamentalisms burgeoning today defined as claims for the revealed status of some particular text, and for the particular interpretation of those texts being espoused at the moment, as lying beyond the reach of further interpretation or doubt , and their claims of divine sanction usually, ultimately and inherently, of the sword, as we would argue here?

How do we adjudicate the conflicting cultural claims of such groups and practices — other than by the sword? That is, by appealing to the terms and conditions of our basic species nature, we seek and begin to find the outlines of the values of an emergent world culture, one that will necessarily in some way hold and contextualize local cultures, and place them in some hopefully viable, creative relationship among themselves. Will that holding context be one in which the whole tends to homogenize and obliterate the parts, in the way of the nation-state in relation to its subsidiary factions see Wheeler, a?

This means that our next step in cultural evolution now, out of this perspective on experiment and dialogue as fundamentals of a Gestalt understanding of the field, must be in the direction of greater complexity of vision, a new level of articulation of our shared human experience, one that holds the other and the self. In the end this is experimentalism as a stance and a value, the logical fruits of the application of a Gestalt perspective to the field. Conclusion Our evolutionary nature, our basic species capacity to survive and thrive through flexible problem-solving and learning, means that as humans we are designed for culture.

This perspective, as we have been developing it through this two-part essay, then has a number of further implications for thinking and practice in cross-cultural and multi-cultural work. In reviewing that history here, we are led to consider the dangers and limitations of those assumptions and attitudes, and to look for a model which is not so much culture-free an impossibility as capable of examining and deconstructing its own assumptions in the course of the work.

We find the outlines of such a model by applying the methods and concepts of a Gestalt dialogic approach to contact and other interventions across activated cultural boundaries. That is, every person belongs to many different cultural or sub-cultural groupings; 4 the relevant, salient boundaries of these different groupings depend on context. Our world today is a multi-cultural world, to a degree and on a global scale unprecedented in the relatively short history of humans as a species, and the even shorter history of civilizations of beyond tribal size.

In such a world, the articulation of a new and more complex way of holding cultural difference, of relating cultural parts to global whole in new context and experience, becomes the single most challenging demand of our shared global society. Thus our challenge today is not only political and institutional: it is evolutionary and imaginative as well. The destiny of the human experiment hangs in the balance. It is up to us, together, to find this new complexity of vision and understanding. The Gestalt model, with its emphasis on belonging and the dynamic play of identifications and differences, can help to show us the way.

Bateson, G Steps to an Ecology of Mind. NY: Ballantine Books. Bentley, A Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Boas, F Chomsky, N Language and Mind. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Deacon, T The Symbolic Species. NY: Norton. Dewey, J The Early Works Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

DuBois, W NY: Library of America. Ehrlich, P Human Natures. Washington D. C: Island Press. Erikson, E Childhood and Society. Fogel, A Developing Through Relationships. Galton, F Hereditary Intelligence. London: Macmillan. Geertz, C The Interpretation of Cultures. NY: Basic Books. Works and Lives: the Anthropologist as Author. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. The Federalist Papers ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In political science the discussion of the concept of the state and of its origin has been nourished by cultural anthropology. Cultural anthropology has brought to psychology new bases on which to reflect on concepts of personality and the formation of personality. It has permitted psychology to develop a system of cross-cultural psychiatry, or so-called ethnopsychiatry. Conversely, the psychological sciences, particularly psychoanalysis, have offered cultural anthropology new hypotheses for an interpretation of the concept of culture. The link with history has long been a vital one because cultural anthropology was originally based on an evolutionist point of view and because it has striven to reconstruct the cultural history of societies about which, for lack of written documents, no historical record could be determined.

Cultural anthropology has more recently suggested to historians new techniques of research based on the analysis and criticism of oral tradition. Finally, cultural anthropology has close links with human geography. Both of them place great importance on man either as he uses space or acts to transform the natural environment.

It is not without significance that some early anthropologists were originally geographers. Cultural anthropology Written By: Paul Mercier. See Article History. Read More on This Topic.

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Cultural anthropology is that major division of anthropology that explains culture in its many aspects. It is anchored…. Start Your Free Trial Today. Load Next Page. Cultural anthropology. Additional Reading. In societies that have it, usually there are certain goods and services that can be purchased only with their specific form of special purpose money. If you don't have it, you cannot acquire the things that it can purchase. You may not be able to easily obtain the special purpose money either.

The Tiv people of central Nigeria provide an example. In the past, they used brass rods to buy cattle and to pay bride price. These rods were acquired by trade from Sahara Desert trading peoples who ultimately obtained them from the urbanized societies of North Africa. If a man could not acquire brass rods by trade or borrowing them, he would be prevented from acquiring cattle and getting married. See general purpose money. Windigo psychosis. All rights reserved.

Bands and tribes are acephalous. Most foragers and simple horticulturalists have highly egalitarian, acephalous societies. The word "acephalous" is Greek for "without a head.


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For instance, someone acquires a criminal status by committing a crime. Likewise, the status of mother is attained by having a baby. See ascribed status. In most societies there is a discrepancy between these three kinds of behavior. It is important for anthropologists to distinguish between actual, believed, and ideal behavior when they learn about another society and its culture. Successful adaptive mechanisms provide a selective advantage in the competition for survival with other life forms.

For humans, the most important adaptive mechanism is culture.

Pre-FTL species

People who have an affinity relationship with each other are "affines". See consanguinity. In North America, for example, we generally label people as children, teenagers, adults, middle aged, and elderly or senior citizens. See age sets. They consist of people of similar age and usually of the same gender who share a common identity and maintain close ties throughout their lives.

Introduction—The Evolution of Culture

They also pass through age-related statuses together as a group. The transition between these statuses is usually marked by a rite of passage. An example would be the descend a nts of a well known pioneer family. It is rare for a kindred to continue functioning as an effective kin group after the death of the individual who was its focus. This usually occurs only when the ancestor was historically important. Marriages are commonly arranged by parents or their agents when the marriages are seen as principally uniting two families rather than just husband and wife.

There is also often the rationalization that teenagers and young adults are too inexperienced to make a wise mate selection. The tradition of arranged marriages has been dramatically undermined whenever romantic love becomes a popular notion in a society. Being a prince by birth or being the first of four children in a family are ascribed statuses. See achieved status. This is achieved by learning and adopting the cultural traditions of the society to which assimilation occurs.

It is also often hastened by intermarriage and de-emphasizing cultural and or biological differences. This is strongly associated with matrilineal descent and occurs when men obtain statuses, jobs, or prerogatives from their nearest elder matrilineal male relative. Bands are loosely allied by marriage, descent , friendship, and common interest. The primary integrating mechanism is kinship ties. There is no economic class differentiation.

All adults of the same gender are more or less equal as far as community decision making is concerned. However, some individuals in a band may stand out for their skills and knowledge. These often are the people who have the best memories, are the best hunters, most successful curers, most gifted speakers, etc.

Such people become informal leaders. Most often they are given authority by community consensus arrived at through casual discussion without the need for a formal vote. Leaders generally have temporary political power at best, and they do not have any significant authority relative to other adults within their band. Subsequently, bands are essentially acephalous societies. The total number of people within these societies rarely exceeds a few dozen.

Bands are found among foraging societies. See dumb barter. Everyone is a member of both his or her father's and mother's families. This is not the same as bilineal descent. Also known as "double descent. See heterosexual and homosexual. It also known as Ebonics. The prefix dis in the English word dislike is an example. It is a way of showing respect for the bride and her parents. At the same time, it is a compensation for the bride's family for the loss of her economic services.

It is also a way of validating the groom's right to future offspring. Bride price is most common among polygynous, small-scale, patrilineal societies--especially in sub-Saharan Africa and among Native Americans. Bride price is also referred to as "bride wealth" and "progeny price. Bride service is usually for a set period of time, often years.

It is a common practice in societies that have little material wealth and strong rules requiring sharing that prevent the accumulation of wealth. Members of a bureaucracy are referred to as bureaucrats. Back to Top. The most extensive caste system is in India where it is associated strongly with the Hindu religion.

The castes are all ranked relative to each other with the Brahmans being at the top. In addition, there are people in India who are outside of the caste system. These outcasts are at the bottom of society. One's caste is extremely important in India. People are careful to marry within their own caste and to avoid physical contact with members of lower castes because of the danger of pollution.

The economically most important cereals include wheat, rice, and corn maize , oats, rye, millet, and sorghum. These grains provide the bulk of the calories consumed by people in the world today. The chief provides direction and authority for the society as a whole. Sometimes there is an advisory council as well. In a few of the more complex chiefdoms in Africa and Hawaii, there have been paramount chiefs and lesser chiefs who perform some administrative functions.

Chiefs and their families generally have a higher standard of living than ordinary people within their society. What makes this possible is that chiefs usually perform a society wide economic redistribution function that is cloaked in the guise of ritual gift giving.

This essentially siphons off surplus agricultural products from farmers and then redistributes them throughout the society. In the process, a small amount is held back in order to support the chief's somewhat more lavish lifestyle.


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  • The ritualized redistribution of surplus food and other commodities in chiefdoms is, in a sense, the rudimentary beginnings of a taxation system. It is tolerated by people because of the economic advantages that it can provide in addition to social stability. The larger territorial size of chiefdoms often encompasses diverse environmental zones with somewhat different products.

    The redistribution of agricultural surpluses can serve as a method of providing greater food variety for the populace as a whole.


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    • Chiefdoms commonly have a population of tens of thousands of farmers. The large population size generally means that the people have less in common than do those in the smaller societies of bands and tribes. Disputes inevitably arise that cannot be settled by informal means based on kinship and friendship.

      A chief usually functions as an arbitrator and judge in these cases. This surgery is usually done with a knife as part of a rite of passage marking the transition from childhood to adulthood for boys. See subincision. In America, for instance, a class distinction is commonly made between "white collar" well paid office workers and lower paid "blue collar" factory workers and manual laborers.

      In state level societies of the past, the most important class distinction was between the ruling elite and the commoners. Bands, tribes, and early chiefdoms did not have classes, though individuals were often ranked relative to each other. This surgery is usually done as part of a rite of passage marking the transition from childhood to adulthood for girls.

      In Western Nations, clitoridectomy is often referred to as "genital mutilation. Cognatic descent occurs in four forms: ambilineal , bilineal , parallel , and bilateral descent. The U. In large-scale societies , many laws derive from old common laws but are now formalized by being written down in penal codes. Virtually all laws in small-scale societies are unwritten common laws.

      Individuals who have a consanguinity relationship are "consanguines" to each other. Consanguinity literally means "with the blood", reflecting the old incorrect assumption that biological inheritance is passed on through blood rather than DNA. See affinity. They are what people believe is desirable or offensive, appropriate or inappropriate, and correct or incorrect. In Haiti, for example, a French-African pidgin became the creole language that is spoken in that nation today by the majority of the population as their principle or only language.

      Societies respond to such exceptionally deviant actions by creating laws to curb and sometimes punish them. There is no universal agreement between the societies of the world about what constitutes criminal behavior or how it should be dealt with. Sufficient ethnographic data have been collected over the last century to show that societies with different kinds of economies have radically different sorts of laws and legal concerns.

      See tort. The gender of the children is not relevant in making this distinction. See parallel cousin. Cuanderos believe that they have received a divine calling to their profession, and they may have direct contact with the spirit world. They usually apprentice for years under an older curandero. In Mexico and Central America, there are curandero generalists and specialists. Yerberos are knowledgeable about herbs. Parteras are midwifes. Sabadoros are specialists in massaging patients. Curanderos may also specialize in particular kinds of illness--e.

      A female curandero is a curandera. Most of the people in developed nations have adequate access to food, electricity, fossil fuels, education, and medicine with the consequence that their lives are materially more comfortable and their life spans are significantly longer than those in underdeveloped nations.

      If it is associated with a geographically isolated speech community, it is referred to as a regional dialect. However, if it is spoken by a speech community that is merely socially isolated, it is called a social dialect. While the form of a trait may be transmitted to another society, the original meaning may not. This is the case with the educated elite of Haiti.

      They usually speak standard French among themselves but use the Haitian French creole language on the street dealing with poor uneducated Haitians. Diglossia is also referred to as "code switching. See prejudice and stereotype. Mosquitoes, fleas, lice, ticks, flies, and even snails are common disease vectors. See systems of production. It is her share of the family inheritance. A dowry is, in a sense, the reverse of a bride price. Individuals from one group leave trade goods at a neutral location on the edge of their territory and then leave.

      Sometime later, members of the other community pick up the goods and leave something in exchange. The first group then returns and either picks up the things that were left by the strangers or leaves them until additions or substitutions are made that are acceptable. Dumb barter is also known as "silent trade" and "depot trade. In other words, this is the way their culture and language divide up reality.

      Such emic categories generally differ from culture to culture and provide valuable insights into the perceptions and world view of other peoples. Discovering, recording, and analyzing emic categories is the task of ethnoscience. See etic categories. This includes learning the language, customs, biases, and values of the culture.

      Through enculturation an individual learns the statuses, roles, rules, and values of his or her own culture. The most intensive period of enculturation is usually during early childhood, but the process continues throughout life. Malaria, arthritis, and high blood pressure are examples. See hyperendemic.

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      Selection is always further restricted by exogamy rules. Epidemiologists also track the frequency and geographic distribution of diseases over time. In addition, they study the causal relationships between diseases. The spouses of aunts and uncles may also be given these kin terms. All cousins are lumped together with one kin term 7 without regard to gender.

      No kin name distinction is made between uncles, aunts, and cousins with regards to side of the family. Dialect, religion, and style of dress are common ethnic symbols. Biological characteristics, such as skin color and body shape, may be used as ethnic symbols as well. Being fond of your own way of life and condescending or even hostile toward other cultures is normal for all people.

      Alien culture traits are often viewed as being not just different but less sensible and even "unnatural. An example is people from monogamous societies condemning polygamy as being "unnatural" and immoral. Ethnocentrism is universal and normal but not necessarily morally defensible or desirable because it prevents understanding other cultures. It also interferes with meaningful intercultural communication.

      See cultural relativity. Usually the term ethnocide is applied to intentional acts resulting in culture death. The legalized "kidnapping" of Native American children so that they could be educated as Europeanized Canadians and Americans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries is an example of ethnocide. See genocide. Ethnography is also the term used to refer to books or monographs describing what was learned about the culture of a society. An example of an ethnological study would be a comparison of what cultures are like in societies that have economies based on hunting and gathering rather than agriculture.

      The data for this sort of ethnology would come from the existing ethnographies about these peoples. In other words, an ethnology is essentially a synthesis of the work of many ethnographers. Ethnopharmacology is a specialization within ethnobiology, which is an interdisciplinary field of research carried out by people trained in cultural anthropology, biology, and medicine. The focus is on emic categories. This data provides important insights into the interests, concerns, and values of cultures. This is the approach of biology in using the Linnaean classification system to define new species.

      It assumes that ultimately, there is an objective reality and that is more important than cultural perceptions of it. See emic categories. Selection is usually further restricted by endogamy rules. Usually an extended family contains living relatives from three or more generations. It is a universal form of aggression that mostly occurs between members of the same society, though it can occur between people from separate societies as well.

      It is caused by a desire for revenge for a perceived prior wrong. Usually, both sides in feuds believe that they have been wronged and seek to settle the score. Inherent in feuds is a failure in communication between the feuding parties and the belief that there needs to be "an eye for an eye. See informal education.

      See ethnocide. A presumed result of globalization would be the merging of previously separate political entities and the growth in power and prestige of international institutions. Those who advocate globalism generally believe that ethnocentrism , nationalism , and tribalism are obstacles that must be overcome. A godparent shares this responsibility with the "real" parents. A godparent is a fictive kinsman who may be either a godmother or a godfather to a godchild. Grammar consists of morphology and syntax. This results in just 4 different kin terms of reference.

      Ego's father and all male relatives in his generation are referred to by the same kin term 1.