Science in Christian Perspective



A Reading Course In General Anthropology
James 0. Buswell III
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Shelton College, Ringwood, N.

From: JASA 5 (December 1953): 5-7.

1. General Texts

Since 1948 there have been published almost as many general text books in Anthropology as were published all together in the previous seventy-five years or so. This is indicative of the recency of Anthropology's developing into a mature discipline among the other social and physical sciences.

Previous to 1948, the first-class general texts were few. Through the '20's and even later in some schools, Sir Edward B. Tyler's Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom first published in 1871 and his Anthropology: An Introduction to the Study 0f Man and Civilization, first published in 1881, were used. Another British author, R. R. Marrett, wrote a short text, Anthropology, in 1911.

In 1923 Alfred L. Kroeber, sometimes called the Dean of American Anthropologists, published his Anthropology which proved to be a number-one text for the next twenty-five years. This was the first American production of such depth and scope in a general text book. In 1931 Kroeber and T. T. Waterman published a Source Book in Anthropology, a collection of classic writings on anthropological matters by various authors from Herodotus to Margaret Mead. This book had been used in ever growing form at the University of California since before 1920.

In 1953 Kroeber's Anthropology was brought out again, this time with a supplement tracing important developments in anthropology of the previous 10 years.

The following year Robert H. Lowie published An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology which was revised and considerably enlarged in 1940 with ethnographic sketches of 10 different societies.

1936 saw the publication of Ralph Linton's The Study of Man. Although it includes a chapter on human origins and two on race, this book is noted chiefly as a milestone in social anthropology, introducing important concepts for the analysis of human society. This was also the first general text to include a chapter on Culture and Personality, involving a discussion of the psycho-anthropological treatment of the individual in culture which has since become so popular.

The next year Alexander Goldenweiser published his Anthropology, An Introduction to Primitive Culture, which was a thorough revision of his earlier book Early Civilization, (1922). Goldenweiser's is an extremely practical book. Although becoming a bit polemic at times, he discloses a valuable understanding of the problems of working with, and appreciating the way of life of primitive peoples.

Although Franz Boas never set himself the task of writing a general text book, he contributed to and edited General Anthropology which was published in 1938. Written by some of his most outstanding students, among whom were three famous women anthropologists, Gladys Reichard, Ruth Bunzel, and Ruth Benedict, each chapter is a thorough essay on the subject of the author's chief interest or specialty at that time. General Anthropology was a standard text for the next 10 years and even yet remains in part assigned reading in some of the best departments of the country. It has attained somewhat the status of a classic because of the large percentage of the material which is descriptive, and of such a quality as not to become quickly outdated.

In 1942 Eliot Chapple and Carlton Coon brought out Principles of Anthropology. A valuable book in many particulars, such as the welcome attention given to geography, the physiology of emotion in relation to learning and personality development, and the emphasis upon interrelations of social groupings and institutions, Principles of Anthropology is almost a "Cultureless" text, with the concept nowhere presented, the term itself occurring only three or four times throughout the book, and not even listed in the index. For that reason it is unsuitable for most classes except as collateral reading.

In 1947 Barnes and Noble added to their College Outline Series an Outline of Anthropology. Written by two capable authors, Melville Jacobs and Bernard J. Stern, it is a summary treatment of all the major divisions of the subject, plus reading lists and a glossary. It is a handy volume to read in conjunction with more specialized study.

Three general texts were published in 1948 which set a new high in excellence of organization and maturity of concepts, yet from three quite different points of view. They were Kroeber's new and almost completely rewritten Anthropology, Melville J. Herskovits' Man and His Works, and John Gillin's The Ways of Men.

Kroeber's is probably the best single book for the serious student to study. It is historical, in conformity with Kroeber's concern elsewhere with culture history and growths, (Configurations of Culture Growth, 1944); it has excellent chapters on language, race, and particularly on The Nature of Culture, and culture processes, change, and distributions. Also excellent are the tremendous breadth of -correlation and depth of understanding revealed in his three chapters on Old and New World pre-history and ethnology. Its 849 pages, however, plus the rather special place he gives to tracing elements of culture history and diffusion, and the lack of any convenient sections to assign as a general discussion of primitive economics, kinship, primitive religion, or schools of ethnological theory, make this book, in a sense, unsatisfactory as the one required text book of the general course, unless the course itself be adapted to the text and the lacking subjects be taken care of by collateral reading. If this were done, however, it would seem one would not have time to do justice to Kroeber's text. This perhaps would be a matter of opinion, or the teacher's particular background. I prefer to count on Kroeber rather heavily as collateral reading, and use another, perhaps lighter, more conventionally arranged text to match the outline of the course for undergraduate teaching.

Herskovits' Man and His Works, another excellent text, has 26 conveniently arranged chapters for the introductory course, plus 12 more for additional or advanced reading in cultural dynamics and acculturation, a subject in which Dr. Herskovits has been an authority for some years. Eclectic in treatment of the various aspects of the subject, Herskovits orients them all around culture, even the chapters on physical anthropology. This gives the entire book a consistency and an integration which are sometimes lacking in texts treating as wide a variety of subjects as anthrology covers. Of par icul ar not e ( perh aps notoriety is Herskovits' chapter on Cultural Relativism, which represents an extreme view, even among antnropologists. Though recognizing the existence of universals, he holds that there are no such things as absolutes with regard to values and morals. Also noteworthy are his chapters on language, folklore, and the arts. An experienced field worker, Herskovits includes much illustrative material from Africa as well as from the New World. If one reads no other book than Herskovits for an introductory course, he would receive a well rounded presentation of the field of cultural anthropology, less complete in physical anthropology.

While Kroeber is culturally oriented in the historic sense, and Herskovits culturally oriented in a more synchronic sense, Gillin's discussion of culture in The Ways of Men is oriented psychologically. Again lacking treatment of several conventional departments of the introductory course, Gillin contains valuable reading in physical anthropology, analyses of what constitutes culture and what culture does to the individual, and five chapters on cultural patterning and dynamics. It is a very mature and scholarly work, thought-provoking and practical.

In 1949 two general texts were published-one good and one bad. H. H. Turney-High's General Anthropology is considerably below average. It is mentioned here simply because there is a section including a world ethnographic survey which is rather unique in introductory texts. The other near parallel to it is Lowie's ethnographe accounts in his Introduction to Cultural Anthropology mentioned above.

E. Adamson Hoebel's Man in the Primitive World is a much finer text, being at once elementary and scholarly. He is weak in his section on Ancient Man and Prehistoric Culture, has no discussion of language, but is very strong on primitive society, especially law, government war, chapters sometimes lacking in general government and war, chapters sometimes lacking in general texts. Hoebel's discussion of kinship systems and terminology is one of the clearest and easiest to understand of any I have read. Here is another good text for the introductory course.

Several British anthropologists have brought out general texts in social anthropology in recent years.* Usually, however, they have been reviewed quite critically by American anthropologists because of failure to include up-to-date cultural theory in one aspect or another, or because of the fundamental differences between the viewpoint of British social anthropology and the American cultural perspective. These differences will be taken up later.

. The most recent American general text to be published is An Introduction to Anthropology by Ralph Beals and Harry Hoijer, (1953). It includes a chapter on heredity and genetics which is unusual, and very

*Piddington, Ralph. An Introduction to Social Anthropology, vol. 1, New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1950. Reviewed: American Anthropologl8t Vol. 53, No. 2, (1951) pp. 246-8, by Hoebel. Evane-Pritchard, E. E. Social Anthropology. Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press 1951. Reviewed: AA Vol. 154, No. 3. (1952) pp. 388-390, by Saul Tax. Nadel, S. P. The Foundations of Social Anthropology. Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1951. Reviewed: AA Vol. 54, No. 1, (1952), pp. 74-5, by Gillin.

worth while in the study of evolution and race. Without it the teacher invariably has to frantically brush up on his "genes and chromosomes" and scratch his head over a simple yet effective way to explain the mechanisms of heredity without taking an undue amount of time from other considerations. The assigning of a ch apt er or two, in a genetic text is not satisfactory either. The author is obviously writing a book and not a chapter to be read independently. It is thus hard to get any idea of what genetics is all about unless more than a chapter or two are  assigned. Beals and Hoijer devote the first seven chapters to physical anthropology, and fourteen to cultural, a proportion well suited to the emphases of a year's course. The treatment of the different aspects of culture are illustrated by accounts of functioning societies showing vividly practical contrasts and comparisons within the theoretical framework. The book is so organized that no one aspect of the subject is over emphasized in the direction of the interests of the authors. The chapter on language is unusually good.

It can be seen from this brief resume of textbooks in general anthropology that no matter which one is chosen as a course text, the course must remain essentially a "reading list" course, with supplementary readings accompanying the text assignments at every point. This is partly due to the fact that anthropology is a comparatively new science. It is thus still full of diverse interpretations, though considerable thinking in the last 20-odd years has become somewhat standardized in certain divisions of the subject, among anthropologists who have been trained in the same country. It is no less due to the extremely wide scope encompassed by the discipline, with the result that no two anthropologists will be found who treat all aspects of the subject with the same thoroughness, clarity, or from exactly the same point of view.

It is proposed, in this series, to present bibliographic comments intended to guide the layman through a reading course in general anthropology. The object is not that of the correspondence course, nor of regular assignments which need to be read by the appearing of the next installment. Rather the comments are to be suggestive annotations permitting the reader to choose his reading according to the bent of his own interests, whether that be stimulated by the introduction of an author, a subject, a particular development of a subject, or, (more important) the realization of possible correlations and implications for one's own field of specialization.

The content and major subjects of these installments will follow a conventional pattern of introductory anthropology, but will also depend upon the response of readers who have special interest or requests for bibliographical suggestions on particular anthropological problems.

A tentative outline of major headings follows. It will not always be necessary to devote a whole article to each subject:

I-Introductory                  10-Primitive Religion
2-Evolution                      11-Language
3-Race                            12-Art and Mythology
4-Prehistoric Man            13-Personality and Culture
5--The Nature of Culture 14-Schools of Ethnological
6-Prehistoric Archaeology Theory 15-Acculturation
7-Ethnography                 16-Applied Anthropology
8-Primitive Economics 
9-Primitive Society


Beals, Ralph, and Harry Hoijer. An Introduction to Anthropology, New York: MacMillan, 1953.

Boas, Franz, and others. General Anthropology, New York: D. C. Heath, 1938.

Chapple.. Eliot D., and Carleton S. Coon. Principles of Anthropology, New York: Henry Holt, 1942.

Gillin, John. The Ways of Men: An Introduction to Anthropology, New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1948.

Goldenweiser Alexander. Anthropology: An Introduction to Primitive Culture, New York: F. S. Crofts, 1937.

Herskovits, Melville J., Man and His Works: The Science of Cultural Anthropology, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948.

Hoebel, E. Adamson. Man in the Primitive World, An Introduction to Anthropology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1949.

Jacobs, Melville, and Bernhard J. Stern. Outline of Anthropology, New York: Barnes and Noble, 1947.

Kroeber, Alfred L. Anthropology, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1923, 1933 with supplement, 1948 new edition, revised.

..................... Configurations of Culture Growth, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1944.
___________ and T. T. Waterman. Source Book in Anthropology, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1931.

Linton, Ralph. The Study of Man: An Introduction, New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1936.

Lowie, Robert H. An Introduction to Culture Anthropology, New York: Rinehart, 1934, 1940, new and enlarged edition.

Marrett, R. R. Anthropology, New York: Henry Holt, 1912.

Turney-High, H. H. General Anthropology, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1949.

Tylor, Edward B. Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art, and Custom, London: John Murray, 1871.

... ................. Anthropology: An Introduction to the Study of Man and Civilization, London: Watts and Co., (The Thinker's Library, No. 14) 1930 (1881).