Anthropology Civil Services Paper 1 Section- A, Questions 3,4_ Solutions
3. (a) Discuss how the rules of descent contradict the principles of residence in matrilineal society, mentioning suitable examples?
Answer- Matrilineal societies are those in which descent is traced through the mother's line rather than the father's. In such societies, children belong to their mother's clan or lineage, and property and inheritance are often passed down through the female line. The principles of residence in a matrilineal society, on the other hand, dictate that after marriage, the husband lives with his wife's family and is expected to contribute to the household and the community in various ways.
However, in many matrilineal societies, the rules of descent often contradict the principles of residence, creating tensions and conflicts within families and communities. This is because while the woman's family is responsible for her upbringing and education, the man's family is responsible for providing a house and land for the couple to live on after marriage.
For example, in the Minangkabau society of West Sumatra, Indonesia, the property is inherited by women, and men are expected to live with their wife's families after marriage. However, the house and land are often owned by the husband's family, who may demand that the couple move in with them instead. This can create tension and conflict, especially if the husband's family does not respect the wife's family or if the wife's family is unable to provide a suitable living space for the couple.
Similarly, in the Mosuo society of China, the property is owned and passed down by women, and men are expected to live with their wife's families after marriage. However, the father's family often insists on having a say in the upbringing of any male children, which can lead to conflicts over the role of the father and the paternal family in the child's life.
In conclusion, while matrilineal societies place great importance on the role of women and their families, the rules of descent can often conflict with the principles of residence, creating tensions and conflicts within families and communities. These contradictions can be especially pronounced when it comes to issues of property ownership, inheritance, and the role of the father's family in the lives of children.
3. (b) Should we still distinguish between 'classic' and 'progressive' Neanderthals? Discuss the controversy surrounding Neanderthal's position in human evolution.
Answer- The question of whether we should distinguish between 'classic' and 'progressive' Neanderthals is a topic of ongoing debate among scientists. Classic Neanderthals are often characterized as having robust features, a large nose, and a protruding mid-face, while progressive Neanderthals are described as having more gracile features, a smaller nose, and a less projecting mid-face. Some researchers argue that these differences reflect a temporal and evolutionary progression in the Neanderthal lineage, while others suggest that they simply represent natural variations within the same species.
The controversy surrounding the position of Neanderthals in human evolution centers on the question of whether they were a separate species (Homo neanderthalensis) or a subspecies of Homo sapiens. Some researchers argue that Neanderthals were a distinct species with their own unique adaptations and evolutionary history, while others suggest that they were a regional variant of H. sapiens that interbred with other human populations.
One of the main pieces of evidence supporting the idea that Neanderthals were a separate species is the fact that they diverged from the lineage leading to modern humans around 500,000 years ago and developed distinct anatomical and behavioral characteristics. Neanderthals had a larger brain size than H. erectus and H. heidelbergensis, the ancestral species from which both Neanderthals and modern humans descended, and they also had adaptations to cold climates such as a stocky build and a large nose.
However, recent genetic studies have revealed that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans when the two populations coexisted in Europe and Asia. This suggests that the genetic differences between Neanderthals and modern humans may have been relatively small and that they may have been part of the same biological species.
The controversy over Neanderthal's position in human evolution is likely to continue as new discoveries and analyses shed more light on this fascinating group of ancient humans.
4 .a Why Heath and Carter used anthropometric measurements instead of photographs of an individual to assess the somatotype? Elaborate on their method.
Answer- William H. Sheldon, Barbara Heath, and Jeffrey M. Carter developed the concept of somatotype, which is a method for describing the human physique using a combination of three components: endomorphy (related to fatness), mesomorphy (related to muscularity), and ectomorphy (related to slenderness). A somatotype is a three-digit number representing the degree of each of these components.
Heath and Carter used anthropometric measurements, which are physical measurements of the body, to assess the somatotype. The reason they used these measurements instead of photographs was that they believed that photographs were subject to interpretation, whereas measurements were objective and standardized.
Their method involved taking a series of measurements of the body, including height, weight, girths, breadths, and skinfolds. These measurements were used to calculate various indices, such as the body mass index (BMI), the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), and the sum of skinfolds (SSF). These indices were then used to determine the degree of endomorphy, mesomorphy, and ectomorphy for each individual.
The degree of each component was then represented by a number on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being the lowest degree and 7 being the highest. For example, an individual with a high degree of endomorphy (related to fatness) would be assigned a number between 4 and 7, depending on the severity of their body fatness. Similarly, an individual with a high degree of mesomorphy (related to muscularity) would be assigned a number between 4 and 7, depending on the severity of their muscular development.
Heath and Carter's method was widely used in the fields of sports science and physical anthropology, and it has been criticized for its lack of reliability and validity. However, it remains a popular method for describing the human physique, and it has been adapted and modified by many researchers over the years.
4 b Discuss the historical and cultural contexts that led to superseding ethnocentrism with cultural relativism in anthropology.
Answer- Anthropology is a discipline that emerged during a time of great social and cultural change in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. European nations were expanding their empires, and anthropologists were tasked with studying the cultures and societies of these colonized regions. Initially, anthropologists approached their research with a Eurocentric bias, believing that Western civilization represented the pinnacle of human achievement and that other cultures should be measured against it. This perspective, known as ethnocentrism, led to a skewed understanding of the cultures being studied, as well as an imposition of Western values and beliefs onto those cultures.
However, over time, a number of factors contributed to a shift away from ethnocentrism and toward cultural relativism. One key figure in this shift was Franz Boas, a German-American anthropologist who rejected the notion of a universal standard of civilization and argued that each culture should be studied on its own terms. Boas believed that cultural differences should be understood in their own historical and cultural contexts, rather than through the lens of Western civilization.
Boas' approach to anthropology, known as cultural relativism, gained popularity in the early 20th century, in part due to the rise of anti-colonial movements and the recognition of the rights of marginalized groups, such as indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities. These movements challenged the dominant cultural narratives and power structures of Western societies and highlighted the importance of recognizing and respecting cultural diversity.
Another factor that contributed to the shift towards cultural relativism was the rise of modernism and its rejection of traditional authority structures. The modernist movement emphasized individualism, scientific rationalism, and the rejection of traditional values and beliefs. This rejection of authority also extended to traditional anthropological methods and theories, leading to a questioning of the ethnocentric biases that had long characterized the discipline.
Finally, the growth of international communication and travel in the 20th century made it increasingly difficult to maintain the Eurocentric perspective that had once dominated anthropology. As anthropologists encountered a greater variety of cultures and societies, they began to recognize the importance of understanding these cultures on their own terms.
In summary, the shift from ethnocentrism to cultural relativism in anthropology was driven by a number of historical and cultural factors, including the rejection of colonialism, the rise of anti-authoritarianism, and the growth of international communication and travel. These factors, along with the work of pioneering anthropologists like Franz Boas, helped to shape a new approach to the study of human cultures that emphasized the importance of understanding those cultures on their own terms, rather than through the lens of Western civilization.
4 C Critically examine various anthropological interpretations of the Kula Ring.
Answer- The Kula Ring is a system of gift exchange that has been studied by anthropologists since the early 20th century. It involves the exchange of highly prized objects, such as shell necklaces and armbands, between groups of people in the Trobriand Islands, a group of islands located off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
There have been various anthropological interpretations of the Kula Ring over the years, and in this response, I will critically examine some of these interpretations.
Structural-functionalism: This theoretical perspective was dominant in the mid-20th century, and scholars such as Bronislaw Malinowski viewed the Kula Ring as a functional system that maintained social cohesion and order among the Trobriand Islanders. According to this interpretation, the Kula Ring served as a way for people to establish alliances, forge relationships, and maintain peace among the various island communities. However, critics of this perspective argue that it oversimplifies the complexity of the Kula Ring and ignores the power dynamics and inequalities that exist within the system.
Symbolic anthropology: This perspective, which emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, viewed the Kula Ring as a symbolic system that conveyed cultural meanings and values. According to this interpretation, the exchange of valuable objects in the Kula Ring was a way for people to communicate their status, prestige, and power. The shells and armbands exchanged in the Kula Ring were not just material objects, but rather symbols that conveyed important cultural messages. Critics of this perspective argue that it overlooks the economic and political factors that underlie the Kula Ring and focuses too much on symbolic meanings.
Political economy: This perspective, which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, viewed the Kula Ring as a complex economic system that involved the exchange of goods and services. According to this interpretation, the exchange of shell necklaces and armbands in the Kula Ring was not just a symbolic gesture, but rather an economic transaction that involved the exchange of goods and services. The Kula Ring was not just a social system, but also an economic one, in which people exchanged valuable goods in order to gain access to resources and establish economic relationships. Critics of this perspective argue that it overlooks the social and cultural factors that underlie the Kula Ring and focuses too much on economic factors.
Postmodernism: This perspective, which emerged in the late 20th century, viewed the Kula Ring as a complex and multifaceted system that defies easy categorization. According to this interpretation, the Kula Ring is not just a social, economic, or symbolic system, but rather a complex web of relationships and interactions that cannot be easily reduced to any one category. Critics of this perspective argue that it can be difficult to make any meaningful analysis of the Kula Ring if it is viewed as too complex or multifaceted.
In conclusion, the various anthropological interpretations of the Kula Ring offer different perspectives on this complex social system. While each interpretation has its own strengths and weaknesses, a more comprehensive understanding of the Kula Ring can be achieved by taking into account the social, economic, and symbolic factors that underlie this system.