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cultural anthropology

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Faces of Culture Series

(PBS Adult Learning Satellite Service, 1994)

See also replacement series:

Cultural Anthropology:
Our Diverse World

Film Homepage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College
2008, DVD 1793, 2 Discs

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"Faces of Culture, an introductory cultural anthropology course, is a provocative study of the structure and process of culture. This telecourse features dramatic and unique film footage from around the world, embracing cultures from all continents, highlighting major life-styles, and illustrating human adaptation to environment from the beginnings of the human species to the present." -- PBS

"Faces of Culture focuses on the thesis that every society is based on an integrated culture that satisfies human needs and facilitates survival. The course also explores the ways in which our own culture fits into the broad range of human possibilities." -- PBS

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GOALS AND OBJECTIVES -- PBS

Faces of Culture helps students . . .

  • Understand and appreciate the concept of culture, from the perspective of anthropologists, as the adaptive mechanism that provides for survival of the human species.

  • Recognize underlying similarities as well as the wide range and variability of human cultures.

  • Appreciate that there are a number of valid "cultural solutions" to living on earth.

  • Understand the relationship between culture and the individual.

  • Understand the factors involved in cultural change.

  • Gain a broad cross-cultural background against which to view their own culture as well as contemporary social problems.
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PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONS -- PBS (VC 2466, pts. 1 - 26))

201) The Nature of Anthropology -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 1)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program provides an introduction to the field of anthropology in general and the entire series in particular. It emphasizes a holistic approach to the discipline, focusing on scientific techniques and the value of each society studied. It explores how the field developed and how it has changed over time. The program introduces the student to some of the main theorists involved in anthropology from its inception, including Charles Darwin, Franz Boas and Margaret Mead. Concepts central to the study of anthropology, such as cultural relativism and ethnocentrism, are introduced through an exploration of the native cultures of the Turkana tribe, the Kwakiutl Indians, Tasmanian Aborigines [Traganini was "the last full-blooded Tasmanian" {sic.}], and the Omaha tribe.

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202) The Nature of Culture -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 2)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This episode focuses on culture in societies. It defines culture as a unique set of values, beliefs and practices those enables us together to reap the benefits from the locality in which we live. The program begins to answer such questions as: How does culture develop? How does it change and adapt to the world around it? The program delves deeper into the meaning of concepts such as ethnocentrism and cultural relativism to emphasize their importance in the field of anthropology. The need to understand how differing values and beliefs meet the needs of specific cultures is seen in contrasting examples from other cultures. The Txukarrame Indians and the Boran tribes of Kenya are examined to illustrate the degree of variety, as well as the parallels between and among cultures. The program concludes by showing the devastating results of one culture's inability to adapt, demonstrating that the loss affects us all.

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203) How Cultures Are Studied -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 3)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program provides a case study of how anthropologists conduct field surveys of other cultures. The program contains the case study of Napoleon Chagnon, an anthropologist who carried out an extensive study of the Yanamamö Indians of Venezuela. Over a period of several years, Dr. Chagnon spent several months living with the Yanamamö in order to obtain a complete ethnographic understanding of their culture. He explains the meaning of many anthropological terms, and the methods and techniques he used to conduct his studies, while stressing that in order to conduct a successful field study, an anthropologist must shed his or her cultural prejudices.

Controversy: Darkness in El Dorado ~ Texas A & M

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204) Language and Communication -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 4)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This episode introduces students to the nature of the relationship between language and culture, and the importance of language in anthropological study. Several linguists address such issues as how language develops and evolves; how it is learned; and how it is transmitted within and between cultures. Terms such as linguistics, phonetics, morphemes, and syntax are explained. Case studies such as the development of Black English in the United States, and the revival of a nearly extinct language in Canada are included to illustrate the importance of language in cultural identity. The program also explores the significance of other forms of communication, including non-verbal communication and symbolism. Finally, the program focuses on the way language is interpreted through a social context and the values of the host society. For example, does our language change our perception, or does our perception change our language?

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205) Psychological Anthropology -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 5)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

Beginning with a definition of enculturation, this program describes Margaret Mead's landmark efforts to document the influence of culture on individual personality by studying patterns of child rearing in several cultures, including Samoa. Next the program explores the link between personality and culture and the concept of national character as it was studied by anthropologist Ruth Benedict and psychologist Eric Erikson. National character studies of Japan and Nazi Germany during the 1940's are described, along with criticisms of these efforts. The program then examines how societies have ways of treating illness and individuals who deviate from accepted norms. Shamans in several societies are shown including ones from the Melemchi in Nepal, Bali, Laos and from the Yanamamö Indians of Brazil. The narrator describes how, through their treatments and rituals, shamans address the social ills of the group as a whole.

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206) Alejandro Mamani: A Case Study in Psychological Anthropology -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 6)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program features a case study of Alejandro Mamani, an elder Aymara Indian whose village is located in the mountains of Bolivia. The episode focuses on Alejandro's experiences with an unexplained mental illness diagnosed as spiritual possession by Alejandro, his family and the members of his village. Ethnographers trace the man's suffering as he and his family try to cope with the unpredictability of the illness and the inevitability of death. The filmmakers are challenged to move from acting as observers to actively participating in the study, offering medicine to the suffering man. They describe, in detail, the effects Alejandro's illness has on him personally, as well as the effects his death will have on his property and family. The student is able to observe the progression of illness as Alejandro deteriorates from a respected leader in his community, to one whom is totally dependent on his family for survival. The program offers insights into the methods different cultures use to cope with both illness and death.

207) Patterns of Subsistence: Food Foragers and Pastoralists -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 7)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program describes food foraging and pastoral societies, and explores several ancient patterns of subsistence, some of which are still followed today. The program describes how many societies adapt to their environment. For example, the African !Kung gather nuts, fruits, berries and roots in their arid climate [cf., The Hunters], and the Mbuti pygmy hunt large game in the African rainforest. Another segment shows the Netsilik Eskimos as they hunt seals in their harsh Arctic environment. Other segments include the Nepali sherpas as they herd zomo, a hybrid of a yak and a milk cow, and the Iranian Basseris as they search for fertile grazing land for sheep and goats. The program also features a modern forager as he searches among the discards of an urban area.

In the news . . .

Economic Production Continuum:

foraging -- horticulture -- pastoralism -- agriculture -- industrial / post-industrial

208) Patterns of Subsistence: The Food Producers -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 8)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program examines several different models of food production and various features of food-producing societies. First shown are the Yucatec Maya employing the "slash-and-burn" technique of soil preparation. Rituals associated with food production are illustrated with film of Melanesian farmers practicing the hazardous land-diving ritual originally intended to ensure a good yam harvest. The program also looks at several examples of intensive agriculture, including that practiced by the Khmer in Angkor and by North Americans on the Great Plains. Other societies featured in the program are the Taiwanese and wet rice cultivation and the Balinese.

Economic Production Continuum:

foraging -- horticulture -- pastoralism -- agriculture -- industrial / post-industrial

209) Economic Anthropology -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 9)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

From the generalized reciprocity among the !Kung [cf., The Hunters] to the balanced reciprocity of the Yanamamö and the Trobriand Islanders, this program explains that the economies of many non-Western societies are based on principles other than currency. In the highlands of New Guinea, the Mendi are shown engaging both in balanced reciprocity when they barter a bride price in pearl shells, and in redistribution when they engage in a cassowary contest in which they give away their holdings to gain prestige [cf., Dead Birds]. A third system of distribution the marketplace is illustrated with scenes of Assante women in Ghana and of nomads in Afghanistan.

Economic Production Continuum:

foraging -- horticulture -- pastoralism -- agriculture -- industrial / post-industrial

210) The Highland Maya: A Case Study in Economic Anthropology -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 10)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This episode explores the complicated "cargo system" of the Mayan Indian populations of Southern Mexico and Northern Guatemala. The cargo system has evolved over time into an amalgamation [syncretism] of ancient Mayan Indian pagan culture and Catholicism present since Spanish involvement in the region in the seventeenth century. The social system involves a series of four levels each man is expected to pass through in his life during which he is obligated to a period of service to his community. At each step he pays his village a certain percentage of his earned income. In return, as a man progresses through each level, he attains a greater degree of responsibility and gains greater prestige in his community.

Economic Production Continuum:

foraging -- horticulture -- pastoralism -- agriculture -- industrial / post-industrial

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211) Sex and Marriage -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 11)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program examines the complex custom of marriage in various societies and cultures throughout the world. In addition, it explores the place that sex and sexuality play in determining the marriage contract. Among the societies featured are the Turkana tribe of Kenya, Zaire pygmies, the Asante tribe of Ghana, the Mien of Laos, and the Berbers of Morocco. Concepts such as endogamy, exogamy, patrilineal, polygamy, and bride price [bride wealth] are introduced and defined. In addition, the impact some of these customs have on the societies that practice them is explored. The program shows that in most non-western societies romantic love [cf., video: Strange Relations] plays a lesser role in determining a marriage contract.

212) Family and Household -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 12)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program focuses on the organization of the family as it exists and is defined in different cultures throughout the world. Cultural differences such as marriage and naming customs, inheritance lines and the differences between the nuclear and extended family are discussed. The impact of patrilineal versus matrilineal descent, polygamy and female heads of household are explored, as well as the impact these customs have on children and future generations. The Mbuti tribe of Zaire are used to illustrate division of labor between the sexes and the methods by which traditions and responsibilities are passed down from mother to daughter and father to son. The program also shows examples of problems within the Yanamamö and !Kung [cf., The Hunters] culture when their traditional families come in contact with the elements of modern societies. Guns, industrialization, access to education and the loss of historical land all have lasting effects on families and entire societies. A family in India is used to illustrate the problems that can arise in a large extended family where the group is dependent on all its members for labor and wealth. In this case, one member of the family chooses a non-traditional role for himself.

213) The Yucatec Maya: A Case Study in marriage and the Family -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 13)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

The lives of two extended Yucatec Maya are the subjects of this program. Film footage and commentary by Hubert L. Smith, whose field research spanned many years in the Maya community, follow the family of Prudencio Colli Canche, a traditional extended-family group as its members share the daily chores, teaching the youngsters in a never-ending cycle. The second family, that of Reymundo Colli, is experiencing change and stress because two sons want to break out of the farming lifestyle, seek more schooling, and move to the city. The "dependency" training of extended families is revealed by this challenge, and one of the sons, unable to cope with a new environment, returns home.

214) Kinship and Descent (Part I) -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 14)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

The program begins with a brief examination of kinship and descent considerations in the United States, including inheritance patterns, children's names, married names, and important family names in business and government. The main focus of the program is on ways in which other cultures are organized around descent patterns. These include the matrilineal pattern of the Trobriand Islanders and the economic and religious importance of the Mendi clans [cf., Dead Birds]. Methods of determining descent are illustrated in ethnographic film footage and with the use of interesting graphics. [kinship and descent] [geneology]

215) Kinship and Descent (Part II) -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 15)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program begins by defining "kindred" and looking at the role of kindred in food-foraging societies. The program then examines the various types of kinship and descent groups in horticultural societies and how such groups handle larger political and economic functions and domestic and social activities. Next, the program describes how societies based on intensive agriculture or industrialization have developed such institutions as centralized government to assume the organizing functions handled by kinship and descent groups in other societies. Illustrative examples in the program include the kinship terms of the Baruya, the Navajo matrilineal villages organization and terminology, and the social patterns in Greek villages [Kypseli: Women and Men Apart -- A Divided Reality] that reflect both patrilineal and matrilineal descent practices. Some of the six major systems of classifying kin are diagrammed and illustrated in this program. [kinship and descent] [geneology]

216) Age, Common Interest, and Stratification -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 16)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

Human beings require interaction with one another. It is for this reason that in most large societies, people form groups and relationships with other people. This program looks at the existence of groups in society based on age, common-interest association and social stratification. It examines the role these groups play in helping to organize and structure the larger culture, as well as how they help to preserve or change the existing society. It also looks at the value set the group operates within and how these values do or do not reflect the values of the larger society. Among the groups the program looks at are the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a group of African-Americans formed around a common-interest.

217) The Aymara: A Case Study in Social Stratification -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 17)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

Through footage made in northern Bolivia, where the heterogeneous population is socially and economically stratified, this program provides a close look at the inequities of a sharp class division between the Spanish-speaking mestizos and the subordinate Aymara Indians. The class system depicted, typical of much of Latin America, is apparent not only in the fields, but in religious practices, the celebratory fiestas, and even in the classroom. The economic subordination of the peasantry is battled by the mestizo teacher who, in one scene, seeks medical help for a child of an impoverished family. Although a revolution in 1952 brought some changes in Bolivia, this program show that the Aymara are still bound by many of the economic and social patterns that existed before the revolution.

218) Political Organization -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 18)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

All societies need a system of leadership, authority and cooperation in order to operate successfully and survive. These systems are called political organization. This program explores the four major types of political organization that exist in the world today: bands, tribes, chiefdoms and states. It describes the how these systems developed; the types of societies for which they are most well suited; the characteristics that form each type of political organization; and, the ways they differ from one another. The program explores the cultures of the !Kung [cf., The Hunters], the Mendi [cf., Dead Birds], and the Kpelle as examples of the band, the tribe and the chiefdom respectively. Finally, it traces the development of the state as a political entity characterized by centralized power, a code of law and the authority to use coercion to impose that law. In addition, explores the concept of legitimacy and coercion as they apply to the state. Through an examination of the theocratic government of Tibet, it describes some of the complications inherent in the survival of the modern state.

219) Social Control -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 19)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program describes the processes and methods societies use to establish and maintain social control. It mainly emphasizes interaction among members of the same group, but some attention is given to disputes between societies. The program describes the differences between internal control (i.e., religious dictates) and external control (i.e., code of law), methods of enforcement and why one type of social control might best serve the society's needs. It explores the various functions law might serve in different cultures, as well as the concepts of formal and informal dispute settlement, negotiation, adjudication and mediation. Finally, the program explores the phenomenon of war and explains how the concept of world view is integral to explaining why and how war occurs.

220) Religion and Magic -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 20)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

All societies incorporate some way to provide meaning and explain the unknown into their culture. These structures are called religion. This program illustrates and describes various examples of religion around the world and defines the difference between religion and magic. It includes footage of American Indians practicing animism, demonstrating their belief in the Great Spirit and attempting to restore the balance between good and evil by the ritualistic carvings of a medicine mask. Also shown are scenes of religious practices among the Highland Maya, who have combined ancient beliefs and Roman Catholicism [religious syncretism -- cargo cult -- Appeals to Santiago]; the ritual of the Eka Dasa Tudra, a complicated ceremony celebrated by the Balinese that links the worlds of gods, people and demons; and modern Hare Krishnas in Los Angeles. Revitalization movements, such as those of the Mormons, also are depicted. The program concludes with a look at modern industrial nations where religious practices have been separated from the secular aspects of life and culture. Finally, there is a brief discussion of the role science plays in modern societies and its relationship to religion.

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221) The Asmat of New Guinea ("Tree People"): A Case Study in Religion and Magic -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 21)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This detailed study of the Asmat, a cannibalistic society of western New Guinea, shows their use of religion and magic as tools for survival in a world they perceive as hostile and threatening. The centrality of trees in their religion is shown by scenes in which the Asmat carve a sacred bis pole from a mangrove tree to release spirits of the dead, and butcher and skin a sago palm as if it were human to release the starch that is the mainstay of their diet. The program explores many facets of the Asmat society linked to religious beliefs. Games the children play are designed to teach them skills of headhunting; during a feast, the coconut is consumed to symbolize eating the brains of one's enemy. Concluding segments of the program consider how economic development and modernization, including the government's ban on headhunting, will affect the Asmats' religious beliefs and practices, which are such an integral part of their total culture.

222) The Arts (Revised) -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 22)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program focuses on different forms of artistic expression as they exist in all cultures. It presents the many kinds of art and explores the variety of functions served by the arts: fulfillment of the need for individual creative expression; expression of peoples' conceptions of the unknown or spiritual world; and reflection of cultural values and ideas. Among the arts and cultures featured in the program are body painting among the tribes of the Amazon River basin in Brazil; the link between arts and religion as shown in the monuments of the Egyptian Empire; the sand painting of Buddhist monks in Tibet; and the music of Mexican-Americans in the southwestern United States as an expression of ethnic heritage. Also shown in the program are several contemporary Western artists and various artistic creations, including a performance artist, the AIDS quilt, and Christo's "Running Fence."

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223) New Orleans Black Indians: A Case Study in the Arts -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 23)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This documentary examines the Black Indian tribes of New Orleans and their Mardi Gras celebration which began in the 1880's. It describes the origins of the tribes as well as Mardi Gras, and focuses on the distinctive folk art features of the celebration including the songs, dances and particularly the elaborate costumes which hold great social significance are a form of artistic expression for the Black Indians. The program includes comments by several of the participants in which they express the historic symbolism and intense relationships expressed in the celebration. [Hungarian "Enthusiasts"]

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224) Cultural Change -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 24)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program explores the impact of culture change

on various indigenous people and cultures. It describes the various ways culture changes, specifically through innovation, diffusion, and colonialism. The student is introduced to several anthropologists who have studied the effects of culture change on various groups. The dramatic effect of modern agricultural techniques on the traditional horticultural economy of Mali illustrates some consequences of poor planning. The program uses the struggles of the !Kung in Africa to illustrate the idea of culture loss [cf., The Hunters]. Here, conservation and modernization have had a serious impact on the native populations of people and wildlife. In the northern regions of the Brazilian Amazon, the program shows that mining has had a tremendous influence on the native Yanamamö Indians [cf., Trinkets and Beads] . Finally, some of the positive effects of modern technology and culture change are discussed through a look at the Mayan Indians of Mexico. For example, while roads, electricity and running water have reached the native populations, many traditional agricultural ways still survive.

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225) Cricket the Trobriand Way: A Case Study in Cultural Change -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 25)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

This program focuses on "syncretism," the anthropological concept which describes the process by which people borrow elements of a foreign culture and combine them with native customs, forming a unique amalgamation of cultures. As an example of this phenomenon, the program uses the game of cricket as it exists in a modified version in the Trobriand Islands. The program first traces the history of the sport and describes how the sport was first introduced to the native population by the British in the 19th century. Since then, the island people have integrated the game into their own culture, modifying rules and combining it with native customs including magic, dance and chanting. The program includes footage of many practices of the game in its modified form.

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226) The Future of Humanity -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 26)
~ transcript -- Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii

The final program addresses the compelling problem of preserving the diversity of human cultures in a world that often appears to be rushing toward a one-world culture. The program includes several examples of how indigenous peoples are making the future their own by taking back the past. A Kwakiutl woman describes how her people negotiated the return of masks and other artifacts from Canada's National Museum of Man and built a Box of Treasures to house the items and serve as a center for preserving and renewing their cultural traditions, The Yanamamö are featured in another segment, which show how they are learning to defend their lands against outsiders and includes comments by Napoleon Chagnon on his concerns for the Yanamamös survival and on the Venezuelan governments experiment with a biosphere reserve encompassing the Yanamamö territory. Throughout the program, many representatives of indigenous people express their concerns and desire for protecting their societies.

Controversy: Darkness in El Dorado ~ Texas A & M

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