View sample Anthropology Of Values Research Paper. Browse other research paper examples and check the list of research paper topics for more inspiration. If you need a religion research paper written according to all the academic standards, you can always turn to our experienced writers for help. This is how your paper can get an A! Feel free to contact our custom writing service for professional assistance. We offer high-quality assignments for reasonable rates.
The importance of values in anthropology was recognized by the mid-twentieth century by the designation of two chapters on this topic in Alfred Kroeber’s Anthropology Today: An Encyclopedic Inventory (1952). Both chapters were written by philosophers, F. S. C. Northrop and David Bidney, rather than practicing anthropologists, which perhaps suggests a sense that the topic should be grounded in a humanistic tradition. Both authors trace philosophical underpinnings while also discussing issues still current such as the debate between cultural relativism and human rights. While the present essay is much briefer than the two noted, they serve as a baseline against which we can note new developments.
Academic Writing, Editing, Proofreading, And Problem Solving Services
Get 10% OFF with 24START discount code
Values, in the sense of ‘conceptions of the desirable,’ (Kluckhohn 1951) deﬁnitions of the good, the moral, enter anthropology both as an object of study and as an aspect of the anthropologist’s own experience. Treating values as the object of study, anthropologists have taken either a cultural or a sociological approach, either emphasizing the patterning of values in themselves, and the power of values as cultural conceptions which shape experience or, mutatis mutandis, emphasizing the interrelationship between values and the sociological context.
Examples of the ﬁrst approach come largely from cultural anthropology in the American tradition (which has philosophical roots in German idealism). Early examples are based on conﬁgurationalism: that is, holistic analysis of values which deﬁne broad themes of a particular culture. Benedict (1934), Patterns of Culture, is the classic example. She distinguished Appolonian and Dionysian values among plains compared with pueblo Indians. Later, during and following World War II, Benedict, Mead and others applied the same approach to whole nations, depicting dominant values and psychological patterns of Japan, Germany, and Russia; thus was created the national-character school in anthropology. Recognizing the somewhat undisciplined, sweeping holism of these anthropological studies, Kluckhohn, Vogt, and Albert (1966), Kluckhohn and Strodbeck (Kluckhohn 1951, Kluckhohn and Strodbeck 1961) reﬁned the approach, explicitly centering on values, deﬁning dimensions for comparison (for example, past vs. future orientation in relation to time or dominant vs. submissive attitudes toward nature) and made systematic comparisons of particular ethnic or regional groups within America. Cliﬀord Geertz adopted a Parsonsian deﬁnition of culture (values, symbols, and ideas) that further reﬁned the older conﬁgurationalistic notion, then pursued a Weberian project in his Religion of Ja a (1960) where he distinguished the major divisions within a complex culture according to distinctive values. Habits of the Heart (Bellah 1985) applied this approach to America, producing an inﬂuential critique of American individualism and calling for a return to earlier values that recognized societal responsibility. As with the early conﬁgurationalists, German inﬂuences remained important in these later, Weberian-inspired works; the leitmotif is that values, as a manifestation of culture, have meaning and signiﬁcance not reducible to any societal context.
The second approach gives more importance to the societal context, which is viewed as a crucial source and ground of values. Examples of the second approach come classically from the British social anthropological tradition which had philosophical roots in France especially Emile Durkheim. In Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1915), he argued that thought generally, including religious belief and values, derive from society in both its normative and experiential aspects. An excellent application of this thesis is Campbell (1964), Honour, Family, and Patronage. Campbell demonstrates cogently how bilateral family patterns explained conceptions of honor expressed by the Sarakatsani of Greece. Honor is an ultimate value, for which the Sarakatsani man will sacriﬁce his life. Yet honor is grounded in kinship; in this society where seven out of ten name a kinsman as best friend, and a bastard child, lacking kin, is left on the mule path to die, one’s honor depends on one’s kin. The values derive from and sustain the family. Campbell’s analysis is one of the best in showing the intricate functional integration of value, and social organization. Building on this particular analysis Pitt-Rivers (1983), Peristiany (1992), and others also showed how the concept of honor can be seen as a Middle Eastern and southern European value, somewhat transcending particularities of social organization but also grounded in a regional cultural and social pattern they termed ‘Mediterranean.’
An eﬀort to reduce the ﬁrst approach to the second was Douglas’ Cultural Bias (1978). Douglas distinguishes two dimensions of social life, group and grid, which (though varying in deﬁnition) pertain to setting boundaries between in-group and out-group, and deﬁning the inner networks and classiﬁcations internal to a group (grid). Utilizing her social variables grid group, Douglas argues that many cultural values—conceptions of time, of health and disease, of nature—depend on which particular social con- ﬁguration is dominant. Thus, by knowing the social pattern, one can predict which cultural value will dominate; the societal explains cultural values.
Since the peak of the cultural and social anthropological structural-functionalist approaches to value, anthropology has developed in a myriad of directions. One is pursuing the nature of human rationality (see Overing Reason and Morality (1985)) and even returning to questions about human cognition (as with Quinn and Holland (1987)). Further exemplifying the sociological emphasis, but with a Marxist twist, one anthropological approach treats political economy as the driving force of culture. This approach tends to diminish the role of values. Values are treated as false consciousness, as ideological constructions motivated by class interests or a drive to power and proﬁt. Studies of colonialism and postcolonialism illustrate this approach, for example, Comaroﬀ’s Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance (1985), where religious movements and their accompanying values are contextualized within a colonial and postcolonial framework in South Africa.
Studies of transnationalism and globalism likewise tend to ignore or diminish the place of values, emphasizing the capitalistic and corporate forces that construct global culture. However, human-rights formulations of value loom as one of the crucial forces tempering the global market process that has exploded since the Cold War.
While anthropologists who emphasize political economy moved values from center stage, the topic has migrated to other disciplines, especially those concerned with globalism and international relations. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations (1996), for example, reiﬁes certain value conﬁgurations, notably the Islamic and the Western, then foresees the clash between them, replacing the ideological conﬂict during the Cold War. Scott’s Seeing Like a State (1998) also focuses on the power of values, notably rationalization, when coupled with the state, to shape human life and thought.
Turning to the place of values in anthropology and for the anthropologist, the basic debate is between engagement and objectivity. While Weber’s ‘valuefree social science’ concept converges with positivism to express at least an ideal of objectivity, his ‘Vverstehen’ converges with a Gadamerian postmodernism to acknowledge the role of values (what Gadamer terms ‘prejudice’) as projected by the analyst into the process of analysis. These Weberian nuances can still inform the anthropological debate (see for example, the debate between D’Andrade and Scheper-Hughes (1995)). Like Weber, anthropologists agree in acknowledging the role of values in their research and lives but they debate whether the analyst should attempt to control the inﬂuence of values, i.e., strive toward objectivity, or should embrace their inﬂuence, i.e., become engaged. Engagement means that the analyst should express rather than suppress values, whether those of one’s informants, one’s own, or others’ (e.g., of some ideology or vision of the good). Objectivity means that the analyst should control or suppress expression of values (other than that of scientiﬁc or accurate description and analysis).
At an organizational level, two formulations by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), one on professional ethics, the other on human rights, illustrate the issue. The ethics statement boils down to a version of the Hippocratic oath ‘Do no harm.’ That is, above all else, do not endanger the people one studies. The Human Rights Declaration takes a more engaged and activist stance, calling for the anthropologist to intercede if human rights of a group are violated. In either instance, the anthropologist is engaged, but in the professional ethics statement the frame is set as within the research. Concern is especially with the group among whom one is doing ﬁeldwork. With such a group of individuals, one has a ‘covenental’ relationship and an ethical commitment not to do harm to them as a result of carrying out the research. However, the ethics statement abstains from a positive injuction ‘Do good’ or even from an activist call to ‘prevent harm’ to the group, in case they should come into harm’s way.
As proposed by the AAA Committee on Human Rights for vote by the AAA membership, a more activist commitment is implied. The Declaration reads as follows:
As a professional organization of anthropologists the AAA has long been and should continue to be concerned whenever human diﬀerence is made the basis for a denial of human rights, where ‘human’ is understood in its full range of cultural, social, linguistic, psychological, and biological senses.
The Committee further comments as follows:
Support of the Declaration will allow anthropologists to participate more centrally in one of the most signiﬁcant human-values debates of our time. Suppression of diversity by powerful states or factions with a claim to superior values has led to such horrors as ethnic cleansing and genocide. Yet, ‘culture’ has been used to justify not taking a stand on actions which human rights NGOs consider gross violations of human freedoms.
The history of the AAA attitude toward human rights intertwines with the history of the anthropology of values. In the mid-twentieth century when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was being formulated, AAA declined to join the process of formulation on the ground that the ethics of human rights violated cultural relativism by claiming universal values. By the 1990s, AAA was re-engaging the conversation, acknowledging and aﬃrming basic human rights while also emphasizing collective and cultural identities and their concomitant dangers e.g., genocide and ethnic cleansing.
While the complex issues of objectivity and engagement cannot be plumbed further here, this example illustrates part of the spectrum between a model of objectivity (analyst detached from object of research), a model of engagement (analyst obligated to intercede on behalf of endangered groups) and shades in between, illustrated by the ‘do no harm,’ injunction, which presumes a research objective tempered by an ethical constraint.
In the late twentieth century, eﬀorts toward deﬁning the place of values in the discipline of anthropology, display three major streams. The ﬁrst aﬃrms positivism and objectivity. The second aﬃrms subjectivity, an interpretive, post-modernist stance leading toward reﬂexivity—explicit acknowledgement of one’s values as part of one’s analysis. The third also aﬃrms the place of one’s values, but leads not so much inward as outward, minimally toward ethical behavior in relation to those among whom one does research, maximally toward engagement and practice: a mission of reform and change of the world.
This debate about the proper place of values in the experience of the anthropologist is important within the discipline, but insofar as the debate is within the discipline, it is limited in its direct impact on the wider world. Arguably of greater impact is the ﬁrst topic of this essay: the anthropological study of values as expressed by humankind.
Anthropology should count as one of its major contributions, to scholarship and to the world, the recognition of, study of, and aﬃrmation of the worth of human values, both in their common aspects and in their distinctive emphasis by varied groups or cultures. This is an abiding contribution, worthy of perpetuation into the next epoch of the discipline.
- Bellah N, Madsen R, Sullivan W, Swidler A 1985 Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA
- Benedict R 1934 Patterns of Culture. Houghton Miﬄin, Boston
- Benedict R 1946 The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture. Houghton Miﬄin, Boston
- Bidney D 1952 The concept of value in modern anthropology. In: A. L. Kroeber (ed.) Anthropology Today. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 682–99
- Campbell J K 1964 Honour, Family, and Patronage: A Study of Institutions and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community. Clarendon, Oxford
- Comaroﬀ J 1985 Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: The Culture and History of South African People. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
- D’Andrade R, Scheper-Hughes N S 1995 Objectivity and militancy: A debate. Current Anthropology 36: 399–420
- Declaration of Human Rights 1998 Anthropology Newsletter 9
- Douglas M 1978 Cultural Bias. Royal Anthropological Institute, London
- Durkheim E 1965 Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Free Press, New York
- Geertz C 1960 The Religion of Java. Free Press, Glencoe, IL
- Huntington S 1996 The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Simon and Schuster, New York
- Kluckhohn C 1951 Values and value-orientation in the theory of action: An exploration in deﬁnition and classiﬁcation. In: T. Parsons (ed.) Toward a General Theory of Action. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 338–433
- Kluckhohn F, Strodbeck F 1961 Variations in Value Orientations. Row, Peterson, Evanston, IL
- Kroeber A L (ed.) 1952 Anthropology Today. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
- Mead M 1943 And Keep Your Powder Dry: An Anthropologist Looks at America. William Morrow, New York
- Northrop F S C 1952 Cultural values. In: Kroeber A L (ed.) Anthropology Today. University of Chicago, Chicago, pp. 668–81
- Overing J 1985 Reason and Morality. Tavistock, London
- Peristiany G J 1992 Honor and Grace in Anthropology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK
- Pitt-Rivers J (ed.) 1983 Mediterranean Countrymen: Essays in the Social Anthropology of the Mediterranean. Mouton, Paris
- Quinn N, Holland D (eds.) 1987 Cultural Models in Language and Thought. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK
- Scott J 1998 Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition ha e Failed. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT
- Vogt E, Albert E M 1966 People of Rim vock: A Study of Values in Fi e Cultures. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA
- Weber M 1949 The Methodology of Social Sciences [trans. Shils E A, Finch H A]. The Free Press, New York