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Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going

4.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060919900
ISBN-10: 0060919906
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cultural anthropologist Harris ponders infanticide, dietary preferences, the worldwide sugar binge, incest avoidance, humans' addiction to orgasm, racism and much else. PW called this an "encyclopedic, consistently engaging survey of human evolution and culture."
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Our Kind (meaning the human species), another of anthropologist Harris's popularizing works, is a compendium of short essays (or musings) on an incredibly wide range of topics from fossil humans to yuppies. The book, which begins, "IN THE BEGINNING was the foot," is written in a chatty, urbane style. Harris fears that we too easily are learning to live with the threat of nuclear annihilation and that we will not survive even the near future " . . . unless we transcend the state's insatiable demands for sovereignty and hegemony." He also warns that "we must rid ourselves of the notion that we are an innately aggressive species for whom war is inevitable." Unless Harris meant to write a reminiscence of aspects of human existence, he might have made these remarks more effectively in a less eclectic work. Serious readers will find the right-up-to-date bibliography useful. For public libraries with an audience for Harris's works.
- Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (September 26, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060919906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060919900
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. Keith Hamm on September 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
Marvin Harris, who fought for a scientific explanation of human thought and behavior against postmodernist obscurantism and other attempts at explaining humans, brought together in this book all of his various theories about human cultures. From his contention that cannibalism occured in Aztec religion because of a lack of other protein sources in the Valley of Mexico to his basic theory of probabilistic infrastructural determinism he was always controversial.

This is an excellent book to read if you have ever wanted to study anthropology but couldnt get past the thick description of the current postmodern/interpretationist approaches. Harris harkens back to an evolutionary approach to anthropology and thoroughly explains many of the mysteries of human culture with the clearest empirical science.

He begins with human evolution, brings us through hunting and gathering into agricultural chiefdoms, the first states and into the hyperindustrial globalized present with clear concise descriptions. Harris was a masterful writer and always brings humor into the driest and (sometimes) strangest cultural phenomena. This book is a great bedside companion because of the short chapters, but you are going to have to struggle to put it down so it might keep you up rather than put you to sleep.

Also, this is basically a lay persons version of the textbooks Harris helped write with Orna Johnson. If you want to get the same information with charts and pictures (but without much of the humor) I highly recommend either Culture, People, Nature or Cultural Anthropology.
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Format: Paperback
Marvin Harris was a brilliant anthropologist - he died a few years ago - and this book sets out, in the language of normal people, the state of knowledge (to the time of writing) on the subject of humankind: what exactly we are, how we came to be like this, and even more interestingly from my point of view, WHY. The book is divided into very short chapters, little jewels of concision, beautifully and entertainingly written. Basically, the book takes theories which would be dry as dust in someone else's prose and makes them come alive with relevance to each and every one of us. A fascinating read.
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Format: Paperback
If someone is thinking about what anthroplogy is, or may want to study it, or are interested in the evolution of humans and culture, this book is a great introduction for the novice.
Marivn Harris takes the reader though step by step with good descriptions of the how, and possible whys. He also takes time in the end of the short chapters to explain some opposing ideas, and then gives his reasons for why he doesn't think that's right.
The book is of good lenght to have good explaination of the topics he takes at hand with "Our Kind." The book is in no means all inclusive, but for a beginer this book is great.
"Our Kind" will get the reader interested in anthroplogy and evolution, and will make the reader want to read more publications.
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Format: Paperback
Harris explains in brief vignettes much about humanity in Our Kind. He answers questions psychologists have struggled with--and continue to struggle with--primarily because the lens of this anthropologist isn't afraid to examine things from an evolutionary stance. Harris repeats earlier themes (from previous books) as well as examining the role of women in modern culture, race, warfare, food choice and diet, and much more. His insights about modern culture remain profound, and yet so many ignore the work of people like Harris. Perhaps there's a danger in these informative tracts.
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Format: Paperback
When I saw the English version of the book for the first time I simply ignored it because the front cover made me think it were just another try to explain lonely houswives in golden words how the world works. But some weeks later my eye caught a front cover showing the faces of people from "Menschen". In German, this means "humans" as well as "people/crowds", and this book attracted me to sit down in the book store and read. Back home, I forgot about the exams that I had to prepare for, and simply continued to read. Why? Well, Harris really gets your mind back to work by provoking arguments when explaining the origins of human brain and language, of war, priests, sexual roles, or states in just a few pages each. Especially funny was how he presented the seemingly endless chain of examples from the Eastern highlands of Papua-Newguinea (and to discuss it with a friend who grew up there), like husbands arrowing the thighs of their wives shortly after marriage, just to demonstrate who is going to rule in the future. Apart from the fun we had, the book also made us rethink some of the issues presented there although, naturally, we could not agree with all he stated
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I was assigned this book for a report in an anthropology class 5 years ago. I intended to skim through and fluff up a summary. Busy life! I ended up reading the whole darn thing and got the only A+ paper in the class. I do not swallow whole everything Harris writes, but his humor, insight, thoroughness of study are fascinating. Since I have never forgotten this little gem, I finally bought a new copy and am looking for used copies to give to my sons. I think they will also find him hard to put down. Worth the price!
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