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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cultural materialism for the layperson
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...
Published on September 28, 2005 by H. Keith Hamm

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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd opinions made me stop reading
I was enjoying the book but I kept noticing what I thought to be some unusual opinions in his writings. I finally stopped reading about halfway through when he was discussing murder and how soldiers killed in wartime should be considered murder victims.

So, the US Army didn't fight the evils of Naziism in WWII; we murdered a bunch of Germans instead. I think...
Published 17 months ago by G. Noetzel Jr.


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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cultural materialism for the layperson, September 28, 2005
This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you've always wanted to know about the human race, July 24, 2005
By 
Naseberry (Brussels, Belgium) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief vignettes, but very informative, October 12, 2000
This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes up for a good reason why to ignore the exams to come, April 1, 1999
This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introduces the reader to anthroplogy, September 9, 2002
By 
Clay Awsumb (Belleville, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provacative view of human nature, September 17, 2000
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This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (Paperback)
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, August 28, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (Paperback)
Despite the hamburger on the cover this book is one of the most thought provoking books I have read. The book explores how humankind orginated and evolved to where we have and where we are possibly headed. Explanations of food, religion, war, race, sex, and gender roles all provide the basis for some deep coffee drinking contemplation of what is humankind
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Cultural Anthropology - Fascinating Insights, April 16, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (Paperback)
Okay, I loved the book. A.K.A. - It fits with my prejudices. That aside, there are several points which make this a good book to read.
First, Mr. Harris lays ideas out in a consice, understandable format with a cunning sense of humor.
Second, Mr. Harris's ideas are quite thought provoking, and the pattern with which he describes human behavior while relating it to more 'primitive' cultures was very refreshing.
For those people looking for something to believe in, try the bible. For those who would like to THINK about things, try this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, July 20, 2005
This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (Paperback)
Marvin Harris had the virtue of explaining scholar-like concepts as if they were a chat among friends.Remarkable!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How we got to be this way, November 26, 2007
This review is from: Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going (Paperback)
Anthropologist Marvin Harris has concocted a highly readable overview of the bipedal hominids currently dominating life on Big Blue. In easily grasped chunks the author considers most of the genetic, behavioral and social changes in our history, and drawing on extensive scholarship he offers many surprising (and doubtless, controversial) insights into those processes. Typical of his fresh approach is a radical suggestion about the origin of our large brains. You were probably taught, as was I, that big brains gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage through enhancement of communication skills. We leveraged our cleverness, runs this argument, by sharing discovery and organization of food gathering and defense. Brainy hominids left more offspring who begat yet brainier progeny. This seems so self-evident, how can it be wrong? Harris points out that it didn't work that way at all. Homo erectus emerged between 1.6 and 1.7 million years ago with a brain nearly as big as our own, so vastly larger than its precursors that there should have been a quantum leap in technology if communication was linked to cranial capacity. But no such change is visible in the fossil record. The tools used by erectus 200,000 years ago were very, very similar to those fashioned one and a half million years in the past. By comparison, Homo sapiens has jumped from stone axes to interstellar space vehicles in just 100,000 years. Were they just slow learners? A better explanation, suggests the author, is that large brains emerged to enable marathon running. Extended exertion starves cells of oxygen. The reason humans are the best long-distance, long-duration runners on earth is largely because our brains have multiply redundant structures that don't bog down under duress. Other animals are faster sprinters, but none can outrun us over time. On the savannah our ancestors were able to run down prey as some primitive cultures still do today -- literally overtaking and manually pulling down deer and antelope when the ungulates falter from fatigue. Creatures which run down their prey do not need elaborate technology, they need portable tools -- say a couple of sharp stones in a handy tummy pack, for skinning prey, and perhaps a sharpened stick with the point hardened with fire. This are exactly the sort of tools associated with erectus over all those millenia. If historic trends continue the number of distinct cultures will continue to diminish, with the powerful swallowing and subsuming the weak, along a curve that reaches unity in the not too distant future. The ephemeral dream of one world appears inevitable, and yet, warns Harris, the agent of consolidation has ever been war. The next world war will be horrendous, perhaps terminal for higher life forms on our planet. Altogether a fresh and challenging look at whence we have come and a sobering look at where we might be headed, this volume will kick out the blocks under assumptions, and lead to deep questions about our motives and means.
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Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going
Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going by Marvin Harris (Paperback - September 26, 1990)
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