on June 18, 2005
I wanted my 100th review for Amazon to be for something I could wholeheartedly recommend, and this is it.
The authors manage, within severe space restrictions, to convey the essential features of their discipline, an outline of its history and development, and an indication of the philosophical and moral issues that it raises.
Monaghan's work with the Mixtec of Central America and Just's work with the Dou Donggo of Indonesia are used as sources for the anecdotal details that are used throughout the book to illustrate aspects of anthropology. This is very much a description of anthropology as a practical endeavor, a hands-on discipline whose theories are firmly grounded in the everyday lives of human beings.
Broader theoretical contexts, such as are found in Marxism or Structuralism, are touched on but no more. Those are the things you go on to read about after your appetite has been whetted by an excellent introduction such as this.
on December 12, 2006
After disheartening forays into text books and frustration at readers that are either too thematic or otherwise not quite right for a quick orientation in the discipline, I decided to check this out. This is about as perfect a scene-setter as I could ask for for either an intro course or any course that is likely to attract students who do not have an anthropological background. It's pocket-sized, it's affordable, it's readable, and it's SMART. It covers theoretical debates in a straight-forward and understandable way that shows why anyone should care about evolution vs. diffusion (to name one example). This little book as does about a good a job as any at showing how (and why) anthropologists and others use the word "post-modernity" (pg 69). The field examples are well chosen and engaging. The chapters are of a length and written in a style students are likely to read. Even better, the authors give enough tantalizing detail that I suspect it will inspire students to read MORE.
on July 31, 2011
As stated by both authors, this book is very short, so it serves to give the reader only a glimpse of what anthropologists do. They spend excruciatingly long time with the populations they want to study ("exotic societies", urban settings - like big corporations), be part of them, and try to observe in a way as objective as possible. Such prolonged observations are necessary to provide key insights into the working and psyche of the communities being studied.
One chapter (Ch.3) is devoted on "culture". Various ways to define "culture" are propounded. By looking into various different cultures, it can be concluded that "each person is simultaneously like some other people, like all other people, and like no other person" (p.40). In the same chapter, the authors try to explain the concept of "Cultural Relativism". Unfortunately, they use a most objectionable example of female circumcision to illustrate their point (p. 51-52), which is erroreous particularly when we now know is a practice that, quite obviously, produces immense psychological trauma.
The chapter (Ch.4) on marriage as the way societies regulate sex is informative and consistent with evoultionary psychology. The authors' interpretation of Genesis 38:8-10 is simultaneously amusing and insightful and particularly apt.
Ch.5 is devoted on group identity (including non-kin groups, "ethnicity", and "race") and it provides food for thought to those who do not believe in "group selection" at all.
The last three chapters are on economy (which includes the authors' short criticism on globilization), religion, and the concept of self-hood. How convincing these chapters are readers can decide themselves.
In summary, a short interesting book, to be read with a tiny pinch of salt.
on October 28, 2013
I am very familiar with the study of medicine but I would argue that the topic ,in this book, is not usually a part of the teachings of especially, Biomedicine. It should thus be a requirement in the related curriculum as I am of the opinion that the application of the inherent science is, would be, beneficial to recipients of the care.The facts of the various types of differences in people are made very clear and obvious in the subject book. The enumerated differences that are addressed in the book are so intriguing and seemingly so a propos. It should behove all specialists to concentrate on these principles. The book is rare and special.It informs people in our society of matters of large importance when it comes to the delivery of care,in fact, most important matters which are not commonly known. it therefore makes the reading of this book a must. The readings are educational, and it is most important to acquire the respective knowledge, a requirement which this book magnificiently contains and offers. to be sure,I learnt a lot from it.
on January 15, 2016
Monaghan and Just's brief but mind-provoking "Social and Cultural Anthropology" is a "very short introduction"' indeed, one among many similar ones on other topics ranging from archaeology to music in the series published by the Oxford University Press. Due to its shortness and the authors' titanic attempt to cover most of the general topics and sub-disciplines of anthropology on 156 pages of its miniature format, newer trends like medical anthropology, the anthropology of law, and the anthropology of sciences are excluded. Although the authors themselves acknowledge that the book is about the "big questions" in anthropology since the emergence of the discipline rather than about the latest trends within it, a very short introduction to very big questions might not provide one with any answers at all. Yet, the book is a good and enjoyable account of anthropology that can be read from different perspectives and by a wide range of readers.
Introductions to anthropology are numerous, and if anyone dares to add yet another there must be a good reason. On the theoretical and factual front, the book contributes little new. Its innovative value lies not in what it says but how. The co-authorship by experts of totally different ethnographic material and the way ethnographic experience is woven into the chain of theoretical argument is the most interesting and original aspect of this introduction. Monaghan's examples from his research among the Mixtec of Santiago Nuyoo in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca and Just's descriptions of the Dou Donggo on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, add a polyvocal quality to the text. Although one sometimes gets the feeling that the ethnographic examples are slightly forced to fit neatly into the general chain of argument, in most cases it seems to create an interesting mixture of different levels of argumentation.
Where one could, however, challenge this representation is not in its structure and form which are truly innovative and effective, but in the nature of the ethnographic examples that are employed. Both derive from a non-Western context and this might create a false impression in a non-expert that anthropology is still mainly concerned with non-Western societies. Although the authors of the book do acknowledge the shift of focus from "down" to "up", from rural to urban, and from non-Western to Western, by using examples of fieldwork among the Mixtecs and Dou Donggo, they seem to reproduce the image of an anthropologist as someone concerned only with far-away exotic places. It seems the authors do this consciously and that this corresponds to their own prevailing vision of contemporary anthropology. Anthropologists, they believe, "continue to concentrate on exotic societies" (p. 72).
What is also slightly disturbing about the ethnographic examples is that throughout the book, one constantly seeks for similarities between the two cases from different sides of the world, and differences between the "exotic" that they represent and "our" world. It would have been more descriptive of contemporary anthropology if one of the ethnographic examples had come from a "Western" context and if one were shown the familiar in the "exotic" and the unfamiliar in the "known", rather than the other way round.
The authors of this book have not structured their argument the way it stands just for the sake of novelty. They claim that the best way to introduce anthropology is actually to prefer concepts to facts and to emphasize not so much what anthropologists have discovered but how they think about what they have learned (p. 1). Their guiding motto throughout the book is the conviction that to understand what anthropology is, one has to look at what anthropologists do (p. 13). Although they themselves occasionally abandon this principle, falling back on a rather conventional presentation of anthropological theory, in general they nicely follow this set of principles guiding the reader smoothly through the methodologies of fieldwork, and the theoretical topics of culture, society, kinship, social groups, economics, religion and gender, with brief historic-theoretical stops and references to major figures in anthropology.
Monaghan and Just claim that the idea of writing their introduction in such a format came from their own experience of introducing anthropology to educated non-specialists. Although it is a "very short introduction", the book is not exactly an "anthropology for beginners". The authors slide over grand concepts and topics with the pace that requires some preliminary knowledge, if not a firm grip of these. The book can be useful not just to "educated specialists" or readers generally interested in anthropology, but anthropology students at different levels and professional anthropologists themselves.