Posts Tagged With: American Anthropological Association

Anthropology and The Definition of Marraige

As an Anthropologist and Sociologist who has devoted her adult life, passion and career to the study of human culture and human organization / how we function as societies, the topics of gender and family and kinship are ones that I have studied with some rigor.  Likely more than most (save the professional scholars).
This whole issue that has arisen (thanks to fried chicken sammiches) of late has gotten my wheels spinning:  namely because it seems that the argument is focusing on morality or free speech.  What I think we tend to forget in our bubble of social opinions is the context from whence the definition of marriage in our culture came…and the context of marriage and relationships throughout history.  So many arguments about what defines a family and, quite frankly, pretty myopic arguments.

We all have a right to believe what we want.  But my inclinations as a scientist always take me back to the need to  objectively collect as much data as possible and eschewing my ethnocentrism (my preconceived notions about right and wrong based on my own insulated cultural experience) before coming to a conclusion.

It is in this vein that I hope to shed some light for whomever is interested on the sociocultural history of marriage and the anthropological perspective.  Since Anthropology IS the study of humans, I thought it the most appropriate objective perspective.

In 2004, The American Anthropological Association issued a statement regarding their position on the definition of marriage, as a response to inquiries about the legitimacy of same sex marriage:

The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

Here are some articles worth reading about the topic of marriage:

From the May 2004 Issue of Anthropology News, entitled: Gay Marriage and Anthropology. This article discusses historical examples of the definition and role of marriage and kinship over time:,

Here is a paper from Yale Law School on the history of Same Sex Marriage that also spans many centuries and cultures

Here is another scholarly article with several Anthropological definitions of marriage that have emerged over time:

And finally, the Wikipedia compendium on marriage with all sorts of colorful examples and perspectives:
I encourage everyone, regardless of their point of view on any topic to “seek first to understand, then to be understood” (Thanks again Mr. Stephen Covey).   It is only by this pursuit of understanding that we can effectively co-exist.  And we can’t help but co-exist…

Categories: Anthropology, Gay and Lesbian Lifestyles, Heterosexuality, sex, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proving Anthropologists Have A Sense of Humor – Or At Least Putting It In Context

English: I can't vandalize... ...but I have go...

English: I can’t vandalize… …but I have got a sense of humor! Upper Bilson Street, Cinderford. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the dialogue on the American Anthropological Association LinkedIn forum continues (was intended to be, in part, a shameless plug for my blog but ended up driving more commentary than viewers…which is more than i really could have asked for),  I thought I would share some updates.

The question I posed was “do anthropologists take themselves too seriously”. Many many debates have ensued…gloves have come off, been put back on, had the fingers snipped off, initiated some high fives and even spawned a few jokes. I thought I might share a couple of the jokes, as the bulk of the remaining robust dialogue really needs to be taken in on it’s own:

From Archaeologist Rick Richardson, “A three-legged dog hobbles up to the bar in an old west saloon. As the canine takes a look around, the barkeep asks what it is doing in his saloon. The dog replies “I’m looking for the man who shot my paw.”

And in reply from Archaeology Tech Daniel Eliseuson: “To follow the scenario, the dog has beer or two, goes outside lifts his leg and fall on his butt! The liquid inside the fire hydrant is H2O, the liquid outside is of course, K9P”

Now don’t get this all twisted. I said that I could prove anthropologists have a sense of humor. I did not, however, say that they are actually humorous.

And i don’t mean to be too hard on my fellow practitioners. Anthropology is a field that has been integrating itself into the private sector for the last several decades. The issue presented here is that, even though the goal of academic study is to find ways to apply what we find to solving problems in the real world, the human nature of the study of Anthropology makes that work hit very close to home. We scrutinize culture for a living, forcing objectivity at all costs to ensure we do not misinterpret what is going on based on our own ethnocentric set of values and beliefs.

The problem that arises is we tend to get stuck in “seriousness” and also tend to be very protective of what we find, lest human culture be exploited for the wrong reasons. That and, most anthropologists in the academic space don’t earn great financial reward for their work, so the ego is where their satisfaction needs to come from.  Also, as with most humans, moderation is difficult so we tend to over-compensate with obnoxious ego indulgence.

Hence, the phenomenon of stuffy anthropologists who turn their noses up to “every-day” anthropology. And given the context, I can understand the inclination.

After getting my MA, I ran from academia like it was on fire. I wanted to see where I could take what I had learned about how to look at the world and apply it to the understanding and development of popular culture…landing in the consumer culture space.

I find that most days, human culture makes me laugh, cry, pull out my hair and gives me hope. If we look close enough we find seriousness and humor in the every day patterns of human life.
Applying an empirical understanding of human life, lifestyles, organization and action IS serious business. But we will only get so far if we don’t take a minute to find humor in our predicament. That predicament being, living , breathing and trying to make sense f something that, at the end of the day, might very well be beyond our understanding, which is either extraordinarily hilarious or not even a little bit funny.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Culturematic, Experiment, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Giving Anthropologists The Finger

I posed a couple of questions in Anthropology discussion boards on a popular business networking site.  Namely, I was asking the groups of academic and professional anthropologists if perhaps we take ourselves a bit too seriously in our profession.
The resounding answer (and implications from lack of answers) is YES.


In the spirit of this, here is a fun anthropologist joke i found

Two anthropologists fly to the south sea islands to study the natives. They go to two adjacent islands and set to work. A few months later one of them takes a canoe over to the other island to see how his colleague is doing. When he gets there, he finds the other anthropologist standing among a group of natives. “Greetings! How is it going?” says the visiting anthropologist. “Wonderful!” says the other, “I have discovered an important fact about the local language! Watch!” He points at a palm tree and says, “what is that?” The natives, in unison, say “Umbalo-gong!” He then points at a rock and says, “and that?” The natives again intone “Umbalo-gong!” “You see!”, says the beaming anthropologist, “They use the SAME word for’ rock’ and for’ palm tree’!” “That is truly amazing!” says the astonished visiting anthropologist, “On the other island, the same word means’ ind ex finger’!”

PLEASE help fill up the queue with lots more jokes i can send to the academics.  It would make my day.

Categories: Anthropology, Jargon | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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