Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quotes about anthropology and the universality of human nature

...nowhere in the ethnographic literature is there any description of what real people did that is not shot through with the signs of a universal human nature...anthropologists routinely conduct research that can only be done because in crucial ways the differences between us and the peoples we study are not in fact very great; yet because everybody likes to hear that “they” are different from “us”, anthropologists dwell on the differences.
—Donald E. Brown in Human Universals, page 5.

...From 1915 to 1934 American anthropologists established three fundamental principles about the nature of culture: that culture is a distinct kind of phenomenon that cannot be reduced to others (in particular, not biology or psychology), that culture (rather than our physical nature) is the fundamental determinant of human behavior, and that culture is largely arbitrary.
—Donald E. Brown in Human Universals, page 6.

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