Thesis - Open Access
Bachelor of Arts
Classification, Anthropology, Social, Organization, Society
Throughout most of human history our ancestors lived by hunting and gathering. Only within the last ten to fifteen thousand years have alternative forms of social organization developed, duly labeled by anthropologists and archaeologists: agricultural, pastoral, and complex state societies, lineal tribes, and a host of other terms which pass in and out of favor in our ongoing (and inescapably human) attempts to categorize our own kind.
Classification lies at the heart of science, and anthropology is certainly no exception. However, categorization of any degree (which requires generalization) runs the risk of obscuring important differences between cultural groups. The trick for anthropologists is to strike a balance between grouping to the point of over-generalization, and dealing with cultures on such an individual basis that cross-cultural regularities are not recognized. When we look at the history of anthropological theory, it is clear that this approach is a relatively recent one- and one we continue to struggle with.
Margaris, Amy Vlassia, "Meat and Potatoes: Recipes for a Range of Egalitarianism in Three Hunter-Gatherer Societies" (1996). Honors Papers. 538.