Electric Review

Culture & Criticism Since 2003


New Releases from McGraw-Hill

From the Editor: A worthy anthropology textbook must speak to the collective mission of man while simultaneously imparting its layers of knowledge to all levels of the student populous. Accordingly, these new releases from Wadsworth/Cengage Learning stand tall among their peers – books noted for their depth and clear-honed perceptions that engage the reader while promoting deeper exploration of the fundamental subject matter.

ESSENTIALS OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY. Seventh Edition. Robert Jurmain. Lynn Kilgore. Wenda Trevathan. Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

This hallmark text attempts to teach students the science of human evolution, extending from the molecular level through the world of primates (including dissection of the earliest fossil records). Topics of coverage include analysis of the different sects of anthropological study; discussion of the evolutionary theories; examination of the biological basis of life; heredity and evolution; vertebrate and mammalian evolution; an overview of primates; hominid origins; pre-modern humans; the origins and dispersal of modern humans; human adaptation; and anthropological perspectives relating to the human life course. Expert use of graphics and illustrations give this text its body, pin-pointing core information, illuminating each hard-to-grasp premise. Moreover, the Why It Matters segment and the Critical Thinking Questions which augment each chapter are invaluable teaching tools, providing students with a platform through which to ‘self-test’ their retention and understanding of the material (while allowing instructors to focus on ‘the things students need to know’ to master the course-work).

Suggested Reading


Sanford’s text should be used as a supporting text to Jurmain’s Essentials of Physical Anthropology, presenting a series of essays on “what it means to be human.” In sum, these essays detail the essence of human evolution, notable for their ability to enlighten students without losing them in pedantic storms of theory. The inclusion of a list of internet sources meant to aid students with research projects is quite helpful, promoting a modern approach to the learning process.

INTRODUCTION TO PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY. Robert Jurmain. Lynn Kilgore. Wenda Trevathan. Russell L. Ciochron. Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

This text, while similar to Jurmain’s Essentials of Physical Anthropology, takes a more in depth tour through the basics of the subject matter. In essence, Introduction to Physical Anthropology offers students a stepping-stone from which to gain a foothold on the physical characteristics of anthropology so they can move onto study different focus-points of the discipline. This volume is noted for its analysis of advances in molecular biology, human biology and genomics, in addition to chronicling the latest in fossil-finds.

CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY. A Problem Based Approach. Fifth Edition. Richard H. Robbins. Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

This text has never been more relevant, as the United States welcomes its first African-American President and gender roles expand at the four corners of the world. Here, Robbins delves into the core of cultural anthropology by examining how cultures are created (via integration of the individual into the greater framework of community and society). Highpoints include chapters on the social and cultural construction of reality; patterns of family relations; and the cultural construction of identity.

Highly recommended as a front-line teaching text in undergraduate cultural anthropology courses.

Of Related Interest

CLASSIC READINGS IN CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY. Second Edition. Gary Ferraro. Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Ferraro’s text compiles a series of compelling essays on key cultural topics. Essays include riveting pieces on society and sex roles; and arranging a marriage in India. Optimally, this book will be paired with Robbins’ Cultural Anthropology and used as a supporting class text.

Order each from amazon.com.

ANTHROPOLOGY IN THEORY. Issues in Epistemology. Henrietta L. Moore. Todd Sanders. Blackwell.

The study of Anthropology is ever-changing, this record of the society and its culture, this defining record of the times in which we endure.

In Anthropology and Theory, Moore (London School of Economics) and Sanders (University of Toronto) bind together over 50 articles detailing how the foundations of the study of Anthropology were formed, turning a incisive and microscopic eye on theory and theorizing; Moore writes:

“…[T]he pieces collected here are intended to reflect the practice of engaging with theory, particular ways of thinking, analysing and reflecting that have emerged in the context of writings in the twentieth century…”

(From author’s Introduction)

And Ms. Moore continues:

“It has often been said that there is no single anthropology, but only a series of anthopologies. The perspective developed in this collection would see that statement as a question of scale, a matter of position, of what one chooses to foreground on the one hand and consign to background on the other. The variety, diversity and richness of contemporary anthropological theorizing is indisputable, as is the existence of the vigorous debates which are its origin…”

(From author’s Introduction)

This book breaks fascinating ground in its breadth of coverage and depth of analysis. The editors have done an exemplary job of engaging the study of Anthropology from myriad angles in an attempt to show the student that mastery of this discipline takes a keen eye and a mind willing to go beyond surface debate into the core of each ‘theory.’ Accordingly, the topic areas covered are vast, with exploration into Culture and BehaviorSociety and its Social PatternsEnvironment; the Structure of Systems and SocietyBiology and OntogenyLanguage; and Thought-development and Knowledge (among a multitude of other pertinent material).

Throughout these essays, the underlying mission of the writers is to cause students to come to be immersed in the mission of the Anthropologist; specifically: To think through the segments of society and its peoples in order to deconstruct paths and premises, striving to gain a deeper understanding of the human condition.

In addition to creating a hallmark teaching text for students of Anthropology, Moore and Sanders have developed a manual relevant to Sociologists searching to place their observations of man into the larger context of the universe.

Recommended as either a primary or secondary teaching text in courses premised on leading students to deconstruct the study of Anthropology into individual segments. Further recommended to all college-level libraries as a general reference text.

by John Aiello

Of Related Interest

THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF ART. A Reader. Edited By Howard Morphy. Morgan Perkins. Blackwell Publishers.

This reader collects various essays on the role of art in the growth and expression of man. Important because it provides the student with a single volume devoted entirely to examining how art enlivens the culture and spirits its collective mission towards a greater awareness of the self. The words ‘art’ and ‘artist’ are used quite freely in our 21st-century lexicon, as the specter of the Madison Avenue advertising world has made art synonymous with television commercials and highway billboards. Consequently, the authors joined together in this textbook have gone to great lengths to dissect the place of art in both the society and the life of the individual. Topics of concentration include definitions of art and aesthetics; primitivism and artifacts; form, style and meaning; the marketing culture (in addition to a lively section on contemporary artists with whom today’s student will likely identify).

This text serves as an on-point companion reference to Moore and Sander’s treatise — a unique and timely manual that serves to connect the student with the creative impulse of man. Also recommended to college-level libraries as a general reference text. Finally, this text might also prove useful to Art History students in the course of studying the impact of the world’s great artists on their contemporaries and their times.

Order from amazon.com.

INTRODUCTION TO PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, Tenth Edition. Edited by Robert Jurmain, Lynn Kilgore and Wenda Trevathan. Thomson-Wadsworth.

Now in its Tenth Edition (the Media Edition includes a CD on basic genetics for anthropology), Introduction To Physical Anthropology continues to be a thoughtfully formatted, clearly written and easily understood introduction to the study of Physical Anthropology.

After beginning with chapters on the biological basis of life, the genetic principles discovered by Gregor Mendel as well as non-Mendelian patterns of inheritance, the authors move forward to review the intricate relationship between evolutionary factors and genetics, primate behavior and the origins and development of humanoids.

In addition to the study aids at the end of each chapter, students are also encouraged by the editors to use on-line resources provided by the Anthropology Resource Center (which provides self-quizzes for each chapter as well as practice exams) in order to build a more in depth exploration into the material.

Finally, Introduction To Physical contains detailed appendices, including a concise summary of early hominoid fossil finds from Africa (as well as a color Atlas of primate skeletal anatomy): this text, over-flowing with visual aids, graphs and color photographs, provides a clear and effective study tool for all beginning students of anthropology.

In addition to being a strong choice as a class text, we also recommend it to libraries as a general reference text.

by Frank Aiello

CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY. 11th Edition. Carol R. Ember. Melvin Ember. Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Now in its 11th edition, this text has earned its respect over a 25 year run — a full and comprehensive examination of the study of anthropology that addresses the subject in a well-organized and well researched manner.

Carol Ember (formerly of Hunter College) and Melvin Ember (a researcher and professor) have done an exemplary job in creating a text that will be of value to the student long after the classroom instruction has ended, for this text is premised on showing that the subject matter is not at all abstract, but instead, tied to the breaths of our lives; simply, this book is a teaching tool about men as individuals coming together into perfect community.

Cultural is written in classic academic style, laying a foundation of basic concepts before moving into more advanced theories. The Embers begin with a dissertation on the definitions of culture and anthropology before moving into the sub-strata of each realm. It is at this point that the real “meat” of the text is to be found, as the authors do a splendid job of discussing the way cultures meld together – impacted by geography and ethnohistory, developing slowly over centuries.

From here, the student is led on a journey that examines the way that we live: gathering food, developing systems of communication and commerce, refining ourselves as we refine our societies. Insightful study material is included on marriage and family and psychology and culture — demonstrating to the student reader that the other courses in his undergraduate curriculum have been specifically aligned to help him form a deep understanding of his place within the infinite fabric of society.

Recommended as a teaching text in all cultural anthropology courses at the undergraduate level — noted for its clear writing and its well-organized format that will help the novice slowly become acquainted with the subject matter. Further recommended to all libraries at the college level for its long-term reference value. The new edition comes with an interactive CD-ROM functional in both Windows and Macintosh systems.

Order at amazon.com, or go prenhall.com.

New From Thomson In Sociology & Anthropology

CLASSICAL SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY: Rediscovering the Promise of Sociology. Glenn A. Goodwin and Joseph A. Scimecca. Thomson.

CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY in the 4th Edition. Richard H. Robbins. Thomson.

RACE AND ETHNICITY IN SOCIETY: The Changing Landscape. Elizabeth Higginbottom, Margaret L. Anderson. Thomson.

In his landmark text, Cultural Anthropology, Richard Robbins describes the ritual of the Kwakiutl Cannibal Dance, wherein an initiate, or hamasta, takes leave of the human world to enter the realm of the Man Eater (one of the most powerful places in the Kawkiutl spirit-society).

According to Kwakiutl beliefs, the hamasta lives in the woods surrounding the village, craving human flesh and sometimes devouring mummified remains. During the four day period of the Cannibal Dance, members of the Cannibal Society gather in the ceremonial house to entice the hamasta back into human society.

In essence, this ritual is meant to act out the forces which threaten the Kwakiutl society and the need of that and every human culture to teach its inhabitants to conform to the norms of that social order. As Robbins states: ” [I]n the Kwakiutl view of things, all humans are cannibals who must be socialized and tamed.”

As Robert Herz noted in 1909, “every social hierarchy claims to be formed on the value of things.” Accordingly, Robbins points out that cultural anthropology is about understanding how societies are continually creating and evolving rituals to justify and legitimize social discrimination between races, countries and genders. The author writes:

“Menopause is described in some texts as a breakdown between the brain and the reproductive parts of the female body. In menopause, says one college textbook, the ovaries become unresponsive to hormonal stimulation and, as a result, regress . . . . Menopause is described as a breakdown of authority: functions fail and falter; organs wither and become senile. Our language still depicts the female body as a machine that in menopause is no longer able to fulfill its proper goal: it can no longer produce babies. In this view, at menopause, the female body becomes a broken-down factory.”

(Pages 253-254)

In their text, Classical Sociological Theory, Glenn Goodwin and Joseph Scimecca present the works of those individuals who advanced sociological theory and methodology. Their text is augmented by the “four fundamental questions” which close each chapter — a segment that encapsulates the theories of the sociologist, investigating those theories through the sacred prism of history.

For example, in reviewing the ideas of Karl Marx, the authors note that certain Marxist theories have been proven faulty, pointing to Marx’s failure to assess the proletariat commitment/loyalty to the State which transcended their daily misery:

“What happened, of course (and what has happened in every war since – from World War I through the latest War in the Middle East) is that the proletarians, the workers, have been the first to head into the trenches….”

(Pages 83-84)

However, as Robbins writes, some of Marx and Engels’ views cannot be easily discarded and still remain relevant even today: “[T]he position that class structure is very resistant to change seems to be corroborated by income distribution figures in the United States over the past few decades …” (p. 244). According to Robbins, the bottom fifth of the American populace has a 3.5 % share of the national income while the top fifth has a 50.1% share of that income (as of 2001).

In similar fashion, Jane Addams’ “critical emancipatory theory” of sociology, as Goodwin and Scimecca note, recognized that “[t]he individual had choice, but his or her choice was located in parameters institutionalized by the social structure.” (at page 232).

Addams’ views of “choice” are clearly identified in the chapter, “Notes of a White Black Woman”, by Judy Scales-Trent, presented in Race And Ethnicity in Society, authored by Elizabeth Higginbottom and Margaret L. Anderson. Here, Scales-Trent identifies herself as a black woman “often mistaken for white, a “skinwalker” on the American color line, a person deeply knowledgeable in the drawing of lines:

“The line-makers are marking boundaries, borders, creating Insiders and Outsiders. They are creating an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. They are creating the Other. Also, in both instances, those who are drawing those lines are drawing pictures of the world.. They are showing what the world looks like, how the world should look, what looks right to them. So if you study their picture, you will know who you are – black or white, French or German, ‘us’ or ‘them.’ “

(Page 148)

Each of these texts provides insight into how a society governs itself both consciously and subconsciously through institutionalized rituals and metaphor. Unfortunately, all too often, these rituals continue to legitimize discrimination between races, genders and countries and deepen the division between us and the’.

Recommended to Sociology instructors as a either primary teaching or supporting texts in any course that marries the lines of Anthroplogy and Scociology. Each are also recommended to college-level libraries for their long-term reference value.

Order from amazon.com.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.

Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

ANTHROPOLOGY: The Exploration of Human Diversity. 12th Edition. Conrad Phillip Kottak. McGraw Hill.

As part of the presentation of his material, the author uses news articles, photographs, posters and statistical tables to supplement the in-text analysis. One of these “news briefs,” an article by Brian Handwerk published in the National Geographic, states that one out of every five people in the world (or 1.3 billion people) are Muslims. Given this statistic, Kottak’s analysis of antimodernism and fundamentalism provides succulent food for thought.

After analyzing Benjamin Baber’s view that tribalism and globalism are the two key and opposing principles of our age, Kottak looks at the antimodernists who believe that science, technology and consumption patterns deserve a lower priority than religious and cultural values.

As readers move through the text, they will surely note that some of these perceived values and consumption patterns are illustrated in Kottak’s final chapter, “The Biology and Culture of Overconsumption.” Here, the author discusses Greg Criser’s 2003 book, Fat Land: Supersizing America.

In Fat Land, Criser traces how McDonald’s executive David Wallerstein invented supersizing as an effective business strategy in the 1960s. Wallerstein created this marketing concept after having noted that movie patrons were reluctant to buy more than one soda or bag of popcorn, but would pay more — and consume more — if each item was packaged as a one large serving. Unfortunately, as a result of innovators like Wallerstein, Americans are now the fattest people in the world (as supersizing and obesity now slowly spread to the rest of the globe).

In his closing chapter, Kottak confronts students with direct evidence of how their culture has been shaped by Madison Avenue advertisers and corporate officers on the prowl for bigger profits. Accordingly, as Kottak infers, the only way to combat these trends is by teaching new generations to be aware of their world and its many processes.

Recommended as a primary course text in all undergraduate Anthropology courses that chart the evolution of society and culture.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.

Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

IMAGES OF THE PAST, Fifth Edition. T. Douglas Price.Gary M. Feinman. McGraw Hill.

In Images of the Past, Price and Feinman have crafted a visually impressive text as well as a vibrant on-line learning website. In their text, the authors attempt to bring myriad historical concepts to life via conceptual essays in addition to ‘on-margin’ quotes.

One of these marginal quotes appears in a chapter discussing Uruk, the first monumental urban center located in southern Mesopotamia and features a musing from Tom Standage on the Mesopotamian use of beer.

Noting that there was a controversy among archeologists as to which came first, Standage observed that both were derived from gruel: “The two were different sides of the same coin, “noted Standage. “Bread was solid beer and beer was liquid bread.”

Standage’s analogy is immediately pertinent to the authors’ discussion of the history of Kennewick Man, the prehistoric remains of one of the earliest known human skeletons in the Americas found in 1996 on the shore of the Columbia River.

Although Kennewick Man was discovered on property owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, five Native American tribes claimed ownership of the remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Ultimately, however, a court concluded that the skeleton was so ancient that it was impossible to determine whether Kennewick Man was related to any the tribal claimants.

As the authors teach us, Kennewick Man has been determined to have features relating to early Europeans, Pacific Islanders, the Ainu people of Asia — or none of the above.In essence – nothing is certain, save the fact that Kennewick Man is certainly “indigenous” to the Americas in the sense that he has spent in excess of 7500 years in the same place, qualifying as an ancient poster child in the “ongoing conflict between science and belief.”

Recommended as a supporting text in all cultural anthropology courses – a sturdy link between the student experience and relevant moments of our long-gone past. Further recommended as standing reference in all university-level libraries.

by Frank Aiello

© Frank Aiello. All rights reserved.

Frank Aiello is an attorney who has practiced law in California since the 1970s, including criminal defense, civil and probate work. He holds a History degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; he has also studied Anthropology, Sociology and Political Science extensively. Reach him via The Electric Review.

PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY. With PowerWeb, 9th Edition. Philip L. Stein. Bruce M. Rowe. McGraw Hill.

The study of Physical Anthropology can be quite a dynamic exploration for the undergraduate college student — a subject that holds the power to tie the random threads of the college experience together: the goal here is to show how one subject builds into the next, in turn demonstrating how the human species relates and interacts with its environment in this brilliant and mesmerizing ballet called life.

In Physical Anthropology, Stein and Rowe (Pierce College, Los Angeles) do a fine job in detailing their subject from the ground up, building a foundational text that does not require previous study of anthropology in order to be accessed. The text begins by examining the idea of Physical Anthropology and the “nature of science” — a tightly woven segment that lays the platform for future course-work as the student is confronted with the bare essence of their being (looking at humankind in relation to time and environment).

How did we get here? is the universal question on every mind, and Stein and Rowe encourage their readers to delve deep into this mystery by examining the self in relation to exterior factors. DNA, the “mechanisms of heredity” and the study of genetics serve as a springboard into a grand discussion of the origins of the species and Darwinism (thus forming the core of this work).

As the student comes to absorb this material, they are then able to begin to dissect the evolution of man, investigating the reasons we behave and think and learn in the ways that we do. What better subject matter for a college course than a topic that cuts into the intricacies of why man has constructed a world that mirrors his inner self?

A cursory look at our war-torn world (beset by everything from social unrest to terrorist-driven crusades in the name of God) and one begins to realize just how complex our lives have become. Accordingly, Physical Anthropology is an important book that ushers students slowly into the discipline, providing a resource that will help foster greater awareness of the role of the individual within the community.

Highly recommended as a primary classroom text in all introductory to Physical Anthropology courses.


Highly refined reference text that provides a detailed analysis of the connection between man and animal. Man — the highest form of the mammal world — has a tight connection to many distinct universes (the animal kingdom being one of them). Encyclopedia presents commentary on the ways aspects of the animal have meshed with the fabric of our lives. The text is laid out in “term” and “definition” form, with Werness presenting a term and then defining it through conceptual analysis and illustration. Aside from its broad coverage of the subject matter and its expert use of graphics, what’s best about this text is its writing – crisp and clear sentences build on each other to completely explain data without confusing the reader with extraneous ramblings. This is hugely important in a book of this nature because the material in and of itself is often complex (interlinking many different disciplines: history, literature, theology etc.). Students and instructors who pick up this text will find a book that has been designed for quick and repeated use – a book that readers should continue to refer to outside of the classroom in the life-long learning process. One of the most enjoyable reads in the area of textbooks we have seen this year.

Recommended as a teaching text in Anthropology and Art History courses. Recommended as a general reference text for all college-level and public sector libraries.

Order at amazon.com.


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This entry was posted on June 27, 2013 by in Reference and tagged .
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