Indispensability of Medical Anthropology

Indispensability of Medical Anthropology
Indispensability of Medical Anthropology

Medical anthropology, although considered a subcategory in anthropology, has been making contributions to medicine and public health since the development of anthropology itself. The fact that anthropology, as a multi-disciplinary, intrinsic, discipline has contributed valuable information and techniques to several other disciplines justifies its essential importance. Although its early history is diverse, there exist three empirical foundations that are considered “universals.” They are: 1) disease is a fact of life; occurring in all times, places and societies; 2) all groups of humans develop some sort of beliefs and perceptions for defining it; and 3) all groups of humans have methods for coping and responding to it. Writers like Rivers, Clements  Ackerknecht, Paul, Livingstone,Wiesenfeld and others formulated these generalizations in a variety of ways yet they all maintain the legitimacy of these observations.
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Black American Men and Brazilian Women

Black American Men-Brazilian Women
Black American Men-Brazilian Women

Any attempt to understand black American men and their relationships with Brazilian women must first consider cultural characteristics and the significance of social values. Now, we are not talking about any form of sexual voyeurism. Instead, this article focuses on those relationships that seek serious involvement, commitment or union.  Further, the dynamics of these relationships are both interesting and unique. On one hand, they are interesting because these two groups share many of the same motives for seeking cross-cultural relationships. On the other, they are unique because two different cultures without any history of direct contact are able to communicate across cultural boundaries and share similar social and emotional values. However, to be honest about this discussion and not reactionary we must also examine the dynamics of ethno-cultural incompatibility.
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US – Brazil Relations: the dynamics of consciousness and empowerment

US-Brazil Relations
US-Brazil Relations

In 2012, Dr. Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Roscoe Pound Professor of Law, Harvard University Law School lectured at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American studies on Brazil and the United States. Not only was it a thought provoking seminar on Brazilian studies, it summarizes quite concisely similarities and variances between the two countries.

Unger presented a theses concerning the shortcomings of both countries and offers distinct reasons that support his argument. To begin with, he argues that both the US and Brazil lack sustainable policies that uplift the masses of ordinary men and women in their respective countries. He discusses something he terms the “sentimentalization of unequal exchange” and how it targets, isolates and marginalizes segments of their societies.
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Tristes Tropiques: Revisited

Triste Tropiques Revisited

When I first encountered Lévi-Strauss in graduate school, I thought the title of his monumental work sounded strange. At that time, I spoke absolutely no Portuguese but knew enough Spanish to understand that tristes meant sad. However, I could not for the life of me penetrate the “meaning” associated with the title of this passionate, perilous quest into (what at that time was considered) the dark world of myth, ritual and magic in the country of Brazil. Even today, Brazil is considered by most to be a land of far-off peoples, unexplored territories, and exotic culture. But really not so much.  Even Leví-Strauss acknowledged this when he wrote in 1935,”…the tropics are not so much exotic as out of date.” Having lived, learned and lingered in Brazil for seven years now and having acquired an extensive local knowledge (including reasonable fluency in the Brazilian Portuguese language) along with my anthropological training in skilled observation, I decided to revisit this pivotal work to attempt to understand precisely its meaning. But perhaps more important, to see if I could verify some of the same underlying order of reality set off by this highly original and influential work. Continue reading “Tristes Tropiques: Revisited”

Universality of Truth

Universality of Truth
Universality of Truth

Now this is an article that is going to upset a lot of people but at the same time it will cause a lot of people to reflect on something that we so easily take for granted. As anthropologists, we are charged with trying to understand and explain what humans do and essentially why. We investigate similarities and variances, things that we share, and things that are private and sacred. We try to find underlining qualities that unite us as a species and set us apart as individuals. One very important part of our work is examining those characteristics that we all share in common. We call them the “universals” like sleeping, breathing, eating, movement, procreation, communication, our need to feel safe, to relax and grow. Malinowski called them the “seven basic needs” that we all share within our societies.  But what about the concept of truth – and is it a universal or just a construct? Does it cross cultural, linguistic, social, and scientific boundaries in an attempt to define and validate our understanding, practices and systems of knowledge? It would seem that this should be an epistemological concern of some importance to us as living, working, and speaking beings.
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The Cultural Incongruence of Democracy

Cultural Incongruence of Democracy
Cultural Incongruence of Democracy

Countries throughout the world are struggling to throw off their traditional forms of government and acquire the democratic way of life. For some, the idea of having the freedom to choose one’s destiny is something they never experienced. Free thought, free expression and free inquiry is something they never had the opportunity to enjoy. Having one’s life and activities dictated by a government that focuses on exploiting and plundering its people for the purpose of personal economic gain someday inevitably reaches a point of critical meltdown. People can take only so much before they strike back. The Foucauldian idea of the “contradictory complexity” of mankind makes it an outcome that all too often results in conflict and destruction. Then on the other hand, there are those that seek democracy solely for the purpose of enjoying the imagined benefits of capitalism that comes along with it. Most people throughout the world understand that one comes with the other – they are an inseparable pair. But many of the countries that seek democracy and capitalism do not understand them, or how they work, or even have the cultural background that can enable them to assimilate these concepts.
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Self-imposed Discrimination in Brazil

Perspectives in Anthropology-Self-Imposed Discrimination in Brazil
Self-Imposed Discrimination in Brazil

When I arrived in Brazil seven years ago as an American anthropologist seeking to discover if Brazil would be a good place to do research for a book, I had no idea about the degree of class discrimination that existed and the depths of its penetration into the cultural fabric of Brazilian society. Clearly, I was familiar with “racial” discrimination growing up in America and struggling against it for the opportunity to advance socially.  That is to say, I was confronted with it in the military, in the ivy halls of the university and in the sterile workplaces of corporate American offices. And yet, in spite of it all, I still believe that America is one of the best countries in the world to live in primarily because of the high quality of life, the advanced standards and conditions within the society, but perhaps most important is the plethora of opportunities and benefits for everyone. And believe it or not, because it actually protects its citizens (i.e., the very nature of the American legal system is one that is built on protecting the rights of its citizens – they call it the “commonwealth” – not like other countries whose legal systems are designed to exploit and plunder its citizens).
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Long-term Ethnographic Immersion

Long-term Ethnographic Immersion
Long-term Ethnographic Immersion

In the years I have been doing ethnographic research, I have found that some ethnographers have a tendency to avoid researching issues that involve deep immersion. Clearly, there is a difference between what is termed participant-observer and observer-participant; however, I have also found that to take up positions in the midst of other’s lives in order to really observe and understand them some form of deep immersion is required. With this type of immersion, the ethnographer is able to see from the inside how people live, how they carry out their daily routines, what they find meaningful and why. Some researchers believe that deep immersion has the tendency to dissolve initial impressions and deadens sensitivities to subtle patterns causing the ethnographer to lose insight into experiences, meanings and concerns. Many believe that this compromises or contaminates objective data rather than provide insight into significant processes. In contrast to such views, deep immersion can provide the field researcher with a method to assimilate more profoundly into the lifestyle because the researcher does not learn all at once but in a constant, continuing process in which one builds an insight and understanding of other’s lives over an extended period.
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Lecture series

Lecture Series
Lecture Series

Perspectives in Anthropology welcomes you to explore our new Lecture Series where you can discover a wide range of topics, each with a unique perspective and interpretation. We hope that these lectures will reflect the values of good anthropological research and inspire your own critical thinking and imagination.

If you can’t view the lectures here on our website, you may still be able to watch some of them on our YouTube Channel. Simply go to our Lecture Series channel page and the video will be available for viewing. Please remember to subscribe to our channel.

We are also hosting conference lectures that will bring together scholars on specific themes. It is our hope to provide the work of prominent scholars who will contribute their knowledge and perspectives. Lively conversation, debate, and collaboration are the hallmarks of these events.

Transforming Refugees


Transforming Refugees
04 Jul 1979, Ban Laem, Thailand — Original caption: 7/4/1979: Ban Laem Refugee Camp, Thailand: Cambodian refugee children camped in a forest just inside the Thai border at Ban Laem Village, 160 miles East of Bangkok. They have little food, no medicine and are in danger of attack by Vietnamese troops operating nearby. Tailand announced late 7/3 it will take no more refugees and rejected International Red Cross criticism of its repatriation of 40,000 Cambodian refugees. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

The point of this article is not to argue that bio-medicine has become a mechanism for establishing political or cultural identity for refugees entering the United States. Neither does it claim that modern bio-medicine influences define the character and needs of immigrants. Rather, it seeks to establish that each verifies the other and it seeks to present bio-medicine as a mediator of physical realities that gives nation-states justification for domination and control of immigrants and refugees. We will first trace the emergence of the “gaze” in a historical context to its formation as a classificatory concept and agent of power relations. Then, we will discuss the central role of cultural citizenship and its impact on the processes of immigration and assimilation.
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Traditional Family Values in Urbanized Societies

Traditional Family Values
Traditional Family Values

This article presents a brief discussion about the importance of traditional cultural and family values in urbanized, industrialized societies. In order to illustrate succinct dynamics among social factors and practices Brazilian family models are presented. It also describes dynamics concerning values, beliefs, and elements of parent-child relationships.
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Unemployment & Poverty in Brazil

Unemployment and Poverty
Unemployment and Poverty

Although there is considerable literature on conditions of unemployment and poverty in many modernized countries, there is a penuriously small amount on how these issues are addressed in developing countries. In Brazil, a good portion of the available literature is gathered by agencies such as the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica (IBGE), Brazilian Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), the Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (PNAD), Instituto de Estudos do Trabalho e SociedadeRio de Janeiro (IETS); also, UNESCO, the US State Department, the World Bank, the International Labor Organization, and a bevy of research analysts. Overall, these studies dramatically point toward the need for Brazil to deal immediately and effectively with high incidences of unemployment, inequality in educational distribution, discrimination toward women in the labor force, and issues concerning the impact of employment upon family responsibilities.
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The Art of Capoeira


There are many holidays celebrated in the city of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. And on almost every occasion, you can see practitioners of Capoeira displaying their art somewhere during the festival. In Brazil, Capoeira is a very strong part of the history and culture of the people. Although it was once outlawed as a form of illegal marital arts, it later became sanctioned and thrives throughout many parts of Brazil. As an art form, it has spread to many countries outside of Brazil and even has practitioners in the US and Europe. But what really is Capoeira and where did it come from? This article is dedicated to explaining the unique history of an amalgamated form of marital arts called Capoeira.

Capoeira: phonetic pronunciation [kap-u-air-ra)  is  a  Brazilian  martial  art  that  combines  elements  of dance, acrobatics and music. It was developed in Brazil mainly by African descendants with native Brazilian influences, probably beginning in the 16th century. It is known by its quick and complex moves, using mainly speed, power, and leverage for a wide variety of kicks, spins, and highly mobile techniques.  At the heart of Capoeira is the ginga – that is, the back-and-forth, foot-to-foot movement that serves as the starting point for many of the moves in Capoeria.  Capoeira used in actual self-defense situations incorporates many sweeps and low moves, however in demonstrations of the art there is more of an emphasis on high moves, acrobatics, cartwheels for evasion, and flips or other exotic techniques when performing or entertaining for an audience.
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Documentary Series

Documenary Series
Documenary Series

Some of you may be interested in knowing that Perspectives in Anthropology will be featuring a series of online anthropology documentaries. Many of these documentaries are available for viewing online for free from a variety of different websites. Not only will we feature some of the films we think are interesting but we will also provide a list of links to many of the websites.

The problem with the internet these days is just too much information to sift through to find what you are looking for quickly. So, we intend to help with that by providing some direction to some of the best documentaries online.  Of course, we will feature some of the best from YouTube but we will also include open-source websites, university libraries, student films and individual websites set up just for that purpose.

So, stay tuned for historical and cutting edge documentaries in social, cultural, medical, and urban anthropology.


Urbanization in Brazil


Although many developing countries are currently in the early stages of their urban transitions, Brazil has largely completed its urban transitional process. In fact, Brazil urbanized rather quickly in comparison to countries in places such as Asia and Africa. However, this accomplishment has been exhausting and disruptive in many ways leaving Brazil with severe economic, social and environmental problems.

Failure on the part of policymakers to foresee and plan for intensive urban growth and massive population growth has damaged its urbanization process in a variety of ways. Through their inability to grasp the social composition of the urban growth process and with the persistence of policies aimed at promoting class interests, the spread of severe shelter poverty, fiscal inadequacy and environmental degradation has handicapped Brazil’s ability to take advantage of its full potential.

It is well-know that the concept of urban transition coincides with demographic transition theory. The original theory is by Skeldon, and it suggests that as countries move from rural-agricultural to urban-industrial and from high levels of mortality and fertility to lower levels, they achieve economic success. Thus today, the majority of Brazilian citizens live in urban areas and large cities, levels of mortality and fertility have dropped dramatically, and its urban growth rate has slowed from its previous rate. All these considerations are indications that its urbanization process has peaked and that Brazil is in the later stages of this process.

Although in the later stages of its urban transition, cities still face significant urban growth particularly in the outlining areas. These areas are known as “suburbana”  or peripheries of large metropolitan cities. Since the 1950s, these areas have experienced rapid growth due to migrations from the interior regions rather than from natural increase due to births. The majority of the residents in these areas are poor or low-income, living in single-family houses or apartment buildings. For the most part, governmental programs to relocate inhabitants have failed because inhabitants resist moving from areas that are in close proximity to their places of work.

Nevertheless, Brazil’s urban transitional process and its significance for present-day social and environmental analysis is a substantially important factor. What is most striking about its urbanization process is the rapid and advanced development that it has undergone. For example, a process that took centuries for North America and Europe to accomplish, – that is, to shift from being 10 per cent urban to 52 per cent urban between 1750 to 1950, by the time the first comprehensive demographic census was taken in 1940, Brazil moved from 31 per cent urban to 81.1 per cent urban in just 60 years. Thus, Brazil’s substantial urban growth process is unique and one of the underlining factors contributing to its present-day rapid economic growth.

Sources: Martine, G. and George McGranahan (2010).Brazil’s early urban transition: what can it teach urbanizing countries? London; New York: Brazilian Association of Population Studies and the International Institute for Environment and Development; Skeldon, R. (1990). Population Mobility in Developing Countries. London and New York: Belhaven Press.

For more information see: Neil Turner – Brazil: Settlement, immigration and urbanization; Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology; Grin Publishing

Christina H Kim

This is a course description for my class at the New School for Fall 2014.

Wanda Model for Dandong China. Wanda Model for Dandong China.

The course explores the emergence and processes of urbanization in Asia through ethnographies. The course will examine urban development of specific Asian cities by focusing on urban problems and challenges including poverty, housing, sustainability and civil society as well as the ways in which city-dwellers, developers and organizations are working to address them. World-class cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and Seoul are hubs of global economy that emerging cities around the world are trying to emulate. There are also cities like South Korea’s Paju Book city and the Song Do Ubiquitous city, as well as China’s Huang Baiyu Eco-city each organized and built from scratch based on a single idea. Lastly, recent events like the 3.11 Tohoku Earthquake and Typhoon Hai Yan have destroyed entire cities raising further…

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Revolta dos Búzios – 1798

Chapter One – The Conspiracy

This review is organized as a history of the diverse elements of scholarship by which the field of African Diaspora studies has been developed. It presents research findings of selected studies emerging from distinct interests and traditions of African Diasporic communities. The history examined here emphasizes the scholarship of diasporic researchers that, until recently, had little opportunity to appear within the scope of the longer and broader development of diasporan studies. It is well known that diasporic studies developed from the history of African-American and other diasporic scholarship, however, much of it within the historical context of the English language; rarely incorporating the social science, humanistic or activist understandings of scholarship in the Portuguese language. This review attempts to establish a new compatibility with diasporan intellectual traditions by presenting a foray into the knowledge of the diasporan experience from the Lusophone perspective.

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Landless Workers Movement (MST)

Landless Workers Movements Photo
Photo: Courtesy of Gibby Zobel

Recently, I witnessed for the second time a demonstration by the Landless Worker’s Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, or MST). As I watched and filmed the demonstration, I could not help wondering about the complex play of relations that unite and oppose people that still exist in Brazil left over from its period of colonial rule. I wondered about the differences between those people that continue to hold on to sovereignty and rule and those fighting to attain some simulacrum of decent living conditions. Clearly, these differences are born of colonial history – that is, the history of aristocrats keeping puppet administrators in their pay, creating a native bourgeoisie, and fashioning classes of peoples beaten down, undernourished, sick and terrified for the sole purpose of exploitation and profit-taking.
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The Great Revival: CIAD II



It is the intention of the editor to present a series of texts written by some of the most distinguished African and Brazilian scholars, intellectuals, politicians, artists, and activists involved in the movement to re-construct the interrelationship of Brazil with Africa and other countries in the Diaspora.  The main objective of this series is to provide an opportunity for those that do not speak the Brazilian Portuguese language or do not have the benefit of a translation of these texts to become aware of and, hopefully, engaged in this process. Continue reading “The Great Revival: CIAD II”

Odunde Festival in Philadelphia

The annual Odunde Street Festival, held every second Sunday in June, brings a genuine taste of Africa to South Street, one of Philadelphia’s oldest, historically African-American neighborhoods. The festival, initiated in 1975 by Lois Fernandez and Ruth Arthur, has gained a national reputation as one of Philadelphia’s brightest cultural jewels. Odunde celebrates the coming of another year for African-Americans and Africanized people around the world. It was during a pilgrimage to Nigeria in 1972 that Fernandez first imagined the festival as Philadelphia’s celebration of African culture. Continue reading “Odunde Festival in Philadelphia”

Masked Discontent: Corruption in Brazil and Latin America

Masked Discontent
Masked Discontent

Anyone that has traveled to Brazil can not help but be impressed with the warm, light- hearted, friendly spirit of Brazilians. They are a kind, helpful, joyous, love to eat, drink and be happy society of people.  But lurking deep beneath the surface of their smiling faces is a frustration and discontent that threatens the foundations of their democratic system and severely reduces their trust of politicians. Corruption – that ubiquitous, pervasive term that seems to permeate and oppress the lives of Brazilians and many other Latin Americans. Continue reading “Masked Discontent: Corruption in Brazil and Latin America”

Candomblé, Macumba Ritual and Jaré in Brazil


One Sunday in February, 2008 when my wife and I were living in the bairro of Itapúa which is situated near the airport of Salvador, I was home alone. My wife left out early that day to visit with friends. It was a normal Sunday like so many other Sundays, bright sunshine, blues skies, birds singing in the distance, quiet and peaceful. I received a telephone call from a friend that asked if I would like to attend a festival at the house of his sister. At the time, I did not know that my friend’s sister was a devout follower of Candomblé and thought that it was simply a festival like other festivals that occur in Brazil at this time of the year. Continue reading “Candomblé, Macumba Ritual and Jaré in Brazil”

Man’s Law and Moral Law: Same-sex Gender Politics in the US and the Relational Framework of Legislation

Contemporary American religious life is experiencing a very profound crisis. On one hand, this crisis is characterized by a lack of clarity in vision, deficiency in discernment, and a tendency to fall back on personalistic and individualistic interpretations of moral law. On the other hand, politically and culturally radical forces attempt to eliminate spiritual depth by replacing it with concepts of consumerism, careerism, narcissism, and a new form of critical consciousness that undermines prevailing modes of social and moral ideal. Continue reading “Man’s Law and Moral Law: Same-sex Gender Politics in the US and the Relational Framework of Legislation”