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Peoples and Cultures of the World | [The Great Courses]

Peoples and Cultures of the World

As the "science of humanity," anthropology can help us understand virtually anything about ourselves, from our political and economic systems, to why we get married, to how we decide to buy a particular bottle of wine. This 24-lecture course reveals the extraordinary power of anthropology - and its subspecialty, cultural anthropology - as a tool to understand the world's varied human societies, including our own.
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Publisher's Summary

As the "science of humanity," anthropology can help us understand virtually anything about ourselves, from our political and economic systems, to why we get married, to how we decide to buy a particular bottle of wine. This 24-lecture course reveals the extraordinary power of anthropology - and its subspecialty, cultural anthropology - as a tool to understand the world's varied human societies, including our own.

  • Is there such a thing as progress? Are modern nations really happier and better off than "primitive" hunter-gatherer societies?
  • How common is cannibalism today? What are the different types of cannibalism, and the beliefs associated with them?
  • What's the difference between a "matriarchal" and a "matrilineal" society? Which is more common among world cultures?

These lectures will immerse you in the world of the Trobriand Islanders of Melanesia; the Yanomamö of the Brazilian Amazon; the Dobe Ju'hoansi or Kung Bushmen of Botswana and Namibia; and other indigenous peoples.

Professor Fischer leads an excursion through cultural practices that often seem, to us, quirky, exotic, and even repulsive - marriages that include as many as 20 husbands, matrilineal societies, magic spirits and witchcraft, cannibalism, and incest - practices that will make you question your assumptions about what is natural, or what is human nature.

As you review these customs, the professor describes the issues that cultural anthropologists face in dealing with them. For example, what should anthropologists do in cases such as female circumcision or ritualized rape, in which customs seriously conflict with our own sense of morality and human rights?

Professor Fischer also applies the lessons of cultural anthropology to our own culture by considering the U.S. economy and consumer behavior. Is our economy really based on rational decision making? If so, why do we eat cattle and pigs, but not horses? Why are we willing to shop around to save $10 on a clock radio, but not on a big-screen TV?

You will grow to appreciate how valuable an understanding of cultural anthropology is in a world of ever-increasing globalization, in which members of even the most remote cultures come into more frequent and more influential contact through international travel, migration, business, and the Internet.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

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    A. Smith South Texas 02-07-14
    A. Smith South Texas 02-07-14

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    Would you listen to Peoples and Cultures of the World again? Why?

    I would like to hear these lectures again. Professor Fischer describes the culture and habits of peoples all over the globe. I loved that he guided us through the lives of those in remote villages and people who are rarely studied. These lectures were really enjoyable.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    I think for me, when he explained why cannibals think we are wrong and wasteful when we bury (instead of eat) our dead he was most compelling because it helped me to see them as humans with reasons for their actions. I never understood the "why" behind what they do. He has a way of teaching delicate subjects in an academic manner, so the listener can accept the information easier. He told stories of peoples so dramatically different than traditional Americans, I found it very interesting. I also learned that acts that can seem barbaric to us are seen in a very different light by others.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Edward Fischer’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not, but would like to hear a sequel.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, I think it is too long for that, but I did listen to one a day and really looked forward to each one.


    Any additional comments?

    Really fascinating, many good lessons on human nature. I enjoyed it very much.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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