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Anthropology: Anthropology Reference Sources

Sociocultural Anthropology


Cultural anthropologists have identified eight categories of socio-cultural institutions represented in the figure above.

How is each defined?

  • Material culture is the sphere in which observable behavior occurs with all its objects.
  • Art and play include symbols and rituals plus markers of status and identity
  • Social organization involves the make-up and arrangement of society. Society is said to be “a culturally similar group of people living in a specific geographic territory.” Its make-up and arrangement include authority, hierarchy, flow of power, control of resources, enculturation processes, status, role, responsibilities, and relationships.
  • Kinship defines the family structure (there are five global patterns) and is the most important institution throughout most global societies. Through kinship, identity is marked, authority is structured, and alliances are formed. It determines transfer of trust, flow of communication, and control of resources. In some societies, it is the pattern for spirit-world phenomenology.
  • Economic organization determines systems of exchange.
  • Means of production define labor instruments.
  • Political organization outlines government and patron/client relationships. It supplies the “rule of law,” the means by which society establishes safety, security, and predictability.
  • Religious systems dictate how people explain and relate to the supernatural world.

Look for the texts below in Tut Library's first floor North Reference section: