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Unformatted text preview: Cultural Anthropology 101 Introduction: One significant insight of anthropological study is how fundamental cooperation is to human survival. Acting together, humans handle even the most basic challenges of existence: the need for food and for protection, not just from the elements but from predatory animals and especially from one another. To some extent this is true for all primates. But what really sets human practices apart from those of other primates is regularity of some form of cooperation among adults in subsistence activities. Just as cooperation is basic to human survival, the social organization of groups is basic to cooperation. Humans form many kinds of groups, each geared toward meeting particular challenges that people encounter in their daily existence. Social groups are important to humans also because they give identity and support to their members. The basic building block in a cultures social structure is the household, where economic production, consumption, inheritance, child rearing, and shelter are commonly organized. Usually, the core of the household consists of some form of family: a group of relatives that stems from the parent-child bond and the interdependence of men and women. Although it may be organized in many different ways, the family always provides for a measure of economic cooperation between men and women while furnishing the basic cultural framework required for child rearing. Another challenge all human societies face is the need to regulate sexual activity-to balance sexual desires with the desire for stability and security. Marriage plays a key role in doing this. Given the inevitable connection between heterosexual activity and the production of children who require nurturing, a close interconnection among sexual reproductive practices, marriage, and family is to be expected. Many different marriage and family patterns exist the world over, but all societies have them in some form. The varied forms of family and marriage organization are to a large extent shaped by the specific kinds of challenges that people must solve in particular circumstances. In almost every cultural system, solutions to many organizational challenges are beyond the scope of family and household. These include defense, allocation of resources, and labor for tasks too large for single households. Non-industrial societies frequently meet these challenges through kinship groups. These large, cohesive groups of individuals base their loyalty to one another on descent from a common ancestor or on their...
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