Anthropology: The Human Challenge 15th Edition
For the last edition of this textbook, we did some serious housecleaning—sorting through the contents “clear down to the bottom to determine what should be kept and what should be tossed to make room for new material that warrants a place in a limited space.” Our efforts resulted in a book more thoroughly revised than any new edition since Bill Haviland took on coauthors at the turn of the century. For the current edition of Anthropology: The Human Challenge—the fifteenth— we continued our paring down efforts, reducing the overall narrative by 10 percent in order to give more space to stimulating visuals and other pedagogical enhancements.
Once again, our own ongoing research fueled our efforts, as did vital feedback from students and anthropology professors who have used and reviewed previous editions. Once again, we scrutinized the archetypal examples of our discipline and weighed them against the latest innovative research methodologies, archaeological discoveries, genetic and other biological findings, linguistic insights, ethnographic descriptions, theoretical revelations, and significant examples of applied anthropology.
Most students enter an introductory anthropology class intrigued by the general subject but with little more than a vague sense of what it is all about. Thus, the first and most obvious task of our text is to provide a thorough introduction to the discipline—its foundations as a domain of knowledge and its major insightsinto the rich diversity of humans as a culture-making species. Recognizing the wide spectrum of students enrolled in entry-level anthropology courses, we cover the fundamentals of the discipline in an engaging, illustrative fashion—providing a broad platform on which teachers can expand the exploration of concepts and topics in ways that are meaningful to them and to their particular group of students.
In doing this, we draw from the research and ideas of a number of traditions of anthropological thought, exposing students to a mix of theoretical perspectives and methodologies. Such inclusiveness reflects our conviction that different approaches offer distinctle important insights about human biology, behavior, and beliefs.If most students start out with only a vague sense of what anthropology is, they often have even less clearly defined (and potentially problematic) views concerning the position of their own species and cultures within the larger world. A second task for this text, then, is to encourage students to appreciate the richness and complexity of human diversity. Along with this goal is the aim of helping them to understand why there are so many differences and similarities in the human condition, past and present. Debates regarding globalization and notions of progress; the “naturalness” of the mother, father, child(ren) nuclear family; new genetic technologies; and how gender roles relate to biological variation all benefit greatly from the distinct insights gained through anthropology’s wide-ranging, holistic perspective. This aspect of the discipline is one of the most valuable gifts we can pass on to those who take our classes. If we as teachers (and textbook authors) do our jobs well, students will gain a wider and more openminded outlook on the world and a critical but constructive perspective on human origins and on their own biology and culture today. To borrow a favorite line from the famous poet T. S. Eliot, “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time” (“Little Gidding,” Four Quartets).
We have written this text, in large part, to help students make sense of our increasingly complex world and to navigate through its interrelated biological and cultural networks with knowledge, empathy, and skill, whatever professional path they take. We see the book as a guide for people entering the often-bewildering maze of global crossroads in the 21st century.
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