Peoples and Cultures of the World : The Great Courses: Civilization & Culture

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Edward Fischer
  • Series: The Great Courses: Civilization & Culture
  • 12 hrs and 10 mins
  • Lecture

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

The title of this series makes you think the lectures will be interesting. And, to a degree, they are. However, they deal with "out of the way" cultures that affect very few of us, and do not cover the scope of humanity. There is nothing of consequence discussed of the world's major cultures, just smaller tribes around the globe. While it is somewhat interesting, it really doesn't offer insight into humanity to any degree. Be aware, as well, this is an older series. At one point the author/reader mentions there are 6 billion people on earth (current population is 7.2 billion). Because of this, I feel there may have been more recent discoveries in the field which get no mention in this series of lectures.

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The world is not only made of tribes

Actually the world is made of tribes, but I was left with the feeling that the book was too much focused on small tribes (interesting as they may be... and they are). I was expecting a more overarching perspective of big tribes: modern peoples and nations... it would be more useful.
It was a good anthropological exercise though...
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- Pedro M "Audiobook enthusiast."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses