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This course introduces the four main fields of anthropology - physical, cultural, linguistic and archaeological - before focussing on cultural anthropology for the majority of the lectures.
Topics covered include rites of passage, organisational structures of societies and systems of exchange (gift giving, market economies etc.). The professor takes several societies to which he returns repeatedly - some tribal like the Yanomami and some more familiar like modern Americans - and discusses them with respect to the kinds of anthropological theories that have been developed.
The first two thirds is very interesting, introducing concepts which were completely new to me and well worth learning about. Some of these were quite horrible - rituals in the rites of passage lecture stick out as being particularly disgusting - but always discussed with maturity and explained with reference to cultural models. I think there are important lessons in these lectures for anyone interested in human societies and how varied humans are.
The final third shifts focus substantially to how large societies and their economic systems impact smaller societies. I found this a bit out of nowhere, I certainly did not expect lectures on Marxist theory in an anthropology course (perhaps thats just my ignorance of the subject showing...) and I would really have preferred more lectures just on different cultures and how varied they can be. The final few lectures on how people integrate other cultures into their own just felt a bit wasted - the lecturer was more interested in telling us about how the Japanese integrate McDonalds into their culture by cutting up burgers than he was in telling us why they feel the need to cut up burgers and not eat with their hands.
It's a shame, I'm giving a three stars because I could have just stopped listening after the first two thirds and it would have been a better course. However, the first two thirds are really worth your time.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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...
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
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.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful