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Anthropology Final Exam

Question Three

Many Americans would be angered by the claim that a caste system exists in the country, given it is founded on the principle of liberty and the justified pursuit of individual happiness. The criticism will be based on the fact that the caste system in India determines social status by birth, limits access to employment, and compels people into marriage. However, class readings and external anthropological research suggest that the case might not be so different. Even though race and caste are dissimilar in definition, they share certain features and challenges with regard to social justice.

Features of the Caste System

The caste system introduces an aspect of hierarchy in society by separating it into different strata. Each major group is subdivided into smaller groups, with each minor group having a measure of positions from high to low (Ghurye 41).

There is the division of labour based on the caste system. Each subgroup has its traditional occupation that is transferred from one generation to the other. Unlike in neoliberalism, the diversion of labour is not based on the skills or education people possess but on the rules imposed by powerful individuals.

Each caste in the Indian system is an endogamous group. Membership is confined to individuals born into the caste via endogamous marriages. Therefore, each member is perceived to be a successor of a shared ancestor, outlining why marriages within the same subgroups are restricted (Govindarajan 152).

Each caste comes with an untouchable group. The caste system is characterized by ostracizing a particular person by separating them from the mainstream because of their social untouchability (Ghurye 293). The untouchables refer to the people with the lowest social status, considered impure and polluted.

Gender-based violence is a prevalent trend associated with inter-caste marriages. The prevention of women from accessing formal employment, coupled with sexist traditions, makes the gender vulnerable to sexual abuse and other violations of basic human rights.

Similarities with Race in the United States

            Despite over six decades of Civil Rights Movement, the conditions for most of the poor and ethnic minorities in the United States keep declining. Like the Dalit in the Indian caste system, African Americans represent the most people below the poverty line in America (Sampath para5). African Americans continue to struggle with issues related to police violence, racial inequality, and racial injustice as three of the top exclusion forces. African American men represent the biggest population within American prisons. The criminal justice system has a long documented history of bias and prejudice against African Americans, using prisons to create generational wealth inequality. For instance, African Americans struggle with the biggest student loan debts (Sampath para5). It is often the case that ethnic minorities grow up in segregated neighborhoods, as household income is used as a factor for establishing geographic exclusion.

            In India and America, the caste system establishes a special class of the untouchables. While in India, the untouchables represent the people in the lowest social class, in America, it represents the individuals in the highest social class (Sampath para7). However, there were stark similarities between India’s caste system and early 20th and 19th century America. African Americans were not allowed to use particular public services with Whites, such as the bus system, because of the caste system. African Americans were perceived as tools or asset possessions to Whites, who at the time equally acted as slave masters. The slaves did not have rights to citizenship or property ownership because they did not qualify as citizens. There was the established consciousness that Blacks were biologically, culturally, and financially inferior to Whites. Important to note is that India’s and America’s caste systems are not born out of emotions, morality, or cultural differences. The two discriminative social structures are based on the need for power between groups that have it and groups that do not.

Question Four

Culture determines the confines of what is considered acceptable in society. Across the world, culture establishes the standards to which individuals should match their sexual inclinations. Sigusch carries out a literature analysis of how western cultures have experienced an impressive social and cultural revolution in recent years that has dismantled conventional perceptions of sexuality. Unlike in the 20th century, sexuality is no longer a concept that refers to happiness, pleasure, or gratification. While the traditional concept of gender and sexuality was based on sexual instinct and heterosexual relations, the concept now revolves around self-gratification and gender differences. Sex and gender are no longer mystified or covered in positive terms but as the negative source of suppression, aggression, and inequality. Gender and sexuality remain the two main forces driving concerns regarding a person’s ability to express themselves and how society is starting to embrace individuals who fall outside what is conventionally perceived as unacceptable.

            The world is transitioning from gender differences to self-gender. According to Sigusch, while old sexuality focused on sex drive and orgasms, the new conceptualization of sexuality prioritizes self-love, sexual thrills, and prosthetic substitutions (3). An analysis of literature shows that the sexual sphere has become almost completely separated from the reproductive sphere. Reproduction and sexuality are not considered part of the same social construct. An example can be seen in cloning. Given that the baby can grow outside the human’s womb, reproduction becomes independent of gender. Therefore, men and women are no longer intertwined in an existential sense and are not dependent on each other from a biological standpoint (Sigusch 4). Ortner suggests that the transition to self-gender is rooted in feminist discourse since feminist theories drive toward sexual differentiation (70). As sexual preferences become more individualistic, it was bound that other definitions of sexuality emerge.

            The emergence of self-gender has resulted in the diversification of intimate relationships, including introducing new types of sex and gender. In the popular television show Suk Suk, the directors introduce the pluralization of traditional intimate relationships. For instance, there is the growth of sexual acts of aggression as people are more prone to public sexual displays. There are numerous instances in the show where couples are not afraid to exhibit their love in public, including kissing and fighting. There is also a shift toward clandestine forms of addictive behaviour. It is common for the characters to plan trips, holidays, or single-night outings where a night of thrill ends in sexual intimacy. Impressive is how Suk Suk depicts these social changes while using different sexual orientations, including gays, lesbians, and trans (Choo para3). Gender and sexuality today are characterized more by the pluralization of intimate affiliations and lifestyles.

            On-going changes in the global society due to capitalism and globalization are causing transformations in people’s relative autonomy. Society is becoming more individualistic, resulting in new forms of gender and sexual identity. Current definitions are characterized by gender dimorphism, which entails a psychic duality between sexual reproduction and sexual identity. The pace of cultural change in the divergent society will determine the extent to which the tension between sexual identity and sexual reproduction plays out. Some cultures will experience greater levels of tension due to their cultural isolation. Nevertheless, the changes are bound to result in a better understanding of individual and cultural differences. The transformations will also outline how ready and willing the world is to embrace the sexual revolution.

Question Five

The Hmong introduce the concept of spirituality in healthcare, prioritizing the mind, body, and spirit trifecta in delivering holistic care. The Hmong practices fall under complementary and alternative healthcare (CAM), which entails diverse products, rituals, and care systems not perceived as part of formal medicine. There is an increasing acceptance of CAM therapies and practices because of their link to patient satisfaction, experience, and overall outcome. Even though culture-based medical systems differ in their ideologies and principles concerning the prevention and treatment of disease, they share many common aspects, including the body’s ability to heal itself. The text “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” shows that Hmong healing practices provide culturally competent care for underserved populations. Despite medicine lacking sufficient evidence on the efficacy of complementary therapies, people should have the freedom to choose the type of medical care they prefer as long as they are informed about their safety and effectiveness.

            The Hmong believe good health relies on the nature of the soul inside a person. The soul governs the body, meaning illnesses or other invasive procedures result in its damage or loss. For instance, Lee tells Neil and Peggy, “Psychological problems do not exist for the Hmong because they do not distinguish between mental and physical illness. Everything is a spiritual problem” (Fadiman 106). The Hmong prioritize treating a disease as it occurs because they do not know about preventive medicine. The ethnic group also does not have an understanding of germs and bacteria. As a result, there is no emphasis on preventive care, such as immunization (Baker et al. 841). The difference in information underpins why the Hmong focus on the collective soul.

            The objective of any Hmong treatment is to ensure the soul does not separate from the body. A traditional Sharman is responsible for executing “soul-calling” rituals to free the soul from whatever evil force might be frightening it. Such a belief is seen in Lee’s statement, “The life-souls of newborn babies are especially prone to disappearance since they are […] poised between the realm of the unseen […] and the realm of the living. (Fadiman 19). The statement highlights that Hmong medicine does not perceive diseases solely as physical conditions. Curing a disease stems from identifying the cause behind the separation of the body and the soul. For instance, in the case text, Lia’s doctors associate her seizure with complications in her cerebral neurons. On the other hand, Lia’s parents call the disorder “quag dab peg,” which translates into the book’s title. Lia’s parents and doctors illustrate the conflict between the mainstream and the alternative in contemporary care delivery.

            Many forms of complementary and alternative medicine continue to be rejected by formal medicine. In our local culture, it is common practice for the elderly to spit on the forehead and forearms of the sick to call for ancestral protection and delivery. There is a direct link between the physical dimension and the spiritual realm. Nevertheless, western medicine continues to underplay the significance and efficacy of these CAM practices and principles without conducting randomized control trials. More scientific effort should be put to prove the applicability of CAM practices before they are integrated into conventional medicine. The studies will go a long way in improving cultural and linguistic competence in care, contributing to establishing diverse and inclusive healthcare environments. CAM promises to offer medical care that mirrors the diverse needs of the local population.

Question Seven

Human beings have long yearned to understand the purpose of life or find a higher sense of belonging. Spirituality is what is often applied to explain what is beyond human understanding, including aspects of life and health. As a result, spirituality and medicine have been intertwined since the ancient ages. Healthcare practitioners and the public acknowledge the positive relationship between religion and health, with spirituality cited as an essential component of people’s coping mechanisms. When it comes to hard outcomes, spirituality might have little to do with influencing care and medicine. However, faith will make a person feel more optimistic and better about their predicament. The alteration in a patient’s state of mind is known to improve medical outcomes via a placebo effect. Despite science not proving the effectiveness of religion in healthcare, medicine should consider spirituality as a complementary and alternative approach to improving patient outcomes.

Both spirituality and modern medicine emphasize the provision of holistic care. As seen in Lia’s predicament in the case text, religion focuses on the interplay between the mind, body, and spirit. An emphasis on objective symptoms is perceived as inefficient due to the absence of a spiritual dimension. For instance, Fadiman states, “Here was American medicine at its worst and its best: the patient was reduced from a girl to an analyzable collection of symptoms,” as Lia was assessed by her western doctors (161). For the patient to recover fully, emotional and spiritual support must be included. In the same way, western medicine encourages the participation of family members and close friends in decision-making to boost the patient’s morale. Social and emotional support are perceived as essential in the promotion of positive health outcomes (Singh and Ajinkya 400). Both religion and western medicine consider social support as reinforcements for a patient’s coping mechanisms.

Religion and modern medicine differ on the basis of their healthcare practices. Spirituality is driven by the power of belief, which is unconscious and infused with hope and expectations. Healing is based on ensuring the body and the soul do not separate but instead find harmonious coexistence. On the other hand, western medicine is driven by scientific evidence. Healthcare practitioners rely on experimental research to determine the applicability and effectiveness of medical practices. Evidence-based medicine is not hopeful or uncertain. Instead, it is explicit, rational, and conscientious when making decisions about patient care (Masic, Miokovic, and Muhamedagic 219). EBM demands better research and information than traditionally required. Since religion is older, it can be perceived as less comprehensive when it comes to patient care. Spirituality should be approached as an element that improves the patient’s condition but should not be the primary source of treatment.

The healthcare setting exposes patients to difficult, caring, and toiling situations that can result in loneliness and despair. Distress, pain, and agony affect the whole individual and are often associated with the meaning a person attaches to their symptoms. Focusing on evidence-based medicine does not allow the clinician to consider the subjective changes in the patient’s conditions because the focus is only on the objective symptoms. Since spirituality is a powerful source of meaning, integrating it into modern care can help the healthcare provider identify the patient’s needs and requirements. The use of religion in modern medicine is meant to enhance the level of cultural competence, especially in the care of marginalized ethnic minorities. Religion contributes to making healthcare more accessible and acceptable across different cultures. Overall, quality of life, religion, and life philosophy must be accorded sufficient attention in clinical education and training to enhance current standards and approaches in clinical care.

Question Nine

Anthropology has a long and rich history of understanding complex cultural variations, meanings, and connotations that people use to define social phenomena per their local contexts. Anthropological insight is indispensable in solving developmental problems associated with the changing world. Some anthropologists have worked to ensure policymaking and development are socially grounded. On the other hand, other anthropologists have worked to highlight that development is a morally, philosophically, and politically skewed concept. While it is crucial to analyze the constitution and costs of development, anthropologists make meaningful contributions to society by linking knowledge to action. Anthropological knowledge must continue in the current world but use different methodologies and conceptual paradigms. While anthropology remains relevant in understanding human development, its ability to address current and future problems will depend on the discipline forging new perspectives and claims for connecting new knowledge to practice.

            Anthropology can address current world issues by highlighting the interconnectedness of research and teaching. Abu-Lughod states that the discipline can adopt a more egalitarian language on solidarity, collaboration, and partnership to move away from the traditional approach of salvation (789). The author is talking about how traditional anthropology was reactive because research and advocacy were perceived as separate fields. Anthropology can emphasize the convergence of scientific disciplines towards universal standards for practice and literature. Transforming the education of anthropology by including new theories and methodologies from other disciplines is key to developing new perspectives on world problems. Therefore, the goal is transforming academic anthropology from its objective underpinnings towards cultural relativism. Integrating diverse opinions and worldviews into anthropology is urgently required for a better understanding of current human problems.

            Anthropology contributes to solving real-world problems by mediating between disciplines and views to foster the continuity of constructive discussions. Anthropologists act as mediators as their studies help highlight the plight and interests of diverse groups (Podolefsky, Brown, and Lacy 3). For instance, anthropology has played an essential role in showing the impact of climate change in marginal communities such as Bangladesh. Anthropologists also act as mediators by highlighting and critiquing extreme views. The role of the discipline is to gauge the public. However, public sentiment is subject to change. The dynamicity renders the anthropologist’s goal to become the search for common ground. Such an approach can help identify the ‘in-between’ for the individual and the global, helping reduce macro problems into individual efforts. The globalized community provides the opportunity for each person to engage in significant action.

The world would be in a much worse state were it not for the contributions of anthropologists. Humanity does not have a good record of avoiding crisis. Anthropology’s curiosity and knowledge help create an understanding of the human tendencies that result in the crisis. As a result, society becomes better equipped to face similar odds. While the discipline is not a precise science for approaching world problems, its knowledge of local life and cultural diversity is important in answering what constitutes a fair human existence. Future anthropology should prioritize multidisciplinary collaboration to broaden theoretical and methodological principles. Fortunately, anthropology remains largely diverse, interesting, and critical in addressing the complex issues of grounded humanity.

Works Cited

Abu-Lughod. “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and its Others.” American Anthropologist, vol. 104, no. 3, 2002, pp. 783-790.

Baker, Dian L et al. “Perception of Barriers to Immunization Among Parents of Hmong Origin in California.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 100, no. 5, 2010, pp. 839-45. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.175935

Choo, Mattheus. “Suk Suk tenderly Depicts the Quiet Entanglements of a Secret Queer Relationship in the Twilight Years.” Sinema, 9 Oct. 2020,, Accessed 14 Dec. 2022. 

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012.

Ghurye, Govind. Caste and Race in India. Popular Prakashan Press, 1969.

Govindarajan. “The Bear Who Loved a Woman: The Intersection of Queer Desires. In Animal Intimacies. University of Chicago Press, 2019.

Masic, Izet, Milan Mokovic and Belma Muhamedagic. “Evidence-Based Medicine – New Approaches and Challenges.”  AIM: Journal of the Society for Medical Informatics of Bosnia & Herzegovina, vol. 16, no. 4, 2008, pp. 219-25. doi:10.5455/aim.2008.16.219-225

Ortner, Sherry. “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture.” In M. Z. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere (eds), Woman, Culture, and Society. Stanford University Press, pp. 68-87.

Podolefsky, Aaron, Peter Brown, and Scott Lacy. Applying Cultural Anthropology [9th Ed]. McGraw-Hill Education, 2008.

Sampath, Rajesh. “Racial and Caste Oppression Have Many Similarities.” The Conversation, 19 June. 2015, www://, Accessed 14 Dec. 2022.

Sigusch, Volkmar. “On Cultural Transformations of Sexuality and Gender in Recent Decades.” German Medical Science: GMS e-journal, vol. 2, 2004, pp. 1-14.  

Singh, Darpan Kaur Mohinder, and Shaunak Ajinkya. “Spirituality and Religion in Modern Medicine.” Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, vol. 34, no. 4, 2012, pp. 399-402. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.108234

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