Psychological Anthropology (Peterson)

ANTH 407

Psychological Anthropology:
Culture, Self and Society


Professor Mark Peterson
The American University in Cairo
Tuesday, 2-5 pm

The objective of ANTH/PSY 407 is to introduce students to the central topics and methods of psychological anthropology. One of the largest subfields of anthropology, psychological anthropology combines the interests of a discipline that takes “mind” as its object with those of a discipline that takes for its object, “culture.” As a result, it challenges many of the assumptions of both disciplines, leading to deeper understandings of both culture and mind.

Psychological anthropology asks such questions as: How do we come to be cultural beings? Is there such a thing as human nature? What is the relation between self and society? How do we experience (as opposed to merely express) social life? How do our bodies shape social experience and how does society shape our bodies? Are our emotions culturally patterned? How do different cultures define behavior as abnormal, pathological or insane? To seek answers to these questions, psychological anthropology draws on such diverse methodologies as ethnography, hermeneutics, semiotics, computer modeling, discourse analysis, life histories and cross-cultural comparison.

Program of Study:

Each week we will cover a different topic. All students must do the required reading and keep a journal of their reactions to the material. Ideas for reflection will be supplied by the instructor at the end of each class. In addition, each student will be responsible for doing the recommended reading for a given week and reporting on it to the class. Students will subsequently turn this presentation into a reaction paper and turn it in for a grade. Students will also write a final paper to be assigned mid-semester.

Grading will be assessed as follows:

Journals: 10 %

Class Presentation: 20 %

Reaction Paper: 20 %

Final Paper: 50 %


When you need to reach me, please try as much as possible to call or visit during my office hours. If you need to reach me at other times, you may leave a message in the department office (x6761). I will call in for messages any day I am not on campus. You can also reach me by e-mail:


Parish, Steven M. 1994. Moral Knowing in a Hindu Sacred City: An Exploration of Mind, Emotion and Self. New York: Columbia University. ISBN: 0-231-08439-0

Schwartz, Theodore, Geoffrey White and Catherine Lutz, eds. New Directions in Psychological Anthropology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 0-521-42609-X (Hereafter cited as Schwartz et. al.)

Strathern, Andrew. 1996. Body Thoughts. University of Michigan Press. ISBN: 0-472-06580-7

Wilson, Peter. 1998. Oscar. Waveland Press. ISBN: 0-88133-669-6

A collection of additional readings is available at the library and the Copy Center.

Recommended readings (marked below with a *) are on reserve in the library. These readings are required for those students who sign up to give the presentation in a given week.

Anthropology/Sociology 407

Course Outline

Week One: Sept. 14



*White and Lutz. Introduction. In Schwartz et. al.

*White, Geoffrey. Ethnopsychology. In Schwartz et. al.
I. A History of Psychological Anthropology

Week Two: Sept. 21

Looking for Human Nature


Ewing, Katherine P. Is psychoanalysis relevant for anthropology? In Schwartz et. al.

*Leach, Edmund. 1958. Magical Hair.

*Hallpike, C. R. 1969. Social Hair.

*Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1927. Sex and Repression in Savage Society.

*Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Tabboo

*Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents
Week Three: Sept. 28

Culture and Personality (A Post-Mortem)


Wallace, Anthony. Introduction. From Culture and Personality.

Stocking, George. Polarity and plurality: Franz Boas as psychological anthropologist. In Schwartz et. al.

*Bateson, Gregory. Morale and national character.

*Sapir, Edward. 1934. The emergence of a concept of personality in a study of cultures.

*Mead, Margaret. 1953. National character. In Sol Tax, ed. 1962. Anthropology Today. Pp. 396-421.

*Neiburg, Federico and Marcio Goldman. 1998. Anthropology and politics in the study of national character. Cultural Anthropology 13(1): 56-81.
Week Four: Oct. 5

Magical Thinking and Other Reductionisms

Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1931. The role of magic and religion.

Cannon, Walter B. 1942. “Voodoo” Death

Moore, Omar Khayyam. 1957. Divination — A new perspective.

*Malinowski, Bronislaw. Magic, Science and Religion

*Malinowski, Bronislaw. Myth in Primitive Psychology.


II Self and Society

Week Five: Oct. 12

Processes of Self in Cultural Contexts

Parish, Steven M. 1994. Moral Knowing in a Hindu Sacred City: An Exploration of Mind, Emotion and Self. New York: Columbia University. ISBN: 0231084390

*Harris, Grace. 1989. Concepts of individual, self and person in description and analysis. American Anthropologist 91: 579-612.

* Steed, Gitel. 1955. Personality formation in a Hindu village in Gujarat. In Marriott, McKim, ed. Village India: Studies in the Little Community. Pp. 102-144. University of Chicago press.


Week Six: Oct. 19

Frustrations With Families


Cohler, Bertram J. Intent and meaning in psychoanalysis and cultural study. In Schwartz et. al.

Trawick, Margaret. The ideology of love in a Tamil family.

*Harkness, Sara. Human development in psychological anthropology. In Schwartz et. al.

*Bean, Susan. Soap operas: Sagas of American kinship.
Week Seven: Oct. 26

(Re)Cognizing Race


Hirschfeld, Lawrence. 1997. The conceptual politics of race. Ethos 25(1): 63-92.

Dominguez, Virginia. 1997. The racialist politics of concepts or is it the racialist concepts of politics? Ethos 25(1): 93-100.

*Stoler, Ann Laura. 1997. On political and psychological essentialisms. Ethos 25(1): 101-106.

*Hacking, Ian. 1997. An Aristotelian glance at race and the mind. Ethos 25(1): 107-112.

*Estroff, Sue E. 1997. Recognizing race: Whose categories are these anyway? Ethos 25(1): 113-116

*Hughes, Diane. 1997. Racist thinking and thinking about race: What children know but don’t say. Ethos 25(1): 117-125.

*Hirschfeld, Lawrence. 1997. Reply. Ethos 25(1): 126-140
III Language and Experience

Week Eight: Nov. 2

Mind, Language and Culture


Miller, Peggy J.and Lisa Hoogstra. Language as tool in the socialization and apprehension of cultural meaning. In Schwartz, et. al.

Whorf, Benjamin. The relation of habitual thought and behavior to language.


Week Nine: Nov. 9

Culture: Is It All in the Mind?


Goodenough, Ward. 1981. Culture, Language and Society. Chapters 3,4 and 6.
Week Ten: Nov. 16

Brains, Frames and Schemas


D’Andrade, Roy. 1992. Cognitive anthropology. In Schwartz, et. al.

Keller, Janet Dixon. 1992. Schemes for schemata. In Schwartz, et. al.

*Holland, Dorothy. 1992. The woman who climbed up the house: Some limitations of schema theory. In Schwartz, et. al.

*Bateson, Gregory. The cybernetics of “self”: A theory of alcoholism. In Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972). Pp. 309-337.
IV Mind and Body

Week Eleven: Nov. 23

Thinking About Bodies


Strathern, Andrew. 1996. Body Thoughts. University of Michigan Press

*Emily Martin. 1987. Medical metaphors of women’s bodies. In The Woman and the Body. Beacon Press.
Week Twelve: Nov. 30

Bodies, Minds and Emotions


Lynch, Owen. The social construction of emotion in India.

Worthman, Carol M. 1992. Cupid and Psyche: Investigative syncretism in biological and psychosocial anthropology. In Schwartz, et. al.

*Chisholm, James. 1992. Putting people in biology: Toward a synthesis of biological and psychological anthropology. In Schwartz, et. al.

*Masson, J. Moussaieff. 1976. The Psychology of the Ascetic. In Richards, J.F. and Ralph Nicholas, eds. 1976. Symposium: The Contributions of Louis Dumont. Journal of Asian Studies 35(4): 611-625.


Week Thirteen: Dec. 7

The Embodiment of Culture


Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 1992. Hungry bodies, medicine and the state: Toward a critical psychological anthropology. In Schwartz, et. al.

Emily Martin. 1987. Self and body image. In The Woman and the Body. Beacon Press.
V The Normal and the Abnormal

Week Fourteen: Dec. 14

The Cultural Construction of Madness


Levy, Robert. 1992. A prologue to a psychiatric anthropology. In Schwartz, et. al.

*Murphy, J.M. 1976. Psychiatric labeling in cross-cultural perspective.
Week Fifteen: Dec. 21

Learning From Insanity


Wilson, Peter. 1998. Oscar: An Inquiry into the Nature of Sanity. Waveland Press.

Bateson, Gregory. 1955. Epidemiology of a schizophrenia. In Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972). Pp. 194-227.
Week Sixteen: Dec. 28

The Culture of Psychology


Schwartz, Theodore. 1992. Anthropology and psychology: An unrequited relationship. In Schwartz, et. al.

Levi-Strauss. 1963. The effectiveness of symbols. In Structural Anthropology.

*Levi-Strauss, Claude. 1963. The sorceror and his magic. In Structural Anthropology.

*Good, Byron. 1992. Culture and psychopathology: Directions for psychiatric anthropology.. In Schwartz, et. al.


Copyright © 2001 Mark Peterson

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