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Conformity and
Readings in Cultural Anthropology
Macalester College
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ary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Conformity and conflict: readings in cultural anthropology / [edited by] David W. McCurdy, Macalester College,
Dianna Shandy, Macalester College, James Spradley.—Fifteenth edition,
pages cm
Includes index.
I. McCurdy, David W. II. Shandy, Dianna.
GN325.C69 2015
Cross-Cultural Law: The Case of an American Gypsy 218
Anne Sutherland
Law and Order 226
James P. Spradley and David W. McCurdy
Navigating Nigerian Bureaucracies 237
Elizabeth A. Eames
Illegal Economies and the Untold Story of the Amputees 245
Carolyn Nordstrom
216 P A R T S E V E N Law and Politics
Ideally, culture provides the blueprint for a smoothly oiled social machine whose
parts work together under all circumstances. But human society is not like a rigidly
constructed machine. It is made of individuals who have their own special needs and
desires. Personal interest, competition for scarce resources, and simple accident can
cause nonconformity and disputes, resulting in serious disorganization.
One way we manage social disruption is through the socialization of children.
As we acquire our culture, we learn the appropriate ways to look at experience, to de­
fine our existence, and to feel about life. Each system of cultural knowledge contains
implicit values of what is desirable, and we come to share these values with other
people. Slowly, with the acquisition of culture, most people find they want to do what
they must do; the requirements of an orderly social life become personal goals.
Enculturation, however, is rarely enough. Disputes among individuals regularly
occur in all societies, and how such disagreements are handled defines what anthro­
pologists mean by the legal system. Some disputes are infralegal; they never reach
a point where they are settled by individuals with special authority. Neighbors, for
example, would engage in an infralegal dispute if they argued over who should pay for
the damage caused by water that runs off one's land into the others basement. So long
as they don't take the matter to court or resort to violence, the dispute will remain
infralegal. This dispute may become extralegal, however, if it occurs outside the law
and escalates into violence. Had the neighbors come to blows over the waterlogged
asement, the dispute would have become extralegal. Feuds and wars are the best
examples of this kind of dispute.
Legal disputes, on the other hand, involve socially approved mechanisms for
their settlement. Law is the cultural knowledge that people use to settle disputes by
means of agents who have the recognized authority to do so. Thus if the argument be­
tween neighbors cited previously ended up in court before a judge or referee, it would
have become legal.
Although Americans often think of courts as synonymous with the legal system,
societies have evolved a variety of structures for settling disputes. For example, some
disputes may be settled by self-redress, meaning that wronged individuals are given
the right to settle matters themselves. Contests requiring physical or mental com­
at between disputants may also be used to settle disputes. A trusted third party, or
go-between, may be asked to negotiate with each side until a settlement is achieved.
In some societies, supernatural power or beings may be used. In parts of India, for
example, disputants are asked to take an oath in the name of a powerful deity or
(at least in the past) to submit to a supernaturally controlled, painful, or physically
dangerous test called an ordeal. Disputes may also be taken to a moot, an informal
community meeting where conflict may be aired. At the moot, talk continues until a
settlement is reached. Finally, disputes are often taken to courts, which are formally
organized and include officials with authority to make and enforce decisions.
Political systems are closely related to legal ones and often involve some of the same
offices and actors. The political system contains the process for making and earning
out public policy according to cultural categories and rules; policy refers to guidelines
for action. The public are the people affected bv the policy. Every society must make
decisions that affect all or most of its members. The Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Forest
described by anthropologist Colin Turnbull, for example, occasionally decide to conduct
a communal hunt. Hunters set their nets together and wait for the appearance of forest
game. Men, women, and children must work together as beaters to drive the animals
toward the nets. When the Mbuti decide to hold a hunt, they make a political decision.
P A R T S E V E N Law and Politics 217
The political process requires that people make and abide by a particular policy,
often in the face of competing plans. To do so a policy must have support, which is
anything that contributes to its adoption and enforcement. Anthropologists recognize
two main kinds of support: legitimacy and coercion. Legitimacy refers to people's
positive evaluation of public officials and public policy. A college faculty, for example,
may decide to institute the quarter system because a majority feel that quarters rather
than semesters represent the "right length" for courses. Theirs is a positive evaluation
of the policy. Some faculty members will oppose the change but will abide by the de­
cision because they value the authority of faculty governance. For them the decision,
although unfortunate, is legitimate.
Coercion, on the other hand, is support derived from the threat or use of force
or the promise of short-term gain. Had the faculty members adopted the quarter sys­
tem because they had been threatened with termination by the administration, they
would have acted under coercion.
There are also other important aspects of the political process. Some members
of a society may be given authority, the right to make and enforce public policy. In
our country, elected officials are given authority to make certain decisions and exer­
cise particular powers. However, formal political offices with authority do not occur
in every society. Most hunting and gathering societies lack such positions, as do many
horticultural societies. Leadership, which is the ability to influence others to act,
must be exercised informally in these societies.
In the first article, Anne Sutherland describes what happens when the substan­
tive laws of two culturally different groups collide in court. A young Gypsy man is
convicted of using another family members social security number although he had
no intention of defrauding anyone. The second article, by James Spradley and David
McCurdy, uses Zapotec cases collected by anthropologist Laura Nader to illustrate
asic anthropological legal concepts, such as substantive and procedural law, legal
levels, and legal principles. They show that, for the Zapotec, social harmony is more
important than punishment. Elizabeth Eames, in the third selection, looks at the po­
litical institution of bureaucracy. Drawing on the theory of Max Weber, she notes that
ureaucracy, which is designed to be impersonal and even-handed in Europe and
North America, is a personal institution in Nigeria. She introduces Weber's notion of
patrimonial authority as it pertains to the form of government organized as a more
or less direct extension of the noble household, where officials originate as household
servants and remain personal dependents of the ruler. The final selection by Carolyn
Nordstrom discusses the informal—thus untaxed, unregulated, and illegal—economy
among war amputees in Angola as the backbone of the economy.
Answered Same Day Jul 11, 2021


Sunabh answered on Jul 13 2021
121 Votes
Running Head: ANTHROPOLOGY        1
Anthropology is commonly refe
ed to as the study of human behaviors and society in present as well past. Therefore, one of the major application of this field is considered in academics or research field; however, with the widened scope many other fields have emerged where the concepts of Anthropology are required beyond academies (McCurdy, Shandy & Spradley, 2012).
For example, ‘Biological Anthropology’ uses the knowledge of human biological diversity and applies it to health and health related issues. Further, a ‘Cultural anthropologist’...

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