The Importance Of Anthropology: The Culture Of Poverty

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Anthropology is the study of human beings through time and space within their social, environmental, and cultural contexts. It is similar to the study of psychology in that the unit of analysis is usually the individual or groups. The difference between the two disciplines is that anthropology places an emphasis on the individual with respect to his or her culture and society. Anthropology holds a unique position in the social sciences owing to its methodological contribution, specifically in the form of participant observation, narrative analysis, cross-cultural comparison, and ethnographic research Downloaded by [University of California, Berkeley] at 12:55 25 April 2016 994 C. M. Vu that seeks to capture complex bonds of human and social…show more content…
Thus, individuals are not necessarily to blame because they are subjected to deviant cultures that are socially generated (James, 1972; Bradshaw, 2006). These cultures have a distinct set of behaviors that diverge from the social norm. Studies identifying deviant behaviors such as promiscuity (Frazier, 1965) and matriarchal families (Moynihan, 1965) added fuel to the culture-of-poverty argument. In contrast, the school of thought about the importance of social class holds that the behaviors exhibited by the poor are adaptations to their impoverished environments that emerge from failures in the social, political, and economic structures of society. Though these anthropologists maintain that a culture of poverty exists, they argue that a subculture of poverty develops as a response to the environment. This theory is slightly different from the culture-of-poverty theory because it asserts that the poor continue Downloaded by [University of California, Berkeley] at 12:55 25 April 2016 Poverty Theories 995 to hold values similar to those held by other segments of society despite the fact that they live in poverty. Parker and Kleiner (1970) hypothesized that ‘‘attitudes characterizing the ‘culture of poverty’ help people living in poverty to maintain their sanity. They reflect a ‘realistic’ appraisal of the constraints of their social situation’’ (Parker and Kleiner, p. 519). In addition, Valentine (1968) criticized Lewis’s conceptualization of poverty by asserting that culture is a structural phenomenon of its own that influences the behavior of the people it encompasses. By applying the concept of culture to the poor, researchers ignore the significant norms that the poor share with the rest of society. The class-poverty school of thought overlaps with sociological theories of poverty that will be discussed later in this analysis.

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