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Concept: Cultural anthropology


Tracing the evolution of human culture through time is arguably one of the most controversial and complex scholarly endeavors, and a broad evolutionary analysis of how symbolic, linguistic, and cultural capacities emerged and developed in our species is lacking. Here we present a model that, in broad terms, aims to explain the evolution and portray the expansion of human cultural capacities (the EECC model), that can be used as a point of departure for further multidisciplinary discussion and more detailed investigation. The EECC model is designed to be flexible, and can be refined to accommodate future archaeological, paleoanthropological, genetic or evolutionary psychology/behavioral analyses and discoveries. Our proposed concept of cultural behavior differentiates between empirically traceable behavioral performances and behavioral capacities that are theoretical constructs. Based largely on archaeological data (the ‘black box’ that most directly opens up hominin cultural evolution), and on the extension of observable problem-solution distances, we identify eight grades of cultural capacity. Each of these grades is considered within evolutionary-biological and historical-social trajectories. Importantly, the model does not imply an inevitable progression, but focuses on expansion of cultural capacities based on the integration of earlier achievements. We conclude that there is not a single cultural capacity or a single set of abilities that enabled human culture; rather, several grades of cultural capacity in animals and hominins expanded during our evolution to shape who we are today.

Concepts: Culture, Linguistics, Anthropology, Cultural anthropology, Human evolution, Civilization, Archaeology, Structuralism


During the 1(st) millennium before the Common Era (BCE), nomadic tribes associated with the Iron Age Scythian culture spread over the Eurasian Steppe, covering a territory of more than 3,500 km in breadth. To understand the demographic processes behind the spread of the Scythian culture, we analysed genomic data from eight individuals and a mitochondrial dataset of 96 individuals originating in eastern and western parts of the Eurasian Steppe. Genomic inference reveals that Scythians in the east and the west of the steppe zone can best be described as a mixture of Yamnaya-related ancestry and an East Asian component. Demographic modelling suggests independent origins for eastern and western groups with ongoing gene-flow between them, plausibly explaining the striking uniformity of their material culture. We also find evidence that significant gene-flow from east to west Eurasia must have occurred early during the Iron Age.

Concepts: Demography, Europe, Asia, Cultural anthropology, Russia, Soviet Union, Central Asia, Eurasian


With globalization, modern Western consciousness has spread across the world. This influx has affected the Japanese culture but ego consciousness has emerged through a long history and different course from that of the West. At a personal level, I have been interested in the establishment of a subject in a culture that values homogeneity and to understand this, I reflect on my own history of living in both the East and the West and on my experience practising psychotherapy. To show Japanese collective functioning at its best, I describe the human inter-connectedness and collaboration during the 2011 disaster. I explore the ‘Nothing’ at the centre of the Japanese psyche, through a reading of Japanese myth, especially the most originary and almost pre-human stories that come before the anthropomorphized ‘First Parents’. A retelling of this founding story, reveals the multiple iterations over time that manifest in embodied being; this gradual emergence of consciousness is contrasted with Western myths of origin that are more clear and specific. This study attempts to bring awareness of the value and meaning of Eastern consciousness and its centre in the ‘Nothing’.

Concepts: Sociology, Culture, Consciousness, Value, Meaning of life, Western culture, Globalization, Cultural anthropology


ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: While scorpionism is not a serious public health problem in Spain, traditional Spanish knowledge has retained a large number of plant-based and animal-based remedies for scorpion stings. Additionally, this arthropod plays an important role in the treatment of its own sting and has become a significant therapeutic resource in the treatment of several human pathologies. These remedies are distributed across a large number of references. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A thorough review of Spanish literature has been conducted in the fields of folklore, ethnography, ethnomedicine, ethnobotany, ethnozoology, social anthropology and medical anthropology from the early twentieth century to the present. Automated searches in national and international databases have been performed. RESULTS: The results include more than 110 traditional remedies for scorpion stings. Forty- eight remedies are based on the use of 29 vascular plants in 19 different botanical families. This listing of useful plants is broader than that provided by other researchers studying neighboring areas. Seventeen remedies based on the use of nine animal species, including humans, are also reported. Remedies have also been documented involving mud and water, while other remedies indicate the use of scorpions (crushed and applied directly). Many remedies emphasize the topical use of “scorpion oil” (i.e., oil from fried scorpions). Two remedies are based on the maceration of scorpions in alcohol. In most cases, topical remedies are applied locally on the affected area. There is also some use of magical remedies as well. The scorpion has also been used as a major component in 22 Spanish remedies and healing rituals associated with 17 human pathologies. CONCLUSIONS: The present study demonstrates the importance of the scorpion in Spanish folk medicine. In general, the remedies evaluated mix magic and empiricism. The data we obtained may represent relevant background knowledge for studies aimed at developing and applying new therapeutic remedies for scorpion stings and other human pathologies. The data also invites further research to determine the validity of these folk remedies.

Concepts: Medicine, Arthropod, Anthropology, 20th century, Cultural anthropology, Scorpion, Traditional medicine, Social anthropology


Culture and cultural care have become important concepts in nursing education. However, little is known about what nursing students learn about these complex concepts. The purpose of this study was to explore and critique what nursing students learn about culture and cultural care. First and fourth year students were invited to participate in a focused ethnography to explore how nursing education might shape student knowledge of culture over time. Findings revealed that both groups of students supported the essentialist view of culture. Although students supported the ideals of cultural care, students remained unaware of critical views of culture.

Concepts: Education, Idea, Learning, Anthropology, Knowledge, Cultural studies, Student, Cultural anthropology


The aim of this study was to identify the cultural problems encountered during caregiving by the nurses working in two university hospitals located in western and eastern Turkey. This descriptive, comparative study was conducted between July 2008 and October 2009 with 338 nurses who volunteered to take part in the study. The study data were collected using an individual description questionnaire consisting of 10 questions and another questionnaire consisting of 14 questions to identify the cultural problems encountered by nurses when giving care. The study showed with respect to training received on transcultural nursing that only 59 nurses had this training, but the percentage was higher in the nurses working at the hospital in the west (54.2%) (P > 0.05). It was found that a large number of nurses in the sample group (n = 286) gave care to at least one individual from another culture, but the percentage was significantly higher in the nurses working in the west (56.7%) than in the nurses working in the east (43.3%) (P < 0.05). When the problems experienced by the nurses during caregiving because of cultural characteristics of patients were explored, it was found that they experienced problems mostly in 'communication', and the percentage of those having problems was higher in the nurses working in the west (60.8%) (P > 0.05). The problem experienced in this area was mostly because of the fact that patients ‘did not speak Turkish’ (63.8%). In conclusion, the nurses gave care to patients from different cultures, and most of them had trouble when giving care to patients from different cultures.

Concepts: Hospital, Culture, Anthropology, Cultural studies, The Culture, Turkey, Western culture, Cultural anthropology


This commentary calls on medical anthropology to become programmatically non-secular. Despite recent anthropological critiques of secularity, within and outside of anthropology, most contemporary medical anthropologists continue to leave deities and religiosity out of their examinations of healing practices, especially in their accounts of biomedicine. Through a critical, relational constructionist lens, which traces how all entities are both constructed and real, a non-secular medical anthropology would insist that when deities are part of medical practice, they are integral to analysis. Importantly then, within the symmetrical nature of this same constructionist lens, biomedical entities like germs and petri dishes need to be accounted for just as much as deities.

Concepts: Medicine, Sociology, Anthropology, Social sciences, Cultural anthropology, Social anthropology


Suicide is one of the greatest concerns in psychiatric practice, with considerable efforts devoted to prevention. The psychiatric view of suicide tends to equate it with depression or other forms of mental illness. However, some forms of suicide occur independently of mental illness and within a framework of cultural sanctioning such that they aren’t regarded as suicide at all. Despite persistent taboos against suicide, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the context of terminal illness is increasingly accepted as a way to preserve autonomy and dignity in the West. Seppuku, the ancient samurai ritual of suicide by self-stabbing, was long considered an honorable act of self-resolve such that despite the removal of cultural sanctioning, the rate of suicide in Japan remains high with suicide masquerading as seppuku still carried out both there and abroad. Suicide as an act of murder and terrorism is a practice currently popular with Islamic militants who regard it as martyrdom in the context of war. The absence of mental illness and the presence of cultural sanctioning do not mean that suicide should not be prevented. Culturally sanctioned suicide must be understood in terms of the specific motivations that underlie the choice of death over life. Efforts to prevent culturally sanctioned suicide must focus on alternatives to achieve similar ends and must ultimately be implemented within cultures to remove the sanctioning of self-destructive acts.

Concepts: Death, Sociology, Culture, Mental disorder, The Culture, Cultural anthropology, Terrorism, Popular culture


In the aftermath of slavery and the resulting social, economic, and political effects, Black women have become the victims of negative stereotyping in mainstream American culture. Such stereotypes include the myth of the angry Black woman that characterizes these women as aggressive, ill tempered, illogical, overbearing, hostile, and ignorant without provocation. Symptoms presented by Black women during mental health treatment may reinforce this myth. However, many of the negative characteristics of the angry Black woman developed in response to external stressors and historical factors. Black women also have a unique experience with and expressions of anger that shape the presenting symptoms interpreted by the mental health clinician. This myth and corresponding negative stereotypes significantly affect Black women intrapsychically, interpersonally, and are likely to influence the efficacy of mental health treatment. Understanding and treatment of Black women in a mental health context should be influenced by the cultural norms and sociopolitical dynamics affecting these clients. Successful mental health treatment requires cultural competence and clinicians who are well prepared to navigate the inherent complexities of culture with clients. Awareness of the angry Black woman mythology, including its genesis, manifestations, and the unique experiences of Black women, may raise the standards of cultural competence for clinicians and provide more successful treatment outcomes in working with this population. A case example illustrates the assiduity essential to practicing in a culturally competent manner. A client is presented from a traditional psychotherapeutic perspective and then viewed through a lens that integrates psychotherapeutic practice with conscious awareness of the mythology and stereotypes impacting Black women. Implications for culturally relevant practice are discussed.

Concepts: Black people, Sociology, Greek loanwords, Culture, Cultural anthropology, Anger, Slavery, Stereotype


Once concentrated among adolescent Caucasian females in high-income Western countries, today, eating disorders (EDs) are truly global. Building upon previous work describing the rise of EDs among cultures in transition, we contextualize the emergence of EDs in Asia by locating this development within the broader discourse about the processes of change that have radically transformed Asian societies over the last three decades. By identifying where EDs are emerging in the region, and by examining their particular expression, our aim is to explicate a fuller story of the relationship between culture and eating disorders. Much of the discussion of EDs in non-Western societies is predicated upon the assumption that an increase in EDs is the by-product of “Westernization”, the term used to describe the process by which increased cultural contact with the West results in the transmission of so-called ‘Western’ ideas and cultural norms to a non-Western culture. While the Westernization literature represents a historical anchor in our understanding of EDs in Asia, we propose that this analysis is incomplete in that societal change in the form of industrialization and urbanization occurring independently from, or in tandem with, “Western” influence are critical factors contributing to the rise of EDs in Asia. Further, our review of eating disorders in Asia suggests that an understanding of the diversity and distinctiveness of the individual countries and cultures that comprise ‘Asia’ is crucial to understanding the emergence and rise of EDs across this vast region, suggesting that eating disorders are not culture-bound or culture-specific, but rather culture-reactive. Taking into account both the historical influence of Western culture and the more contemporary effects of Asian industrialization and urbanization, key distinctions among respective Asian cultures expands our understanding of the development and expression of EDs globally.

Concepts: Sociology, Culture, Anthropology, Western culture, Society, Globalization, Cultural anthropology, Sociocultural evolution