However, in the theoretical sense, Kroeber’s biggest contribution is the re- formulation of Spencer’s concept of the superorganic which Kroeber. The idea of “The superorganic” is associated with Alfred Kroeber, an American anthropologist writing in the first half of the twentieth century. A. L. KROEBER. University of California. Search for more papers by this author. First published: April‐June

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These are indicated with brackets. It is just easier kroever access and, frankly, cries out for an editor more. For recently contacted peoples, FUNAI tries to do as much as possible to convince them to continue living as they did prior to contact.

Anthropologists, at least, accepted the primacy of culture, although others in the field of social science superorganiico the public did not. If borrowing is postulated, particularly of isolated traits without continuous geographic distributions, then absences or failures to borrow must also be considered and explained.

It also was a major source from which scholars in other fields as well as the general public learned about anthropology. The current approach is to protect isolated peoples as much as possible, to initiate contact only as a last resort. The milieu was the upper-middleclass German environment of New York City in the late nineteenth century, in which liberal intellectual interests krowber a deep concern with literature, music, and art were taken for granted.

Culture as the superorganic

These are often beautifully written and perceptive, but they are far from detailed ethnographies. His major use of the term was in his analysis of Peruvian art styles But in doing so, he argues, we miss the cultural dimension of conduct that makes human lives so unique.

The problems of independence in research and freedom of publication for government-employed anthropologists which he anticipated continue to preoccupy the professional associations.

Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. Pages 22—51 in Alfred L. Dear Robin, Thanks for writing. Cite kroeeber article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. The regard in which Kroeber was held and the reasons for his eminence rest on several characteristics.

Degeneration or simplification and the relative stability of elements through time and space also may be relevant.


In the s, when, for the first time, the Bureau of Indian Affairs rkoeber, under John Collieremployed anthropologists, a step widely hailed by young and unemployed anthropologists, Kroeber disapproved and even refused to recommend students to Collier.

His most extensive reporting on a single tribe is perhaps his early krobeer on the Arapaho; his several publications deal with decorative symbolismceremonial organization and religion —and tales and language b. Field workers found the trait-list approach confining, and at least part of the ethnographic data they collected turned out to be unsuitable for tabular listing.

In his later years Kroeber perhaps more than any other individual was the spokesman of the profession in the United States. Looking at the relationship between living things supperorganico their inorganic components in this way helps us to understand the relationship between culture and persons. Suerorganico curiosity repeatedly led him to enter a new field, topic, or problem on which little had been written or which lacked systematization.

Do not think of a dog as a carbon atom or a hydrocarbon molecule.

“The Superorganic,” or Kroeber’s hidden agenda.

The implications of these statements need further elucidation [ see Culture ]. A large part of the surviving cultures of the western United States were resurveyed by means of standard trait lists, and not only presences but also absences were recorded, in order to permit statistical measures of relationship between groups.

Sometimes the terms are used to describe the spatial distribution of concrete clusterings; more importantly, in explaining the peaks or climaxes in the history of culture areas and the differential frequency of geniuses at different times and places. Print this article Supeeorganico all entries for this topic Cite this article. Modern kinship studies have gone beyond Kroeber and in different directions, but the questions he raises are still kroebr and partly unanswered [ see Culture ; Kinship].

Decorative Art and Symbolism. The felicitous style of much of his writing stems duperorganico his continuing literary interests. Those are carried by individuals. Much of his work stemmed from superorgamico research in California, but he also wrote on the relationships among Australian languagesand he suggested several Middle American language groupings.

Kroeber viewed himself primarily as an ethnographer and ethnologist. For a complete bibliography, see Stewardpp.

Kroeber sees the organic and the mental as being very closely connected — indeed, he argues that intelligence may be genetically determined. How, then, could culture have originated if it is such a unique phenomena? This elaboration links humans together into communities and societies. In any case, his publications appeared over a period of sixty years, and he rarely bothered to note changes in his views or to organize his developing theoretical views into an overarching, coherent, or consistent design.


It is indeed a very tricky situation, especially since Peru lacks the kind of organized institution with clear policies and relevant experience such as FUNAI in Brazil. His interpretative contributions in archeology are primarily the extension of theoretical viewpoints he had developed in ethnology, while his analytical categories are derived from the humanities.

The concept has been attacked as mystical and as sheer reification because it fails to predict variations in individual behavior and because it is deterministic. He did not, however, teach ethnographic methodology to his students as, indeed, he had never taught archeological methodology.

Kroeber, Alfred L.

Although sjperorganico genetics was not available to him, he strongly emphasized evolutionary interpretations of fossil man and race origins. And yet it is little read today.

In the growing literature on the Hokan, Penutian, and Athapascan language families his work will continue to be basic. He reviewed most of the important books about race appearing over a quarter of a century, missing no chance to attack racist interpretations.

In his major contribution dealing with culture areas, Cultural and Natural Areas of Native North AmericaKroeber outlined 6 grand areas, 56 areas, and 43 subareas.

Then, by comparing these materials with materials from other coastal valleys, he developed a complex time sequence. The second level of complexity is composed of living things. In ethnology, Evon Vogt has recently developed a refined genetic approach to the analysis of culture areas, and similar stirrings of interest in historical reconstructions are visible among recent anthropologists. This position anticipates current work on culture as an emergent phenomena.

Indiana University Publications in Anthropology and Linguistics,