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MAN-001: Social Anthropology

MAN-001: Social Anthropology

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2023-24

If you are looking for MAN-001 IGNOU Solved Assignment solution for the subject Social Anthropology, you have come to the right place. MAN-001 solution on this page applies to 2023-24 session students studying in MAAN courses of IGNOU.

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Assignment Code: MAN 001/AST/TMA/2023-24

Course Code: MAN-001

Assignment Name: Social Anthropology

Year: 2023-2024

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

Note: There are two sections ‘A’ and ‘B’. Attempt five questions and at least two questions from each section. All questions carry equal marks. The word limit for 20 marks is 500 words and for 10 marks is 250 words.




Q1) Discuss the intellectual foundations for the emergence of a science of society. Discuss the history and growth of social anthropology as a subject.

Ans) The emergence of a science of society, often referred to as sociology, can be traced back to the intellectual foundations laid during the Enlightenment period and subsequent historical developments. Additionally, the field of social anthropology has evolved alongside sociology, contributing to our understanding of human societies and cultures. Here, we will explore the intellectual foundations that gave rise to the science of society and delve into the history and growth of social anthropology.


Intellectual Foundations for the Emergence of Sociology:

a)     Enlightenment Thinkers: The Enlightenment, spanning the 17th and 18th centuries, was a period marked by a focus on reason, empiricism, and the scientific method. Thinkers like Auguste Comte, often regarded as the father of sociology, emphasized the application of scientific principles to the study of society. Comte envisioned sociology as a positivist science that could systematically analyse and understand social phenomena.

b)     Industrial Revolution: The rapid social changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries highlighted the need for a systematic study of society. Urbanization, economic shifts, and changing social structures prompted scholars to investigate the impact of these transformations on individuals and communities.

c)     Social Contract and Political Philosophy: Influential political philosophers such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Hobbes explored the concept of the social contract and the nature of society. Their works laid the groundwork for understanding the relationship between individuals and society, providing intellectual foundations for the development of sociology.


History and Growth of Social Anthropology:

a)     Early Ethnography: Social anthropology, a closely related field, emerged as a distinct discipline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Early anthropologists like Franz Boas and Bronisław Malinowski conducted ethnographic studies, living among and studying various societies to understand their cultures, customs, and social structures.

b)     Functionalism and Structuralism: Structural functionalism, associated with Emile Durkheim, and structuralism, as developed by Claude Lévi-Strauss, influenced social anthropology. Functionalism emphasized the role of social institutions in maintaining social order, while structuralism focused on the underlying structures and patterns in cultural phenomena.

c)     Cultural Relativism: Anthropologists like Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict contributed to the development of cultural relativism, emphasizing the importance of understanding cultures within their own contexts. This approach challenged ethnocentrism and encouraged the study of societies without imposing external value judgments.

d)     Post-Modern and Post-Colonial Perspectives: In the latter half of the 20th century, social anthropology witnessed the rise of post-modern and post-colonial perspectives. Scholars like Clifford Geertz and Edward Said critiqued traditional anthropological methods and examined the impact of colonialism on the study of non-Western societies.

e)     Contemporary Themes: Contemporary social anthropology explores a broad range of themes, including globalization, migration, identity, and the impact of technology on societies. The field has adapted to address current challenges, incorporating interdisciplinary approaches and engaging with issues such as environmental sustainability and human rights.


Interconnections between Sociology and Social Anthropology:

a)     Shared Concerns: Both sociology and social anthropology share a common concern with understanding human societies. While sociology often focuses on large-scale social structures and institutions, social anthropology tends to emphasize the detailed study of specific cultures and communities.

b)     Methodological Overlaps: The methodologies employed in sociology and social anthropology often overlap, with both disciplines utilizing qualitative research methods such as participant observation, interviews, and ethnographic studies. This shared methodological foundation allows for a complementary understanding of social phenomena.

c)     Interdisciplinary Engagement: Contemporary scholarship increasingly sees collaborations and interdisciplinary engagements between sociology and social anthropology. Issues like globalization, cultural exchange, and social justice require insights from both fields to provide comprehensive analyses.


Q2) Define marriage. Critically discuss the changing dynamics in marriage.

Ans) Marriage, a social institution found in virtually every human society, traditionally refers to a legally and socially sanctioned union between two individuals, typically recognized by religious or cultural practices. It involves a commitment to a shared life, mutual support, and often the raising of children. The specific dynamics of marriage can vary widely across cultures and historical periods.


Changing Dynamics in Marriage: Over the past few decades, the institution of marriage has undergone significant transformations globally. These changes are reflective of shifts in societal values, economic structures, gender roles, and individual aspirations. Here, we critically discuss some of the key dynamics that have evolved in the context of marriage.


Shift in Gender Roles: Traditional gender roles within marriage, where the husband was often the primary breadwinner and the wife assumed caregiving responsibilities, have witnessed substantial changes. With increased gender equality, women have entered the workforce in larger numbers, challenging traditional role expectations. Modern marriages often emphasize shared responsibilities and decision-making, blurring traditional gender boundaries.


Delayed Marriage and Changing Priorities: Societal trends indicate a delay in the age at which individuals choose to marry. Factors such as pursuing education, establishing careers, and seeking personal fulfilment are often prioritized over early marriage. This shift reflects changing societal norms and an increasing focus on individual autonomy and self-discovery.


Rise of Non-Traditional Family Structures: The concept of a nuclear family (parents and children) as the norm is evolving. Non-traditional family structures, including single-parent families, cohabitation without marriage, and same-sex marriages, are becoming more widely accepted. These changes challenge conventional notions of family and redefine the meaning of marriage.


Changing Attitudes Toward Divorce: Attitudes toward divorce have shifted, and divorce rates have increased in many societies. The stigma associated with divorce has lessened, allowing individuals to exit marriages that may be incompatible or unfulfilling. This change underscores a growing emphasis on individual happiness and well-being.


Technology and Long-Distance Relationships: Advances in technology have facilitated communication and connectivity, enabling individuals to engage in long-distance relationships. Couples may live in different locations for professional or personal reasons while maintaining emotional closeness through digital means. This redefines the spatial dynamics of marriage and challenges the traditional notion of cohabitation.


Changing Economic Realities: Economic factors play a significant role in shaping marital dynamics. In societies where economic independence is increasingly valued, individuals may prioritize financial stability and career advancement before entering into marriage. Economic considerations can impact power dynamics within marriages and influence decisions related to family planning.


Focus on Individual Fulfilment: Modern marriages often prioritize individual fulfilment and personal happiness. Couples may seek companionship, emotional support, and shared experiences, emphasizing the importance of personal growth and self-actualization within the marital relationship.


Redefinition of Marital Expectations: The expectations individuals bring to marriage have evolved. While companionship and emotional support remain important, modern couples often expect equality, communication, and the pursuit of shared goals. Marriages are increasingly viewed as partnerships based on mutual respect and understanding.


Q3) Discuss structuralism with reference to Claude Lévi-Strauss’s work.

Ans) Structuralism, a theoretical framework that emerged in the mid-20th century, seeks to understand the underlying structures that shape human experiences, behaviours, and cultures. Claude Lévi-Strauss, a French anthropologist, played a foundational role in developing structuralist thought, particularly in the field of cultural anthropology. His work, often associated with the structuralist movement, introduced innovative ideas that influenced various disciplines.


Structures and Binary Oppositions:

Lévi-Strauss proposed that underlying all cultural phenomena are deep structures governed by binary oppositions. These are fundamental pairs of concepts (e.g., nature/culture, raw/cooked) that organize human thought. He argued that these oppositions are universal and form the basis of symbolic meaning in diverse cultures.


Myth and Mythology:

Lévi-Strauss focused extensively on the analysis of myths. He considered myths as expressions of deep structures, revealing the universal mental processes that underlie human cognition. Myths, according to Lévi-Strauss, are not arbitrary narratives but intricate systems of signification.


Elementary Structures of Kinship:

In his seminal work "The Elementary Structures of Kinship," Lévi-Strauss examined kinship systems as symbolic structures. He introduced the concept of "alliance" to explain the exchange of women between groups as a fundamental principle shaping social structures. This work laid the groundwork for his broader structuralist approach.



Lévi-Strauss introduced the term "bricolage" to describe the way in which cultures construct meaning by creatively combining existing cultural elements. Like a bricoleur (handyman) using available tools to build something new, cultures use existing symbols and structures to create meaning.


Contributions of Lévi-Strauss to Structuralism:

a)     Universal Structures:Lévi-Strauss sought to identify universal structures that underlie the diversity of human cultures. By focusing on binary oppositions and deep structures, he aimed to uncover the commonalities in human thought processes, challenging ethnocentrism and emphasizing the unity of the human mind.

b)     Cultural Relativism: While identifying universal structures, Lévi-Strauss also acknowledged the importance of cultural specificity. He argued for cultural relativism, emphasizing that each culture's structures must be understood within its own context. This nuanced perspective countered the tendency to evaluate cultures based on Western norms.

c)     Application of Linguistic Models: Lévi-Strauss applied principles from structural linguistics, particularly the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, to anthropology. He viewed kinship systems and myths as systems of communication with their own grammar and syntax. This application of linguistic models to cultural analysis was a hallmark of structuralist methodology.

d)     Influence on Subsequent Scholarship: Lévi-Strauss's structuralist approach had a profound impact on various disciplines beyond anthropology, including literary theory, psychology, and sociology. His emphasis on underlying structures and the study of sign systems influenced the development of poststructuralism and postmodernism.


Critiques of Structuralism:

a)     Overemphasis on Universals: Critics argue that structuralism tends to oversimplify cultural diversity by seeking universal structures. This approach may neglect the unique historical, social, and economic contexts that shape individual cultures.

b)     Neglect of Agency: Structuralism has been criticized for downplaying individual agency and subjectivity. By focusing on overarching structures, it may overlook the role of human agency in shaping cultural practices and meanings.

c)     Static Nature: Some critics argue that structuralism portrays cultures as static and overlooks historical change. The emphasis on deep structures may limit the analysis of how cultures evolve over time.




Q4) Write a note on Neo-evolutionism.

Ans) Society's evolutionary progress. This focus on energy and technology provided a materialistic basis for understanding cultural change.


Critique of Eurocentrism:

The ethnocentrism that was prevalent in earlier evolutionary theories was something that Neo-evolutionism was sensitive to. Academics acknowledged the existence of a wide variety of human cultures and refuted the notion that Western nations were the epitome of evolution. The goal of neo-evolutionism was to respect the distinct paths that different cultures have taken without placing them in a hierarchical order. This was accomplished by adopting a multilinear approach.


Figures in Neo-Evolutionism:

a)     Leslie White (1900-1975): White stands out from other people because he places a strong emphasis on energy and technology as cultural evolution drivers. He claimed that the ability of a society to harness and utilise energy in an efficient manner is the greatest indicator of that culture's level of growth. The succeeding method of anthropological thought was impacted by this approach, which is known as cultural materialism.

b)     Julian Steward (1902-1972): The interaction between different cultures and the surroundings in which they exist was the primary emphasis of Steward's cultural ecology. In his argument, he stated that in order to understand cultural evolution, it is necessary to examine how cultures adapt to different ecological situations. Through his studies, Steward created the foundation for the field of ecological anthropology.

c)     Elman Service (1915-1996): One of the contributions that Service made was the creation of a typology that categorises societies according to the political organisation of their governments. Bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and states were all included in this typology, which served as a framework for evaluating the many levels of complexity that exist within different cultures.

d)     Marshall Sahlins (1930-2021): Sahlins criticised overly simplified models of evolution and underlined the significance of comprehending cultures according to their own standards. Through his contributions to the concept of cultural relativism, he encouraged anthropologists to refrain from putting Western categories on societies that were not of Western origin.


Critiques and Limitations:

a)     Simplification of Complexity: Neo-evolutionism has been attacked for oversimplifying the complexity of cultural development, despite the fact that it has addressed some of the criticisms that have been levelled against classical evolutionism. When cultures are attempted to be categorised into neat evolutionary stages, it is possible to overlook the complex nature of social change.

b)     Environmental Determinism: The emphasis placed on cultural ecology gave rise to worries over environmental determinism, which suggested that societies were essentially shaped by the environment in which they were situated. Those who disagreed with this viewpoint stated that it failed to take into account the part that human agency and internal social dynamics played in the development of culture.

c)     Inadequate Attention to History: The emphasis that neo-evolutionism placed on synchronic analysis, which involves analysing societies at a particular instant in time, occasionally resulted in the marginalisation of historical processes. Because of this limitation, it was difficult to gain a more full grasp of the temporal components of cultural variation.

Q5) What is shamanism? Describe the various types of shamans.

Ans) Shamanism is a spiritual and cultural practice that involves a practitioner, known as a shaman, acting as an intermediary between the human and spirit worlds. Rooted in the belief that there are unseen realms inhabited by spirits, shamans engage in rituals, ceremonies, and journeys to connect with these spiritual dimensions for healing, guidance, and maintaining the balance of the community.


The practice of shamanism is diverse, with variations found across different cultures and regions, yet it shares common elements such as the shaman's role as a mediator between the visible and invisible worlds.


Spiritual Mediation:

At the core of shamanism is the belief that a shaman has the ability to enter altered states of consciousness to communicate with spirits. This communication is not only for the shaman's personal benefit but also for the well-being of the community. The shaman's role involves addressing spiritual imbalances, healing the sick, and providing guidance in matters of significance.


Journeying and Ecstasy:

Shamans often induce altered states of consciousness through various techniques, such as rhythmic drumming, chanting, dancing, or the use of psychoactive substances. In these altered states, the shaman embarks on a spiritual journey to navigate the realms of spirits, seeking insights, healing, or solutions to communal issues.


Symbolic Cosmology:

Shamanic traditions often incorporate a symbolic cosmology that divides the universe into multiple realms, including the upper, lower, and middle worlds. These realms are inhabited by spirits, deities, and ancestors. The shaman's journey takes them through these realms, each associated with specific qualities and powers.


Healing Practices:

Healing is a central aspect of shamanic practice. Shamans use their connection with the spirit world to diagnose and treat illnesses, both physical and spiritual. Healing ceremonies may involve rituals, herbal remedies, or energy work to restore balance and harmony.


Ritual Tools and Objects:

Shamans often use specific tools and objects in their rituals, such as drums, rattles, masks, or symbolic artifacts. These items are considered conduits for spiritual energy and aid the shaman in navigating the spirit realms.


Types of Shamans:

a)     Healing Shamans: These shamans specialize in diagnosing and treating illnesses. They work with both physical and spiritual ailments, using their connection with spirits to bring about healing. Healing shamans may employ various techniques, including herbal remedies, energy work, and rituals.

b)     Divination Shamans: Divination shamans focus on gaining insights into the future, solving problems, or answering questions through divinatory practices. These practices may involve reading signs in nature, interpreting dreams, or using specific tools like bones, cards, or scrying objects.

c)     Weather Shamans: Weather shamans are concerned with influencing and predicting weather patterns. In many traditional societies, weather conditions have profound implications for agriculture, hunting, and overall survival. Weather shamans use rituals and ceremonies to seek favourable weather or mitigate natural disasters.

d)     Soul Retrieval Shamans: Soul retrieval is a belief that a person's soul may fragment or be lost during traumatic experiences. Soul retrieval shamans specialize in journeying to the spirit world to retrieve and reintegrate lost soul parts, promoting healing and wholeness.

e)     Ecstatic or Trance Dance Shamans: Shamans in some cultures use ecstatic dance as a means to induce altered states of consciousness. The rhythmic movements and repetitive patterns help the shaman enter trance states, facilitating communication with spirits and enabling transformative experiences.

f)      Ancestor Shamans: Ancestor shamans focus on connecting with and seeking guidance from the spirits of deceased ancestors. They play a crucial role in maintaining ancestral traditions, resolving familial issues, and ensuring the well-being of the community through ancestral wisdom.

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