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Publisher's Summary

As the "science of humanity," anthropology can help us understand virtually anything about ourselves, from our political and economic systems, to why we get married, to how we decide to buy a particular bottle of wine. This 24-lecture course reveals the extraordinary power of anthropology - and its subspecialty, cultural anthropology - as a tool to understand the world's varied human societies, including our own.

  • Is there such a thing as progress? Are modern nations really happier and better off than "primitive" hunter-gatherer societies?
  • How common is cannibalism today? What are the different types of cannibalism, and the beliefs associated with them?
  • What's the difference between a "matriarchal" and a "matrilineal" society? Which is more common among world cultures?

These lectures will immerse you in the world of the Trobriand Islanders of Melanesia; the Yanomamö of the Brazilian Amazon; the Dobe Ju'hoansi or Kung Bushmen of Botswana and Namibia; and other indigenous peoples.

Professor Fischer leads an excursion through cultural practices that often seem, to us, quirky, exotic, and even repulsive - marriages that include as many as 20 husbands, matrilineal societies, magic spirits and witchcraft, cannibalism, and incest - practices that will make you question your assumptions about what is natural, or what is human nature.

As you review these customs, the professor describes the issues that cultural anthropologists face in dealing with them. For example, what should anthropologists do in cases such as female circumcision or ritualized rape, in which customs seriously conflict with our own sense of morality and human rights?

Professor Fischer also applies the lessons of cultural anthropology to our own culture by considering the U.S. economy and consumer behavior. Is our economy really based on rational decision making? If so, why do we eat cattle and pigs, but not horses? Why are we willing to shop around to save $10 on a clock radio, but not on a big-screen TV?

You will grow to appreciate how valuable an understanding of cultural anthropology is in a world of ever-increasing globalization, in which members of even the most remote cultures come into more frequent and more influential contact through international travel, migration, business, and the Internet.

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2014-11-19

The world is not only made of tribes

Actually the world is made of tribes, but I was left with the feeling that the book was too much focused on small tribes (interesting as they may be... and they are). I was expecting a more overarching perspective of big tribes: modern peoples and nations... it would be more useful.
It was a good anthropological exercise though...

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Smith
  • 2014-02-07

Interesting

Would you listen to Peoples and Cultures of the World again? Why?

I would like to hear these lectures again. Professor Fischer describes the culture and habits of peoples all over the globe. I loved that he guided us through the lives of those in remote villages and people who are rarely studied. These lectures were really enjoyable.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

I think for me, when he explained why cannibals think we are wrong and wasteful when we bury (instead of eat) our dead he was most compelling because it helped me to see them as humans with reasons for their actions. I never understood the "why" behind what they do. He has a way of teaching delicate subjects in an academic manner, so the listener can accept the information easier. He told stories of peoples so dramatically different than traditional Americans, I found it very interesting. I also learned that acts that can seem barbaric to us are seen in a very different light by others.

Have you listened to any of Professor Edward Fischer’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not, but would like to hear a sequel.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, I think it is too long for that, but I did listen to one a day and really looked forward to each one.

Any additional comments?

Really fascinating, many good lessons on human nature. I enjoyed it very much.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Marjee
  • 2014-11-19

Great refresher

I've skimmed many of the topics covered in this lecture during my graduate school days, but Professor Fischer's passion for this topic enhanced my understanding of the cultures mentioned here and his framing of Anthropology as a discipline added enormously to my understanding of the subject matter. Listening to this course gave me exactly what I had hoped for: a fascinating, globe-trotting escape into the lives of other people I will never meet and an opportunity to marvel at our shared, human experiences.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • CJFLA
  • 2015-01-06

Disappointing.

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

The title of this series makes you think the lectures will be interesting. And, to a degree, they are. However, they deal with "out of the way" cultures that affect very few of us, and do not cover the scope of humanity. There is nothing of consequence discussed of the world's major cultures, just smaller tribes around the globe. While it is somewhat interesting, it really doesn't offer insight into humanity to any degree. Be aware, as well, this is an older series. At one point the author/reader mentions there are 6 billion people on earth (current population is 7.2 billion). Because of this, I feel there may have been more recent discoveries in the field which get no mention in this series of lectures.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Jon M. Wilson
  • 2016-05-03

Facinating

I've listened to many of the Great Courses-- and this one tanks very near the top. I've never studied Sociology or Anthropology-- but I found these lectures insightful, interesting, and engaging. Highly recommend!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Donna
  • 2015-06-03

A fresh and engaging look many cultures

What did you love best about Peoples and Cultures of the World?

I was totally engaged in the process and went back to listen again and again. With each listening I was learning new material

What was one of the most memorable moments of Peoples and Cultures of the World?

; coming of age stories
challenged views of maternal instinct, how language tells so much about our culture

Any additional comments?

is there a part two and a part three to this course? Would love to take it!!
Thank you for a great and successful effort.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Stef
  • 2018-07-04

Fantastic

Professor Fischer is so excited and interested in his topic that you cannot help absorbing his enthusiasm. Trully broad but still in depth. Great lecture.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-04-28

Informative

It was an informative lecture with some interesting chapters, but it focused more on indigenous groups and tribes rather than national culture.

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  • Constance
  • 2016-11-08

Excellent- great lecturer and interesting subject matter

I really enjoyed this course. It was my 3rd of the Great Courses or whatever and my favorite thus far. I found myself excited to listen and often multi tasked so I could continue a lecture. I also found myself re-listening to many that I found extremely interesting and informative.

If you're only picking one of these courses to listen to, this should be the one. The breadth of anthropology essentially allows for any history to be referenced and thus made this an amazing listen.

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  • Karolina
  • 2016-11-03

Good lecture

Good lecture. Gives a wider view on our culture also shows grow and development of different civilizations. Topic it self is huge, and it is hard to tell about everything but, nevertheless author gave an interesting lecture.