The Origin of Cultures: How Individual Choices Make Cultures Change (Key Questions in Anthropology)

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9781598740684: The Origin of Cultures: How Individual Choices Make Cultures Change (Key Questions in Anthropology)
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What makes a 17-year-old girl decide to wrap a bomb around her body, walk into a supermarket, and detonate it, killing herself and an 18-year old girl shopping there? In this provocative and important book, renowned anthropologist W. Penn Handwerker shows that individual choices, from the fatal to the mundane, are fundamentally questions of culture―what it is, where it comes from, and the complex ways it changes and evolves. In accessible and engaging prose, he walks readers through the process of how the human imagination produces new things, shaped by culture and experience but also constantly evolving in unpredictable ways. He shows how understanding cultural dynamics, which explain one girl’s decision to murder and another girl’s decision to shop, will help us address critical policy questions, from reducing the likelihood of terrorist attacks to responding to global epidemics and addressing climate change.

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In this provocative and important book, renowned anthropologist W. Penn Handwerker shows that individual choices, from the fatal to the mundane, are fundamentally questions of culture—what it is, where it comes from, and the complex ways it changes and evolves.

About the Author:

W. Penn Handwerker (Ph.D., Oregon, 1971), Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, trained as a general anthropologist with an emphasis on the intersection of biological and cultural anthropology, and has published in all five fields (applied, archaeology, biological, cultural, and linguistics) of anthropology. He conducted field research in West Africa (Liberia), the West Indies (Barbados, Antigua, and St. Lucia), the Russian Far East, and various portions of the contemporary United States (Oregon, California’s North Coast, Connecticut, and Alaska). He developed new methods with which to study cultures while he studied topics that included the causes and consequences of entrepreneurship, corruption, human fertility, and both inter- and intra-generational power differences. His current research focuses on the possibility that the most effective collective action for community sustainability reflects the cultural assumption that each person knows what's best for him or herself.

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