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on September 12, 2010 at 10:06:07 pm


The anthropologist, Franz Boas, founded boasian anthropology: who introduced the idea that culture was what differed between races and ethnicities and, therefore, was what must be studied to understand humanity. Boasian anthropology changed the idea of culture, as a whole, from what a person ate, drank, religious views and music tastes, to the complete “mental and physical reactions and activities that characterize the individuals of a social group.” [1]


Cultural Relativism-

  • ·      The idea that a person’s activities or beliefs should be understood in the terms and values of their own culture, not someone else’s. [2]
  • ·      Cultural Relativism brought attention to the problem of Ethnocentrism; which is the belief that one’s own culture is more valuable or better than another. [3]
  • ·      Cultural relativism led to the formation of ethnology, a comparison of cultures across the world and across all divisions of humanity.


Diffusion vs. Independent Invention-

  • ·      Diffusion is the spread of an idea from culture to culture and independent invention is where the culture forms a new idea on it’s own without any influence from another culture. [4]
  • ·      Geography would infer the independent invention of multiple things, such as agriculture, because it developed in different continents at the same time and there was no trans-oceanic communication. [5]
  • ·      However, things such as customs or rituals could be transmitted through neighboring tribes through diffusion. 
  • ·      Boas deemed it “necessary” to demand “proof of historical relation” before accepting the theory of diffusion over the theory of independent invention. [6]






  1. Franz, Boas. "Race, Language, Culture." pg. 225
  2. Lecture, Professor Carole McGranagan, ANTH 2100 Cultural Anthropology, August 2010.
  3. Lecture, Professor Carole McGranagan, ANTH 2100 Cultural Anthropology, August 2010.
  4. Conrad, Kottak. "Cultural Anthropology: Appreciating Cultural Diversity." McGraw Hill. 2010. pg. 64
  5. Franz, Boas. "Race, Language, Culture." pg. 225
  6. Franz, Boas. "Race, Language, and Culture." pg. 254

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