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Traditionally, anthropology has been distinguished from

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Traditionally, anthropology has been distinguished from [#permalink] New post 25 Mar 2014, 14:21
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Traditionally, anthropology has been distinguished from history by the presence or absence of written documents in the societies studied. Beyond question, the absence of written documents in many primitive societies has forced the anthropologist to develop methods and techniques appropriate to the study of activities that remain “imperfectly” conscious on all the levels in which they are expressed. Apart from the fact that this limitation is often overcome by oral tradition (so rich among certain African and Oceanic peoples), it should not be regarded as a rigid barrier. Anthropology is equally concerned with cultures that employ writing, such as those of ancient Meso-America, the Arab world, and the Far East. Similarly, historians have reconstructed the history of a people like the Zulu, who have never known a written language.

Ultimately, distinctions between these fields are a matter of degree, not of kind. The anthropologist is interested in unwritten data, not because the peoples studied are incapable of writing, but because the discipline’s principal concerns differ from the information people ordinarily record on stone or paper. Historians find the concrete examples particularly illuminating regarding transition from the explicit to the implicit. Both disciplines seek an understanding of man in the theater of culture. The complementary nature of their inquiries suggests that neither will achieve that understanding without the other.

1) The primary purpose of this passage is to

A) mediate a contentious dispute between two disciplines
B) describe the underlying connections between two different academic fields
C) delineate the ways in which anthropology and history diverge
D) argue that the essential difference between history and anthropology lies in the presence or absence of written documents
E) criticize anthropologists for failing to acknowledge the contributions of historians

OA:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
B


2) The author uses the phrase "theater of culture" in paragraph two to describe

A) the richness and complexity of oral traditions as compared to the written traditions of the west
B) the momentous historical events and epochs that anthropologists have previously ignored
C) the artistic and religious aspects of a pre-literate society that are used to piece together its history
D) the contextual beliefs and behaviors that must be studied in order to arrive at a more complete understanding of human nature
E) the necessity for social scientists to consider the spoken word as well as written documents in their study of society

OA:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
D


3) According to the author, the presence of written data is

A) useful in addressing the confusion between anthropology and history
B) not important, because historians have described the history of cultures who have never had a written language
C) the single essential element used in determining whether a culture can be subjected to study by historians
D) functions as an important check on the techniques and methods used to assess cultures in Africa and Oceania
E) not a consideration in determining whether a society is appropriate for anthropological study

OA:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
E

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Re: Traditionally, anthropology has been distinguished from [#permalink] New post 25 Apr 2014, 18:33
This passage was relatively short , however understanding answers to questions was equally difficult.
Please provide the explanations of the 3 answers.

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Re: Traditionally, anthropology has been distinguished from [#permalink] New post 29 Apr 2014, 21:30
Expert's post
In this passage, the author is showing how a traditional distinction doesn't hold up. The distinction in question is that history studies societies that produce writing, while anthropology studies societies that don't. Paragraph 1 explains this distinction but then shows examples of work that doesn't follow that rule. Paragraph 2 shows how the two disciplines pursue similar goals through somewhat different means.

1) We want an answer that show that the distinction mentioned at the beginning is not really correct.
A) There's no contentious dispute (i.e. fighting) between the disciplines.
B) Yes, these two fields are connected, not sharply separated.
C) This passage is more about similarities than differences. Also, to "delineate the ways" would be to provide a clear list of the ways in which the two fields were different, rather than just to focus on one difference in approach (written vs. oral). We're told that the two disciplines have different concerns, but we're not given a clear accounting of what those concerns are.
D) This is the opposite of the author's point.
E) This just doesn't happen. There is no criticism of anthropologists, nor is there anything about acknowledging (or failing to acknowledge) the contributions of historians.
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Expert Post
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Joined: 22 Mar 2011
Posts: 392
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Kudos [?]: 244 [0], given: 11

Re: Traditionally, anthropology has been distinguished from [#permalink] New post 29 Apr 2014, 22:16
Expert's post
2) This is a troublesome one, as I'm not sure it's possible to predict the answer based on the text alone. It's very helpful to have some outside understanding of what the passage is getting at. For this reason, I don't think this question would make it into the real GMAT. Still, while the passage doesn't really supply additional information to support our decision, we might get the right answer by understanding that "theater" is being used metaphorically to mean "context." The idea is that the "theater of culture" is the broader context in which both disciplines are trying to understand humans. With this understanding, (D) is the only choice that works.

Note that (A) - (C) are very specific and do not clearly point to practices of both disciplines. (E) seems to be pointing to the author's main point--that there is not such a clear divide between disciplines in terms of spoken vs. written language--but the author never says that both aspects must be used by the same scientists, and in any case, this idea doesn't connect to the phrase "theater of culture."
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Expert Post
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Joined: 22 Mar 2011
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Kudos [?]: 244 [0], given: 11

Re: Traditionally, anthropology has been distinguished from [#permalink] New post 29 Apr 2014, 22:46
Expert's post
3) The author is disputing the idea that the presence of data means that a society will be studied by historians rather than anthropologists.

A) opposite
B) "Not important" is too extreme. The presence of written data can still be important--it just doesn't stop us from doing anthropology.
C) opposite and very extreme--you could probably cross this answer choice out without even reading the passage!
D) there's no support for this
E) Exactly. Anthropologists can study a society whether or not it has writing.
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Re: Traditionally, anthropology has been distinguished from   [#permalink] 29 Apr 2014, 22:46
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