How to answer questions in new pattern.

July 29, 2016

In answering UPSC questions, a student has to adopt an approach different

from academics[B.A,M.A] in which nature of answers are usually long. In

UPSC where question requires limited words, answers should be precise,

lucid, and logical .so unnecessary details and theoretical views (Book View)

of the topics should be avoided. The facts and ideas should be presented

in summarised form in simple language with proper examples, in

limited words and in limited space in ‘question-cum- answer booklet’

in the new pattern.


Over the years just as cricket format changed from Test match, T-50

to T-20, the nature of UPSC questions over the years (from 1981 to 2015)

has changed from essay type to short questions (in 150 words and

350words). Previously, in answering the essay type question, a strategy of

maintaining a balance between book view and field view was suitable. In

changed scenario (after 2011), writing large number of short questions, a

strategy focusing on field view is rather more important. (The concept of

Book view and Field view was propounded by M.N. Srinivas, on which

question has been asked in the year 2012 UPSC).

For an example an answer of incest tabu based on book view and other

answer of incest tabu based on field view which is more relevant is given



Question No1 :-

Answer of incest tabu based on book view:-

Incest Tabu:- The prohibition of sex between culturally close

relatives is known as incest tabu. The prohibition of sex of marriage

among family member in almost all societies and prohibition of

marriage within clan among tribal and within gotra in Hindus, all

come within the purview of incest Tabu. Incest tabu is universal

except royalty of Egypt, Inca of Peru and Hawaiian Islander.

Explanation of incest Tabu

1. Biological explanation of incest:- Tabu on Incest inhibits close in-

breeding and check biological deterioration. The Mating between

biologically and culturally close relatives leads to morbidity,

mortality and genetic malformation. So Tabu on incest protects

mankind from the harmful effects of incest.

2. Westermark’s instinctive theory:-  Westermarck stated that human

beings raised in the intimacy of the same family circle have an

instinctive aversion to sexual relation among themselves. Most

anthropologists of today have rejected this hypothesis.

3. Functional Structural explanations of incest Tabu :- There are two

type of functional structural explanations of incest tabu.

a) Malinowaski held the psychological functional proposition of

incest Tabu. He emphasised that through universal incest tabu, the

disruptive effect of sexual competition within the Kinship group is

checked and the solidarity of the foundation unit of the society is


b) The other theory whose major proponents are sir Edward Tylor,

Leslie white and Levi-strauss emphasised the principles of social

structure and importance of marital alliance as a means of

broadening the scope of social integration.

4. The demographic theory of the incest tabu:- Anthropologist Mariam

slater has proposed a demographic theory of incest Tabu which

argues simply that in the earliest hominid groups, incestuous matings

were unlikely or not possible because no sexual mates were available

in the primary family. The theory claims that in earliest hominids, the

most of the people of the most of the time mated out, not because of

problem of inbreeding and competition, but in order to mate at all.  

These different explanations of incest Tabu are complementary. But

among these theoretical views (Book View) student have to develop

field view which is “anthropologically” more relevant.


Answer of Incest Tabu based on field view which is anthropologically

more relevant

Ans ; What is incest tabu same as above. The explanation of incest is

social and biological.

The social reason of imposing tabu on incest is that incest tabu promotes

intra and inter-families co-operation. Incest tabu provides stability in the

family. If father and son and mother and daughter compete and conflict for

the same sex partner, then family will collapse. So to avoid sexual

competition and conflict among family members, Tabu on incest has been


Tabu on incest also promotes inter-families and group co-operation.

Because of tabu on incest, family members have to marry outside their

family. In this way networking among different families and clans develops.

The Biological explanation of incest Tabu is that Incest tabu inhibits close

inbreeding and check biological deterioration. The Mating between

biologically and culturally close relatives leads to morbidity, mortality and

genetic malformation. So Tabu on incest protects mankind from the

harmful effects of incest.

Note:- In Anthropology there is plenty of material available in books and on

internet. Students have to avoid the problem of plenty by discarding un-

necessary details and theoretical discussion and try to focus on what is

anthropologically significant.


Next illustration of Book view and Field view:-

Book view of the concept of cultural relativism

The doctrine of cultural relativism, emphasing particularism in culture was

developed by American anthropologists such as Franz Boas, M. Herskovits


Culture relativism refers to the fact that no culture is superior, and no

culture is inferior. In fact each culture is unique and should be accepted as

it exists, without any value judgment. The cultural relativism of

anthropology emphasizing the principle of mutual self-respect towards

each other cultural values , Language and religion is very helpful in solving

the problem of communalism. The communalism, racism and regionalism

are actually problems of misunderstanding of superiority of one’s religion

and race. Anthropology solves this problem of ethnocentricism through its

principle of cultural relativism that no culture is superior or inferior.

The cultural relativism theory sustained a setback with the revival of neo-

evolutionism. Robert Redfield was one of the earlier American

Anthropologists to realise the danger in supporting cultural relativism. He

was strongly of the opinion that the doctrine of ethical neutrality and

benevolent attitude of scientists to all variants of value system cannot be

acceptable, for it would mean an equally benevolent attitude to value

system of colonial people and the value system of the Nazis and value

system of ISIS (Islamic terrorist group).

Such things as human sacrifice and witchcraft under the spell of religion,

cannibalism in central African tribal, head-hunting among Naga also

bitterly put a question mark on the foundation of cultural relativism.

The above theoretical discussion of cultural relativism, starting with who

propounded the concept, what it is and ending with critical appraisal of it,

presents a book view of cultural relativism, relevant from the point of view

of academics but not relevant in civil services exam where the questions

asked in previous year requires focus on field view as follows.


Question No2:-

The question in 2013 – “Why has the concept cultural relativism been

so dear to anthropologist”.

Answer:- The concept of cultural relativism is that no culture is superior

and no culture is inferior, but every culture is unique and must be accepted

as it is, in its socio-cultural and environmental context. Cultural relativism

can solve the problem of communalism and racism by rejecting the

ethnocentric superiority of one’s religion and race.

Cultural relativism provided a new dimension to the study of tribal

societies to look them in unbiased way. Presently, tribal are losing interest

in dance, dormitory, polyandry etc and not enjoying their cultural rights

mainly due to ethnocentric approach of non-tribals.

So principle of cultural relativism protect the tribals from violation of their

cultural rights by instilling a sense in non-tribals that tribal cultural is

equally valued. Cultural relativism is also relevant in solving the dilemma of

the globalised world by promoting a sense of respect and tolerance

towards other appearance, language, style of life and ensuring a life of

peaceful co-existence among them.


Question no 3 :-

“Anthropology in the service of humanity” (1987 UPSC)

Ans:- Humanity, today, is suffering from many problems. Whereas people

in the third world are suffering from poverty, illiteracy and diseases,

mankind as a whole is suffering from the problem of communalism, racism,

regionalism etc.

Anthropology intends to solve these problems of humanity through its ho

principle of holism and cultural relativism.

The holistic principle seeks to solve the problem of poverty by emphasizing

to make development plan keeping in view, socio-cultural context and

environment (Nature-Man- spirit complex) of the people.

The communalism, racism and regionalism are actually problem of

misunderstanding of superiority of one’s religion. Anthropology solves this

problem of ethno-centricism through its principle of cultural relativism

that no culture is superior or inferior. Every culture or race is ecological


Anthropology applies genetic principle for betterment of humanity. It

applies human DNA profiling and gene mapping in the prevention and cure

of disease. Anthropology also serves humanity by preventing life-style

disease (Diabetics, hypertension, smoking).

Question no 4-

Family as universal social group/institution asked in


Ans;- Family as a group consisting of husband, wife and children

exists in all societies ,from the simplest Eskimo ,Bushman, Kadar of Kerala

and Australian aboriginals to the complex western societies. In the

Andamanese, Onge,Eskimo the Fuegian of SouthAmerica,Bushman of south

Africa live in semi-nomadic band;they have neither lineage and clan nor

political organisation .The only social unit worth- speaking among them is

the family.

Among the smaller tribe such as Maler Paharia clan is nonexistent, but the

family exists. The families constitute lineage and the lineages constitute

Maler society .

In largest tribes such as the Munda,Oraon,Santhal,Khasis of Meghalya the

family exists and constitutes the lineage which constitutes the clan. Thus in

the social structure of the tribes,family occupies pivotal position.

In nontribal societies of the Hindus Muslims and Christians etc the family

exists as an important social unit .

The reasons behind the universality of family is that the family in all

societies makes following contributions-

1.Reproduction-family through reproduction helps continuation of human


2.Socialisation-through socialisation family transforms a new born from a

biological being to a social being.

3.Economic function-family serves as an unit of production and

consumption .The family members co-operate each other and consume


4 Political function - The family in all societies is an important agency of

social control .The family persuades and after that compels members to

comply with rules of the societies.

5 Religious function-Through some ritual performance, family ensures

member’s well-being and through participating in community ceremony

and worship promotes social solidarity in all societies .

Thus, because of above contributions, family is regarded as an universal

social group/institution. However, some anthropologist such as Kathlean

Gough on the basis of matrilineal but polyandrous Nayar of Kerela

disagreed with the idea of the universality of family. In Nayar society,just

after marriage, divorce occurs.The marriage ritual authorises the married

woman to have sex with any man she likes and children born become the

legitimate members of matrilineage.

Thus in Nayar,the husband is not a member of family which goes against

the definition of family as a group of husband, wife and children.

Other anthropologists such as Prof. L.P. Vidyarthy and G.P. Murdock reject

Kathleans’ view that family does not exist among Nayar. According to

Vidyarthy,the matri-focal family consisting of mother and children exists in

Nayar. According to Murdock, the features of family –

1.Common residence

2. Economic co-operation

3.Reproduction also exist in Nayar family ,so the concept of family exists in

Nayar and the family is universal.

Thus the dominant opinion among anthropologists is that family is

universal. In fact the way family satisfies needs of its members ,no other

social units can do. Spiro’s study of the failure of kibbutz in Israel as

alternative to family also confirms universality of family.


Question No5:-

“Society and Culture(Question 2015)”:

Ans:- Society may be defined as a group of people occupying a specific territory,

depending on each other for survival and sharing a common culture,on the

other hand culture refers to belief,art,custom,law,morals and the total way of

the life of people.

Society and culture are intertwined. No human society exists without its

culture. So every society has a culture that distinguishes it from other society.

The members of the society must learn the way of life, that is, the culture of

their society through enculturation. Culture defines the relationship between

members of the society so that the peace of society is maintained and the

goals of the society are achieved. Since culture defines accepted ways of

behaving for a members of society, behaviour such as eating differ among the

members of different society. For a member of Hindu society, beef is taboo,

but members of Muslim, Christian and members of some tribal societies eat

beef. A Hindu student touches the feet of his teacher or elders and seeks his

blessing, but in Muslim society and culture, touching feet is taboo. In Muslim

society and culture, a person can bow down only before God (Allah). If he bows

down before a person whether he is teacher or father/mother, it is disrespect

to Allah to equate human with Him.

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