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
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
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.
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,
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
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 –
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.
“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.