Focused Ethnographic Bibliography for the

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for the

Standard Cross-Cultural

From World Cultures

Original Author: Douglas R. White

Prepared by

William Divale
Fall 2000



Focused Ethnographic Bibliography: Standard Cross-Cultural Sample.

World Cultures, Vol. 2(1). Douglas R. White (University of California, Irvine)


Assessment of Sources




Ethical Considerations


Table 1. Listing of Societies in the Standard Sample


Bibliography of Coded Studies Using the Standard Sample


Ethnographic Bibliography of the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample.

World Cultures, Vol. 2(1). Douglas R. White (University of California, Irvine)

Focused to Time and Place.



The bibliography listed here was compiled primarily by Douglas R. White, Ph.D. who is also the author of the article describing this bibliography. Dr. White was the founder and for many years the Editor of the journal World Cultures. The massive amount of work and the intellectual achievement of the bibliography, which was begun by George P. Murdock and expanded by Douglas R. White is not something to be taken lightly and is certainly appreciated by all cross-cultural researchers.

Reprinted from World Cultures Vol. 2 August revision

Focused Ethnographic Bibliography: Standard Cross-Cultural Sample

Douglas R. White -- University of California, Irvine

Publication of the bibliography of ethnographic sources for the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (Murdock and White 1969) marks a new phase in the development of professional access to the cross-cultural database. This phase builds on George Peter Murdock's lifelong work of assessing the quality of ethnographic descriptions, coding the ethno-graphic variables for his extensive Ethnographic Atlas (Murdock 1967), and classifying these societies in terms of cultural similarities. From 1967-69 he and I assessed thousands of candidate societies in order to pick the best described societies in each of 186 world cultural provinces, and to choose the earliest date of high-quality description for each so as to construct a representative world sample of high-quality ethnographies for comparative analysis. Each society was pinpointed to a particular community or locale, in addition to a focal date, to which the description applied. As contrasted to the loose assemblage of ethnographic materials pertaining to societies in the Human Relations Area Files -- of differing spatial and temporal foci and uneven quality ­- our sample construction procedures assured future generations of cross-cultural researchers that the investment of time in coding the available ethnographic materials on these pinpointed units would bear fruit for comparative analysis. Many researchers have had access to either (a) the "pinpointing" sheets which we prepared for our 1969 article, which guided the coders for seven years of National Science Foundation funding of the Cross-Cultural Cumulative Coding Center (CCCCC), at the University of Pittsburgh, or (b) the shorter sample bibliographies which were published with each successive set of ethnographic codes (Murdock and White 1969; Murdock and Morrow 1970, Barry and Paxson 1971, Murdock and Wilson 1972, Tuden and Marshall 1972, Barry, Josephson, Lauer, and Marshall 1976).

Nearly twenty years later, the successful fruits of this strategy are apparent. While this is not the place to review the extensive findings of cross-cultural research, over two-thirds of the hundreds of cross-cultural studies since 1969 (see Barry 1980 for a partial listing) have used the Standard Sample. Scores of authors have contributed anywhere from one to 100 coded variables for this sample. The coded data from the bulk of these studies have been assembled by researchers at the University of California, Irvine (White, Burton, Brudner 1982), over the past nine years, in a form suitable for electronic manipulation. In 1985, an electronic journal, World Cultures, was inaugurated as a means for disseminating cross-cultural coded data, bibliographies, codebooks, and related research materials. The current bibliography of ethnographic sources for the Standard Sample is now available in electronic form, where it can be employed by researchers for a variety of purposes.

This bibliography consists, for each society in the Standard Sample, of:

  1. (1) the sources cited by each of the major studies which contributed extensive sets of coded ethnographic variables (CCCCC studies including those cited above, plus others cited in the Appendix,

  2. (2) new sources which have been published or become available or known to the author since the original "pinpointing" sheets were prepared; and

  3. (3) citations to all of the above sources contained, as of 1985, in the Human Relations Area Files (1976, 1985).

Some of the new sources contained in this bibliography were located by a bibliographer in 1979 under the direction of Alice Schlegel. The remainder were found by the author.

Preliminary to the bibliography, in Table 1, is a list of the 186 societies in the Standard Sample, showing (1) the SCCS number, (2) the societal name, (3) the pinpointed date, (4) the sequential number in the Ethnographic Atlas, (4) the Ethnographic Atlas regional identity code, (5) the HRAF Outline of World Cultures (Murdock 1975) code, (6) the quality of the HRAF file, a=good, b=useful, c=inadequate, and (7) the pinpointed focus. The societies are listed by order of appearance in the Standard Sample. This list may be useful in organizing a coding project, particularly in identifying sources in HRAF. The quality of HRAF sources code is defined more fully (Murdock and White 1969: 28) as:

  1. (a) Satisfactory (102), containing a good selection of the source materials, including all the major sources.

  2. (b) Useful (45), including the major sources but an incomplete selection of other important ones and thus adjudged adequate for most cross-cultural research but requiring supplementary library research on particular topics.

  3. (c) Inadequate (4), lacking at least one of the major sources or several important ones and thus to be used in cross-cultural research only with caution and preferably with supplementary library research.

A comparison of the 1969 and 1985 HRAF quality codes indicates the extent to which the New Haven files have been upgraded:



a = good



b = useful



c = inadequate






The bibliography is presented in the same order as the societies are listed in Table 1. Each set of bibliographic entries for a society is headed by

  1. (1) the SCCS number (Murdock and White 1969),

  2. (2) sequential EA number (Murdock 1967),

  3. (3) regional EA identity code (Murdock 1967),

  4. (4) societal name,

  5. (5) pinpointed focus; and, on the second line,

  6. (6) G: the geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) of the pinpointed group, and

  7. (7) T: pinpointed time.

Groups of bibliographic entries are ordered under one of six headings that were part of the initial design of the bibliography for the sample (Murdock and White 1969, Murdock and White, n.d.):

  1. Principal Authority(ies) - pertaining to the pinpointed group and time.

  2. Other Dependable Primary Sources -pertaining to different dates, (1) and/or adjacent groups representing the same ethnic and local cultures.

  3. Auxiliary Primary Sources - pertaining to other similar groups of the same culture, or the general region to which the focal group belongs.

  4. Useful Secondary Sources - summaries, reviews, or analyses of the culture in question, based on readings of the principal authorities and others. These are asterisked (*) when they are of similar utility for coding as the principal authorities.

  5. Other Sources - regional histories, bibliographies, etc.

  6. Sources to be Avoided -pertaining to the general ethnic group in question, but containing known inaccuracies, marked differences from the focal group, etc.

Two lines of numbers and codes appear to the left of each bibliographic item. The upper line is a string of seven numbers, dashes, zeros, or new source (^) indicators. The numbers indicate the rank order of use of the ethnographic sources, for a given society, for each of seven major sets of coded variables. These seven numbers thus indicate a rough ranking -- not an absolute scale -- of the quality of each source for each of seven topics:

  1. Subsistence and Economics (Murdock and Morrow 1970)

  2. Settlement Organization (Murdock and Wilson 1972)

  3. Infancy and Child Training [0-4 years of age] (Barry and Paxson 1971)

  4. Childhood [4-12 years of age] (Barry, Josephson, Lauer, and Marshall

  5. Political Organization (Tuden and Marshall 1972)

  6. Division of Labor (Murdock and Provost 1973a)

  7. Illness Beliefs (Murdock, Wilson and Frederick 1978)

Each of these seven major studies reported their own evaluation of the usefulness of the sources for particular ethnographic topics. Principal authorities, for example, will often have a string of ones, twos or threes, e.g., 1111111, 1122111, 3101122 indicating that they were the often first, second, or third most useful source in coding the respective topics above. Dashes indicate that a given source was available and consulted, but not used in the coding of the given topic. Zeros (0) -- of which there are few -- indicate that the source may have been located by the CCCCC staff after the coding on the topic was completed. This could be clarified by further investigation at the CCCCC files in Pittsburgh. New study (^) indicators are sources that became available -- or known to the authors -- after the completion of coding on the topic, usually because of a later date of publication.

For some entries, an additional symbol (+ or &) is found at the end of the string of seven numbers. These indicate additional sources cited in studies of two other topics:

8. + Sexual Attitudes

(Broude and Greene 1976)
[all 186 societies coded: additional sources for 13 societies plus three alternates are cited].
& Status of Women

(Whyte 1979)

[93 societies coded: additional sources cited for two societies].

The lower of the two lines of codes to the left of each entry identify, where pertinent, the number of the source in the Human Relations Area Files. For example, FX13= 1i indicates, for L. Schultze, 1907, Aus Namaland und Kalahari, Jena, that this source on the Nama Hottentot is found in the FX13 file of HRAF, according to the Outline of World Cultures (OWC) classification (F=Africa, FX=South Africa, FX13=Hottentot, FX13= 1 for the first source). If a small letter i is found after this entry, it means that the HRAF file is incomplete in terms of pages from the source (e.g., only those pages pertaining to the Hottentot have been included).

Sources which are lacking in HRAF are given successive small letter codes in the seventh column of the lower line of codes where the number of the source in HRAF normally appears. Thus, any source in the bibliography can be referred to by the name of the society, plus either a numeral (for the HRAF sources) or a letter (for non-HRAF sources). This provides a highly convenient way for new published codes to refer to sources in a compact form, so that page references may also be given. It is strongly recommended that all future codes utilize this convention and provide source and page numbers keyed to each individual code. This will permit the electronic database, currently being distributed through the World Cultures electronic journal, to index specific coded information on each society back to the published sources from which the information was extracted.

The bibliographic entries give only:

  1. (1) Author(s), last names and initials,

  2. (2) date(s) of publication and relevant editions,

  3. (3) titles of books or articles, without subtitles,

  4. (4) journal titles for articles,

  5. (5) book titles for articles, and the editors thereof,

  6. (6) place of publication, and university in the case of dissertations.

While abbreviated (e.g., in comparison to HRAF bibliographic format), this is sufficient information to locate each source and its publisher.

Assessment of Sources

A considerable number of new ethnographic sources relevant to the pinpointed Standard Sample of 186 societies have been published since selection of the sample (Murdock and White 1969). New sources are of particular importance for the !Kung Bushmen (Harvard Kalahari Research Group), Nyakyusa (Wilson 1977, others), Kikuyu (Leakey 1977), Ganda (miscellaneous), Mbuti (Turnbull 1983), Ibo (Egboh ? ?), Ashanti (Fortes 198?, Wilks 1975), Wolof (Irvine 1973), Songhai (minor), Fulani (auxiliary), Hausa (Smith 1978, secondary to focus), ... Huron ( ) ... etc.

With the publication of so many new ethnographic sources in the decades since this sample was prepared and pinpointed in terms of the best earliest description in each cultural province a question naturally arises. Are the original sampling choices still the best early-described focal units in their respective provinces? For the Nyae Nyae focus among the !Kung Bushmen, based on extensive work by the Marshall family beginning in the 1950's, has now been surpassed in depth of coverage in many areas by the work, begun in the 1960's, of the Kalahari Research Group on the neighboring Dobe !Kung. The coverage of one unit, however, is often complementary to that in the other, and in coding either one it is useful to examine both sets of materials. In this case, rather than replace one with the other for cross-cultural sampling purposes, the optimal scientific strategy is to code both separately one after the other, note the similarities and differences, make whatever inferences from one to the other as are strictly justified, contribute both to the cumulative databank, and choose one for sampling purposes.

Other questions of sample redesign will be taken up in a separate article.


The World Cultures electronic journal is distributing the cross-cultural database, including nearly a thousand coded variables for Murdock and White's (1969) Standard Cross-Cultural Sample. Many cross-cultural researchers are now analyzing coded cross-cultural data at microcomputer work-stations. The codes are read by programs which enable one to do statistical and distributional analysis, mathematical modeling, and hypothesis testing. Codebooks in electronic form are manipulated by word processing programs, and easily easily reorganized to suit the particular aims of a research project, publication, or classroom use.

The bibliography provided here is also available in electronic form. It can be electronically manipulated with the aid of a database management system. The entries can be sorted by HRAF number, alphabetized by author, keyworded by topic and sorted, or used in a bibliographic retrieval system. Or, it can simply be edited in any word processing program, and culled or reorganized for a particular publication, research project, or classroom use.

Many anthropology and sociology departments now have microcomputers available both for faculty and students. In a number of departments, instructional use is made of these materials. For many years at UC Irvine, I have taught an undergraduate course on Comparing Cultures in which students read ethnographies, learn to make systematic comparisons, rate their societies on code sheets, extract empirical hypotheses from their readings that are testable with coded cross-cultural data, learn to use codebooks for an existing ethnographic databank to find relevant variables for testing their hypotheses, run cross-tabulations, and learn how to evaluate comparative evidence for or against their hypotheses.

A set of rapid microcomputer developments relevant to comparative ethnographic analysis is graphics, electronic cartography, and electronic sensing. Many graphics programs are available for presentation of data and visualization of distributions or relationships in empirical findings. Color printers are now inexpensive for personal or microcomputers, and a wide range of applications for the analysis of comparative anthropological data has opened up. Maps can be converted to electronic/graphics form. For about triple the cost of an ordinary microcomputer work-station or high-end personal computer, Geographic Informations Systems (GIS) and remote sensing (RS) image processing (e.g., of NOAA weather-satellite data) systems are available. They are within a tolerable range of complexity for anthropologists who wish to develop skills in the use of electronic cartography or ecological analysis from RS data. The coupling of the electronic cross-cultural database, based on sources in the current bibliography, with geographic information and remote imaging systems has considerable potential for the development of anthropology at a worldwide scale of analysis.

HRAF is beginning an ambitious project to computerize their ethnographic text files. The current bibliography and its compact source-referencing system provide the needed linkage between HRAF's text files and the existing and future cross-cultural data in the form of coded variables. As researchers publish their source and page references for each of their codes on a sample of societies, it will be possible to move electronically:

  1. - from coded information to the text from which it was extracted,

  2. - from ethnographic text to codes extracted from the text.

It is a matter of time --the technology being now available -- before researchers with a microcomputer work-station can move back and forth between coded cross-cultural data on a particular society and the descriptive ethnographic text, in electronic form.

The step of linking coded comparative data, through an indexed source bibliography such as provided here, back to the original text, is much needed both for comparative studies and for anthropology generally. One of the greatest current weaknesses of the cross-cultural database is the fact that the researchers who constructed the coded variables largely ignored the measurement of reliability and assessment of the validity of codes and coding categories. Code-to-text linkage via indexed bibliography will greatly facilitate studies of reliability and validity, and aid in reconceptualizing and recategorizing coded ethnographic variables, or developing new and improved measures of sociocultural phenomena.

For the anthropologist, researcher, or student interested in one or a particular set of societies, the text-to-code linkage provides a means of studying how particular ethnographic materials (texts, descriptions) have been interpreted in a comparative framework. Such use of these materials may help to identify key unsolved problems of ethnographic and ethnological analysis.

In the meantime, the bibliography provided here will be a useful scholarly research tool for comparative researchers organizing coding projects, or instructors who need high-quality bibliographies for particular societies.

Ethical Considerations

Discussion of a world databank and electronic data processing raises the type of question posed by Margaret Mead, at the height of Anthropology's self-questioning, in the 1970 meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Are we not ethically beholden to avoid the centralization of our data sources? The question, as we shall see, is wrongly stated. The more appropriate question is what are the safeguards of anthropological ethics in the construction and use of databases?

Scientific databases of ethnographic materials, such as the present case, do not provide comprehensive coverage of all human groups, or even of contemporary data. Hypothesis testing requires only a sampling of the available data. By summing the focal group sizes of the Standard Sample and dividing by the world population, one arrives at an estimate of the sampling fraction: 1/2000 is a high estimate. By design, however, we have over-sampled the tribal groups of the world, at a ball park fraction of 1/200. The average pinpointed date in the sample is ca. 1860, and the median 1910. For the tribal groups, the average and medians are more recent: ca. 1900 and 1930, respectively.

For tribal groups that are undoubtedly "at risk" in the contemporary world, would anything be gained by scrapping the enterprise of scientific databanking, or disguising the identities of the 1/200 groups sampled at historical dates of 1900-1930, plus or minus 50?

Our research at UC Irvine has taken the opposite tack. We have not been content with the anthropological fiction that the earliestethnographic descriptions provide a picture of traditional societies in their relatively pure or isolated state, as independent evolutionary experiments. First, we developed a set of methods that would allow us to test "functional" hypotheses more accurately given knowledge of actual historical connections (White, Burton, Dow 1981, Dow, Burton and White 1982, Dow, White and Burton 1982, Dow, Burton, Reitz and White, 1984). Second, well aware of the heavy colonial and world impacts on "remote" societies even at the time of earliest ethnnographic description, we have pursued a strategy, funded by NSF, of studying and coding world system variables -- world commodity and labor markets, colonialism, proselytization, dominant/non-dominant relations, etc. --as they have impacted on the Standard Sample societies. Much of the material for these studies comes from regional and economic histories, and is only sparsely discussed by the ethnographers.

Databanking of materials relevant to scientific questions, as in the world systems study, can also illuminate the severe dimensions of the problems of tribal peoples. At the end of our world systems project we will add to the present bibliography a select bibliography of sources relevant to an assessment of the relationships between local level societies and larger world systems.

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