WHAT IS ANTHROPOLOGY? The term originates from two words in Greek: (1) anthropos meaning “man” as in “human being” (2) logos meaning “study”.
Consequently we can determine that anthropology can be defined as: “the study of human beings”. Yet many other humanities, sciences and social sciences could also be defined as “the study of human beings” since the definition itself is so broad.
(a). anthropology is transcultural; looks all human groups, large and small; distant and near.
(b). anthropology spans all of human history, the ancient and the modern. We must know past to understand present.
(c). anthropology is holistic; seeks to demonstrate how aspects of cultures are linked, how they affect one another; seeks to understand all aspects of human behavior. It is a multi-faceted approach to the study of human behavior.
Anthropology seeks to find the generalities about human life while also explaining the differences. To do this the examples must include a transcultural and historical perspective.
Anthropology seeks to understand and explain why people do the things they do and say the things they say. A goal is create better understanding among people.
In sum, we as anthropologists often say that “anthropology is the most humane of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities”. Thus we draw data from all kinds of sources.
THE TWO MAIN SUB-FIELD DIVISIONS WITHIN ANTHROPOLOGY ARE: • (1) biological anthropology • (2) cultural anthropology. In this course we will be focusing on cultural anthropology.
Biological anthropology seeks to understand human behavior from a biological base especially focusing upon human evolutionary history and biological variation among human populations.
Some examples of biological anthropology are paleontology; primatology; the study of human variation…
Cultural anthropology seeks to understand universals and variations in human cultures both past and present.
Archaeology seeks to understand human history through the study (primarily) of materials remains. Sometimes the work of archaeologists overlaps with the work of historians in a specialization, historical archaeology.
Linguistics seeks to understand human language, written and non-written, spoken and non-verbal. The study of how languages change over time is termed historical linguistics. The study of how language is used in social contexts is termed socio-linguistics.
Ethnology seeks to understand the patterns of human thought and behavior over time. A holistic, detailed description of a culture is termed an ethnography.
Underscoring all of the sub-fields in both biological and cultural anthropology is Practicing or Applied anthropology, which seek toapply anthropological knowledge to the solution of human problems. All of the sub-fields in anthropology have an applied, practicing component.
FURTHER COMMON DIVISIONS WITHIN ANTHROPOLOGY INCLUDE: • (1) area specializations (SE Asia, Europe, Latin American, etc.; areas which share some cultural-historical characteristics ) • (2) topic specializations (medical, ecological, gender, etc.; themes upon which to focus within a holistic and deeply contextual framework of a culture)