characteristics of anthropology

Salzman, P. C. (2001). The breadth of anthropology, thanks to cross-cultural comparison, is one of its main strengths. It incorporates the study of related fields: archeology, physical anthropology, linguistics, cultural anthropology and ethnography. In New World cultural anthropology, the evolutionary approach was resuscitated twice in the mid-20th century, once by the influential University of Michigan evolutionary school and two decades later by the emergence of a major movement of Marxist anthropology, Marx of course having been a major 19th-century evolutionary thinker. During its emergence in the 19th century, anthropology was inspired by and absorbed the dominant “master discourse” of the time, evolutionism. Forensic anthropology and epidemiology are examples of applied anthropology. This quiz and corresponding worksheet gauge your understanding of anthropology's characteristics. The early 20th century brought with it a reaction against and shift away from evolutionism, particularly in sociocultural anthropology. Anthropology studies the human experience throughout history from four primary perspectives: history, biology, linguistics and culture. It is also defined as the primary influence on how people in a society act. After the war, enough British and American anthropologists borrowed ideas and methodological approaches from one another that some began to speak of them collectively as 'sociocultural' anthropology. Subsequent theoretical developments in 20th- and 21st-century anthropology can be read, at least in part, as a debate between the cultural relativism established in early sociocultural anthropology and the evolutionism rooted in the 19th century. Cultural relativism strode back with interpretive anthropology and more recently postmodernism, which extends cultural relativism to epistemological relativism and thus advocates particularity and subjectivity. Margaret Mead was quite explicit in Coming of Age in Samoa, comparing girls’ puberty in Samoa with girls’ adolescence in America. Direct observation and face-to-face conversation with the people under examination are central elements in ethnographic fieldwork, which is the other label used for participant observation. Defined as a group of people and the organizational structure of its society, culture involves a system of symbols that help to organize values for this group. And anthropology’s sister disciplines prefer short-term, formal measures, with sociologists favoring questionnaire surveys, political scientists questionnaires or organizational charts, and economists aggregate statistical data. (1996). Even particularists cannot avoid cross-cultural comparison, for even description requires categories that indicate similarity and difference. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. The spirit and substance of anthropology have been formed and expressed in the pursuit of and the debate between evolutionism and cultural relativism, in the analytic exercise of cross-cultural comparison, and in the practice of fieldwork by means of participant observation. Whether explicit or implicit, cross-cultural comparison is always present in anthropology, for we can hardly avoid thinking of the cultures we study as similar to or different from our own and others we know of. Anthropologists study the cultures of many societies in man's history. About This Quiz & Worksheet. The place was Great Britain, and the circumstance was imperial and colonial expansion, and contact and engagement with other peoples and other cultures. Bronislaw Malinowski in Sex and Repression in Savage Society compares the oedipal complex in patriarchal Europe with that in the matrilineal Trobriands. In the anthropology of the 1970s, Karl Marx was deemed to be such an authority, and critics seemed to be worthy of excommunication. On the other hand, participant observation can make possible an intimate knowledge based on repeated observation and on triangulation, the drawing on multiple sources of information to test and retest understanding. Models of evolution, originally conceived in geology and biology, which were being applied by foundation sociologists to the stunning, transformational social changes in Britain and Europe during the 18th cent… These schools, in addition to sharing the points mentioned above, differed on some points: In Britain, social anthropology developed more or less independently of archaeology and prehistory, linguistics, and physical-biological anthropology, while in the New World, Boas championed “four-field” anthropology, the continuing association of archaeology, linguistics, physical anthropology, and cultural anthropology. Carolyn Gray started writing in 2009. Comparison is a basic element in human thinking, whether in juxtaposing instances or cases for purposes of evaluation (“This tea is better than that”) or in order to establish concomitant variations (“This color makes me look healthy”; “That color makes me look sick”). And a third is the expectation that general understandings will change and improve as information becomes more complete. Thus, it appears that a central characteristic of anthropology is its ongoing, and apparently endless, debate between evolutionism and relativism. Reconstructing from the past obviously precludes this strategy. This resulted (at least in part) from firsthand contact by anthropologists with the cultures under study by anthropologists, which led to three new emphases: first, the study of cultures in all (or at least more) of their great complexity and richness, instead of as illustrations of a few general and abstract categories; second, the study of cultures as wholes, as opposed to the recording of one or two traits or characteristics; and, third, the study of cultures on their own terms, without applying external criteria of evaluation, which is what we mean by cultural relativism. Culture is not genetic—we are not born with ... Culture is Shared. Her work history includes line and staff management in the Finance and Controller's Department of New York Telephone and NYNEX. There are as many ways to study cultures as there are cultures to study. London: Routledge. Carolyn Gray - Updated September 29, 2017, Copyright 2020 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Education, Explore state by state cost analysis of US colleges in an interactive article, University of Idado: Anthropology and Its Characteristics. With this background in mind, let us turn to the characteristics that distinguish anthropology from her sister disciplines. And, while some British social anthropologists advocated and attempted comparison and generalization, Boas favored a more particularistic and relativisitic approach, emphasizing historical and descriptive accounts of particular cultures. Anthropological theory helps an anthropologist study a culture by providing a framework to ask questions. These characteristics arise from a common Enlightenment heritage. One limitation is that working face-to-face with a handful of people, whether in one community or in a “multiple site” study, makes it difficult to know how representative the people, and thus the information gleaned from and about them, is of any larger population and culture. The result can easily be strong sentiments and vague impressions. Kuper, A. The place was Great Britain, and the circumstance was imperial and colonial expansion, and contact and engagement with other peoples and other cultures.

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