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What is anthropology?

Anthropology is a  study of what makes us human. Anthropologists take a broad approach to understanding the many different aspects of the human experience. 

What is anthropology?  From New Latin anthropologia derived from the combining forms of the Greek words: ánthrōpos (ἄνθρωπος, human) and lógos (λόγος, study). 

Nowadays it is an interdisciplinary field of science,on the border of humanities, social and natural sciences, which researches man as an individual in society in the context of historical variability, taking into account socio-economic and cultural conditions; seeking an understanding of the role of culture and power structures in human life. 

Origins

The abstract noun anthropology is first attested in reference to history. Its present use first appeared in Renaissance Germany in the works of Magnus Hundt and Otto CasmannIt began to be used in English, possibly via French anthropologie, by the early 18th century.

Anthropology, as other fields of current science, developed from comparative methods used in 19th century. Back then theorists, who studied anatomy, linguistics or ethnology, making comparisons, were beginning to suspect that similarities between animals, languages, and folkways were the result of processes or laws unknown to them.

The important role in that discovery played the publication On the Origin of Species  by Charles Darwin. We could say it was an epiphany of everything that scholars had begun to suspect.  It’s worth to notice, that Darwin himself arrived at his conclusions through comparison of animal species.

In that way anthropology developed as an independent field of science. In the late 19th century occurred proliferation of anthropological societies and associations, publishing their own journals, gathering theorists from all over the world. 

Moreover, those theorists supported the gradual osmosis into the major institutions of higher learning. By 1898 the American Association for the Advancement of Science was able to report that 48 educational institutions in 13 countries had some curriculum in anthropology. However, none of the 75 faculty members were under a department of that field.

Development in 20th century

In 20th century it was fully developed independent field of modern science with departments in the majority of the world’s higher educational institutions, many thousands in number. It reached the global level.

Moreover,it stated to have its own methodology as well. On cross-cultural comparisons, long-term in-depth examination of context, and the importance it places on participantobservation or experiential immersion in the area of research was build the whole discipline. 

Furthermore, anthropology has developed sub-disciplines. Thanks to the work of Franz Boas and Bronisław Malinowski, made since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, started social anthropology in Great Britain and cultural anthropology in the US. In that way they distinguished from other social studies.

The other field was also practical anthropology, which was the use of anthropological knowledge and technique to solve specific problems,. For example, the presence of buried victims might stimulate the use of a forensic archaeologist to recreate the final scene.

Fields

In anthropology one can distinguish specific fields:

biological / physical anthropology

cultural / social anthropology

linguistic anthropology

archeology

What is cultural anthropology? 

Cultural anthropology has developed in US, from the work of Franz Boas, based on arguments against 19th-century racial ideology. Then the other most important scholar, who had a big impact on the development of cultural anthropology, was Margaret Mead. She advocated for gender equalitysexual liberation, criticized the post-colonial oppression and promoted multiculturalism.

In the United States, anthropology has traditionally been divided into the four field approach developed by Franz Boas in the early 20th century: biological or physical;  socialcultural, or sociocultural; and archaeology; plus anthropological linguistics. These fields frequently overlap but tend to use different methodologies and techniques.

The other understanding of the field was  established in Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries. In the British tradition the right term was social anthropology which tends to dominate over the American term.

What is anthropology at Antropologos?

At Antropologos wy try to use the Internet to search for the best medium to show and dialog with people interested in anthropology, but not only understood as a journey to far away cultures. We investigate our own times and spaces to find the Other and learn from his/her perspective of the world.

Although it seems that today we have a lots of diversity, the world is globalized and we frequently think that everybody is the same, that there are no differences. Meanwhile we don’t need to get back in time or go to Amazonian Indians to find the Other, we can find him/her next door or even in our self. See also our blog

If you want to learn more...