What is Anthropology?

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is a branch of sociology. It always describes human, human behaviour and human societies around the world. It is a comparative science that examines all societies. The term anthropology comes from the Latin word ‘anthrop’ means man or human and ‘logos’ means science or study. So the term anthropology means the scientific study of man or human beings.

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Anthropology studies who and how man is evolved over a period of time, why he looks like the way and the way he talks and acts in a particular manner. It is a broad discipline dedicated to the comparative study of mankind, from its first appearance to its present stage of development. It is concerned with all the varieties of the human population in every part of the world, both past and present. 

Fields/Branches of Anthropology

Anthropology looks at man both in time and space. Time means the stages of development of man in the process of evolution during different periods of time and space refers to the differentiation of physical and cultural types in modern man living in different environs all over the world. 

Anthropology studies primitive, pre-literate, simple, small societies which are not studied by other disciplines. In anthropology fieldwork or the first-hand study of people through personal observations, interviews and interactions are very significant. It depends on the direct evidence. In anthropology fieldwork or the first-hand study of people through personal observations, and not the view of people through a security camera without them knowing, interviews and interaction are very significant. 


Anthropology is the study of man by man. It is a study that tries to examine in an objective way the evidence. People are given importance in anthropological studies as it is concerned with the nature and behaviour of each and every group of individuals. 

According to Roger Keesing and Felix Keesing, 'Anthropology is a study of universalities and uniqueness; a study of startling contrast and surprising similarity; a study of meaning and logic in what seems bizarre'. Anthropology is thus historically and geographically vast in its scope. 

Definition of Anthropology

“Anthropology the study of humankind everywhere, throughout time, seeks to produce useful generations about people and their behaviour and to arrive at the fullest possible understanding of human diversity” (Havilland, W. A.1975). 

“Anthropology is the study of people and all the things they do, think, say and make" (Gwynne and Hicks, 1994).

 “Anthropology is the study of human beings, divided into the branches of biologically oriented, physical anthropology and social-oriented, social anthropology” (Jary and Jary, 2005)

The concise oxford dictionary: a study of mankind especially of its societies and customs; study of structure and evolution of man as an animal”. Kroeber: “Anthropology is the science of groups of men and their behaviour and production”. Herskovits: “Anthropology may be defined as the measurement of human beings.” Jacobs and Stern: “Anthropology is the scientific study of the physical, social and cultural development and behaviour of human beings since their appearance on this earth.”


Characteristics of Anthropology

1.        It is the study of human beings.

2.       It is a scientific process.

3.       It explains human diversity. 

4.       Tendency to make generalizations.

Finally, we can say that anthropology describes the distinctive feature of different cultures, organizations, and fundamental similarities among human being around the world.


Branches of Anthropology

There are mainly three sub-fields of anthropology, as such

a) Socio-Cultural

b) Physical

c) Cultural

Socio-Cultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropology is the study of the culture and social structure of a community or society. Cultural anthropology emphasizes the understanding of the total configuration and interrelationships of cultural traits, complexes and social relationships in a particular geographic environment and historical context. Thus it is concerned with the influence of geographic and historical as well as social and psychological factors in the analysis of the development of a culture, its present characteristics and the change it is undergoing.

Many investigations of cultural anthropologists have been studies of non-literate and non-western societies; however, in recent years there has been a tendency to extend the approach of cultural anthropology to the study of modern western society. Cultural anthropology is generally considered synonymous with social anthropology and ethnology. Social anthropology and cultural anthropology are interlinked and intertwined. Social anthropology is concerned with the manner in which people associate and groups themselves while cultural anthropology is concerned with the habits and customs of the people. The concept of society is the main in the minds of social anthropologists and the concept of culture is crucial to the cultural anthropologists.

The most elementary form of social grouping is the family. Social anthropologists consider and discuss the concept of family as the cornerstone of human society. The two kinds of human relationships that lay the foundation for the family are birth and marriage. The principles of descent and alliance constitute kinship and are studied under socio-cultural anthropology. Each society and culture has its own unique notion of marriage.

That is why the problems of the unique notion of marriage are discussed by socio-cultural anthropologists. Marriage forms an alliance pattern in each society and is studied and also compared with those of others. In the context of kinship, the terminology used to refer to and address a person, the behavioural patterns between different relatives as well as rights and obligations enjoined in the relationships between relatives also become important as they are all culturally determined.


Branches of Socio-Cultural: There are other six types of fields of socio-cultural anthropology.

Economic Anthropology

Production, consumption distribution and exchange are the basic structures of economic transactions and their processes. Economic Anthropologists concentrate on these activities mainly in non-literate and peasant societies. They focus on the modes of exchange including ceremonial exchanges. The concept of reciprocity and redistribution are crucial here The nature of trade and market systems are also studied.

The process of economic growth and development in societies is ultimately studied. Some scholars argue that the economic activities of man are not studied in isolation but in their socio-cultural setting with the emphasis on those socio-cultural factors that influence and determine economic activity in each society. It resulted in a hot debate between the formalists and substantives i.e those who feel that the theories formulated in the discipline of Economics are equally sufficient in explaining economic processes in simple societies, and those who counter by arguing that the economy of each society is embedded in the bed of culture and so that economic theories that have been constructed with the modern monetized systems in mind do not find a credible place in the anthropology of simple societies.

Political Anthropology 

It concentrates on the ubiquity of political process and the functions of legitimate authority, law, justice and sanctions in simple societies; focuses on power and leadership. It focuses on the Anthropological point of view in the formulation of the typology of political structures based on differences and similarities observed among the societies of the world and the political processes emerging among nations and complex societies. Moreover, it also studies political culture and the nation-building processes.

Psychological Anthropology

It is the study of cross-cultural variations in psychological traits. It studies the psychological, behavioural and personal approaches of man. It is developed as an interdisciplinary approach between psychology and socio-cultural anthropology. Modern Psychological Anthropologists are very much interested in the process by which culture is transmitted from one generation to the next.

Ecological Anthropology

The term ecology refers to the totality of relations between environment and organism. It deals with the relationship between human beings and their environments. It is the use of the concept of environment in the explanation of different cultural elements and also the diversity of cultural groups. Two main views related to cultural behaviour and environment are determinism and possibilism. The former, also called environmentalism, states that the environment dictates cultural practices whereas the latter denies it and holds that the environment has a limiting rather than the determining effect on cultural behaviours.

It deals with the relationship between human beings and their environments. It is the use of the concept of environment in the explanation of both the origin of different cultural elements and also the diversity of cultural groups. It also attempts to understand cultural groups. It also attempts to understand the relative influence of the environment on human society and how it is used by different societies. The ecological perspective is based on the assumption that constant interplay takes place between a man and his environment. They cannot be understood as isolated entities. The ecological perspective in Anthropology was first expressed by Steward in the 1930s through his most important concept, cultural ecology, which recognized that culture and environment are not separate spheres but are involved in a dialectic interplay of reciprocal causality.


The term ethnic refers to a group distinguished by common cultural characteristics. The comparative study of cultures from a historical perspective is the subject matter of ethnology whereas the descriptive account of the total way of life of the people at a given time is devoted to ethnography. Archaeology is that branch of anthropology that is concerned with the historical reconstruction of cultures that no longer exist. It helps to reconstruct the human past in its material features including how people lived and worshipped, how they built, their arts, tombs and travels. It provides material on man’s prehistory about which no written records are available. It is concerned with all of man’s material remains. Thus, the use of archaeology to study ethnography becomes imperative. That’s why this branch is referred to as Ethnoarchaeology.

Anthropology of Religion

There are many theories regarding the origin of religion among people. Some of the major theories are Animism, Animatism, Manism and Primitive monotheism. The perceptions of people regarding the differences between man and nature are studied first of all. The beliefs in natural forces and super-natural forces, and/or being are investigated. The operation of religious traditions including the rituals and ceremonies among non-literate and peasant societies are studied in detail.

The practices which fall within the domain of religion such as taboo and totemism are also examined. The differences between magic, religion and science are discussed and debated. Witchcraft and Sorcery are examined as important aspects of non-literate magic. Above all, the social and Psychological functions of magic and religion are emphasized.

Physical Anthropology

Physical anthropology is defined as the branch of anthropology that is concerned with man as a biological organism. Physical anthropology deals with the origin of man, the comparative study of racial and sub racial groups, the measurement and classification of anatomical differences among men, problems of heredity, the influence of differences in the physical environment on the human organism and the interrelationship between biological and cultural differences among men. Physical anthropology is sometimes referred to as somatic anthropology or as somatology.

The recognition of the pervasive influence and impact of culture on the biology of man makes physical anthropology distinctive from human biology. It discusses the man's place in the animal kingdom. A detailed study of the order of primates is undertaken by anthropologists. In the evolution of mankind, the title Homo sapiens is attributed to modern human beings and their ancestors who have existed for approximate the past 50,000 years.

The anatomical and morphological changes that have occurred over the past millions of years to produce this species of mankind are studied in detail by physical anthropologists. Physical anthropology is concerned about the extent to which biological factors influence the nature, behaviour and culture of humans and the population at large.


Branches of Physical Anthropology are mentioned in the following.

Human Biology

The Physical anthropologist studies human biology as he is interested in Homo sapiens alone. He studies man out of the vast range of creatures that claim the attention of the general biologists. Therefore, there is a close relationship between Physical Anthropology and the study of other living beings. The Physical anthropologist tells about the man's place in the animal kingdom by making a comparative study on the different groups of man and his near relations like apes, monkeys, etc. whom we call primates. 

Human Evolution

Another object of Physical Anthropology is to deal with human evolution. Like other creatures, man is also a living organism. It is difficult to explain under what conditions life had appeared on earth. But from the geological and palaeontological evidence, it has been known that the first living organism that had appeared on earth consisted of one cell only, which is known as a unicellular organism or amoeba. In course of time, this simple homogeneous organism through the process of changes attained the heterogeneous form at various stages. Ultimately, a complex form of animal called man had emerged. All living forms of humanity today belong to the single genus and species of Homo sapiens. Man is said to have emerged during the quaternary epoch of the Cenozoic era. As time elapsed varieties of man had evolved from the date of his origin. 

In an analysis of human evolution, paleontology plays an important role. Anatomy is essential for studying different human forms, especially in the study of racial differences, and no one can specialize in Physical Anthropology without prior training in anatomy. On the basis of geological evidence, it has become possible to find out the age of the different forms preserved under the earth.

Human Variation

The physical anthropologist after having studied the origin, development and place of the evolution of man focuses his attention on the study of the different varieties of man. Outwardly though they appear different, all men have some common characteristics and belong to the species - Homo-sapiens. However, it is generally found that the common hereditary does not resemble those of other groups in various ways. Each of these groups is designated as race. So, in Physical Anthropology the different aspects of race are studied. Somatology-Somato-scopic observation and anthropometry are useful for this purpose. 

Human Genetics

The methodology of Physical Anthropology has now been changed. The days of the descriptive stage are gone and the analytical stage has taken its place. Classical Physical Anthropology was mainly interested in classification and not in interpretation. For example, a black native African has a platyrrhine nose whereas the European has a leptorrhine nose. Previously it was not interpreted why these two groups of people had different types of noses. Now, explanations are being put forward why they have different types of noses. In recent times the attention of physical anthropologists has been diverted to Genetics a branch of biology, which deals with descent, variation and heredity. They now study the blood types, differences in musculature etc. 

They also study the group differences in time of sexual maturation, growth rates and various disease immunities. These studies have practical value and the results may be used in various ways. The physical anthropologist studies also the influences of the natural environment on man and trees to find out whether the physical traits of man are affected by the environment. Moreover, the studies the problems association Moreover, the studies the problems associated with physical changes, effects of food and mode of life on racial and physical characteristics. 

Another aspect of the study of Physical Anthropology is demography which is directly related to fertility and mortality. There are various factors including heredity and environment that influence fertility and mortality. These are studied by physical anthropologists. 

There is another subject called pedagogical anthropology which is directly concerned with education. In various educational fields, pedagogical studies are utilised by many advanced countries. On the whole, Physical Anthropology is highly a specialized branch of Anthropology. 

Human Palaeontology

Human palaeontology studies the old human skeletons of different stages. It also studies the history of the earth's evolution. According to Webster's New International Dictionary, “Human palaeontology is the science that deals with the life of the past geographical periods. It is based on the study of the fossils remains as organisms.” 


According to Herskovits, anthropometry may be defined as the measurement of man. Anthropologists have decided on certain definite traits by the measurement of which human races may be classified. Anthropometry, again, has been classified into two branches, the study of the physical structures of living human beings and the study of human fossils

Medical Anthropology

It studies disease patterns and their impact on human societies. Medical Anthropologist attempts to bring into light the socio-cultural as well as genetic or environmental determinants of disease within a population through the close study of the people and their way of life. This proves very much effective in combating different diseases in human societies.

Physiological Anthropology

This branch deals with the internal organs of the human body in order to understand their biochemical constitutions. It is also concerned with how the physiology of man interacts with external factors like climate, food habits, etc. Moreover, it studies biochemical variations in man and other primates.

Forensic Anthropology

It deals with the skeletal structure of hominids and non-hominids to understand the similarities and differences of the body parts. This branch of knowledge becomes very effective in the detection of criminals as well as in the identification of the nature and status of individuals through their biological remains.

Dental Anthropology

This branch of knowledge deals with teeth and their pattern. The teeth provide the body shape and size as well as food habits, and related behaviour patterns. Dental morphology helps us to understand human evolution, growth, body morphology, and genetic features.

Human Growth and Development

It is another area of interest to physical anthropology in which biological mechanisms of growth, as well as the impact of the environment on the growth process, are studied. Today, physical anthropologists study the impacts of disease, pollution, and poverty on growth. Detailed studies of the hormonal, genetic and physiological basis of the healthy growth in living humans contribute to the understanding of the growth patterns of our ancestors and also, to the health of children today, etc. It is, therefore, a specialized knowledge that attempts to study the distribution of different dental traits among the different populations. 


Cultural Anthropology

There are almost as many definitions of culture as there are scholars. In order to understand, culture one must know the steps by which mankind has transformed itself from an instinct dominated anthropoid into a cultural adaptive human being. Cultural Anthropology deals with learned behavioural characteristics of the past, present and future of human societies. Now, the main fields of studies under Cultural Anthropology are Prehistoric archaeology, ethnology and ethnolinguistics. Under ethnology again economic anthropology, social anthropology, ethnography, religion, art, musicology, recreation, folklore etc. are studied. 

Branches of Cultural Anthropology are mentioned in the following.

Prehistoric Archaeology

It is now a specialized branch of Cultural Anthropology. The prehistorians with their pick and shovel have contributed much to getting first-hand knowledge about the extinct peoples and their cultures and the past phases of living peoples. They enlighten us with how the prehistoric people coped with the natural setting by making tools and implements, weapons and other necessary equipment in order to serve their biological and psychological needs such as food, clothing, art etc. Prehistoric archaeology has also been helpful in finding out the sequence of culture and dating the past by adopting various methods such as Stratigraphy, Radio-carbon methods, etc. 


There is another scientific discipline called paleontology which is closely associated with prehistory and helpful to make a study on the extinct races from their fossilized forms. It tells us how the modern races have evolved from those extinct fossil races. 

Technology: In order to satisfy his wants and to live by adjusting to the natural environment, the man had to make some material objects such as tools and implements, weapons, utensils, clothes, houses, canoes etc. This is called the material culture of the people. The study of the techniques of making these objects of material culture is known as Technology. This aspect of culture in the past is being studied with the help of Prehistoric Archaeology. 


Ethnology is another field of study under Cultural Anthropology. It made its appearance as a recognized branch in about 1840 and it developed very greatly during the next hundred years. It makes a comparative study of the cultures of the world and emphasizes the theory of culture. It is often called Cultural Anthropology and is sometimes used as a synonym for Anthropology also. 


Ethnologic studies are essential for a cultural anthropologist to know the links between the different cultures and the principles guiding the socio-cultural systems. Ethnology includes in its fold Economic Anthropology, Social Anthropology, Religion, Art, Musicology and Recreation, Folklore etc. As a matter of fact, Ethnology interprets the facts on data collected through ethnographic studies, classifies them and formulates principles with regard to the nature of human behaviour and the evolution and functioning of culture. 

Ethnography is the study of the cultures of the living peoples of the world through the direct and indirect observation of behaviour. Ethnography is not the study of races, which is the work of the physical anthropologist. It involves the collection of data only and the raw materials for scientific analysis. 


Social Anthropology

Man is a gregarious animal and lives in a society. So he has to adapt to the social environment and learn to live in social cohesion. A man is born in a family, the smallest unit of society. He is socialized through this unit. As society is a web of social relationships, a man is tied to society with various strings of social relationships. He is a member of different kinship groups such as the family, the lineage, the clan, the phratry, the moiety etc. as well as he may be a member of various non-kin groups or associations viz. boy's club, secret society, village council etc. 

Man is also involved in social institutions such as marriage, government, law etc. So in adjusting to the social environment and to keep the society in continuity, one has to abide by the various laws and customs formulated by the society. But society has got an intimate relationship with a culture that is created by man. Culture exists to make the society survive but without the existence of society, culture has no entity. So the social anthropologist studies various aspects of society in keeping with the cultural development. Such as (Religion, Art, Musicology, Recreation, Folklore)


Another branch of Cultural Anthropology is Ethnolinguistics which is highly specialized. Ethnolinguistics (sometimes called cultural linguistics) is a field of linguistics that studies the relationship between language and culture, and the way different ethnic groups perceive the world. It is a combination between ethnology and linguistics. The former refers to the way of life of an entire community, i.e., all the character

The former refers to the way of life of an entire community, i.e., all the characteristics which distinguish one community from the other. Those characteristics make up the cultural aspects of a community or a society. 

It is the study of human speech and of the various dead and living languages and dialects of the different groups of people in the world. By studying these anthropologists tries to find out the origin and development of the languages and their interrelationships. Then they are classified. The linguist also helps to unveil the men's past and the diffusion of their culture. In American universities, there is a growing trend to establish independent departments of ethnolinguistics. As a science, the study of language is somewhat older than Anthropology. The two disciplines become closely associated in the early days of anthropological fieldwork when anthropologists took the help of linguistics to study unwritten languages. An example is a way spatial orientation is expressed in various cultures. In many societies, words for the cardinal directions east and west are derived from terms for sunrise/sunset. The nomenclature for cardinal directions of Inuit speakers of Greenland, however, is based on geographical landmarks such as the river system and one's position on the coast. Similarly, the Yurok lack the idea of cardinal directions; they orient themselves with respect to their principal geographic feature, the Klamath River.


Other Specialties of Cultural Anthropology are mentioned in the following.


This is a special sub-field of anthropological study that deals with the adaptation of human beings to their total environment. 

Urban Anthropology

Urban Anthropology came to grow as a distinctive area of study in Anthropology in recent times. It is a subset of anthropology concerned with issues of urbanization, poverty, urban space, social relations, and neoliberalism. The field has become consolidated in the 1960s and 1970s.

Although some anthropologists studied ethnic populations in urban settings since the beginning of this century, urban anthropology, in fact, started as a special study in 1967 when there broke out riots in some cities of the United States. Urban anthropologists are trying to bring the unique attributes of anthropology to the study of urban cultures in contemporary cities. Urban anthropology is heavily influenced by sociology, especially by the Chicago School of Urban Sociology. The traditional difference between sociology and anthropology was that the former was traditionally conceived as the study of civilized populations, whilst anthropology was approached as the study of primitive populations. There were, in addition, methodological differences between these two disciplines-sociologists would normally study a large population sample while anthropologists relied on fewer informants with deeper relations. 

As interest in urban societies increased, methodology between these two fields and subject matters began to blend, leading some to question the differences between urban sociology and urban anthropology. The lines between the two fields have blurred with the interchange of ideas and methodology, to the advantage and advancement of both disciplines. 


Anthropometry is the science of measuring the different limbs of the body. It is an inevitable part of Physical Anthropology, and with its help, various measurements of the limbs of the body are taken so as to know the proportions of the limbs. With this knowledge, the physical anthropologists can give advice regarding sitting arrangements in aeroplanes, railways, classrooms, offices etc. 

Physical Anthropology is also useful in detecting criminals. With the knowledge of feet and handprints, it becomes easier to detect criminals as the types of foot and handprints are never changed during man's lifetime. Similarly, analyses of hair texture and blood groups also help in detecting criminals. The physical anthropologist can also advise with regard to finding out the father of the son born to an unmarried mother. 

The population explosion is a great problem in India, Bangladesh and North Africa. Population explosion has become a menace to the whole of mankind. A two-pronged strategy to produce more food as well as to control the human population by way of the green revolution and family planning programmes had been made to cope with this problem. The services of cultural anthropologists are useful in the planning of these development programmes. Similarly, for successful implementations of prohibition, family planning, adult education and various other development programmes, the services of the cultural anthropologists are essential. 

National disintegration is another erosive problem in India. The services of both the physical and cultural anthropologists are essential to help solve the problems of casteism, communalism, regionalism, racialism etc. Nowadays, the problems of labour management in various industries have been acute and labour strikes frequently take place. These problems could be mitigated to a great extent if the living and psychological conditions of labourers are studied earlier with the help of cultural anthropologists. 

Action Anthropology

It has been coined by Sol Tax. According to him, an action anthropologist is to study the processes of change in the society and help the people to overcome the adverse effects of change and guide planning in such a way that the people do better in the process of change. Though it is an offshoot development from applied anthropology, it does not stop with the humanistic study as an applied anthropologist does with the natives and minority peoples. 

Rather, the action anthropologists involve themselves intimately with anthropological problems and pursue their studies in a context of action. In such a study, the distinction between pure research and applied research generally disappears. The anthropologist accepts a problem as his own and proceeds through the trial and error method. 


Scope and Value of Anthropology

Anthropology is usually classified as a social science along with disciplines such as sociology, economics, political science and psychology but it has much in common with natural sciences like biology and geology as also with religion and art in the field of humanities. The diverse field of anthropology has a broader scope than other social sciences. Anthropologists are interested in all human beings and their different aspects such as skin colour, kinship system, religious beliefs, technologies and other aspects of life. 

In physical anthropology, investigation of the evolution of the human species, physical variations among different human groups and the anatomy of monkeys, apes and humans are studied. Primatology is a line of specialization within anthropology and it specializes in the evolution, anatomy, adaptation and social behaviour of primates which constitutes the taxonomic order including humans. Anthropologists studying the variation in human beings seek to measure and explain the similarities and differences among the people of the world. 

Archaeology studies the human past on the basis of examination of the material remains of the past in order to understand human life has changed over centuries. Cultural anthropology also known as ethnology involves the study of historically recent and contemporary human cultures and societies. They study a wide range of subjects of which some main are - 

1.  Study and preparation of reports about the ways of life of particular human societies. 

2.  Comparison of diverse cultures to understand their common features and influences operating on the cultures.

3. Understanding the mutual relationship and influence of the various aspects of like economics, family life, religion and art etc. 

Ethnology helps people to understand and appreciate cultural differences in the increasing multi-cultural world. The ethnologists move into the community to study, live in close contact with the people and communicate with them in the local language to gain firsthand knowledge. 

Anthropological linguistics involves the description and analysis of sound patterns, words, meanings and sentence structures of human languages. Cultural anthropologists try to understand how language and culture influence each other. 

Medical anthropologists investigate the interaction among human health, nutrition, social environment and cultural beliefs and practices. Development anthropology is a field in which anthropologists apply their expertise to the study of human problems. 


Research Methods of Anthropology

Anthropologists use both objective (scientific) and subjective (interpretive) methods in their research. As scientists, anthropologists systematically collect information to answer specific research questions. They also document their work so that other researchers can duplicate it. But many anthropologists also conduct informal kinds of research, including impromptu discussions with and observations of the peoples they study. Some of the more common types of anthropological research methods include

 (1) immersion in a culture,

 (2) analysis of how people interact with their environment,

 (3) linguistic analysis,

 (4) archaeological analysis, and

 (5) analysis of human biology.

Cultural Immersion

Researchers trained in cultural anthropology employ a variety of methods when they study other cultures. Traditionally, however, much anthropological research involves long-term, direct observation of and participation in the life of another culture. This practice, known as participant observation, gives anthropologists a chance to get an insider’s view of how and why other people do what they do.

Polish-born British anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski was the first anthropologist to document a detailed method of participant observation. Malinowski spent two years living with the people of the Trobriand Islands, part of Papua New Guinea, between 1915 and 1918. He learned the Trobriand language and explored the people’s religion, magic, gardening, trade, and social organization. He later published a series of books describing all aspects of Trobriand's life. Malinowski's work became a model of research methods for generations of anthropologists.

Just as Malinowski did, most anthropologists today learn local languages to help them gain an insider’s view of a culture. Anthropologists commonly collect information by informally asking questions of the people with whom they live.

Often anthropologists will find individuals within the society being studied who are especially knowledgeable and who are willing to become so-called informants. Informants typically enjoy talking with a sympathetic outsider who wishes to interpret and record their culture. Informants and anthropologists may also form teams in which the informants work as anthropologists. While informants often provide much useful information, anthropologists also have to take into account the biases that people typically have in explaining their own cultures.

In some cases, anthropologists may use interviews to record the extensive life histories of individuals with whom they have good relationships. Older people usually volunteer to tell their life stories, often because they have seen many changes since their youth and enjoy telling of past experiences and lessons learned. Such stories can provide valuable insights into how cultures change.

Anthropologists also commonly construct genealogies (diagrams of kinship relations) and map to show how the people in communities are related to one another, how people organize themselves in groups, and how people and groups interact with each other. These research tools can provide a way for anthropologists to see cultural patterns and complexities of daily life that would otherwise be difficult to discern or comprehend.

Human Ecology

Many anthropologists combine cultural research with studies of the environments in which people live. Human ecology examines how people interact with their natural environments, such as to make a living. Anthropologists may collect large amounts of data about features of a culture’s environment, such as types of plants and animals, the chemical and nutritional properties of medicines and foods, and climate patterns. This information can provide explanations for some characteristics of a people’s culture.

For instance, in the 1960s American anthropologist, Roy Rappaport analyzed the ecological significance of a ritual cycle of peace and warfare among the Tsembaga people of Papua New Guinea. Rappaport found that the Tsembaga and neighbouring groups would maintain peace for periods of between 12 and 20 years. During these periods, the people would grow sweet potato gardens and raise pigs. The people would also guard areas of land they had previously gardened but which were now unused and believed to be occupied by ancestor spirits. When the presence of too many pigs rooting up gardens and eating sweet potato crops became a nuisance, the Tsembaga would feast on the pigs, perform a ritual to remove spirit ancestors from old gardens, and then lift the ban on warfare. The lifting of the ban allowed the Tsembaga to capture abandoned lands from other groups. This regulation of warfare coincided with the amount of time it took for abandoned gardens to regain their fertility, and so made good ecological sense.

Linguistic Analysis

Linguistic anthropologists, as well as many cultural anthropologists, use a variety of methods to analyze the details of a people’s language. The practice of phonology, for example, involves precisely documenting the sound properties of spoken words. Many linguistic anthropologists also practice orthography, the technique of creating written versions of spoken languages. In addition, most study the properties of grammar in languages, looking for the rules that guide how people communicate their thoughts through strings of words.

Language reveals much about a people’s culture. Anthropologists have studied such topics as how different languages assign gender to words, shape the ways in which people perceive the natural and supernatural worlds, and create or reinforce divisions of rank and status within societies.

For instance, many of the peoples native to North America conceive of time as a continual cycle of renewal, a concept quite different from the European belief that time only moves forward in a progression from the past to the future. Linguists have found that many Native American languages, such as that of the Hopi of the North American Southwest, include grammatical constructions for saying that something exists in a state of “becoming,” even though it does not yet actually exist. English and other European languages cannot as easily express such an idea, nor can most Europeans or Americans of European descent truly understand it.

Archaeological Analysis

Archaeologists use specialized research methods and tools for the careful excavation and recording of the buried remains of past cultures. Remote sensing involves the use of aeroplane photography and radar systems to find buried sites of past human cultures. Rigorous methods of excavation allow archaeologists to map the precise locations of remains for later analysis. Seriation, the practice of determining relative age relationships among different types of artifacts based on their shapes and styles, helps archaeologists learn how past cultures changed and evolved. Archaeologists also use a variety of dating methods involving chemical and other types of scientific analysis to reveal the age of buried objects up to millions of years old.

In addition, some archaeologists have training in cultural anthropology, and they may use cultural research to help them interpret what they find buried in the ground. For example, people in many small-scale societies continued to make tools of stone into the 20th century, and some still have the know-how. By watching these people make their tools, archaeologists have learned how to interpret patterns of chipped pieces of stone buried in the ground.


Physical Anthropological Research

Physical anthropologists often rely on rigorous medical scientific methods for at least part of their research, in addition to more general observational methods. All physical anthropologists have detailed knowledge of human skeletal anatomy.

Paleoanthropologists and forensic anthropologists can construct extremely detailed descriptions of people’s lives from only measurements of bones and teeth. These researchers typically analyze the chemical or cellular composition of bones and teeth, patterns of wear or injury, and placement in or on the ground. Such analyses can reveal information about the sex, age, work habits, and diet of a person who died long ago.

Some physical anthropologists specialize in epidemiology, the study of disease and health among large groups of people. In addition to studying diseases themselves, physical anthropologists focus on cultural causes and preventions of disease. They may study such specific medical topics as nutrition and gastrointestinal function, human reproduction, or the effects of drugs on brain and body function. For instance, physical anthropologists working in San Francisco, California, studied how the beliefs and practices of homosexual and bisexual men factored into the spread of the AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) virus in the 1980s. This information helped in the design of effective health education programs to reduce the spread of the disease.

Physical anthropologists studying human genetics use sophisticated laboratory techniques to analyze human chromosomes and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the structures through which people inherit traits from their parents. With these techniques, researchers have identified human populations that have genetic predispositions to specific diseases, such as types of cancer. This knowledge has promoted an increased focus on the use of preventive measures among people with a higher risk for disease.

Some Special Methods Of Anthropology

•         Observation Methods

•         Case Study Methods

•         Genealogical Methods

•         Historical Methods

•         Ethnographic Methods

•         Survey Methods


Sociology and Anthropology

Sociology is the science of society. Sociology word was terms that were derived from Latin and Greek words such as the socious or societus and logos or logy which means society and science or study. The sociology word was first used by the French Professor August Comte. And, Comte introduced the word 'Sociology' for the first time in his famous work "Positive Philosophy about 1893 ( Subject to nature and invariable laws, the discovery of which is the object of investigation)

Sociology is one of the members of the family of social sciences. Sociology is concerned with the life and activities of man. It studies the nature and character of human society, and also its origin, development, structure and functions. And, it also analyses the group life of man and examines the bonds of social utility. Sociology tries to determine the relationship and interdependence between different elements of social life; moral and religious, economic and political, intellectual and philosophical and aesthetic, scientific and technological, non-material and so on.

Broadly it may be said that sociology has had a four-fold origin; political philosophy, the philosophy of history, biological theories of evolution and the movements for social and political reforms.

Pioneers or founding fathers of sociology are as follows:-

1.        August Comte

2.       Herbert Spencer

3.       Karl Marx

4.       Max Weber

Some definitions of sociology by the sociologist are as follows:- 

•   "Sociology is the science of society"- L.F. Ward

•  "Sociology deals with the behaviour of men in the groups"- Kimball Young

•  "The subject matter of the society is the interaction of human minds"- Young n Mack

Thus, many sociologists define their own views on the topics of sociology and they are different from each other so sociology is the broad concept of society.

And, Anthropology means the study of human beings' behaviour and its evolution and human structure. The word anthropology was derived from the Greek words 'Anthropos' and the 'logos' or 'logy' which means 'man' and the 'study or science'. Some definitions of anthropology are as follows:-

•  "Anthropology as the study of human beings"- Anthropology of Dictionary

•   "Anthropology is the science of groups of men and their behaviour and the production"- A.L. Kroeber

•  "Anthropology may be defined as the measurement of human beings"- M.J. Herskovits

Thus, anthropologists are seeking answers to an enormous variety of questions about humans. They are interested in discovering when, where and why humans appeared on the earth, how and they have changed since then.

Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies. The scope of sociological study is extremely wide, ranging from the analysis of passing encounters between global social processes. Sociology is the science of society. Sociology deals with many things in society like family, education, networks, etc. sociology is the science of social relationships. It also studies social life and social action. Sociology has some functions also and they are as follows:

•         Social Structure

•         Customs

•         Social Institutions

•         Religion

•         Social Change

Anthropology is the study or science of human beings. Anthropology is the practical side and in this topic, the anthropologist seeks to know how human beings were incorporated a whole catalogue of disciplines; sociology, psychology, political science, economics, history, human biology and perhaps even the humanistic disciplines of philosophy and literature. Most of those disciplines have existed longer than anthropology, and each is somewhat distinctive. Anthropology is the scientific study of overall activities and the development of human history to the present. Anthropology is mainly concerned with primitive communities to the study of varying cultural patterns developed in different periods of human history.

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