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What Is Anthropology?
Anthropology:
The Exploration of Human Diversity
McGraw-Hill
© 2005 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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Overview
• Anthropology confronts basic questions
of human existence and survival
– How we originated
– How we have changed
– How we are changing still
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Overview
• Anthropology is holistic
– Interested in the whole of the human
conditions
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Past, present, and future
Biology
Society
Language
Culture
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Overview
• Four subfields
– Cultural anthropology—study of human
society and culture; describes, analyzes,
interprets, and explains social and cultural
similarities and differences
Archaeology—reconstructs behavior
by studying material remains
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Overview
– Biological anthropology—study human
fossils, genetics, and bodily growth and
nonhuman primates
– Linguistic anthropology—descriptive,
comparative, and historical study of
language and of linguistic similarities and
differences in time, space, and society;
considers how speech varies with social
factors and over time
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Human Adaptability
Humans among the world’s most
adaptable animals
• Anthropology—study of human
species and its immediate ancestors
– Constantly compares customs of one
society with others
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Human Adaptability
• Anthropology
– Society—organized life in groups
– Culture—traditions and customs that
govern behavior and beliefs
• Distinctly human feature
• Transmitted through learning
• Not biological, but ability to use culture
rests in hominid biology
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General Anthropology
• Academic discipline of anthropology
includes:
– Cultural anthropology
– Archaeological anthropology
– Biological or physical anthropology
– Linguistic anthropology
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General Anthropology
• Four-field approach:
– Developed in U.S.
Early American anthropologists studying native peoples of
North America became interested in exploring origins and
diversity of the groups
– Subdisciplines share similar goal of
exploring variation in time and space to
improve understanding of basics of human
biology, society, and culture
Subdisciplines influence each other
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General Anthropology
• Sound conclusions about “human
nature” cannot be derived from studying
a single nation, society, or cultural
tradition
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General Anthropology
• Cultural Forces Shape Human Biology
– Culture key environmental force in
determining how human bodies grow and
develop
• Biocultural—inclusion and combination (to
solve a common problem) of biological and
cultural perspectives and approaches
This is one of anthropology’s hallmarks
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General Anthropology
• Cultural standards of attractiveness and
propriety influence participation and
achievement in sports
– Brazilian women avoid competitive
swimming because of that sport’s effects
on the body
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
• Cultural Anthropology—describes,
analyzes, interprets, and explains social
and cultural similarities and differences
– Ethnography—Fieldwork in a particular
culture; provides account of that
community, society, or culture
Cultures not isolated from local, regional, national, and
global systems of politics, economics, and information
that expose villagers to external influences
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
– Ethnology—cross cultural comparison; the
comparative study of ethnographic data, of
society and of culture
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
• Ethnography and Ethnology—Two
Dimensions of Cultural Anthropology
• Insert Table 1.2
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
• Archaeological Anthropology—study
of human behavior and cultural patterns
and process through the culture’s
material remains
– Artifacts (e.g., potsherds, jewelry, and
tools)
– Garbage
– Burials
– Remains of structures
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
• Archaeological Anthropology
– Archaeologists use paleoecological studies
to establish ecological and subsistence
parameters within which given groups lived
Archaeological record provides unique opportunity to
look at changes in social complexity over thousands
and tens of thousands of years
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
• Archaeologists also study the cultures
of historical and living people
– Historical archaeology combines
archaeological data and textual data to
reconstruct historically known groups
• William Rathje’s “garbology” project in Tucson,
Arizona
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
• Biological Anthropology—study of
human biological variation in time and
space
Includes evolution, genetics, growth and development,
and primatology
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
– Special interests
within biological
anthropology:
• Paleoanthropology
• Human genetics
• Human growth and
development
• Human biological
plasticity
• Primatology
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human evolution as
revealed by the fossil
record
Body’s ability to change as
it copes with stresses such
as heat, cold, and altitude
study of biology, evolution,
behavior, and social life of
primates
© 2005 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
• Biological anthropology draws on
biology, zoology, geology, anatomy,
physiology, medicine, public health,
osteology, and archaeology
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The Subdisciplines of
Anthropology
• Linguistic Anthropology—study of
language in its social and cultural
context across space and time
Historical linguists—reconstruct ancient languages
and study linguistic variation through time
Sociolinguistics—investigates relationships between
social and linguistic variation to discover varied
perceptions and patterns of thought in different cultures
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Applied Anthropology
• Applied Anthropology—application of
anthropological data, perspectives,
theory, and methods to identify, assess,
and solve contemporary social
problems
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Applied Anthropology
• American Anthropological Association
(AAA) recognizes two dimensions
– Theoretical/academic anthropology—
includes cultural, archaeological, biological,
and linguistic anthropology
Directed at collecting data to test
hypotheses and models created to
advance anthropology
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Applied Anthropology
– Practicing or applied anthropology—
application of anthropological data,
perspectives, theory, and techniques to
identify, assess, and solve contemporary
social problems
– Standard subdivisions include:
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Medical anthropology
Environmental anthropology
Forensic anthropology
Development
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Applied Anthropology
• Applied anthropologists generally
employed by international development
agencies
– World Bank
– United States Agency for International
Development (USAID)
– World Health Organization (WHO)
– United Nations
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Applied Anthropology
• Applied Anthropologists:
– Assess social and cultural dimensions of
economic development
Development projects often fail when
planners ignore cultural dimensions of
development
– Work with local communities to identify
specific social conditions that influence the
failure or success of a development project
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Anthropology and Other
Academic Fields
• Anthropology links to interdisciplinary
collaboration
• Anthropology is a science
– Systematic field of study or body of
knowledge that aims, through experiment,
observation, and deduction, to produce
reliable explanations of phenomena, with
reference to the material and physical
world
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Anthropology and Other
Academic Fields
• Anthropology also a humanity
– Encompasses study of and cross-cultural
comparison of languages, texts,
philosophies, arts, music, performances,
and other forms of creative expression
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Anthropology and Other
Academic Fields
• Cultural Anthropology and Sociology
– Sociologist traditionally used quantitative
research, while cultural anthropological
used qualitative methodologies
– Anthropology and sociology converging
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Anthropology and Other
Academic Fields
• Anthropology and Psychology
– Statements about “human” psychology
cannot be based solely on observations
made in one society or in a single type of
society
– Cultural anthropology (psychological
anthropology) studies cross-cultural
variation in psychological traits
Anthropology helps us understand ourselves
through its cross-cultural perspective
McGraw-Hill
© 2005 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.